My Kid Is Getting Bullied

My Kid Is Getting Bullied

What is bullying and why does it happen?

If your perspective on bullying was influenced by Hollywood, you may picture a bully as a snobby teen or a menacing neighbor kid. In our day-to-day lives, however, there are many forms of bullying and bullies can be coworkers, family members, and even people we consider friends.

Though bullies exist in adulthood, bullying among children is particularly concerning. According to StopBullying.Org, a site dedicated to addressing childhood bullying among kids, childhood bullying is described as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” (What Is Bullying, 2022). Bullying can be understood through two main identifiers:

  • There’s an imbalance of power: the bully is seen as bigger, stronger, more socially connected, or better resourced than the target or victim of bullying.
  • It is repetitive: the unwanted behavior keeps happening, despite objections or efforts for it to stop.

Keep in mind that the power imbalance inherent in bullying can be real or perceived. A child others consider non-threatening can be seen as threatening to the person they are targeting.

It is also important to note that bullying isn’t just interpersonal conflict. It happens within a community and can be influenced or extinguished through community awareness and action.

The following image helps demystify bullying. It comes from the work of Dan Olweus, the late psychologist and bully prevention researcher and advocate. Olweus’ circle describes the link between the bully, the target, and those who watch, participate in, or resist the behavior.

(Olweus, 2012)

As you consider this visual, think of a time you were part of a bullying circle. Maybe you haven’t been a target, but you have almost certainly experienced one of the other roles. The good news is this: anyone can learn to be a resistor and defender (described by the letter “G”).

Another word for a resistor or defender is “upstander”. Upstanders notice bullying and speak up for the target. If afraid of physical or social repercussions, they seek help from someone who can address the problem. Bullying exists when no one is aware of it or those who are aware participate or ignore it.

Where does bullying happen?

Since kids spend most of their time in school, we tend to think of bullying as a school problem. In reality, bullying happens wherever people are, and opportunities for bullying exist in a variety of settings including online, during after school activities, and within families. With the advent of multi-player video games and social media, bullying tends to move between online and in-person interactions.

For children who struggle to vocalize that they’re being bullied, warning signs of bullying can include:

  • A sudden loss of interest in school or change in academic performance
  • Frequent complaints of physical illness that weren’t present before
  • Avoidance of social situations and activities with peers–refusing to go to school, attend after school activities, or spend time with peers
  • Changes in sleep, appetite, and activity levels

It’s important to note that these signs aren’t unique to childhood bullying and could point to a number of other challenges. If you suspect your child is struggling, talking with them is the first step (Stomp Out Bullying, n.d.).

How to talk with your child about bullying:

Bullying tends to bring up feelings of shame and inadequacy. Because of this, I encourage adults to have regular, non-judgmental conversations about friendships, peers, and bullying.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • Tell me about your class.
  • What is your teacher like?
  • Who do you spend time with during the day?
  • Is there anyone you don’t get along with?
  • What do you like about your friends?
  • When your friends do or say things you don’t like, what can you do?
  • Do you notice kids who are being bullied? How can you help?
  • When you need help and don’t know what to do, what adults can you talk to?

Have these conversations during neutral times (i.e. not when your child is upset, hungry, or exhausted). If your child says something that activates your protective parent nerves, check-in with yourself before responding.

If we respond to bullying with anger or threats of violence, we send the message that conflict can only be solved by causing harm to the aggressor. While it’s natural to want revenge in moments where we feel powerless, causing harm to someone else isn’t the answer.

When your protective parent mode is on full blast, remind yourself of this question:

If the problem solving skills we are teaching children now would lead to legal involvement or job termination in the future, is this the best way to handle the situation? If the answer is no, give yourself some time to cool down before offering suggestions.


