New Series: Deal with it!

©2016 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

We’re Teaching This…

So what’s trending on Netflix this week? Maybe TV isn’t your thing, but I’ll bet you’ve got a time vortex. Maybe yours is a gaming system.

You log on for just a few minutes and then, somehow it’s midnight.

Maybe you throw on headphones and just space out listening to Spotify, or maybe you stare at your phone and scroll without even really looking at what people post. We all have a favorite distraction—something we get lost in. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, you’ve probably also discovered that it’s more tempting to reach for something fun when you’re facing something that isn’t.

We all have a tendency to avoid something difficult by doing something easy.

Or we escape something painful by running toward something that feels good. Or we hide something that hurts by pretending it isn’t there. But maybe you’ve also noticed that none of these strategies really work. In fact, sometimes our favorite escapes can leave us feeling more stuck than before.

In this series we’ll look at three ways we’re all tempted to skip out on the real life that God has for us. As we do, you may just find God’s inviting you to stop avoiding it, escaping it, or hiding it and just . . . deal with it!

Think About This…

B y  D r .  C h i n w é  W i l l i a m s

We’ve all been there. We’ve all encountered struggles that felt bigger than us. And we all develop our own ways of managing emotional pain, shame, and regret. When faced with difficult circumstances, it’s very normal to look for ways to cope. Over the years, parents have verbalized their uncertainty regarding how best to assist their teen as they navigate the ups and downs of life. But there’s no simple response. Quite frankly, as a therapist who frequently works with adolescents, I get it.

Being a teen today is tough.

Teens face increasing expectations: managing multiple schedules, demanding academic loads, and competitive extracurricular activities. And above all, discovering who they are and how they fit in with their peer group and the larger world. And all of these expectations can and do cause internal pressure. Some teens are able to successfully navigate these waters. Others may flail or buckle under the pressure.

It’s a normal human experience to want to escape reality.

It’s actually a great idea to take a break and decompress for a few hours in order to allow your brain to reboot and refocus. Attending a concert with friends, listening to music, going for a hike, and laughing at a hilarious video are examples of healthy ways to take your mind off of a stressful day.

But what happens when these distractions morph into things that are not so healthy? Or are, perhaps, even destructive?

Harmless distractions often lead to prolonged engagement with those things, like video gaming, online shopping, hours on Instagram or Snapchat, and Netflix binge-watching. These escapes wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t coincide with finals week. And then there are the more dangerous situations, like when a teen begins experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex to numb complicated feelings. When any of these behaviors become a way to DISTRACT, NUMB, or AVOID facing hard circumstances or prevent others from seeing our real selves, it can lead to feeling stuck and disconnected, which can cause us to spiral into more destructive behavior.

What’s the remedy when our teens feel stuck or disconnected?

Engagement. As a therapist, I love introducing my teenage clients to creative strategies that will help them address the problems that seem insurmountable. Yes, that sometimes means embracing a new challenge or doing something they dislike—like confronting the real issues. But the more we can teach our children to deal with (and not run away from) life’s challenges, the better they will realize their own unique capabilities, which fosters resilience and a sense of autonomy.

A parent’s task in helping avoidant teens is further complicated by the contradictory impulses of teens. They want us around, and at the same time, want us to go far away. The research is, however, clear. Parents are powerful pillars of influence in their teens’ lives!

Below are five ways that will help you recognize when your teen may be feeling stuck, as well as ways you can help them get unstuck.

