Adolescence | Kay Trotter

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All Posts Tagged: Adolescence

How to recognize addiction in your teen

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drugs Use and Health, 9.5 percent of youths aged 12 to17 were using illicit drugs.  Many teenagers use drugs or alcohol just to experiment them, out of curiosity or to fit in with the crowd that they want to hang out with.  While some lucky teens experiment and stop or continue to use here and there without getting hooked up, but several stay addicted to drugs or alcohol and later turn into chronic addicts.  It is hard to say who will develop dependency and who will not.

However, the following circumstances can make teenagers more vulnerable:

  • Teens who grow up in a drug infested areas
  • Teen who hang out with grownup who are involved in the wrong activities
  • Teens who are unhappy and experiencing depression, stress or anxiety
  • Teens with low self – esteem
  • Teens who are uncomfortable with others around them
  • Teens who are abused physically, emotionally or sexually and
  • Teens who have anger issues and are defiant

Most teens start with alcohol or marijuana and gradually progress to using other hard drugs.  When teenagers begin using drugs sooner or later they start experiencing negative consequences such as losing interest in studies, cutting classes, playing hooky, violence, unprotected sex, risk of accidents, suicidal or homicidal ideation.

The most common early warning signs are:

  • Sudden mood changesBajeerao Patil
  • Irritability
  • Signs of low-self esteem
  • Uncommon behaviors
  • Staying too long in bed
  • Staying up too long
  • Lack of interest in general activities
  • Poor choices
  • Impaired judgment
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent long-lasting cough
  • Tired or red eyes
  • Frequent arguments
  • Defiance
  • Letting on discipline
  • Unwillingness to follow directions
  • Aloofness
  • Repeated health complaints
  • Lying or dishonesty
  • Things start disappearing from the house including money
  • Decreased interest in school
  • Falling grades
  • Cutting classes
  • Breaking laws
  • Weird sense of dressing (carelessness)
  • Mysterious friends
  • Change in friend circles
  • Spending more time outside the house or in the basement of the house
  • Negative attitude
  • Depression

Mind you, the above-mentioned signs can be of some other problems too.  If necessary you must consult your family physician without unnecessary delay.  Parents can play an important role in preventing their teenage children from using drugs by having open communication, educating them about drugs, demonstrating responsible behaviors (role modeling), and keeping an eye on their behaviors including being mindful of the company they keep.  Once a friend of mine suspected that his fourteen years old son was smoking marijuana, but he wasn’t sure about it.  His son had started bringing home his friends who had never had visited them before.  My friend didn’t know how to find out the truth.  He confronted his son, but his son created a scene and stopped talking to his dad for a while.  However, later his father smelled marijuana in the basement and also found some traces of marijuana there.  The son couldn’t lie any longer.  After the use of marijuana was confirmed, his father warned him not to bring his wayward friends home and also lovingly told his son not to hang out with his friends who are using marijuana or any other drugs.  Now my friend’s son has already completed a degree in Engineering and has well paid job.  Luckily, his marijuana use was found out before it got out of hand by his vigilant parents.  You think about it.

Struggling with addictionthere is help!

PatilPhotoGuest Author | Bajeerao Patil

Bajeerao Patil has been treating addictions as a drug and alcohol counselor for over 25 years. He has Masters Degrees in Social Work and Human Resources. He is an avid teacher of addiction and recovery.  He is affiliated with the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association.  Bajeerao Patil is an author of Insanity Beyond Understanding and Lifelong Sobriety. To learn more about Bajeerao Patil and his work, visit and



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Power Parenting


Power Parenting  • By Dore Quinn LPC

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the “Parenting University” for the Lewisville Independent School District.  The topic I presented was one that is near and dear to my heart entitled, “Power Parenting.”

I became acutely aware early on in my parenting career of the importance of parents having the power in a family.  Though most kids won’t admit it, parents having control in a family allows for the whole family to feel more secure.  I have worked with many teens that admitted they wished their parents were more in control of the family and that there were more rules and consistency.  The big question is, how do parents assume power in the family?

The main goal in assuming power in parenting is to stop arguing with the children.  There is a huge difference between discussing and arguing.  Discussion is okay; arguing is not.  An example of arguing is a parent instructing a child to clean his room and the charming child giving ten reasons why he shouldn’t have to clean his room.  Often we parents take the argument bait and try to logic the child into obedience. I might choose to try one argument of logic (because there is an innate part of me that really wants them to understand that I’m not trying to make their lives difficult for the fun of it), but then I’m done.  If the child is arguing, then the  child doesn’t really want to understand why he should have to comply; he simply hopes he can argue his way out of doing the job.  Rather than give reasons why he should do as I ask, I will simply repeat the request.

Here is an example: 

MOM:  If you want to go to your friend’s house, you’ll have your room clean by 5:00.

SON:  Why do I have to clean my room? Who is coming over? (Sound familiar??)

Fight the urge to take the bait… you are the parent and it isn’t necessary to justify your request. Instead, just repeat the request:

MOM:  Nevertheless, if you want to go to your friend’s house, you’ll have your room clean by 5:00.

