Have You Been Feeling Disconnected from Your Teen or Young Adult?
Have conversations become really difficult and the relationship strained?
I can help you re-connect and create greater peace in your relationship
Perhaps your teenager is:
- Uncommunicative, secretive, and disrespectful
- Defiant, argumentative, and rude
- Struggling to fit in with peers
- Highly anxious and moody
- Embarrassed to be seen near you
- Angry and bitter about divorce and not accepting the new situation
- Hanging with a whole new group of friends that you haven’t met
- Sullen, silent and spending hours alone in their room
- Has gone from a good student to just getting by
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
If your teen is showing any of the above behaviours, chances are your family life is no longer that calm happy place it once was. Doing activities together as a family has become more stressful. Perhaps you are feeling frustrated and even helpless?
As a parent or stepparent of a teenager described above, then you may be:
- losing your temper, yelling, or saying things you later regret
- finding that removing privileges and other punishments are ineffective
- Confused, frustrated, and feeling alone
- guilty because you do not feel like you are being a very good parent
- upset that all your efforts at staying positive, providing encouragement are falling on deaf ears
- worried that you have lost all control over your teen
- concerned about the choice of your teen’s friends
- upset about finding drugs and drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room and not sure what to do
- blaming your teen’s problems on yourself, your partner, or your ex for your failed marriage
You are not alone.
Family Therapy with your teen and you, parent (or stepparent), can improve your relationship and stabilize the entire family.
- Adolescence is one of the most challenging periods for parents because so much is in flux.
- Growth spurts and the changes brought on by puberty are the most obvious changes as your child becomes a teenager.
- The adolescent brain is still undergoing an astounding amount of growth. Some days your teen shows remarkable insight and intellectual logic in a discussion and then the next they are making the most foolish decision.
Family therapy can help take the pressure off you and your teen and get your family back on track.
This is a demanding time to be a parent of teenagers.
- Many educators report that never in history has there been so much information going to our children that is unfiltered by adults. This is the result of more technological innovations that have changed how we work, live, and learn.
- What it means for teenagers is that they have more choices to contend with – more opportunity to go astray.
- Meanwhile, parents are in more serious competition for their children’s attention, when trying to teach them those lessons they value.
- Maintaining effective communication with your teenager during these challenging times has never been more important — or more difficult.
If you are a separated/divorced parent, there are many added complications.
When a teenager has two families to be part of, there are lots of added stresses for everyone.
- There is stress on the parents to be civil and respectful with each other for the kids’ sake, despite anger and bitterness that may be beneath the surface.
- There is stress on the teenager and siblings to grieve the loss of the family as they knew it.
- The adjustment period varies depending on the child’s age, the degree of distress experienced by them at the point of separation and the security of the relationship before the separation.
- The adjustment also depends on the capacity of the separated parents to put their children’s needs above their own and comfort and support them emotionally. This period requires grieving what has been lost; the family as it was.
- Grieving is needed to accept what is new. This process can last anywhere from a year or two to many years. Some teens’ grieving is prolonged by acrimonious and hostile parents.
The acceptance of a mother or father’s new partner will be more difficult (or maybe impossible) without an adequate period of adjustment where feelings can be expressed.
- If a teenager of separated or divorced parents is not ready to accept their parents’ dating, this can be very upsetting for all. This refusal to accept can show up as uncharacteristic rudeness or stubbornness.
- It puts everyone in loyalty binds. A teenager may be wondering who matters more – them or your new partner? In other words, it heightens feelings of abandonment for teens. It can also be a shock to parents who hoped that their children would just want them to be happy.
Successful parenting is about helping our children to develop a positive sense of self and a strong sense of belonging.
“Families are faced with navigating the changing demands of developmental transitions, daily life challenges, and unexpected crises each of which require families to find and sustain an emotional balance and coherence that govern what it means to promote both belonging and becoming” (Furrow, Palmer, Johnson, Faller and Palmer-Olsen, 2019)
As an EFFT (Emotionally Focused Family Therapist) helping parents and teens/young adults, I know how to help eliminate family distress and create stability for your family.
Family stability provides an emotionally secure base from which your teenager or young adult can successfully venture into the world with a strong sense of confidence and self-reliance. Adolescents naturally strive for greater autonomy and independence and tend to rely more and more on peers and their social networks. At the same time, they tend to stop idealizing their parents as they did when they were younger. This challenges parents to adapt to a new way of remaining connected and influential with them.
