Embracing Change, Embracing Yourself

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“Fall has always been my favorite time of year. The crunchy, bright-colored leaves underfoot make me smile, and the cooler temperatures make me glad to pull out my cozy clothes and boots. For those of us who adore the bright sunshine and long, hot days of summer, autumn may set off alarm bells that summer is over and winter not far ahead. I enjoy summer, but by the time autumn approaches I am ready for the change.

There is something about the changing season that always makes me sit up a little straighter. Every year around this time, I notice a resurgence of creative energy. I start thinking about groups to run, blogs to write, goals to pursue, and changes to enact. The shifting season awakens an energy that I find exciting.”

Our very own therapist, Amy Marlow-MaCoy, wrote a beautiful blog post about how to embrace the changes that come with each new season.

You can read Amy’s full blog post about embracing seasonal changes here!

Mismatched Memories: Speak Your Truth

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Have you ever listened to two people tell the story of a shared experience? It’s amazing what differences can show up when two different sets of memories are at play. One person sees a red car run into a blue one at the intersection, while the person next to them swears it was the blue one that hit the red one. Aunt Susie remembers Uncle Frank splitting his pants while dancing the polka, but Uncle Frank insists it happened during the mazurka.

While it can be funny to hear how differently two people recall a humorous incident, it can be devastating when the misalignment between your memories and someone else’s is used to dismiss or discredit you. There is real pain when your memories don’t match the story that is being told.”

Our therapist, Amy Marlow-MaCoy, wrote a blog post about why mismatched memories happen and signs to look out for to see the distinction between simply recalling things differently and signs of abuse.

You can read Amy's post on mismatched memories here.

What Does it Mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person?

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What does it mean to be a highly sensitive person?

“You’re too sensitive!” 

“Just get over it and move on!”

“Stop CRYING at every little thing!”

Sound familiar? You might be one of the 20% of the population possessing the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) trait. Having the HSP trait means that you “process things more deeply, such as cues, emotions, and experiences.” You’re more tuned into your environment than others may be, and you pick up on very minor cues that often go overlooked. 

HSPs don’t only observe these subtle cues – you often have an emotional reaction to them. When you are picking up on so many small, easily missed cues, it’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed. It can make seemingly easy social interactions draining and highly emotional. 

Signs you may be a highly sensitive person: 

  • Sensory stimuli (noises, lights, coarse or uncomfortable clothing) often overwhelm you 

  • Action packed or violent movies & TV overwhelm you, so you try to avoid them

  • You are easily flustered/unsettled when you have many things to do in a short amount of time

  • You are very emotionally influenced by art, nature, or any other expression of human beauty

  • Your inner life is rich & complex

What obstacles can being an HSP create?

Having the HSP trait is not a bad thing; many people see it as a gift, or superpower. Dr. Elae Aron, the psychologist who discovered the HSP trait, describes it as a neutral trait of temperament which, like anything else, presents both advantages and disadvantages.

As an HSP, you have the advantage to be more in tune with how others are feeling, which can allow you to strengthen a relationship. You feel things deeply, so art and music and books can impact you more. It allows you to tune into the happiness others are feeling, to tap into a deeper gratitude for the things in life you appreciate, and to be deeply moved and thoughtful on a regular basis. 

But all coins have two sides. Downsides for HSPs could include the following:

“Schedule” Stress:

HSPs use up a lot of social and emotional energy in seemingly mundane or commonplace interactions. They are picking up on every single thing - even subtle social cues - and processing them all, so even short interactions can be draining. So when HSPs suddenly have too many things going on in their schedule, they can start to feel extremely overwhelmed. They also are more likely to feel time pressure, even if there is enough time to get everything they need to done. 

Stress of Others’ Expectations:

Since highly sensitive people are more in tune with minor cues, there is a risk of interpreting cues incorrectly. HSPs don’t want to say no to others, and risk potentially disappointing or upsetting them, so they often take on more than they can handle without expressing that they’re overwhelmed. They also often feel as though they are responsible for whether those around them are happy. 