SON: (becoming agitated): Why? It’s not my house… Who put that room in this house anyways??

Fight the urge again to take the bait (arguing often leads to escalation of a fight) and just repeat the request again.

Keep up this pattern until the child becomes frustrated with his repeated attempts to draw you into an argument and will often sigh in frustration and hopefully comply because his efforts are futile. 

If I have a particularly stubborn child, I may end up repeating the request four or five times at which time I will decide for the child that he doesn’t want to go to his friend’s house after all and then I will come up with a particularly distasteful consequence (phone disappearing, etc.) if he chooses not to comply.

The main goal in maintaining power is to keep from escalating with the child in his or her anger.  When we choose to argue with the child, then our position as the one in power diminishes as our anger escalates.

If you have a child who is argumentative, try using your hand held up in a “Stop” signal to give visual sight to your child that you expect him or her to stop.

Sometimes your child may have a particularly frustrating behavior pattern established that you may want to change.  The following is a behavior plan that I often use in private practice to help parents take control and end verbal arguing. There are a few premises that this plan works on.

  • It needs to be explained to the child thoroughly before implementation.
  • One behavior needs to be identified and worked on at a time.  More than one behavior becomes overwhelming to the child.
  • Once the plan is established, the parent DOES NOT argue with the child or even worse…LECTURE.  The parent simply marks the sheet.  If the child genuinely doesn’t understand then the parent may choose to explain once why the sheet was marked (but NOT argue!!!).  If the child argues, then another check is marked on the sheet.
  • Papers need to be taped onto the front of the fridge.  If you are one of those families with fifty gazillion magnets on the fridge, this is a good time to clear them out and give the behavior plan a special place front and center on the fridge.
  • Handwrite the plan (don’t use the one I’m posting…it needs to be customized to your child).  The one I’m posting is just an example.
  • Don’t post the paper about catching them being good.

Begin by identifying the behavior you wish to target. Be VERY detailed on the specific behaviors your child engages in that fall under the category. This is an example. This gets posted on the fridge.


  1. Eye rolling.
  2. Telling Mom or Dad, “NO!”
  3. “I hate you!”
  4. Telling mom or dad, “You can’t tell me what to do!”
  5. Sighing after I ask you to do something.
  6. Groaning after I ask/tell you do something.
  7. Making faces while I am speaking to you.
  8. Saying, “Whatever…” to me
  9. Covering up your ears while I am speaking with you.
  10. Double asking (asking me then asking Dad after I’ve told you no)
  11. Saying, “That’s not fair!”
  12. Telling me I’m mean.
  13. Growling in my ear-shot
  14. Continuing to speak after I’ve put my hand in the air signing, “Stop!”
  15. Yelling at Dad or me.
  16. Swearing at me.

* Door slamming will result in me assuming you need practice closing doors quietly, thus you will open and close the door quietly 15x.

*Stomping up or down stairs will result in me assuming you need practice going up and down stairs quietly, thus you will have the opportunity to practice going up and down quietly 10x with me watching and counting (one trip up and down = 1x).

I tell my kids that they are more than welcome to think anything in their head that they want, but I better not hear it or I will consider it disrespect.  Also, be sure to teach them how to have a discussion with you about something they don’t like/something they are concerned about rather than engaging in disrespectful behaviors. Your list will look different than this one because you will be targeting specific behaviors your child uses.

Child’s Name

________        ________       ________       ________       ________

*The spaces above are “freebies.”  Consequences start when they go through their freebies.

*Each consequence gets progressively worse.

*These consequences are just examples.

*Use whatever your child values as leverage

*I’ve been known to take away make-up, clothes, phones, etc.

________1.  No TV for an hour.


________2.  ½ hour in your room.


________3.   1 hour in your room.


________4.  No TV/Computer for the rest of the day.


________5.  Bedtime at 6 pm (or 7…)-I usually always use this as the final consequence because if they have engaged in the behavior 10 times in one day, then I am pretty much out of patience and want them out of my sight by then.


*All behavior charts are for a daily basis. All consequences need to be daily consequences (grounding for an entire week results in kid not caring for rest of week-counter productive to changing behavior)

*When child gets savvy enough to go through all freebies and no consequences (as smart kids do), then it is time to knock off freebies to maybe two or three.

*It takes at least three weeks to change a habit…this is no different

*They will go through all consequences at least 2-3 days in the first week, so be prepared! This is normal.

Catch ‘em being good


This third part to the behavior chart is very important.  Because difficult behavior usually results in strained relationships (yes, it is possible to not like your own child…), it is essential to build the relationship back up between parent and child.  When a child is difficult, the child often feels as though he/she can never do anything right and the only thing noticed is when he/she screws up. The third element to the behavior plan is catching them being good.