Using EFFT, I provide a safe and secure alliance where parents and adolescents can face the apparent competition between goals of connection and autonomy.
I prioritize parents’ caregiving role, including their unique relationship, and the emotional resources they require to effectively perform these responsibilities. At the same time, I help them examine their emotional blocks which are triggered by the mismatch between striving for autonomy and connection. For instance, a parent may become unreasonably strict because of their fear of the teen’s new unfamiliar friends they suspect are doing lots of drugs, but then they lose any influence.
At the same, I invite the adolescent to seek support as they explore their needs in the presence of a responsive caregiving parent. For example, when a teen or young adult joins a new group of friends the parents don’t know, they will more likely to explain why they like them, when they feel secure in their parents’ support.
“Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) engages the relationship resources families need most in times of times of disruption and distress. Families gain greater ‘felt security’ through corrective emotional experiences. These experiences enable parents and children to gain greater confidence in the availability of support and strength in the bonds of love that organize a family’s sense of connection and resiliency. The process of EFFT enables families to renew and rebuild these affective bonds and promote exploration, encourage growth, and sustain vital relationships across the lifespan.” (Furrow, Palmer, Johnson, Faller and Olsen-Palmer, 2019)
“We came to so see Allan because we had a situation with our 17-year-old son. He was becoming more and more difficult to reason with and was not taking any responsibility for himself. Our collective tempers were rising to the point where matters were becoming almost physical. As his father, I was so angry with him that I was ready to throw him out of the house.
Personally, I had reached a point where I did not know what to do. In counselling we learned better ways of negotiating and how to reach consensus. The process helped us do something different than what we were doing on our own. It allowed me to stop, back up and deal with the situation in a very different way. It reminded me of the things I normally did with all my children but had stopped doing because my son had become so unbelievably belligerent, which led to my growing anger. I felt that he just did not have the right to do what he was doing in our home. The counselling re-framed things for me so I could look at the situation differently. It calmed me down.
A key benefit of the counselling is that we now have a calmer, more respectful family. Allan, as a mediator with the tools to keep things calm, allowed all of us to say and hear what we needed to, from each other. Having finished counselling, we hope that we can NOW proceed with the same process without the need of a mediator. We can now live by a code of fairness. We have the skills to resolve matters without Allan. Since every person shared the counselling experience together, we can help one another if one of us starts to fail.
Allan kept his cool. When calm heads prevail, we’re all encouraged to do the same. When we took the step to go to a counsellor, we were admitting there was a serious problem and acknowledged that we had to do something about it. If we had proceeded on our own, without help, our son could well have been out of the house, and my wife extremely upset with me.
Allan connected with our son. He was firm with each of us so we were clear we could not get away with anything. But the process felt very fair. Allan knows when to speak and when to let things go. He intervenes when things are counterproductive. He is a good listener.
Measuring how I feel about my relationship with my son now, I have to say that I am much more comfortable. I see real change in him and I’m sure he would say the same about me.
I appreciated that Allan spoke up and ended our sessions when the counselling was complete. As a businessman, I know how some situations can be milked. While tentative at first, I came to trust the process. Allan maintains a professional distance while at the same time, shows you that he cares. You don’t need a therapist to be your friend, but you do need someone who is dispassionate. Allan was all of that. We have referred our friends to Allan.” *
The Benefits of Family Therapy and Teen/Young Adult Counselling:
- As a parent you will have an ally to appreciate your struggle and highlight your caring intentions for your son or daughter.
- You will be recognized as a parent who has a unique role and special understanding of your son or daughter’s life.
- By viewing the problem presented by the teen/young adult as a sign of family relational distress through an attachment lens, new possibilities for change and growth will open up.
- Parents will discover how to remove what is blocking them from being more responsive and be emotionally available to their teen or young adult.
- A strength focus on appropriate developmental tasks, family resources, promoting growth and reduce risk, leads to greater cooperation.
- When teens/young adults acknowledge that beneath their anger is fear, sadness, or other longings, they are more understood by parents.
- With parents emotionally accessible and expressing their love, their children are more likely to be more emotionally vulnerable and willing to ask for what they need and take responsibility for their actions.