What to do if your child is being bullied:

Bullying isn’t a big scary monster that can’t be defeated. Bullying is a community issue that can and must be addressed. Here are some things to consider and action steps to take if your child is being bullied:

Things to consider

  • Is the behavior repeated?
    • Does it keep happening, despite your child asking for help from an adult or telling the bully to stop?
    • Or, does your child feel powerless to ask for help when the bullying occurs?
  • Where is it happening?
  • When is it happening
    • What time of day does it occur?
    • Who is around?
    • Who is not around when it happens?
  • What has been your child’s response to the bullying, up until now?
  • Where does your child feel empowered, competent, and worthwhile?
    • As much as possible, increase their time in the settings and with people where they feel their best

How to proceed

  • Instill hope in your child. This is the first, and perhaps most important, step. Bullying can and will stop when we address it
  • Teach your child how bullying works and why it continues. Remember that knowledge is power and raising awareness of bullying helps cultivate more safe environments. You can use the “Bullying Circle” visual included with this blog to start the conversation.
  • Remind your child that bullies are only bullies because they think they are in charge. The only person in charge of how we feel about ourselves is the person living our life… us!
  • Empower your child to speak up for others when they see bullying.
  • Teach your child a simple three step process called “Stop, Walk, and Talk” (pictured below).
    • Though a child may feel powerless to stand up to someone bullying them, their confidence builds as they learn to stick up for others.
  • Notify school staff or trusted adults who can step in or offer support if your child is being bullied in a place where you aren’t. This includes adults at school, friends’ houses, and at extracurricular activities.
  • Follow up with your child
  • Efforts to stop bullying take time. Plan regular intervals where you’ll check-in with your child until the situation is resolved


stop walk talk

Stop, Walk, and Talk (PBIS World, 2023)


How to handle relational aggression

The bully who spreads gossip, starts rumors, or tries to turn others against your child may not leave visible evidence but their impact is just as significant, especially at a developmental stage where approval from peers is so important to kids’ self-image. This kind of bullying behavior is called relational aggression. It can happen at any age, though it tends to reach its peak in middle and high school. Because it damages relationships and can erode one’s sense of self, it’s critical to recognize when it’s happening and respond right away. Here are some ways to help your tweens and teens navigate relational aggression:

  • Help your child recognize the difference between real friends and fake friends.
    • Real friends are trustworthy, enjoyable to be around, and respect our boundaries.
    • Fake friends can look like real friends, however, they don’t respect our boundaries and leave us feeling hurt and confused rather than loved and accepted.
  • Remind your child that relational aggression is about power and control- the bully often thinks the only way to feel good about themselves is to put others down.
    • Encourage your child to pursue activities and relationships that add to their lives.

Bully Free Communities

Though bullying exists in our communities, it doesn’t have to. As we teach kids to recognize bullying and act against it, we are creating a generation of upstanders. As we help children find their voice, we teach them that empowerment comes from finding that voice, not silencing or causing harm to someone else.

If you or your child need support (either responding to bullying or recovering from its affects) reach out to a school counselor or trained mental health professional. Together we can heal from bullying and build communities that are safe, respectful, and supportive.


Blog written by Sentier therapist, Lily Ferreira, MSW, LICSW

Lilly Ferreira


Home Bullying What Is Bullying. (2022, June 30). Retrieved January 26, 2023, from

Olweus, D. (2012, April 13). As ‘Bully’ Opens, the Bullied, Bullies and Bystanders Weigh In. PBS. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from

PBIS World. (2023). Bullying Resources / Bullying Resources. Nassau County School District. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from

Stomp Out Bullying. (n.d.). Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied – Tip Sheet. STOMP Out Bullying. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from


This blog was written by Sentier therapist, Lily Ferreira, MSW, LICSW


My Kid Doesn’t Listen To Me

Why Kids Don’t Listen

One of the first children I worked with was a six year old who struggled to listen. He fought and ignored any direction the adults in his life tried to give. Leaving for school was a battle. Going home from school was a battle. Doing activities he didn’t enjoy led to screaming, hiding, and tears. His parents were exhausted and his teachers were stumped. The adults in his world wanted him to listen but listening was the last thing on his mind.

His behavior made me wonder what life was like through his eyes. Knowing that talking and discipline wasn’t changing his behavior, I tried something different: Legos.

Imagine being six years old, having little to no control over your life, and feeling overwhelmed by the expectations of adults. It might make sense that you start to tune the world out and turn to tears when you don’t know how to respond. What this six year old did know was Legos. And through creating, building, and disassembling legos, he showed me that he was a wonderful listener. He just hadn’t learned to listen in the ways adults expected.