Extreme Stress from Minor Conflicts: 

Because highly sensitive people often feel that they are responsible for the happiness of those around them, and sensitive to mood shifts and subtle cues, minor conflicts often have large emotional impact of them. They’ll feel not only their own stress from the conflict, but the stress from the other person. 

Reduced “Tolerations”:

Tolerations are just what they sound like – things in our daily lives that we are able to tolerate, despite being stressful or frustrating. A highly sensitive person is able to manage fewer of these than a non-HSP. Highly sensitive people are more sensitive to noise distractions, bad smells, or any other sort of sensory annoyance – which can make even seemingly minor things like background chatter extremely grating. Because of that, highly sensitive people are able to tolerate less of these little annoyances, and may find increased stress if they are unable to control or reduce the distractions around them.  

How does therapy help highly sensitive people?

Therapy can be an enormous help to highly sensitive people. It can help make it easier for an HSP to:

  • set & enforce boundaries 

  • learn stress management skills for when situations are overwhelming 

  • separate their decision making from perceived others expectations of them 

It’s common for highly sensitive people to feel they’ve let themselves get lost in the shuffle – while being so in tune to other’s feelings & moods, they often leave themselves as the last priority. This can lead to lots of self-doubt that therapy provides a space to work through. When before, you may have tried to manage all of these feelings and stimuli and subtle cues on your own, therapy gives you a designated time & place to get support while managing them. 

Are you a highly sensitive person looking for a therapist who gets you? Learn more about Cat McLaughlin MA, NCC, LPC, and a specialist for highly sensitive people here:






6 Ways School Is Stressing Out Your Teen

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It’s stressful being a teen. The stresses that teens face today may seem sort of new and foreign to adults who grew up before the digital age, but a lot about being a teenager has stayed consistent over time. It’s a time of great emotional and physical changes. Teens have to deal with their bodies growing and changing, preparing for their futures, and learning how to deal with the interpersonal issues that come with the territory, and frankly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Even though teens can now record their stress on Instagram Live, they’re still dealing with the stresses that are typical for their age group. 

One thing that many teens have in common is that school is the biggest source of their stress. According to Psycom, 83% of teens report that school is one of their common sources of stress. While there is no doubt that school is important, it’s also important to recognize the ill effects of prolonged stress both physically and mentally. While there’s no guaranteed source of stress for teenagers in school, the following list contains some of the most common sources of school stress. If you notice your teen going through one or more of these at the same time, make sure to check in with them to see how you can best support them. If you know what to look for, it will be easier to spot sources of school stress and then act when your teen needs assistance. 

Upcoming exams

Tests are a big part of school, at least in the United States. There’s not really a way to avoid having to take tests, but they’re stressful all the same. There are specific periods of the year where this type of stress gets worse: midterms, finals, and state tests come to mind. Make sure your teen has a plan to prepare for their exams and a plan to relax once they’re over!

Overwhelming amounts of homework

Homework is another inevitable part of the academic experience for teenagers. However, the amount of schoolwork that is given out now might seem overwhelming. Have a chat with your teen to discuss how they feel about their workload and how they can help manage their time. 

Exhaustion

Teens need a lot of sleep at night to keep growing and developing, but they rarely get it. Between the pull of social media and the demands of school, jobs, sports, extracurriculars, family, and friends, it is probably tough for your teen to find five minutes to themselves where they don’t have to be doing something. Even if your teen wants to do everything possible, it may fall to you to exercise some restraint with their schedule so they can prioritize rest.

Social Anxiety

For many teens, social anxiety is a real trigger of school stress. Whether it’s interpersonal issues with friends, dealing with kids they don’t like, or having to speak in front of the class (or something else!), there are plenty of opportunities throughout the school day to exacerbate social anxiety. If this is something that is tough for your teen, they may have options. Not everyone learns in the same way, and it’s okay for them to have a talk with a teacher or a guidance counselor to see what other options they have. 