  • Go to the store and buy about 10 candy bars that you know your child will like (full-sized, not fun-sized).
  • Explain to your child that you are going to work at catching him/her being good, and when you do, you may toss a candy bar to him/her.
  • Explain that if he/she tells the other siblings, then the whole deal is off…this is just between you and the child (helps him/her feel special and keeps the others from feeling like there is favoritism).
  • Really notice when he/she does something right…toss him/her a candy bar privately with a one sentence explanation (VERY IMPORTANT it is only one sentence to avoid child/teen “click off”) and LEAVE THE SCENE!!! In the beginning you may be tossing one or two a day, then lengthen it out.  A week or two of candy bars isn’t going to kill him/her or permanently ruin teeth. Candy works much better than stickers, etc. In the beginning, the child may act as though he/she doesn’t care, but THEY DO!!! Do it anyway!


(Toss candy bar) “Thanks for not yelling at me when you were angry earlier… I really appreciate it!” Then leave…don’t discuss, don’t give detail, don’t go on and on…you get the picture.

(Toss candy bar) ”Thanks for not knocking your brother one when he used your stereo… You’re awesome!”

(Toss candy bar) ”Thanks for taking out the trash without arguing… I really appreciate it!”

By ending the pattern of arguing with our children, we as parents will maintain our position of being in charge in the home. Parents having the power in the home helps maintain stability in the family and greater feelings of security. Besides, it makes our home a happy place to be!

If you would like Dore Quinn to talk to your group or find out more about Kaleidoscope Counseling please call 214-499-0396

Kaleidoscope Counseling also post regularly on our Facebook Fan Page and Pinterest.

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Bullying In Our Cyber World

It seems like technology becomes more and more prevalent each day and, for most people, it’s already deeply entrenched in our daily lives and activities. This is especially true for pre-teens and teens, many of whom have matured in an age of smartphones and constant, readily available high-speed internet access.

While this readily available technology does have some benefits for children, including easy access to educational information, negative parts of child’s life can also be taken to the internet. One example is cyber bullying – an internet based version of what you probably saw on the playground or in the schoolyard as a kid.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Image Courtesy of Flickr

The concept of cyber bullying might be new to you, but there are some things you can do to help keep your kids avoid it. There are also ways you can stop cyber bullying if it is already occurring, whether your child is the victim or the one doing the bullying.

What Is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying is essentially the same thing as bullying in the physical world, except instead of name-calling or making mean jokes in-person, kids are utilizing the internet. Cyber bullying is particularly common on social media platforms, like Facebook, where groups of children can comment and see comments. Bullying occurs through other forms of technology as well, like email and even mean-spirited blogs.

In some cases, cyber bullying is even directed solely at one child. For example, a bully could send a mean or hurtful text message or email.

Similar to bullying in real life, cyber bullying can become very serious, especially when there is a threat of physical violence. Cyber bullying can also affect a child’s self-esteem and make him or her feel isolated from their peers.

Is Cyber Bullying Common?

Many parents aren’t familiar with the idea of cyber bullying, but according to a 2006 poll conducted by the national organization Fight Crime, one in three teens and one in six pre-teens have been the victims of cyber bullying. As more children gain increasing access to technology, these statistics may be pushed even higher.

Signs of Cyber Bullying

If your child is the victim of cyber bullying, there may be some signs that can help you spot it before it becomes a serious issue. The most obvious sign of cyber bullying is emotional distress or feelings of discomfort after using technology.

Due to the increase in cyber bullying, some kids even choose to avoid using technology they once enjoyed altogether. Others may withdraw from friends or avoid group activities like parties or after-school functions.

If you believe your child is bullying a classmate via technology, talking to your child right away is the first step. Remind your child that the technology they’re using is a privilege, not a right; if they use it to harm others, they will no longer have access.

If your child has been bullying other children, you may want to monitor their use of social sites and technology more closely. You may need to speak with your child’s school counselor or principal if the situation has been going on for a long time.

Cyber bullying can result in physical violence if left unchecked. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cyber bullying can result in physical violence if left unchecked.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cyber bullying is a serious problem and it’s one issue that many children face on a daily basis. While you can’t control everything that happens in your child’s life, even when it comes to technology, it’s important that you do what you can to protect them or correct negative behavior.

Cyber bullying can greatly affect children that are the victims and bullying can have long term consequences for the abuser as well.

Virginia Cunningham
Guest Blogger


Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer in California whose writing covers a variety of industries, including health, beauty, gaming and technology. As a mother herself, she always does what she can to ensure the safety

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A girl’s father is one of the most influential people in her life

Josh and Emery Widener

A father’s influence in his daughter’s life shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions of men.

What matters in the father-daughter relationship is that Dad seeks to live a life of integrity and honesty, avoiding hypocrisy and admitting his own shortcomings, so that she has a realistic and positive example of how to deal with the world.

He should try to model a reflective approach to life’s big questions so that she can seek to do the same.

To learn more on how to build a positive meaningful relationship with your child contact Dr. Kay Trotter at: 214-499-0396, or visit her web site

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How to Guide Teens Through Loss and Grief

Max Schwolert

I recently had the honor of talking to an intimate group of parents who where at a loss as to how to help their children cope with the loss of a friend, 17-year-old Max Schwolert, who died from complications of the flu during a holiday vacation. Those who knew Max, and those who never had the pleasure of meeting a Schwolert, had many questions. Only one being: “How can I help my child through this?”