After getting to know this child through his language of play, I learned three important things that he was trying to tell us:

  1. He was highly sensitive to sounds, which explained why yelling and nagging was causing him more frustration
  2. He didn’t understand time, which explained why he seemed to ignore the tasks he was assigned and made getting through challenging tasks unbearable
  3. He was tired, which helped explain why going to school (waking up) and going home from school (being exhausted after a day of learning) were so difficult

After figuring out what he needed, the adults in his world were able to communicate on his level.

  • We stopped yelling and lowered our voice
  • We used visual timers and visual schedules to help him understand the pace of his day
  • His parents and pediatrician came up with a plan to improve his sleep

We soon found that he had been hearing us all along, he just didn’t know how to respond. Once we adjusted our approach, he understood us and we understood him.

I share this story to illustrate how our efforts to communicate with kids can be lost in translation. While there will be times our kids intentionally ignore what we’re saying, more often than not, there’s a good reason for their lack of listening.

how to get a child to listen

Here are some common reasons that kids don’t listen:

  • They don’t understand what is being asked
  • They are overwhelmed by our directions
  • They have lost trust in what we say
  • They want to feel connected, not controlled
  • They want US to listen

Understanding Your Child

If our boss keeps asking us to do something and we’re struggling to get it done, we will use our resources to solve the problem. We may Google a solution, ask a colleague, or avoid the task altogether. If a child is asked to do something challenging or unappealing, they will likely respond nonverbally.

Children may cry, yell, or complain as means of communicating. They may also tantrum, hide, fight back, or run away. Nonverbal reactions are a signal that your child is trying to connect with you. When you see these behaviors, don’t be alarmed. Your child is telling you they are listening and they need your help. Now is a good time to proceed with curiosity.

  • Get down on their level
  • Lower your voice
  • Keep your words brief

Here’s an example scenario and response:

Your five year old is refusing to eat anything other than dinosaur chicken nuggets for dinner. You remind her that dad made a special dinner and she needs to eat what everyone else is eating. When the issue is pressed, she starts crying and yelling. You want to control the situation and threaten her behavior with a loss of iPad time. Instead, you…

  • Approach her with curiosity
  • Lower your voice and get down on her level.
  • Help her organize her emotional response before using reason or logic to solve the problem. You could try saying something like, “You must be frustrated. You really wanted something else for dinner.” She may respond by correcting you, “No, I’m not frustrated, I’m mad!!”. Or, she may respond by confirming your observation.

Regardless of how your child responds, acknowledging their experience is the first step. Your acknowledgment leads them towards an awareness of their feelings and communicates that you are listening.

Communicating With Your Child Through Connection

Dr. Daniel Siegel, a renowned educator and child psychiatrist, calls the practice described in the example above: “Name it to Tame it”. By naming how we feel, we can integrate language with emotion and move from a place of disorder to balance (Firestone, 2022).

When kids ignore us or don’t follow our direction, it’s tempting to respond with lectures and consequences. If you’ve ever tried to lecture an already upset child, you know how frustrating and disconnecting it feels. Keep these connection-focused things in mind next time you approach a disconnected child:

  • Connect with your child before teaching or redirecting them. This can look as simple as helping them name their feelings or acknowledging that they’re upset
  • When we respond to a child’s upset with our own frustration, no one wins
  • While lecturing and laying out consequences may seem most logical, emotionally heated moments are typically not rooted in logic
  • When we use threats or punishment to manage behavior, we are prioritizing control over connection
  • Once you’ve connected with your child, you can offer an alternative or work on a compromise. You may say something like: “We are eating dad’s special dinner now. If you’re still hungry when we’re done, you can help me make dinosaur chicken nuggets.”

By remaining calm and concise, you communicate that your expectations are firm but fair. This practice also teaches your child that you are predictable and true to your word. When people trust what we say, they are more likely to listen.

overcoming parent child power stuggles

No More Power Struggles

When you think of a power struggle, you might imagine an old Western movie with two feuding cowboys. Neither is willing to back down or admit defeat. They engage in a show down where one person wins or both lose. In matters of life and death, power struggles are justified. In our day to day interactions, power struggles are exhausting and detract from trusting, cooperative relationships.