Not enough time in the day

As mentioned a little above, teens are extremely busy. They have school, clubs, music lessons, sports, jobs, chores, family responsibilities, and friendships to maintain, and that’s just scratching the surface. Teens only have the same 24 hours as everyone else, and they need a solid night’s sleep. Time management is a skill that is essential for many life paths, so it’s a good idea to give your teen some pointers now. Talk about things that work for you when you’re stressed or frustrated, or offer suggestions on how to manage their time more effectively.  

An unpredictable routine

People are creatures of habit. It can be really stressful when our routines are thrown off! Children especially thrive on having a routine to follow, and teens are no exception. So many things can mess with a routine - an illness, a carpool issue, missing the bus, starting a new semester - and it can be hard to keep things under control when you have no idea what’s coming. Do what you can for your teen to keep their routine as consistent as possible. 

Is school stress overwhelming your teen? We can help! 

What You Need to Know About EMDR as an Adult

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In a recent blog post, we discussed how EMDR Therapy can be used to treat children and teens with anxiety, performance, bullying, or self-esteem issues.  However, it can be an enormously helpful form of therapy for adults as well. 

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This treatment technique is a nontraditional form of therapy that was developed to help deal with traumatic memories. This type of treatment has been particularly beneficial to people living with trauma, including PTSD. 

However, EMDR isn’t necessarily reserved for folks who have experienced severe trauma in their lives. EMDR can be used to treat disorders like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, and even performance-related stress. 

Even though EMDR is often used to treat severe trauma, here at the Center for Family Empowerment, our clinician Josie McCall has found great success in using EMDR to help treat “smaller” traumas. You don’t need to have experienced a disturbing or traumatic event to benefit from EMDR. This type of therapy can be helpful to many, especially folks who have work-related anxieties or issues that are getting in the way of their success (such as a fear of giving a presentation in front of your coworkers). 

EMDR can also help with: 

  • Generalized anxiety

  • Social anxiety

  • Phobias

  • Self-esteem issues

  • Intense fear

  • Public speaking anxiety

  • Work-related stress

  • Networking anxiety 

EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1989 when she was walking and noticed that her eye movements helped to lessen the negative emotions she associated with disturbing memories. She further studied this theory and developed EMDR therapy over time, to the point where millions of people have received EMDR therapy. EMDR therapy sessions last anywhere from 60-90 minutes, and they tend to be structured differently than a traditional talk therapy session.

What are the benefits of EMDR therapy? 

In addition to being a valuable treatment option for things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, panic attacks, ADHD, and chronic pain, EMDR also has several other benefits. Here are a few: 

  • less talking needed in each session

  • quicker results than traditional talk therapy

  • learn tangible and effective coping skills 

  • need fewer sessions

  • lasting effects 

As you’ll learn below, EMDR is structured differently than a traditional talk therapy session, and research has shown that this treatment delivers results in a much shorter time frame. Instead of coming in once a week for months on end, EMDR treatment tends to last about 12 sessions. That means fewer sessions, fewer payments, and real results! 

In addition, the techniques that your therapist will teach you during EMDR treatment can be applied to future scenarios, leaving you better equipped to deal with things as they come up. Side effects can also be a huge deal in mental health treatment, but EMDR therapy has no negative side effects, making this a very safe form of therapy to try.

What should you expect in EMDR therapy as an adult? 

EMDR therapy is broken down into 8 phases. 

In the first phase, your clinician will go over your history with you and develop a treatment plan.

In phase two, your clinician will teach you a variety of techniques to handle emotional distress that you can use during sessions and after you go home. 

Phases three through six of EMDR are the Rapid Eye Movement portion of the treatment. In these phases, your clinician will guide you to recall the particular negative memory you will be working with during the session, a negative belief you hold about yourself related to that memory, and any physical sensations and emotions you experienced. 