As a parent or support person, you have the opportunity to gently guide your teenager in living with the loss, as I do not know one ever truly “gets over it.”

A loss of a friendship can be hard on a teenager, just as it can be on adults. It is important to validate your teen’s feelings of loss. In validating those feelings, you make it easier for him or her to share their stories about the friendship, the memories of happy and sad times. Bereaved children and teenagers will need ongoing attention, reassurance and support. It is not unusual for grief to resurface later on, even well after the death. This can happen as they move through different life milestones, and develop as individuals.

As a parent or support person, you have the opportunity to gently guide your teenager in living with the loss, as I do not know one ever truly “gets over it.” Many teenagers feel guilty because their friend died; yet they have a chance at life and graduation, and romance, and experiences, and even new friendships.

One thing that is very important for parents to know is: When your children are grieving and crying, your job is not to fix them. It is natural to want to make their crying stop, but this desire really is more about your pain because it hurts you to see your children cry. But, your job is not to make their pain go away, but to walk hand-in-hand with your child so they can learn to work through this pain. In other words, you have to honor your child’s feelings and allow them to have them so they can learn to process and express a range of emotions, and react in appropriate ways in emotional situations.

Parents also need to realize that, in your intention to fix them, you send the message that you don’t see them, and they therefore do not feel heard by you—this “not being seen and heard by you” can lead to a fight. This is because you have failed to understand your child’s real point and their thoughts or feelings underlying that point. I recommend you quit trying to fix your children and start communicating that you believe in them.

When your child is crying or upset and you don’t know what to do, stop and take a moment to reflect what you are seeing in your child. For example you could say, “You’re really angry. You want this to be over because this is really bothering you.” This will let your child know they are being heard and touched.

It’s also good to ask your children, “What do you need from me now?” Then, if your child just needs you to listen, they can say, “I just need you to listen.” Or if your child wants you to take some action, then they are able to tell you what action to take. This helps them feel like they have some control because death makes all of us feel out of control.

The bottom line is: Don’t fix your children. Instead help them learn how to feel and appropriately express their feelings. As parents, we can teach and guide our children to handle their emotions in ways that validates their feelings, while fostering healthy interactions with the world. In fact, emotional regulation is essential for children’s overall wellbeing.

Remember you’re the most important person to them as their parent and they just want you to walk with them on this journey.

On the flip side, it’s also okay for parents to cry and grieve in front of their children. While you may think you need to hide your pain from them, crying actually allows you to honor yourself and to feel your feelings. It’s okay to feel your pain because we all have to go through the struggle before we can come out on the other side.

The Struggle to Become a Butterfly 

There is a well-known story about a man who tried to help a butterfly out of its cocoon by slitting the cocoon open. The butterfly that emerged had small, unformed wings, and died soon after. What the man didn’t realize is the butterfly needed the struggle out of the cocoon to force the fluid into its wings; to stretch and open them so that the butterfly could fly. By trying to shortcut the process, the man had instead doomed the creature.

I use this story to illustrate that, while it’s hard to watch someone you love struggle, sometimes we need to learn to wait and let the process unfold on its own.


If God allowed us to go through life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as we could have been. We would never be able to fly.

How To Help Your Teens

  • Be honest and let them know what’s happening
  • Be willing to listen, and available to talk about whatever they need to talk about
  • Acknowledge the emotions they may be feeling—fear, sadness, anger
  • It can be helpful for parents, or other adults, to share their own feelings regarding the loss
  • Frequently reassure them they are safe, who is caring for them, and which adults they can trust to ask for further support
  • Keep routines and normal activities going as much as possible
  • Talk to them about grief – what it is, that it’s normal, that everyone is different
  • Avoid expectations of adult behavior – allow them to be the age and stage they are and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings – give them ideas of things they could try, such as doing physical activities, writing, singing, listening to music, talking with friends, reading etc.
  • Allow questions and provide honest answers
  • Comfort them with hugs, cuddles, holding their hand, and by encouraging them
  • Speak calmly and gently to them – and be calm around them
  • Talk about death together; answer any questions they may have
  • Let them help in planning the funeral or something to remember the loss


Recognizing the symptoms is one way of helping your teenager deal with the loss such as: 

  • Teenagers can experience symptoms of depression and have angry outbursts.
  • They can also be at the opposite end of the spectrum by showing a lack of emotions and feeling numb.
  • There can be problems in school with failing grades or delinquent behaviors.
  • Further symptoms showing difficulty processing the loss might include personality changes, self-destructive behaviors (drinking, drugs, etc.), withdrawal and isolation, or even suicidal thoughts.

While this is not an all-inclusive list of symptoms, it does give you an idea of how hard the loss of an important relationship can be on a teenager. If you are concerned about any extreme reactions, or if you think the young person may have become depressed, contact your doctor or other trained adviser, such as a counselor, senior staff member from their school, social worker, community or youth worker or a local family support agency.

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group you can contact her at: 214-499-0396, or visit her web site

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Parenting Your Teenager

By Dore Quinn, MEd, LPC – Dore is a licensed professional counselor, who works with those who are striving to overcome depression, anxiety, effects of sexual and physical abuse, grief, marital and parenting issues. Dore uses many different counseling modalities including traditional talk therapy, expressive art therapy, experiential therapy and play therapy (for the young ones).