While we may know better, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves in a power struggle with kids. Their tendency to use the word “no” may be part of the challenge. Eager to protect and teach, we might respond to their lack of listening by doubling down and getting louder. In those moments, the best thing we can do is surrender.

Surrender doesn’t mean allowing your child to run the show. Surrender means that you offer support, state your expectation, and walk away. There is no arguing, bargaining, or yelling.

Another way to avoid power struggles is to “pick your battles” (Morin, 2021). If your child absolutely does not listen when you ask them to do something, you can:

  • Decide if this is a challenge you have the time and energy to face
  • Remember that the battle isn’t you against your child. It’s you and your child against the problem.
  • Consider an alternative approach that meets your needs and your child’s abilities
  • Focus on teaching your child to listen during neutral moments when emotions aren’t clouding your problem solving skills

For the battles that have less consequence, save yourself the stress and walk away before a power struggle can even begin.

Building Your Child’s Listening Muscles

As adults, we can go through most of our day on autopilot. In a matter of seconds, we decide if 15 minutes is enough time to get coffee before work. Without saying anything, we consider: “Is there a line at Caribou? What’s traffic like? How important is this 8 AM meeting?”

For children who are still learning the link between cause and effect, our ability to plan ahead can make life look easy. Of course we know that’s not the case. And our kids can learn that too.

One way to teach children to listen is to “think aloud”. This exercise also builds empathy, cooperation, and problem solving skills. At first, it may seem silly. But the effects are easy to observe.

Next time you have to do something that takes thinking, start talking to yourself. Here’s an example:

You need to go to bed but you really want to watch your favorite show. Instead of quietly summoning the willpower to turn off the TV, start talking. “I wish I could keep watching this show. I really need to go to bed. I know! I’ll watch it tomorrow after I get home. That will give me something to be excited for when I get home.” Say this to yourself but within earshot of your kids. At first they may look at you with confusion. But soon you may notice that they are thinking aloud too.

I encourage caregivers to “think aloud” big emotions while offering ideas for managing them. This teaches children that feeling confused, uncertain, or upset are normal experiences and can be dealt with.

You may also find that your child tries to connect with you when you voice your thoughts. When they start offering solutions, you’ll know they are exercising their listening skills and strengthening their ability to problem solve.

Filling Your Parenting Patience Tank

Let’s face it, trying to teach a child to listen is a skill that takes a lifetime to develop. They can and will learn to listen, but it won’t be because we lectured or disciplined them. Children learn best through continued interactions with understanding peers and adults.

What happens when our understanding is stretched thin and our patience tank is empty?

  • Remember that you don’t have to be a perfect parent
  • As the psychologist and scholar Bruno Bettleheim asserted, “Good enough parents do not strive to be perfect parents and do not expect perfection from their children (Gray, 2015)”.
  • If we can accept that our children have challenges, we can acknowledge and have compassion for our own difficulties

If your patience tank has been empty and isn’t refilling despite your best efforts, it is worth asking for help from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health provider. Everyone deserves to be heard; that includes you!

Blog written by Sentier Child Therapist, Lily Ferreira, MSW, LICSW



Firestone, L. (2022, February 1). Name It to Tame It: The Emotions Underlying Your Triggers. Psychology Today. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from

Gray, P. (2015, December 22). The Good Enough Parent Is the Best Parent. Psychology Today. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from

Morin, A. (2021, January 16). How to Avoid Power Struggles with Children. Verywell Family. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from


My Teen is Depressed

Since the onset of the pandemic, mental health concerns, including depression have risen globally. It makes sense that this is the case. Events that people look forward to have been canceled, people are isolated, and there is uncertainty about when the pandemic will end, creating a perfect storm for depression to manifest. Not to mention depressive symptoms that existed before the pandemic.

If your teen is depressed, that is completely understandable.

talking to your teen about depression

What can you do as a parent?

It is really important that you find a way to be a support person for your teen. You can show them by saying validating statements. Validating statements acknowledge that someone else’s feelings make sense. Some examples include:

  • “I can tell that this is a really hard time for you.”
  • “You are not alone.”
  • “I’m sorry it is so difficult right now.”
  • “I understand you are feeling depressed.”