While you are describing these, your clinician will begin with eye movement. In many cases, clinicians encourage side to side eye movements by moving their fingers back and forth, but some clinicians prefer hand tapping or audio tones to serve the same purpose. Your therapist will guide you to describe a negative belief and a positive belief about yourself. Once the eye movement portion is complete (the length of time varies), your therapist will tell you to let your mind go blank and notice whatever comes up. This process continues until the memory is no longer disturbing to you. 

Phase seven is basically the homework you do between EMDR sessions. Your therapist will ask you to keep a log of anything that comes up for you during the week related to the memories you worked through in your last session. 

Phase eight begins in your next session, where you go over your progress with your therapist and determine what to do next. 

But how does EMDR therapy work? 

One huge benefit of EMDR therapy is that it significantly decreases the amount of time it takes for people to make progress working through trauma or stressful situations. One of the ways that EMDR works is that it helps both sides of your brain communicate to work through distressing events.

EMDR helps you to replace the negative thoughts associated with traumatic memories with positive ones, by helping build bridges between different parts of your brain. If you think of trauma as an injury like a broken arm, then EMDR is the splint that guides the broken bones back into place. 

EMDR is a fantastic option if you’re looking to treat trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and panic attacks, among other things. EMDR can help you feel much better in a much shorter time frame than more traditional methods of therapy, without the side effects that some other treatments have.

While this is a general overview of what to expect in EMDR therapy, keep in mind that each session will look a little different for everyone. Your therapist can determine what will work best for you and your unique needs when you go over your history.

Think EMDR therapy might be right for you? Contact Josie today! 

Teen Stress: Where Does it Come From & How to Manage It

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Do you know what causes your teen stress? 

Did you know that 45% of teens say that they’re stressed all the time? In fact teen stress has climbed so high that it now rivals the stress adults (with full time jobs, people to care for, and bills to pay) feel in their day to day lives. 

So what is causing all of this stress?

  • 83% of teens say it’s school causing their stress

  • 69% of teens say the pressure of applying to colleges and figuring out a post high school path increases their stress

  • And 65% of teens feel stress caused by family finances

On a 10-point scale (one being not stressed at all, 10 being extremely stressed), teens report feeling an average of 5.8 during the school year, which is higher than the 5.1 most adults report. 

Within school there are pressures to get good grades, to add on extra curriculars, to balance school work, sports, music & arts programs, and a well rounded social life. On top of this, many teens have to work part time, either to aid with family finances, save for college, or fund other responsibilities (cars, phone payments, etc.). 

This means that teens are cramming all of their free time with school work, extra curriculars, or part time jobs, leaving them little to no free time in which they can relax or decompress. Without that time to decompress, their stress only multiplies, exacerbated by lack of sleep, a hectic routine, poor nutrition, etc. 

What signs of stress could your teen be showing?

A huge part of the teen stress problem, is that often teenagers have no idea how negatively stress is actually impacting their physical and mental health. 

With the pressure to get as much done as possible, teens may not even realize how important downtime is. At this point in their lives, likely they have not had time to explore & figure out what balance is right for them when it comes to a school-life balance. And with all of their peers experiencing the same thing, teens have come to see extreme stress, exhaustion, and burnout as the norm. 

So what are the signs we should be looking out for in teens? How do we know if they’re too stressed and in need of support?

  • How are they sleeping? If they aren’t getting the usual amount of sleep, it is likely stress related.

  • Are they overindulging in unhealthy food (without the balance of healthy foods that they usually have)? Stress eating is a common sign of excess stress among teens.

  • Is their mood unpredictable? High stress can cause irritability, anger, sadness, and a general inability to regulate your mood. 

  • Have they been sick more frequently than usual? High stress can weaken the immune system (the body isn’t able to rest and recuperate as well); and things like headaches, stomach aches, and other bodily aches can become more frequent when under high stress.

  • How is their cognitive function? Are they more forgetful than usual? Are they having trouble concentrating? Do they seem to get burned out very quickly? What might present as carelessness can actually be a decrease in cognitive function as the result of extreme stress.