I have often heard parents with young children lament the time when their child turns into a teen. For some reason, many look on that time with dread (could it be, perhaps, that many are thinking back to when they were a teen?). I have found the teen years to be fun, and quite different from having small children. There are many things we as parents can do to build a relationship with our teen.

To me, it begins with learning to allow our children to be his or her own person within the rules of the home.  I have often thought of how much easier this whole parenting thing would be if each child came with his/her own manual, but we all know they don’t.

I remember before having my first child thinking, “Wow…we are going to have it so easy between my easy-going personality (which I have since learned isn’t so easy-going) and their dad’s easy-going personality (which really is easy-going)!”  Yes, those of you with kids know how UNTRUE and naïve that thought is because what I didn’t realize at that time is that each child comes with his/her own personality.

Our children are not combinations of us, nor where they meant to be.  It took me a few years to recognize that I was trying to turn my oldest into a “mini-Dore” because the way I thought was the right way to think or else I wouldn’t be thinking it, right?   And yes, we clashed quite a bit until I realized what I was doing.  As I was going about trying to make her into a mini-me, I completely overlooked her own person.  The message I was sending without intending is that there was something wrong with her.

So then what was my job?  I determined that my job as a parent was not to turn her into a mini-me, but to love her, protect her, and teach her right from wrong.  It’s also important to not expect our children to be like their siblings.

In order to have a good relationship with your teen, home needs to be a safe haven from the rest of the world.  A saying that I have repeated over and over (and my kids can recite it verbatim) is that not everyone on the planet is going to love them, but their family will ALWAYS love them!

A good way to foster a “Home is a safe haven” environment is to NOT ALLOW sarcasm and nastiness among siblings.  We need to be sure we aren’t engaging in it as well, whether it is with a spouse or with our children.

Another important component of building a relationship with your teen is to learn to laugh.  Don’t be afraid to play and be playful.  We don’t always know the impact that having fun in our homes will have.  During my son’s first year of college out-of-state, he posted the following status on Facebook:  “To either Mom or Dad…whoever sees this first:  I was on Facebook with my iTunes on shuffle and “Love Will Keep us Alive” by The Eagles came on and it made me think about how a while back at the Buckner house on Saturday nights we would open all of the windows and the front door and play music on Dad’s stereo and dance around the living room…I’m tired of growing up.”  I had no idea that fun times such as that would be important to my son.

Lighten up!  Discipline on a “lighter note.”  For example, when your teen asks to come home one hour after his 12 o’clock curfew, instead of going into a long lecture on obedience, say something such as, “So what I hear you saying is, “Mom, I REALLY want to come home at 11:00?”  This is a much less intense confrontation.  Another example would be my son and I were joking around on the way to school, and he said something that was over the line.  We were pulling up to the school and I said, “Sorry Mom….” And he completely ignored me.  After he took two steps towards the front door of the school, I rolled down the window and said, “That’s okay…as soon as you get to the door I’m going to shout out to you if you remembered to take your anti-diarrhea medicine this morning.”  I got a prompt apology without offense being taken.

Another way to build a relationship with your teen is to learn to criticize less.  There is a distinct difference between consequences and criticism.


“Gee, since you chose to come home after curfew, you chose to not go out tomorrow.”


“Did you EVEN stop to think I would worry about you?  You are so irresponsible and don’t care about anyone but yourself!”

Criticism doesn’t address the actual problem; it merely makes a global statement about the other person’s character.  The problem with criticisms is that it elicits defensiveness, and seldom results in behavior change.  Especially be careful to not nit-pick the small things.

An example of nit-picking the small things would be giving your teen a hard time because he/she got a “B” on a test instead of an “A”.  Nit-picking results in a teen believing they can never do anything right in the eyes of the parent, so why bother?  Eventually they give up and then there are bigger problems.

Building a relationship with your teen can result in many years of joy and can offset the tough times that are bound to come along with your kids growing up

Keys to Remember

  • Allowing your children to be themselves
  • Not allowing meanness at home, learning to laugh
  • Disciplining with a lighter touch
  • Criticizing less

These are just a few ways to achieve a meaningful and fun relationship with your teen.

If it seems like a daunting task, pick one area and work to make one small change.

Even one small change will impact your relationship and your family in a positive way!

You can contact Dore at: 214-499-0396, or visit our web site

Teen Depression is on the rise be sure you know the Warning Sings of Teen Depression 

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Recently, I was asked to speak at a Middle School Parenting University and I wanted to share with you my 25-minute talk titled, “STAYING CONNECTED WITH YOUR TWEEN: 5 Keys You Need to Know”

As I prepared for my talk, my husband shared how, when our daughter was a pre-teen and in middle school, that he quickly learned he needed to be flexible during this time. Because, just like her developing hormones, one day she might act like she was 25 and the next day she would revert back to being his little girl.


1-Acknowledge vs. Dismiss

Many times parents dismiss their child’s feeling without even realizing it – How many times have you said:

“It’s just silly to feel that way.”