Validating statements help teens (adults and children too) feel seen, heard, understood and they strengthen relationships.

Here are some examples of invalidating statements (these are the types of statements to avoid):

  • “Why are you depressed, you have such a good life, you have no reason to feel that way.”
  • “I had it way worse when I was a kid.”
  • “Just be happy.”
  • “You are just being dramatic.”

A lot of times people are inadvertently invalidating. Some invalidating statements are really well-meaning. For example, telling someone to focus on the positive may genuinely be trying to help someone feel better. However, it could also convey that they SHOULDN’T feel the way that they do. We want to be compassionate and let teens know that how they are feeling is okay.

You can let your teen know that they can always come to talk to you about feeling depressed/sad/down. It is okay if your teen declines this. Pressing your teen to talk when they do not want to will not build trust or strengthen the relationship. Your teen will likely open up more over time as they see that you are a safe, trustworthy, validating person to go to.

Sometimes with depression, people have suicidal thoughts. This of course is very scary as a parent. If you have concerns for your teen’s safety, you can call a teen crisis line at 310-855-4673 or bring them directly to the emergency room.

At Sentier, we have multiple therapists who specialize in working with teens. If you think your teen needs additional support, please reach out today!

Blog written by Sentier therapist, Andrea Schroeder.

My Parents Are Stupid

“My parents won’t let me go anywhere.” “My parents won’t let me date.” “My parents treat me like I’m a baby.” “My parents treat me like I’m their slave.” “My parents punish me for rules I never knew existed.” “My parents are SO stupid.” “My parents suck.”

I hear many teens make these statements in my office. I get that the way you feel in this moment is that your parent(s) are the dumbest people on the planet. They make you mad, and they prevent you from doing what you want to do.

my parents are stupid

I could defend them now and tell you their side. I’m choosing to not do that right now. I’m sure you’ve heard them explain their reasons.

The one thing I will do is encourage you to take charge of the “issues” that are causing you to believe your parents are stupid. If your parents will not let you go out, find out why. If you feel that your parents treat you as if you are their slave, talk with them about it. If your parents never do anything fun with you, and all your relationship consists of is fighting and “working” (chores, etc.) let them know how you feel about the current situation.

Here’s the big catch: I have seen SO MANY TEENS fail at doing what I describe above. Why do they fail? Timing. They choose to “talk” about these issues when they are mad (after their parents have already said “no” to something). The teen is angry, the parents are annoyed, and the teen hopes to push their parent enough to to get their way. This strategy will only hurt you in the long run. I promise you that.

As I say in my other blogs, arrange a time (AHEAD OF TIME and when you don’t have something big that you’re asking for coming up in the next day or two) to sit down and talk with your parents. Be calm when you talk with them. Tell them you would like to problem-solve ____________ issue that you have with them. Use an “I statement” to start the conversation:

“I feel ______________ (defeated, hopeless, hurt, sad, ) when you _____________ (don’t allow me to spend time with friends, yell at me for not cleaning my room, etc.), and I’m wondering if we can figure out a way to work through this.”

Don’t expect this to cure anything. It may not work on the first attempt, but this is a good starting place. A few more pointers: Don’t yell. If they are not budging on the issue, agree to disagree, and revisit the issue later. Exercise ahead of time if you think you might end up yelling. Don’t have the conversation when anyone is hungry, on chemicals, or tired.

Let me know how this goes for you. I have other strategies in my tool belt, but I have seen this one do wonders. Good luck! 🙂

June 11th, 2013

My parents are fighting – What can I do?

First of all, if your parents are fighting, please know that it’s not your fault. Second, if you are not in a safe place (or someone is getting hurt) please get help. Call 911 if someone is in need of help.

Okay, got that scary disclaimer out of the way. NOW… a bit of background. Parents have many, many things to disagree about, and disagreeing is NORMAL. Raising kids/teens and working, paying bills, living life (etc.) is not a simple thing to do. Parents are going to fight. My thought, since you are reading this, though, is that your parents are fighting A LOT (frequently) or BIG TIME (the fights are scary). I’m really sorry you (and they) are going through this.

