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.

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New Series: Road Trip

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

We’re Teaching This

Road trips are awesome. Whether you’re heading to the mountains with your family or driving to the beach with your friends, the idea of packing up, grabbing your favorite snacks, planning the perfect playlist, and hitting the road just sounds like an adventure. And it is! Maybe that’s because new places are always exciting, or maybe it’s just that, more than anywhere else, the unexpected seems to happen on the road. Flat tires. Detours. Surprisingly great lunch stops. Disappointingly awful gas stations. The unexpected is just part of the trip. Life works a lot like that, too. We start with a plan in mind, but things happen along the way that change our plans, change our minds, or even change our relationships. That’s when we have to decide to stick to the plan or change course. This was especially true for the apostle Paul. Long before GPS or interstates, Paul set out on a series of road trips, and just like us, he experienced some surprising, even life-changing moments on the road. As we take a look at some key turning points on Paul’s road trips, we discover that maybe the best thing that can happen on our journey is a change of direction.


Think About This

Kara Powell

“I just wish my parents would realize I’m not who I was in middle school. Their picture of me never changes—even though I’ve changed.”

Without knowing it, this 17 year-old’s complaint about her parents’ inability to appreciate her growth triggered an internal alarm in me. Since our kids—now ages 16, 14, and 10—have been infants, my husband and I have seen their unique personalities emerge.

One of our kids almost never complains—even when they should exert themselves more. Another one…well, let’s just say that no one has ever accused her of not complaining enough. One of our kids has been an introvert since she was a toddler. She has two good friends and that’s all she needs. Our other daughter is an off-the-chart extrovert. She loses count of her friends. Literally.

It’s good that I know my kids’ tendencies. It’s bad when I become so fixated on those tendencies that I don’t see how they are changing. In this series, your students are going to realize change is possible. More than that, change is inevitable as we encounter Jesus.

Our hero in these three lessons, the Apostle Paul, realized this firsthand. After Jesus got his attention, he changed from being one of the greatest persecutors of Christians to being one of the greatest builders of the church. Paul let Jesus change him.

As your students similarly let Jesus change them, they might start acting a little differently.

All of a sudden, your son is a bit less selfish and empties the dishwasher without being asked. Or your step-daughter chooses on her own to put down her phone in the car so the two of you can talk.

We hope you know your kids and how God has uniquely molded them. But we also hope you know that God’s love and grace continues to shape them into new creations with new personalities, new victories, and new struggles.

Parenting. It’s never boring.

Get connected to a wider community of parents at TheParentCue.org.


Try This

So how can we pay attention to—and support—the ways our kids are changing?

  1. Make a list of ways your son or daughter is different now than they were a year or two ago. How do you feel about those changes? Which do you applaud? Which make you anxious?
  2. Talk to your child about (some or all of) your list, making sure you talk at least three times more about the changes you applaud than those that make you anxious. And in fact, start with the good stuff. We are all more open to critique if we have first felt affirmed and understood.
  3. Ask your child two questions about what you’ve shared: What do you disagree with? And, what makes sense or feels right to you? In my experience with my own two teenagers, they are far more likely to agree with certain observations I’ve made if they first have a chance to express what they disagree with.
  4. Share with your child an area of your life that you hope can change. Invite your child to do the same.
  5. Pray that God will make that change a reality, just as He did so powerfully with Paul two thousand years ago.

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

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.