  1. Watch for warning signs. Some “stuck” teens will display difficulty concentrating and low motivation. They may be irritable, negative, easily frustrated, or prone to outbursts. Some overachieving “stuck” teens may be highly sensitive to criticism and begin to withdraw from family and friends. Since some of these signs are a part of normal adolescent development, it’s important to note what appears to be a departure from your teen’s typical pattern of behavior.
  2. Initiate the conversation. Demonstrate casual interest by asking questions and reflecting on what you’ve heard. Teens can tell the difference between questions that show interest and ones that simply appear nosy. Be present but not intrusive. One conversation starter could be: “It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. I know that you want to do well (in school/sports/making friends), so I’m sure that you might feel some pressure at times. You’re not alone. I’m here if you ever want to talk about it.” Your teen may not open up initially. The key, though, is making yourself available for when they’re ready.
  3. Be open. Sharing your own struggles with distractions and avoidance may help your teen better cope with their own situations. For many parents the thought of disclosing their own teenage antics is a nightmarish proposition. However, research suggests that parents who have an open, warm, and nurturing relationship with their children can help them buffer stresses that can otherwise be destructive. Your teen may not show deep interest or ask many questions. Don’t worry . . . they are listening.
  4. Stay tuned in. As a therapist, I can’t emphasize how important it is to plug in to your teen. What does that mean? Get to know their musical tastes, favorite artists, and even purchases. Know the names of their friends and their enemies. Regarding social media, I’m an advocate of intermittent parental monitoring. This one is tricky—teens also need some degree of privacy—but it’s a parent’s responsibility to know what’s going on. The content you discover may clue you in to ways to better connect with your child, or it may alert you to signs of stress. As parents, we must plug in to this important aspect of teen social life. Don’t tell my teens I said that.
  5. Seek Professional help. Part of our job as parents is to help our children find resources to be successful. Those could include a school counselor, therapist, or trusted church leader. Remember that there are many avoidant behaviors that are simply a part of adolescence. It’s helpful to consult with a professional who can assess the severity and offer assistance. One technique that I like to teach is “mindfulness”—it’s is ideal for decreasing distressful thoughts. The ability to disrupt a cycle of negative thinking is crucial for optimal mental health and can help teens to plug in, to get “unstuck.” Whether or not they tell you or show you, your teen values your engagement. What are some ways that you can engage with your teen this week?

Dr. Chinwé Williams is a licensed counselor in Roswell, GA. For more from Dr. Williams and other resources for parents of teenagers, visit TheParentCue.

Try This…

Whether your teenager is facing a challenge right now or whether you just know they will in the future, one thing we can all do to help our students cope with challenges is to model the way.

We can show them what it looks like to face a challenge instead of avoiding it.

Think about one area where you’re tempted to avoid or escape instead of “dealing” with it. Maybe you’d rather shop online than think about work. Or maybe work is the escape for a complicated situation at home. Maybe it’s easier to scroll through the news than to look at your budget. It doesn’t have to be something serious or dangerous—just one way you are personally tempted to put off dealing with real life. This week, share that with your teenager.

Maybe in the car you say . . .

  • Hey, you’re not going to believe this, but I just deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I would catch myself scrolling every time I was mad just to avoid having a conversation.
  • Hey, I know this probably sounds crazy to you, but I just realized I’ve been staying late at work because it means I won’t have time to go to the gym. Today I’m setting an alarm to leave on time so I can work out.
  • Hey, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a bad habit of _______ to avoid dealing with _______. So I’ve decided to start working on that by setting up an appointment with a mentor/counselor/doctor/coach.

It may feel a little awkward to admit feeling stuck in front of your teenager, but when you do, you’re giving them the tools and the courage to move forward in whatever they’re facing.

Middle Status has a bad rap

Middle child. Middle aged. Middle seat.

Middle school.

None of that sounds good. No one wants to be in the middle of anything. When we are in the middle, we feel confused, frustrated, STUCK. I can count on one hand the number of people who have told me that they had a great Middle School experience. Most of them share the same sentiment: Middle School sucks.

But what if we could shift the lens and see the middle from an entirely different point of view?

In their book, It’s Just a Phase So Don’t Miss It , Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy unpack each phase of a child’s life until 18 with remarkable insight and a revolutionary perspective on what it means to be a Middle School Student.  For example, did it ever occur to you that the one thing those crazy, hormonal, overly dramatic Oscar contenders need more than anything is affirmation? These students are on a desperate search for the “WHO” of their personal story.  They are stretching their understanding of the world, which suddenly got MUCH bigger than the playground, and how they see themselves fitting, or NOT fitting into it. I suspect if you look back, you’ll see some of that struggle in your own rear view mirror as well.

Imagine what could happen when we AFFIRM a middle schooler’s personal journey of discovery, providing them a safe place to ask questions and discover their God-given design and purpose.

Another powerful revelation: Middle School students think like Engineers. And Engineers are problem solvers by nature. And God, Jesus and their personal faith journey are all ripe for deconstructing, unpacking, repacking, retooling and rebuilding.

Imagine if middle school students had the freedom to express doubt and confess brokenness in an environment that fosters healing, discovery and restoration.

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Rita Pierson

Suddenly, the MIDDLE has become a very MAGICAL place.

Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

Join us January 15, 22 and 29 in the brand new Middle School space for our ministry open house. We invite you to discover what incredible experience just 2 hours a month with these engineers can be. You can sign up right here to let me know you’re coming. Don’t miss it!

For more information on the PHASE book, research project and resources, check out the website JUST A PHASE

The Making of a King

Hey Parents! This week we launch an exciting new series in ignition: The Making of a King.