How can teens cope with their stress in a healthy way & still achieve academic success? 

Learning to manage these high levels of stress is essential for your teen. If you notice your teen is being overly stressed in school, here’s what you can do to help: 

Help them identify the problem:

Where is their stress coming from? Is it school work? Are their classes too advanced? Are they struggling to understand the material? Do they simply have too much on their plate? Is their stress coming from a warped view of your expectations (ie: do they believe your love for them is contingent upon the grades they get?). Help them get to the root of the problem. If they are stressed from the pressure of too many expectations, let them know that their health and happiness is the most important concern. If the stress is coming from having too many commitments, help them find a way to reduce what’s on their plate. If it’s from school struggles, look into extra help options with them.

Teach them about healthy boundaries:

Does your teen have trouble saying no? The pressure to overcommit themselves can add a huge amount of stress onto your teen. Learning the importance of personal boundaries (setting and enforcing them) can help your teen better manage their own time and energy. Help them figure out where their limits are. Remind them that those limits are there so they can continue to do well in the things they spend their time on–and that ignoring their limits won’t necessarily mean they can achieve more, just that they will have less energy and mental focus to devote to what is important to them. 

Encourage active relaxation: 

When your teen has free time, how do they spend it? Do they feel the need to fill it with something “productive”? Help them find time to sit and relax. And when their schedule seems overwhelming, let them know you are there to help them figure it out so that they can honor the rest time they need. Whether it’s just sitting and reading, watching TV, meditating, or taking a nap, make sure that they have regular rest time worked into their schedule. 

If you’re looking for additional support for your teen and their stress management skills, check out our Managing School Stress and Anxiety Workshop:


The Umbrella Academy, Part 2: The Power of Connections

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"*Spoiler alert!!* This article is part two of a two-part series that will explore characters in The Umbrella Academy, a television show adapted from an original comic by Gerard Way. Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix. If you plan to watch the show, be warned! Here there be spoilers. 

In part 1 of this mini-series, we got to know three of the Hargreeves children. Today, I will introduce the remaining siblings and we will explore how Sir Reginald’s emotional distance and narcissism impacted Klaus, Number Five, Ben, and Vanya."

Our therapist, Amy Marlow-MaCoy, wrote a two-part review of Netflix's new show The Umbrella Academy with a special focus on the effects of narcissistic parenting on adults and how this influences family dynamics.

You can read Amy's second post on the family connections of the show here.

How Can EMDR Help Your Child?

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Does your child struggle with anxiety, performance, bullying, or self esteem? 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) therapy can be a great way to help your child or teen work through these issues in a safe and comfortable environment. 

How does EMDR help kids & teens?

While EMDR is often used to treat severe trauma, here at the Center for Family Empowerment, our clinician Josie McCall has found great success in using EMDR to help treat “smaller” traumas–especially in children and teens. Things EMDR can help with that aren’t severe trauma include: 

  • Generalized anxiety

  • Social anxiety

  • Phobias

  • Self-esteem issues

  • Bullying

  • Social embarrassment

  • Intense fear

  • Public speaking anxiety

Just as it would for severe trauma, the EMDR process for coping with any of the above involves the same 8-phase treatment. Each one of the above issues can cause distress in the mind and the body, which is exactly what EMDR aims to reprocess. 

This can be especially helpful for children, who may not be able to explore their anxiety or strong emotions with as much complexity as an adult could, but who still needs help healing from anxiety, low self-esteem, or phobias. Plus, what may seem like a non-traumatic event for an adult (someone being mean at school, etc.) can feel very traumatic for a child who might be experiencing that extreme emotion for the first time. 

EMDR can give less verbal children space to process and heal from their distress without putting pressure on them to articulate at length why they are feeling what they are feeling. 

What exactly is EMDR? 