My parents are fighting

Even if your parents are fighting about YOU, it is NOT YOUR FAULT. If you’re thinking, “Yes it is my fault. If I could only do _______ better, then they would not fight,” you’re wrong. Even if you changed _______ behavior, your parents would still disagree. Either about your behavior, how to pay the bills, which vacation to take over summer break, or something else. That is not on you. They are adults and will figure out how to get through their fighting. They will resolve their disagreement in their own way.

You are probably feeling a ton of emotions (angry, sad, confused, scared, hopeless, pissed) and that is okay. It is best to talk about the way you’re feeling with a friend, trusted adult, etc. If your parents’ fighting is getting really bad (and you are not in danger) it might make sense to talk with them about it. ***DO NOT DO THIS DURING ONE OF THEIR FIGHTS!*** They may not realize that their fighting has gotten out of hand, or that you’re aware that they’re fighting (not joking about this. Many parents are shocked to learn that their kids hear their fights). I cannot safely recommend that all teens talk with their parents about the fighting. Please talk with a trusted adult if you are thinking of talking with your parents and it feels scary.

I do not know what your parents fights mean. Many teens ask me if their parents are going to get divorced because they are fighting. I don’t know that answer. Just know that all parents disagree/fight, and this does not always mean that divorce is near.

Please talk with someone you trust, know that your parents’ fights are not your fault, and keep yourself safe. This time in your life will pass…

Was this helpful? What else do you want to know about fighting parents?

My Siblings Hate Me

My Siblings Hate Me

Life is stressful enough as a teenager. You’re likely already trying to balance school, other activities, friends/social life, and parental expectations. When you have tense and complicated relationship with your brother(s) or sister(s) on top of all this, it can be overwhelming… and isolating at the same time.

Your siblings are supposed to be the ones you can confide in, right? The ones that understand the way things are in your family. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not like that and you can have siblings, even close in age, and still feel all alone.

If you find yourself in this situation here are some tips:

  1. Evaluate if you would like to have a closer relationship with your siblings. Sometimes being close with siblings is not the best choice. 
  2. Apologize, if an apology or explanation for your behavior is needed.
  3. Work on reaching out… maybe it’s a “how was your day?” while you’re getting a snack after school, maybe it’s wandering into their room after dinner to say hi.
  4. Focus on shared interests to start reaching out. Do you like the same music? Follow some of the same people on Instagram? Have funny family quirks you can both laugh at?
  5. Keep trying to connect with them, but also honor their space. It’s a slow process to repair or build a connection so don’t get discouraged, but also acknowledge that your sibling might need a little time as well.
  6. Reach out for help! If the above ideas are not working, reach out to a parent, other adult or counselor to help you.

Have you done something else that helped improve a relationship with a sibling?

Blog written by Katie Fleuriet, MSW, LICSW

How to Tell your Parents you want to see a Counselor

I want to start off by saying that you know your parents and I don’t. I don’t have a “one size fits all” response that will magically get them to allow you to go to therapy.That being said, if you’re reading this, you are wondering how to tell your parents you want to see counselor and are nervous about how your parent(s) will respond. Here are some common reasons teens go to therapy. If I were sitting with you (in person) I would ask you a few questions that are worth knowing the answer to before talking with your parent(s).

1. Why are you nervous about asking them if you can start counseling? Many teens are afraid that if they tell their parent, their parent will want to know everything they have going on so that the parent can ‘solve’ the problem. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to tell your parent that you are trying to solve some of your current challenges independently.

2. Other teens know that their parents believe therapy is for “sick” or “crazy” people. If your parent has a belief similar to this, it makes sense to let them know that you are sorting through some personal/social issues that need an objective adult’s viewpoint. This has nothing to do with some scary diagnosis.

Okay. If you have answered the above questions, you might be ready to talk with your parent(s). At this point, you should have a basic idea about whether it will be best for you or a trusted adult to have this conversation with them.

1. Set a time with your parent to have the conversation. Find a time that allows for few distractions and a lot of privacy.