“You’ve been mad long enough.”

We would not like it if an adult said that to us and children are no different. If you dismiss a child’s feelings they don’t feel heard and they definitely don’t feel understood.

Instead, acknowledge how your child feels.

HOW?  By simply putting a name to what you see.

If you see they’re angry and frustrated put a name to it.

“You know what, it looks like your really frustrated.”

Acknowledging what it is they are feeling validates what they are feeling and lets them know that they have been heard.

By acknowledging them, you give them an awareness that you understand

2-Step Into Your Pre-Teen’s Reality

What this means is you are just going to LISTEN. Anything you try to do to fix things will just feel like an opinion or judgment to them. So, all your going to do is LISTEN and don’t try to fix it.

You’re going to actually  “step into what it feels like for them.”

Then you’re going to say, “Wow this sounds like a really difficult situation, and I can tell your trying to figure it out.  If you want or need my help on this one, please let me know.”

3-Teach Your Kids How To Manage Their Life

In the beginning stages, when children are younger, parents definitely manage their lives: we tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. But, when they start entering into the pre-teen and teenage years, they start to pull away, (which is normal), and they don’t want you to always manage their life any more.

The problem is, they do not have the tools to manage their life, and so someone has to manage it for them. So, as you start to release the reins a bit, you need to start teaching them how to manage their life.

What this looks like is more of conservation. So, instead of getting angry with them because they are making mistakes, you talk about it. Ask them questions about the situation.

I’ve had parents ask me, “What if my daughter makes a mistake?” I tell them she is going to mistakes, we all do. But, knowing they are going to make mistakes, and that mistakes are good, they have a chance to learn though this process. Remember: you need to teach your child how to manage their life while you stop the process of managing it for them.

4-You Need Boundaries and Your Child to Be Able to Set Boundaries Too

The boundaries you set for your pre-teen are critical. They need to know that their weekday 9 o’clock bedtime means 9 o’clock. Not 5 minutes after, not 15 minutes after, and it does not mean they can try to negotiate it, 9 o’clock means 9 o’clock. Doing this is good for them so they really know where they are with you.

At this stage there is a lot of difference between a 6th grader and an 8th grader. I would suggest weekday bedtime curfew for 6th -7th graders be 9 o’clock. And most 8th graders are ready for a 10 o’clock bedtime curfew. On weekends you can extend their bedtime curfews by looking closely at each child’s individual sleep patterns. For example, say your child is night owl, like my nephew, so a weekend bedtime curfew an 8th grade night owl could be 1 o’clock in the morning.

Your child also needs to be able to have their boundaries for you as well. Just because they are pre-teens does not mean they don’t have rights. So, if they ask you, “Mom is there any way you can knock before you come into the bedroom?,” you need to respect that. Respect that they are setting a boundary.

If you want to teach your child to have boundaries, then you need to let your child to have boundaries as well. It’s really important that you have firm boundaries and they get to have boundaries as well.

5-Don’t Let Your Feelings Muddy the Water

Dealing with your own feelings around your pre-teen’s behaviorsIf you allow your fears to come into your child’s behavior you’re going to react to “your fears” and “not your child’s behavior” and it’s not going to be a good situation. Let’s say your child stayed up playing on the computer 45 minutes past their bedtime curfew and, when you discover this, it’s late, you’re tired, you’re worried too much computer time is hurting your child, you’e worried that if they are breaking this rule what other rules are they breaking that you don’t know about. So, you just react and say to them “You’re grounded from the computer. Get to your room and go to bed.” What do you think your child is thinking about when they go to their room? They are not thinking about what happened, their thinking about how their parents misunderstand them and how they don’t like their parents.

We don’t want that to be the lesson. We want the lesson to be – “When you say you’ll be in bed by 9, it’s really important that you keep your word and be in bed by then. If you want to develop a relationship based on trust and you want me to keep releasing the reins so you can manage your life, then you have to be a person of your word.” So you just sit with them and talk about that, so that the lesson comes out of it instead of their thinking about something different. It’s really important that you keep your fears out of it.

The first thing you might say to them is:

“Is everything OK? You’re 45 minutes past your bedtime.” And if they say, ”Yes, something did happen and this is what happened.” You give them the opportunity to explain what happened and then you can go into a teaching with them.

Or, if you choose to wait and address it with your child the next morning when you know you’ll be calmer, you might say this:

“It was very late when you finally went to bed last night.  It was past the time we agreed on.  I need to be able to trust you to follow thru on the things you say you will do.  It is important now and will only become more important as you get older.  We have to be able to trust each other.”

