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Common Humanity
with Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSED

Fresh Eyes

Teenagers: They’re Just Like Us (Only Better). Part One: Listen to Their Ideas.


"They don't know anything yet. They're just kids."

Hmmm.

I've had the pleasure of working with teenagers and young adults for the bulk of my career as a therapist. In that time, I've learned so much about the value of this unique developmental period, as well as the difficulty that many adults have navigating relationships with teens. So, I've decided to do a five-parter about teenagers: working with them, encouraging them, fostering their positive development, and getting to the other side of adulthood unscathed (or with as few scars as possible). And so, part one of five, on interacting with teenagers:


Do What You Love

We Can Do That: Women and the Pursuit of Personal Fulfillment

There was nothing revelatory about Glenn Close's acceptance speech at the Golden Globes this week. She didn't say anything particularly groundbreaking. But the message hit me hard, and resoundingly so, as it clearly did many women in the audience, standing and applauding with glassy eyes.

"Women, we're nurturers, and we do what's expected of us. We have our children...we have our partners. But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, 'I can do that. And I should be allowed to do that."

As women, we relate to that drive for personal fulfillment. And we know how hard it is to get it.


Anxiety

When the Need for Control Gets Out of Hand: Three Signs That You May Benefit From Support.


Trigger warning: this blog post describes disordered eating patterns and behaviors. 

Last week, I wrote about how control isn't always the bad guy, and how sometimes allowing for a little control here or there can help us in our self-work towards larger goals. This week, we're looking at signs that our internal "controller" has taken over and may be impacting our lives in less than optimum ways.

All of the following may be signs that an inner controller has gotten out of hand:


Be Together

Is the Need for Control Always a Bad Thing? (Hint: No. It’s Not).


 

"Why? Why do I care? Why do I need to make my bed upon rising? More importantly, how can I just roll with it?"

I was texting with my friend on the subject of control. Like most regular adult humans, she's had a lifelong love/hate affair with control - wanting more of it in times of stress and transition (Moving? OK - here's 85 lists detailing 20 contingency plans just in case something goes awry somewhere); using it to decrease feelings of anxiety and panic (My heart's been pounding all day but at least the pantry is sorted, labeled, and in alphabetical order); wishing she needed less of it per cultural value systems (I just want to be a go-with-the-flow, flexible type, you know?).


Courage

Sing Anyway: Two Crucial Life Lessons I Learned From My Father


My father is the greatest singer in the world. You likely do not believe this, but that is only because you have never heard him sing. I swear to you that it's the truth.

When I was growing up, my dad worked for the Atlantic City casinos, in marketing. I don't know why exactly he chose this particular career path, but my best guess is that it afforded him the opportunity to perform about once a year. His shows were held in the huge, grand ballrooms of the casinos, and he was backed by a big band complete with piano, horns, drums, etcetera. He sang Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Neil Diamond, and showtunes; his  rendition of The Music of the Night was spine-chilling, and he did Nessun Dorma better than Pavarotti or Bocelli. The audience was full, the stage was huge, the lights were bright, and so was my dad - the very best in him emerged when he sang.


Be Together

Sharing is Optional; Reflection is Mandatory: 5 Lessons From Winter Solstice

cgcowboy/Pixabay

Every year my good friend David has a party on the Winter Solstice. Friends gather at his place, sit around a bunch of lit candles, eat and drink delicious things, and take turns sharing about their year. Some of us opt not to share, and participate just by bearing witness to the others, which is also completely acceptable. As David says: "Sharing is optional. Reflection is mandatory."

Solstice is my favorite (not actually recognized...


Do What You Love

Traditional Holidays Not Your Thing? Here’s a Few Ways To Make Them Your Own.


I've never been a big fan of being told what to do or how to do it, and the holidays are no exception. There is a general societal expectation of holiday participation in a very specific way, and that seems to stand no matter how financially challenged or far away or introverted one might be. Gifts are the norm, travel is commonplace, and socialization (HOURS of socialization) is scheduled for days on end. To those that enjoy the holidays as they are, I tip my hat to you and wish you a fun and wonderful season. To all the rest of us, I offer a few out-of-the-box ideas to help us get all the way through to January 2nd (because, let's face it, New Year's counts in all the holiday-ness, too).


Difference

To the Parents of Kids that Don’t Fit In: Your Kids Are All Right


In my fifteen years as a clinician, I've worked predominantly with adolescents and young adults. I've always appreciated teenagers- there is such magic in that developmental period of trying on many different hats and identity exploration.

On countless occasions, I've had teenagers brought to my office by their parents, seeking support because their child isn't meeting the expectations set by someone in authority (the school system, or the culture at large, or the athletic coaches, or the parents themselves). They don't learn in a traditional way and don't want to go to school, or they don't want to participate in certain activities (ahem, ahem...sports...gym class, often). They aren't active at family events, or just don't like to go to them. They are too quiet and reserved, or too loud and effusive.  They just want to read, or draw maps, or do some other solo activity. Or, they just want to socialize and be with their friends, and aren't taking their studies seriously enough. They don't dress right. They don't hang out with the right people. Etcetra, etcetera.


Do What You Love

Do What You Love: Small Acts Of Daily Meditation


While I've always maintained a strong interest in it, meditation has never really been my thing. Historically, it's usually gone one of two ways for me:

I’d watch my thoughts (“like a waterfall,” as they say) zip and zap like lightning all over the map of my skull, disparate and brief and electric, and gone as soon as they’d appeared, until I'd become overwhelmed and agitated and shut the whole thing down.
I'd sit down to meditate, remember a thing I Had To Do, make a mental note, and then remember another thing I Had To Do, until the mental note became a mental list, and I'd become overwhelmed and agitated and shut the whole thing down.