2. Be sure no one is using chemicals at the time of the conversation.

3. Let your parent know you wish to talk with an adult about some things you have going on, and that you want this person to be completely objective to your situation (in other words, the adult/counselor doesn’t love you like your parent(s) do, so they will be able to guide you with basic, non-influenced decision-making in a way that family members generally cannot).

4. Assuming you are not in danger, reassure your parent(s) that you are not in danger and that you just need some support from another person in your life.

5. If possible, choose a therapist/counselor ahead of time (you can find many of us online). Read my blog about how to find a good therapist for yourself. If your parent has questions they want to ask the therapist, most of us are happy to sit down and answer questions that teens and parents might have before therapy starts. Most of the time, this question and answer session is free of charge.

6. If your parent does not respond well, it makes sense to end the discussion for the night. A fight is not necessary. Some statements might help you: “I need additional support from another adult,” “You did nothing wrong as my parent. I just need to learn how to get through this on my own,” “I need a space that allows me to discuss private things.”

How to tell your parents you want to see a counselor

This is just  a starting place. If the conversation doesn’t go well (more than once), you may want to talk with your school counselor, a trusted teacher, pastor (etc.) to see if they are willing to talk with your parent(s) about your need for therapy. The counselor can help your parents understand your need for therapy (without spilling the beans about what you have going on). They can recommend that you see a therapist and give your parents a “referral.” (Click here to read my blog: How to Find a Good Therapist). If you choose to talk with an adult who is not a school or church official, inform that adult (before they talk with your parent) that you want privacy maintained when they talk with your parents. In other words, tell the adult that you don’t want them telling your parents everything. Most adults will honor this request as long as you are not in danger of hurting yourself or someone else.

Were these steps helpful for you in talking with your parents about getting counseling?

My parents hate me.

The longer I am a therapist for teens, the more emails I get from desperate teenagers. The emails are most often about a painful incident that makes a teen believe their parent(s) hate them.

Other reasons I get emails from teens:
1. Looking for help: How can I get my parents to say yes?
2. Looking for help: How can I make my parents like me more?
3. Looking for help: Why won’t my parents trust me?
4. Looking for help: Why won’t my parents let me be myself?

I generally respond to the email by letting the teen know that I need to know more about their situation and that I would love to meet with them and their parents. I might give a tiny bit of “advice” if something seems really obvious to me. Generally, though, I don’t hear back from the teens and then don’t end up in my office. So… I think about these teens…

My Parents Hate Me

If you feel like your parents hate you, we need to figure out what the disconnect is.

When parents: Try to get you to value the same things they value (church, school, volunteering, etc.)
They are: Doing their best to raise you into their version of a good and successful person. You do not have to value their church or way of dressing long-term. Before long, you will get to live your life as you choose. If this is a really big issue, it might help to sit down with a therapist to come to some compromises. Read here to find a therapist in your area.

When parents: Take away your cell phone/ipod/computer for the weekend…
They are: Generally trying to say that you broke the rules, and now you must pay. They don’t hate you if they do this to you, even though this brings you *PAIN.

When parents: Call you names…
They are: Either unsure that the name hurts you (could they be using sarcasm?) or they are not handling their anger the way adults should handle their anger. The name-calling usually does not mean they hate you, but that they don’t know what do to. Again, if name calling is happening a lot, I suggest therapy. If that is not an option, do your best to talk with trusted people about your situation. Know that the names they are calling you are not true and that their hurtful words actually show you that your parent is struggling. This is not your fault. I will write a blog at some point about how you can counter the name-calling in your mind with affirmations.

When parents: Hit you…
They are: Not managing their anger appropriately. Talk with a trusted adult. Hitting is not okay and therapy (at very least) is needed.

When parents: Ground you.
They are: Telling you that they don’t like something you did or said. This usually does not mean that they hate you. Grounding can feel really bad, though, and if it is being used constantly, you might need to negotiate some other consequences (not during an argument, though. That won’t work). Also, if you’re being grounded constantly, something needs to change. Work on somehow meeting your parents in the middle with whatever rule of theirs you keep breaking.

One last thing. Life is not always fair and sometimes you are dealt a bad situation. The one thing I can tell you is this: THIS IS TEMPORARY! YOU HAVE A LONG LIFE AHEAD OF YOU.