Here is a real-life situation from my sister and her pre-teen son that she shared with me:

“…. I got up to go to the bathroom and he was still up and it was way past bedtime curfew.  The first time, I just reacted and did the ‘mad thing’ and I do mean reacted; a gut response.  The next time it happened, I realized I was responding to ‘my fears’ and not ‘his behavior’ so, I took this approach…. he was in the other room on the computer and immediately turned it off and stealthily got into bed and feigned sleeping, once he realized I caught him.  I chose to let it go until the next day.  It was the weekend, so I knew I’d have time to speak with him the next day, which we did.  That was better because by then my gut was no longer in control, my heart was.  I sat down next to him so we were at the same level and we had a real conversation about trust.  I wasn’t mad and I spoke to him person-to-person; it was not a heated discussion or a one-way discussion.  We talked how important trust was, how it’s easy to lose and hard to earn back and why it was so important to me and to our relationship.  He shared how he felt as well.  I was heard and he was heard and he was reminded (because he already knew) how important the trust component is to our relationship and to his place as an upcoming young adult as well. 

“Thru our discussion I saw how important it was to him that I be able to believe the things he tells me; to trust he is telling the truth.  I also learned it is important to him that he doesn’t disappoint me.  We also discussed his ability to trust me.  He wants to trust I won’t cross his personal boundaries and trust that he is capable.  He wants to trust that I don’t read his email, for example.  I have his email password and he knows I could read his email at anytime, but he doesn’t want me to read it and needs to be able to trust me that I won’t.  I agreed I would not read his email without his permission but there may be a situation down the road that I would need to check his email, and I would ask for that permission first and with his full knowledge and I will stick to that.  I won’t break that trust, his trust of me is just as important as my trust of him. The conversation continued on from there, it actually went past the bedtime incident and into other things that were on his mind.”


  1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings
  2. Step into your pre-teens reality
  3. Help them learn how to manage their own life
  4. You Need Boundaries and Your Child to Be Able to Set Boundaries Too
  5. Don’t Let Your Feelings Muddy the Water

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com214-499-0396, or visit her web site

Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page

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How Do I Help My Teen Deal With the Loss of a Friendship?

Guest Author Paige Agnew, author of Starless Sky

Paige wrote her first book, Starless Sky at age 15 and Starless Sky was birthed during the time of Paige’s own grief and loss in 8th grade. Starless Sky is a genuine portrayal of grief and loss, yet comforting and filled with hope and expectation. It is a book of encouragement through following the lives of high schoolers. She was born in Michigan.  Her compassion and sense of humor is in all of her writings. When Paige is not writing, she enjoys sports, dancing, singing, playing the piano, reading and attending her brother’s college football games.

A loss of a friendship, be it via death or relocation, can be hard on a teenager just as it can be on adults.  It is important to recognize when your teenager is struggling with the loss more than what is normal.  Recognizing the symptoms is one way of helping your teenager deal with the loss.

Teenagers can experience symptoms of depression and have angry outbursts.  They can also be at the opposite end of the spectrum by showing a lack of emotions and feeling numb.  In addition, there can be problems in school with failing grades or delinquent behaviors. Further symptoms showing difficulty processing the loss might include personality changes, self-destructive behaviors (drinking, drugs, etc.), withdrawal and isolation, or even suicidal thoughts. While this is not an all-inclusive list of symptoms, it does give you an idea of how hard the loss of an important relationship can be on a teenager.
Other things that are helpful include:

  • Let your teen know you are available to discuss the feelings of loss (sadness, anger, guilt, etc.).  A school counselor may also be available too.
  • Say good-bye to the friend in some meaningful or symbolic way (i.e., a ceremony – funeral or celebration of life service, a letter, etc.).
  • Do something in remembrance of the person (i.e., a scrapbook, a video, etc.).  If the friend relocated, identify ways to stay in touch (i.e., visits, phone calls, skype, email, texting, facebook, etc.).
  • Identify things to continue doing/living (i.e., daily activities, learning, accepting new friendships and maintaining old ones, etc.).
  • Be honest with your teenager.  Maybe some details are not needed, but honesty is important.

In addition to the ways listed, using books or movies that your teen likes to read or watch is a good way to process loss. For example, if you have a teen who is a reader, my book Starless Sky, would be a good read and a way to open the discussion about similarities in feelings between the main character, Kahlen, and your teen.  Kahlen’s best friend dies and she does not know how to say good-bye or how to let others in; furthermore, her parents struggle with how to help her.  By the end, Kahlen comes to some new realizations and grows as a person who learns to live with the memories of her friend rather than avoid them.  Like many teenagers, Kahlen feels guilty because her friend died, yet she had a chance at life and graduation, and romance, and experiences, and even new friendships. While there is sadness in Kahlen’s story, there is hope and that hope will provide inspiration for any teenager experiencing the loss of a friendship.
Like Kahlen needed, it is important to validate your teen’s feelings of loss.  In validating those feelings, you make it easier for him or her to share with you stories about the friendship, the memories of happy and sad times. As a parent or support person, you have the opportunity to gently guide your teenager in living with the loss as I do not know one ever truly “gets over it.”
Finally, remember a psychologist will be a good support person and can provide you with more suggestions and recommendations. Grief and loss is a part of living and unfortunately cannot be avoided, but hopefully knowing loss exists can help us all to love harder and demonstrate it more fully as life is fragile and meant to be lived just as Kahlen did in Starless Sky, just as I did in writing Starless Sky after the loss of my best friend.

To read more go to my website,

Listen to my audio excerpt, if you are intrigued to hear more, you can purchase my book there as well.