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing. It was designed to help alleviate the distress that can come with reprocessing traumatic memories. The goal of EMDR therapy is to reformulate negative beliefs hindering personal growth, relieve distress caused by trauma, and reduce the heightened physiological arousal that comes with traumatic memories. 

In short, EMDR aims to heal psychological trauma the same way our body can heal from physical trauma. Take this example from the EMDR institute: 

“When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.”

What does the EMDR process look like?

What will the process be like for your child or teen? What can they expect if they come in for help with anxiety, low self-esteem, performance issues, or phobias?

EMDR is an 8-phase treatment. While other psychotherapies involve talking in-depth about a problem, trauma, or distressing issue, EMDR is focused on guiding your brain to heal its own psychological injuries. It goes like this: 

PHASE ONE: History taking. In this phase, the therapist will work with the client to identify any possible targets for reprocessing and determine the client’s readiness for treatment. 

PHASE TWO: Distress Management. During this phase, the therapist will ensure that the client has several different coping skills they can use to manage any emotional distress they feel throughout the process. 

PHASE THREE-SIX: Target Identification & Processing. These phases consist of clients: 

  1. Identifying a visual image that relates to the troubling memory

  2. Identifying a negative belief they hold about themselves i.e. “I’m so boring, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good, enough”

  3. Identifying related negative emotions & bodily reactions/sensations

The processing comes through something called “bilateral stimulation” which means both sides of the brain are activated to help digest the difficult memory. It is typically not the case that a fear of public speaking comes from an organic piece of our biology- it’s that we have had negative experiences related to being in front of people. Those experiences lead to the anxiety that is felt presently.

After processing through the negative emotions, sensations & reactions that relate to the memory, once the client is experiencing no distress, they will switch to positive beliefs & emotions. This helps the therapist & client reprocess the memory to eliminate distress. 

PHASE SEVEN: Closure. The client will keep a log in the week following treatment and record any self soothing activities they use. 

PHASE EIGHT: Examining the process. The therapist & client will get together and examine how the process has worked. 

Think EMDR therapy might be right for your child or teen? Contact Josie today! 


Where Has the Empathy Gone?

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Are you wondering where your teen’s sense of empathy is? In the most simple definition, empathy is the ability to understand another’s feelings. It doesn’t mean we feel the emotion too, it means we can understand why someone would feel a certain way. However, sometimes, it just seems like teens don’t understand anything about the feelings of others! If you’re wondering where your teen’s empathy is, or when it will kick in, you’re not alone.

Since we as humans are social, it makes sense that empathy would be something we develop. We’ve evolved over time to live in communities and groups, and anything that supports group harmony (such as a sense of empathy) would be beneficial to society as a whole. So why does it seem like it takes forever to develop?

There is a popular idea out there that since the brain doesn’t fully finish developing until a person is in their mid-twenties, people simply don’t develop empathy until later in life. The research is divided on this idea, however. While some studies do show that the prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to develop, that doesn’t necessarily mean that teenagers are incapable of empathy. Rather, it could mean that the ‘normal’ path of human development requires a person to first focus on themselves before focusing on the greater good of others. There are a lot of changes that go on from the late childhood to the early teen years, and they can be confusing enough to navigate without bringing other people into the mix. 

However, that doesn’t mean that there is no hope. You’re not doomed to deal with a sullen, self-absorbed teenager forever! There are ways you can support your teen while teaching them to develop a sense of empathy.

Here are 4 ways you can teach empathy to your teen: 

Teach them that emotions come and go

When you’re a teenager, feeling everything very strongly for the first time, it can be tough to remember that feelings are temporary. It’s important to teach teens that while their feelings are valid, they don’t last forever. Eventually, they will move on to a different feeling, and the same is true for everyone else in the world. If they see it’s true for them, they’ll have an easier time believing it’s true for everyone else too. 

Model your own struggles with empathy

The teen years can be an intimidating time. Many teens feel like no one understands them or that no one has ever been through what they’re going through before. As adults, we know that’s not true, but it doesn’t change the way that they feel! One way to bridge the gap is to show your teen that empathy doesn’t always come naturally. Tell them about a time when you weren’t empathetic toward someone and how that made everyone feel. 