A Success Story
Jennifer, a 14-year-old girl, met a 19-year-old boy at a downtown club. They liked the same music and began hanging out together. She knew her parents would not approve, so she kept the relationship a secret. When her mother was tidying her messy room, she came upon Jennifer’s open diary and read about the romance, her drug use, and desire to have sex and lose her virginity with someone who was not a “little boy” like those her own age.
When mom told dad about what she had discovered, he was enraged. They both confronted Jennifer and forbade her from ever seeing the boy again. Jennifer was extremely angry. She yelled at her mother for snooping in her private belongings. She screamed at them both that she was not a little girl and would find somewhere to live rather than stay with them and their ridiculously childish rules.
The family came to see me together with the 16-year-old sister who had convinced Jennifer to give counselling a try. During the therapy sessions, everyone had a chance to express their point of view, and what they wanted counselling to accomplish. Mom wanted to connect with Jennifer, dad wanted to work as a parenting team, sister wanted a calm family and Jennifer wanted out of the family – but was willing to wait and see.
Regular family therapy sessions included both parents alone and the teens on their own, but mostly the four of them together. Through counselling, I helped the family members engage in conversations with care, respect, and civility. The parents learned how to make their intentions clearer. The girls also trusted the counselling sessions as a place where they could speak their minds. Without the safety I created for them in the session, the conversations would have turned into nasty yelling and hurling insults as they had done at home. Gradually, the tensions at home diminished, as each one of the family members began to see their own part in creating the tension, and how to reduce it.
The parents met Jennifer’s 19-year-old boyfriend, which was awkward, but not as bad as they all expected. Her parents endured several wakeful nights, a few broken curfews and one time when Jennifer snuck out her bedroom window. Eventually, Jennifer and the boyfriend discovered that they were not that well suited.
Over the six months of counselling, Jennifer and her mother’s relationship improved to the point that Jennifer was confiding in her mother about her feelings on many issues in her life. Jennifer’s parents were much more relaxed about challenges that Jennifer presented them with and felt stronger as parenting partners and as a couple. The sister was happy that home was an enjoyable place to be again. Jennifer was content living at home, learned how to negotiate with her parents and have her requests considered.
You don’t have to struggle in your relationship with your teenager. Through family therapy, I can help improve your relationship with your teen.
Family Therapy provides a respectful forum reducing family relational distress by ensuring a safe and respectful place for expressing feelings, repairing misunderstandings, and learning to cooperate.
Still have some questions?
Online Therapy Available
- When you book your phone consultation, you will receive a call from me. We will discuss your situation so I can determine how I can help. We can figure out who should attend the first session and what to expect.
- First Three Family Therapy Sessions.
I prefer to see parents and teen together for the first family therapy session which is 90 minutes long. For separated/divorced parents living in separate homes, together we figure out what is the best way to proceed. It is very important to inform your teen that you are going to attend a family session. Keeping our meeting secret and telling them at the last minute will likely lead to upset and reduce the likelihood that they will attend willingly. Sometimes, you may have to come without the teen because they refuse to attend. On occasion, I will see parents alone, and we talk about how to encourage your teen to come the next time.
- During the first 90-minute family therapy session, we will learn about concerns that each of you have about your family relationships. Each will be able to speak freely, and I do all I can to make it as comfortable as possible. I will also ask you each to tell me what you hope to accomplish by coming to family counselling.
- It is common to see parents alone and the teenager alone for the second session. This allows each to speak freely about concerns they worry will hurt or upset the other if said in front of them, yet is important for me to know, in order to understand what is going on in the family.
- The third session is usually held all together to talk about the focus going forward. Often, the strained relationship is the focus of the two-person sessions. The goals you want to accomplish, shape the course of therapy.
- Subsequent Regular Family Therapy Sessions.
All subsequent sessions are 60 or 75 minutes long. I usually see those in the strained relationship together until the goals are accomplished.
- Follow-up Family Therapy Sessions.
I am committed to helping families make lasting change. When you have accomplished your goals and end regular family therapy sessions, a follow-up session can be held.
If you think you could benefit from family therapy, please book your free 15-minute phone consultation.
*All anonymous endorsements on this website were given voluntarily by clients after the completion of their counselling and in keeping with principles of the Code of Ethics and Standards of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.
New Insights Counselling provides family therapy and marriage counselling in midtown Toronto at Yonge and Eglinton serving Toronto, North York, Etobicoke, East York, and Scarborough and throughout Ontario Online.