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Teen Suicide – There is Hope

The reasons behind a teen’s suicide or attempted suicide can be complex, and the rate of suicides and suicide attempts increases tremendously during adolescence. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surpassed only by accidents and homicide. The suicide rate for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 skyrocketed 75.9% in 2004, That same year, the suicide rate for female’s ages 15-19 jumped 32.3%, and the rate for males ages 15-19 rose 9%.

While these facts are disturbing, there is hope.

By educating others, and ourselves we can make a difference in preventing youth suicide. Every citizen should understand that while youth suicide is a problem, there is something that can be done about it.

If you suspects that a friend or family member is considering suicide, here are three very important things to do if you notice the warning signs for suicide or the young person tells you directly that they are thinking about suicide.

  1. The first thing is to always show the person that you are concerned about them – listen without judgment, ask about their feelings and avoid trying to come up with a solution to their problem.
  2. Next ask directly about suicide – be direct without being confrontational; say “are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”
  3. Finally, if the answer to your question is “yes” or you think it is yes, go get help – call a crisis line, visit the school counselor, tell a parent or refer the teen to someone with professional skills to provide help. Never keep talk of suicide a secret!


What every person can do to help prevent suicide

Show You Care!

Often, suicidal thinking comes from a wish to end deep psychological pain. Death seems like the only way out. But it isn’t. Let the person know you really care. Talk about your feelings and ask about his or hers. Listen carefully to what they have to say.

“I’m worried about you, about how you feel.”

”You mean a lot to me. I want to help.”

”I’m here, if you need someone to talk to.”

Ask The Question

Don’t hesitate to raise the subject. Talking with young people about suicide won’t put the idea in their heads. Chances are, if you’ve observed any of the warning signs, they’re already thinking about it. Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way. Get the conversation started.

“Are you thinking about suicide?”

”Do you really want to die?”

“Do you want your problems to go away?”

Get Help

Never keep talk of suicide a secret, even if they ask you to. It’s better to risk a friendship than a life. Do not try to handle the situation on your own. You can be the most help by referring your friend to someone with professional skills to provide the help that he or she needs, while you continue to offer support.

“I know where we can get some help.”

”Let’s talk to someone who can help…let’s call the crisis line, now.”

“I can go with you to get some help.”

For more information on suicide go to:

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com214-499-0396, or visit her web site

Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page

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Task of Childhood – Late Adolescent Development Ages 14-18

“Struggling with sense of identity while also feeling awkward”

Cognitive Stage
Late adolescents have a major broadening of thinking abilities: they can think abstractly and hypothetically; they can discern the underlying principles of various phenomena and apply them to new situations; and they can think about the future, considering many possibilities and logical outcomes of possible events. At this stage, they also have a greater perspective-taking ability that can result in increased empathy and concern for others and a new interest in societal issues.

Moral Development
As they get older, adolescents age 14-18 become less egocentric. They place an increased emphasis on abstract values and moral principles and some develop a “principled morality” with an increased ability to take another’s perspective where they can see the bigger societal picture and might value moral principles over laws. Late adolescents also have different rates of cognitive and emotional development (e.g. they often advocate for specific values and yet violate them at the same time).

The process of identity formation is intense for late adolescents. They experiment with different roles, such as looks, sexuality, values, friendships, ethnicity, and especially occupations. Some girls might experience obsessive dieting or eating disorders, especially those who have higher body fat, are chronically depressed, or who have highly conflicted family relationships. Minority youths might explore several patterns of identity formation, such as a strong ethnic identity, bi-cultural identity, assimilation into the majority culture, and alienation from the majority culture.

Psychological and Emotional Traits
For some early adolescents, there is an increased ability to empathize with others along with a greater vulnerability to worrying, depression, and concern for others, (especially among girls). Many show an increase in responsible behaviors.

Peer Relationships
Peers help youth explore and develop their own identity and cross-gender friendships become more common. Anti-social peer groups can increase anti-social behaviors. Close friendships also help youth with the process of developing an individual identity separate from that of a child in a family.

Relationship to Parents and Other Adults
Conflicts with parents often decrease with age, especially as late adolescents have an improved ability to see parents as individuals and consider their perspectives. Most maintain good relationship with their parents. They also have a greater interest in taking on “adult-type” responsibilities (having their own checking account, doing their own laundry, buying their own clothes, cooking meals, making repairs, etc.). Late adolescents commonly make most of their own decisions, preparing for eventual family. Their needs balance between time spent with adults and with peers. They continue to benefit from some parental limits and monitoring, while often objecting to them. Common conflicts occur over money, curfews, chores, appearance, and activities with peers.

You can download the complete “Task of Childhood” brochure

4 Blog Series 

  1. Task of Childhood Development
  2. Tasks of Childhood – Late Childhood Development Ages 8-11
  3. Task of Childhood – Early Adolescent Development Ages 11-14
  4. Task of Childhood – Late Adolescent Development Ages 14-18 

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com214-499-0396, or visit her web site

Dr Trotter also post regularly on her: Facebook Fan Page and Pinterest.

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