Category Archives: Teen Angst

Battle vs. War

A friend of mine, we’ll call her Mary, is a single parent, a business owner, and the mother of an angry teenage daughter. Naturally, she needs a place to vent, so we talk a lot about her situation. Lately the daughter, we’ll call her Jane, has decided she’s not that interested in school. She stays up late, says she feels sick, and if she does make it in to school, sleeps through most of her classes. They are engaged in a classic power struggle, and their relationship has deteriorated precipitously.

On a recent weekday evening, Jane and Mary were in the living room sort of watching TV, and Jane was on her cell phone with her boyfriend. The boyfriend is problematic; he has dropped out of high school, is living at home, and his mother has pretty much thrown up her hands in terms of trying to impose any structure on his life. He has become Jane’s support network when she is fighting with Mom, so naturally Mary sees him as the enemy.

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Facebook, The Final Frontier


I love Facebook. It’s enabled me to connect with people whom I had long ago nearly forgotten, to see pictures of old friends in their current configurations, and to meet new people who are kindred spirits and quirky characters. (It has also sucked away hours of time that should have been spent more productively, but that’s one of the many challenges we all must learn to deal with in this brave new age!)

As a high school guidance counselor, it has also presented me with some of my greatest challenges in terms of how to deal with kids that are being mean to each other in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I was in high school. Whether it is setting up a fake page posing as someone else and making them look like a fool, or girls pretending to like some lonely boy only to get him to confess his undying adoration before squashing his heart, or posting Photoshopped images that enable anyone with minor tech skills to make anyone else into anything they want them to be, or making crude and nasty threats to students at other schools so that extra security has to be hired prior to athletic events, the Internet has radically altered the landscape that teens inhabit.

The fact of the matter is that the tools utilized by teens – whether it’s cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, IMs or iPods – have created a virtual Wild, Wild West in which very few rules are written, much less applied with any effectiveness whatsoever. Teenagers figured this stuff out long before we did, and now they have set up their own outlaw outposts on the Internet and we adults come along like a bunch of rubes from back east, telling them they need to clean up their acts. The truth is, most teens have already been at this for a couple of years, and only recently have most of us responsible for their welfare been taking a noticeable interest in their activities.

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justiceThere’s a lot to be said for the concept of balance — it’s important to be aware of it in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Being in balance in your own life is a key to helping others recognize when they might be out of balance.

In working with teenagers and their families, I find that it’s easy for relationships to get unbalanced quickly, and without anyone recognizing their own part in the imbalance. One of the key ingredients is balancing acceptance and change. In other words, what parts of my life can I learn to accept, and what parts demand that I make changes?

I’ve been reading Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, by Dr. Mel Levine, and he articulated this concept of balanced relationships between teens and parents better than I’ve heard it anywhere else. He has a number of spectrums, I guess you’d call them, which provide clear guidelines for families to assess areas of their relationships which might be unbalanced. To see these, read on!

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Cyberbullying PSA

One of my biggest challenges as a guidance counselor is hearing about how Facebook bullying hurts kids and causes a number of uproars at schools. I try to stay out of people’s business, but also to intervene when necessary with direct questions that strongly invite students to think of the moral and ethical implications of their actions. I think this video makes the point quickly and clearly, and thanks to Amy at MindOH! for sharing the video.

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