Every good story has a hero. Think about it. Superman. Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen. They aren’t just random characters. They’re larger than life. Maybe they’re not perfect, but they’re exciting and they’re brave. And that’s what keeps us interested. That’s why we cheer for them.

Believe it or not, the Bible is full of heroes like that. They don’t have capes and light sabers, but they are heroes who fought giants, built arks, became spies, defeated armies, and saved the day over and over. One of the most famous ones is named David—or maybe you know him as King David. Like many others, David’s life was exciting, epic even. And at first glance it can feel like we have zero common with him. Even on our most exciting days our lives don’t exactly feel heroic. But as we take a closer look at the journey of this shepherd boy turned king, we see it wasn’t always a royal fairytale. In fact, as we discover the twists and turns of his road to the throne, his life begins to look more like ours than we ever imagined.

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait to grow up? There were probably a lot of reasons, but many of them boiled down to one idea: When I grown up, I’ll be in charge. No one can tell me what to do. It was a nice idea, but that’s not exactly our adult reality, is it? In fact, sometimes feels like growing up has left us answering to more people, not less. And what’s worse is when not all these authority figures are exactly ideal for the job. Maybe you’ve experienced…

  • The police officer who is out of line.
  • The governor you totally disagree with.
  • The boss who seems clueless.
  • The homeowners’ association president/tyrant.
  • The in-laws who think they’re in charge.

Nothing is more frustrating. And in moments like that it can be tempting to employ our go-to response. Maybe you tend to lash out, argue, or respond with harsh sarcasm. Or maybe for you it’s more tempting to ignore them or sneak around their rules. Either way, when it comes to a clash with authority, there is often more on the line than we realize. Overwhelmingly, research suggests that our teenagers’ behavior is more influenced by what they see us do than what they hear us say is best.

In his article, I Spy Daddy Giving Someone The Finger: Your kids will imitate you. Use it as a force for good, Dr. Allen Kazdin, former president of the American Psychological Association, says, “Brain research has demonstrated that there are special cells called mirror neurons. When we watch someone do something, our mirror neurons become active in the brain as if we ourselves were engaging in the same behavior we are observing.”

In other words, when watching our behavior, our students’ brains react and grow new connections that tell them to do the same.

That’s why, even with the most difficult and undeserving authority figures, it may still serve us well to treat them with respect. In doing so, our students’ brains will form connections that remind them to do the same.

This week, pay attention to your interactions with your boss, coworkers, government workers, and even your own parents or in-laws. Now, imagine what you would say if you overheard your teenager responding to people in charge the same way you do. Because, if the research is true, there’s a good chance that one day they will.

There will always be people in charge who frustrate us. That’s true for our students as well. In fact, sometimes we are the ones who frustrate them. So, modeling respect for authority is a huge deal. But that doesn’t mean we have to be stoic. This week try mentioning to your student one situation where you are frustrated by authority and how you’re dealing with it. Say something like…

Sometimes it’s hard not to give my boss piece of my mind. He can be really offensive, but I won’t let his rude tone force me to act the same way.

I really disagree with the politicians who are in charge right now. Some of their policies make no sense to me. I’ll respect their office, but I’ll vote differently next time.

It’s really hard for me to be nice to grandma when she acts like she’s in charge. I know I’m grown and I don’t have to listen to her, but I’m still doing my best to treat her well because she is my mother.

When we acknowledge our own struggles, it gives us credibility with our students.

They see that we are still fighting for relationships even when it isn’t easy. And that may just be what gives them the courage to do the same.

©2015 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Life is Uncontrollable

In life we often find ourselves blindsided by changes in our circumstances and life conditions. Death. Serious illness. Divorce. Relocation. Abuse. Tragic loss. And, as hard as it is for us as individuals to navigate those waters, as parents, we sometimes struggle to find the right words or actions to help our children through them.

If we are honest, much of what has shaped us have been events and circumstances beyond our control.

Dr. Wayne Evans, a professional counselor with incredible personal and professional experience in this realm, will be speaking on how to make it through events in a family’s life that are beyond our direct control, or the control of our children, yet affect  them in powerful ways for the rest of their lives.

Join us on Wednesday, April 22 from 7-9pm for a completely free event with Dr. Evans. It’s a great event to invite others to be a part of as well. We do ask that you take just a few moments to register so that we can plan appropriately. Just CLICK HERE to do that.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

What about the Darker Side?

Important Parent Opportunity

Parenting a student, Middle or High School, is definitely not easy. There is a darker side to life as a student in today’s culture that threatens to eclipse even the happiest and healthiest parent-teen relationships.

Depression, self-harm and suicide is undeniably rampant in the world of our students.