Teens: Please email me or comment below and I will write more about general topics to help you figure out what is going on when your parent does a certain thing. What do your parents do that makes you feel as if they hate you?

**Please note: I will respond to some comments/questions below. Because I am not your therapist (and, therefore, do not have all the information about your situation) please do not mistake my comments as professional advice. I cannot always respond to the questions quickly and if you are in need of professional help, do not rely on this blog for that type of support. Please call your therapist or 911 if you are in need of immediate hep.**

“You always/You never…”

Teens: Generally speaking, it is not helpful to accuse your parent of being a crappy parent in order to get what you want. Let me clarify with an example.

Teen: I’m going to Sam’s tonight.

Parent: Excuse me? Were you asking me if you could go somewhere tonight?

Teen: Yes, I’m asking to go to Sam’s house tonight.

Parent: You need to ask me for permission. Not TELL me what you are doing.

Teen: I AM asking! I’m asking to go to Sam’s house! What don’t you understand?

Parent: I understand this just fine. I understand that you’re telling me where you’re going tonight!

Teen: You always do this! You never let me go anywhere! You’re always on such a power trip! You’re a control freak!

Parent: You’re not going anywhere because you’re being so disrespectful right now. This conversation is OVER.

Teenager fight with mom Boom… endofstory. You’re now stuck at home tonight. A word to the wise: Parents like to be asked for permission. Additionally, telling them what a horrible parent they are (while asking them for permission to go somewhere) is not going to get you what you want. Nor is it going to help your relationship with your parent.

Teens, try to avoid starting your sentences with, “You always,” and “You never.” You’ll get further in your conversation.

Has avoiding these words helped you in conversation with your parents?

I’m Anxious About My Future

It is very normal to feel anxious about the future. For one thing, the future brings lots of uncertainty, which can be anxiety provoking in itself. Also, when thinking about the future, there are big decisions to make such as whether or not to go to college, take a gap year, enter the workforce, etc. Maybe you haven’t made these decisions yet and that’s okay. Some people put pressure on themselves about these decisions and/or get pressure from outside sources such as teachers and parents. Maybe you have gotten the message that you need to know what you want to do RIGHT NOW, and that what you choose you will be stuck with until you retire. That’s a lot of pressure! No wonder you are anxious if this is how the future feels to my teen suffering from anxiety

Future decisions are not set in stone. You can take your time to make up your mind and can then make changes along the way. Some people change their major in college numerous times. Some people go to school for one thing and end up doing something else. Some people have a career for a while and then change careers later in life. All of this is okay. While thinking about the future is scary, taking time to plan out the future might decrease anxiety because it decreases uncertainty. And be ready for the curves or changes of heart that come along with being human. We don’t always know how things are going to be, or how we are going to feel. There is not a “right” way, as we are all different.

I also see young people worry about the future because they think if they take a “misstep” their dreams will unravel. For example, they think they need to get all As or they will not get to have the future they want (or the future others want for them). Again, no wonder you feel anxious if you are being given the message that one B will ruin your future. It’s okay to not get all As. Many people who did not get all As in school go on to have very successful careers. I’m not saying don’t try in school. I’m just saying that you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself.

what decision making actually looks like

Or maybe you are anxious for the future because it is such a big change (like those of you who are about to graduate high school, go off to college, or enter the workforce). Other people feel nervous about these transitions, too. You are not alone. Think about other times you have gone through a transition, like the transition from middle school to high school. Remind yourself you were able to get through it.

In summary, here are the strategies I have detailed to reduce worry about future:

  1. Remind yourself that decisions are not set in stone; life is fluid and ever changing. It is okay to change your mind.
  2. Make a plan, so that you know your next step. Remember, plans can change. This is a normal part of life and helps us understand ourselves better!
  3. Do your best to put less pressure on yourself!
  4. Remember other transitions you have gone through in your life that turned out okay. Think positive thoughts!

There are many reasons why thinking about the future is difficult. What has helped you in managing your anxiety about the future?

Blog written by Sentier therapist, Andrea Schroeder, MS, LPCC, LPC