Talk about current events 

Developing empathy is a great reason to use the news to your advantage! When you have some free time with your teen, discuss some current events. Ask them to imagine how people on both sides feel. Chat with them about how you feel about current events to show them a different perspective. 

Remind them to look at the big picture

As an adult with presumably more practice being empathetic, you can guide your teen. When they’re frustrated with someone, remind them of a time when they acted the same way. For example, if they’re upset because they want a friend or partner to text them back, remind them that they frequently turn off their notifications during sports practice or work so they can take a step back and look at the big picture.


Empathy will develop in time, but it does sometimes seem like it takes a while for teens to master. With some gentle guidance and modeling on your part, your teen can practice stretching their empathy muscles. Over time, and with enough practice, empathy wil come more naturally for your teen. 


If you’re looking for additional support for your teen and their social skills, check out our Simply Social boys group below. 

Can You Teach Being Social?

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Can you teach your children to be social? Are social skills ones that can be learned and improved?

Short answer: Yes! 

Slightly longer answer: Social skills, just like any other skills are a set of behaviors that can be taught to us through conversation, interaction, and by way of leading by example. For children this means they are learned from their parents, their siblings, their teachers, their coaches, etc.  

In a world where technology is creeping into more and more areas of our lives, it’s important to prioritize social learning in your children. While school is a great place to learn social skills, it’s crucial to model & practice these skills outside of an academically focused environment. 

With reduced need for face to face communication, children and teens may not even realize they aren’t developing proper social, communicative & cooperation skills. Things like reading a person's body language, facial expression & vocal tone to understand mood, or developing patience for problems that can’t be solved right away are hard to learn when so much of our time & our children’s time is spent on electronics or online. This can lead to or exacerbate anxiety later in life when they are in new environments without feeling like they were taught the rules of communication. 

So how can you help your child to learn social & communicative skills? 

1). Lead by Example

One of the most natural ways our children learn from us is simply observing our behaviors. When they see you speaking and socializing what sort of behaviors are you modeling for them? 

Are you gossiping? Do you interrupt others as they speak? Or do you listen, showing through your body language that you are listening? Do you point out when others have been interrupted and ask them to continue with what they were saying? Do you express yourself clearly so as not to leave others guessing what it is you mean? 

In tense social situations, how do you respond? Do you try to find something good to focus on? Do you make space for others, smile, or offer encouragement to others? 

Remember that our children look at the behaviors we model and then take those same behaviors and apply them to their lives & social interactions–even if they don’t realize it. Think about the social values you want to teach them through your own actions. 

2). Talk to them with Real-Life Examples

Is your child on a sports team or in a club? Do they play in the school band or orchestra or choir? All of these are social situations you can use to help you when explaining or teaching about social skills & values. 

Give them space to talk about these activities, about conflicts that arise, and use these real life examples to help them understand the different ways in which we communicate and socialize. Ask them what happens when there is a problem, how does their team or group work together to solve it? What happens when one person is struggling more than the others, how does the group help them? How can they tell when someone is upset? What can they do about it in that situation? 

Or if they tell you about something that has already happened, help them to understand the different layers of what went on. (“When you said/did X, that made your friend feel Y, so they did Z. Does that make sense?”) Talking them through past social situations can help them become aware of what they should be paying attention to in the future. 

3). Role Play New Conversations

Is your child nervous about new situations? You can help them navigate the new social rules by walking them through what happens beforehand! Are they starting a new school or going somewhere they’ve never been before? Play act it with them a little! Teach them how to introduce themselves, help them think of ways to find common interests with new people. And ask them what they feel nervous about! Teach them that opening the communication can benefit them, that it’s okay to ask for help, and then walk them through whatever situation it is they’re nervous about. 

If you need more support with your child or teen, check out our Simply Social group for boys