They are surrounded by the voices of pain, hurt, confusion and self-loathing. And, more often than not, we don’t know how to respond to our own child’s inner wounds, hoping and praying that they do not develop in to outer ones.

Sometimes, we wrestle with what to do all alone – never reaching out to those around us who are available, qualified and willing to walk along side us as we parent our depressed and hurting student.

We’d like to help. In part two of our Parent Symposium series, we will walk into that darker world with the help of a trained professional. Bill Wheelhouse has a Masters from Regent University in Human Services Counseling, and has been involved in youth ministry for over 24 years. His many certifications include Member of the American Association of Christian Counselors since 2012, Certificate in Spiritual Care in Crisis Management from the International Critical Incident Foundation, Ministry Director Celebrate Recovery Cedarbrook Community Church, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Teen Factor and Crisis Chaplin for Montgomery County Emergency Preparedness Collation.

Plan to join us on Wednesday, January 28 at 7pm for a Symposium on A Darker Side. The event is totally free, a casual, conversational environment and there will be light refreshments.

Please take just a few moments to register right here.

We so value your partnership and look forward to sharing this special opportunity with you.

Jonathan Der and Heather Nicholson, Seneca Creek Student Ministry

Middle School Parents – this is FOR YOU!

This post is from Cheryl Booth. Cheryl has served as one of our amazing leaders for several years. She has led ReFuel groups, participated in many special events and retreats, and is currently part of our teaching team. Her heart for students is deep and strong and extends to loving and caring for the whole family. So looking forward to seeing how God uses this phenomenal small group for parents!

During Christmas break the kids and I set to the task of cleaning out my car.  No small task indeed.  As we did I said that I wanted it spotless…to which my oldest exclaimed that my car could never be spotless.  And so that is the truth.  Sometimes I feel like I want life to be able to be all crisp and clean and organized like it was before I had kids. But the reality is that once you have kids – at least while you are raising them – there are so many things out of your control that it rarely works out that way. At least for me!

For a while now my husband Kent and I have wanted to have a care group that consistent of parents of young teens and preteens like us…so that we could support each other during this not so spotless time of life.  And more than that to have the students come as well so that they can form deeper bonds with their fellow Ignition students.

Finally we are at the season of life where we are ready to push forward to make that happen.

The Willefords were also interested in just such a group.  So this coming Sunday – 1/11. We’ll be meeting at their house (8909 Maxwell Dr, Potomac, MD 20854)  to begin making that group happen! We invite all families that would like to join such a group to come for a casual get together to discuss moving forward with this care group.

If you are interested but are not able to attend please email us and let us know.  We’d like to keep the group to about 6 families. So if we have a lot of interest then we will look to having multiple groups!   So if you are interested in hearing more about this group please join us on Sunday 1/10 from 3 to 5pm at the Willeford home.  Please RSVP to either Angie or myself so we know how many families will be attending.  This will be a group for families to attend, so parents and children of all ages are invited.  We plan to have a small devotional/Bible study time for the students, and will make arrangements based on numbers for younger siblings as well.

Contact us to RSVP or with questions – Cheryl Booth (claeb4@juno.com) or Angie Willeford (angiewilleford@verizon.net)  We look forward to have an awesome time connecting with other families!

The abbreviated details again:

WHAT: Starting a small group for families with middle schoolers (or soon to be middle schoolers), Meeting bimonthly

WHO: Parents and children invited to attend

WHEN: “Meet and greet” type first meeting to be held 1/11 from 3-5pm

WHERE: The Willeford residence – 8909 Maxwell Dr, Potomac, MD 20854

Come join us!

Cheryl

Parent Symposium Series

Our partnership with you as parents has just gotten a revolutionary boost of parenting potential! We are ridiculously excited to be able to offer three distinct Parent Symposium events this year. Our goal is to provide an environment that allows an authentic exploration of each topic and addresses some of the challenges unique to our place in time from a biblical perspective. We have invited professional Christian counselors to employ their God-given gifts and skills to help us navigate the issues and draw out potential solutions.

Our first Parent Symposium is set for Wednesday, October 29th from 7-9pm. Our topic: The Family Blender.   According to one report, “blended families” is the fastest growing segment of families in the US. Whether there are step-parents and children, half-siblings, a mix of birth and adopted children or some other variation on that theme, these unique families come with unique challenges. During this symposium, we will explore some of those challenges and solutions.

Please sign up to attend this exciting event right here. (Childcare is available upon request, however space is limited.)

These events are not only available to our Seneca Creek families, but to the general parent population in our area – so please feel free to invite co-workers, neighbors, friends, or anyone else you feel might benefit from these opportunities.