Common Humanity
with Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSED


If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: 3 Tips for Setting Rules for Teenagers

Parents frequently ask me for support in figuring out how best to set rules and expectations for their teenagers. This can be tough to navigate, especially if the teenager pushes back (which they are wont to do) or the parents aren't sure how they "should" approach boundary setting (there are no "shoulds"; there is no manual).

I humbly submit, from a therapist's perspective, thoughts on how to create a safe structure from which teenagers can explore:


Trying on a Million Different Hats: The Value of Teenage Self-Exploration

"This should cheer you up for sure. See I've got you're old ID, and you're all dressed up like The Cure." - Ben Folds Five
This week we're continuing the discussion of why the teenage years are valuable, interesting, and not as scary as they may initially appear. Today's theme: Giving teenagers room to express their (many) identit(ies).

"Moratorium" is a term that describes the identity status of ever-changing: trying on a million different hats until one is found that fits. In essence, this period of human development in the adolescent years is the one in which styles, tastes, beliefs, and allegiances are unpredictable and mercurial, shifting on any given day, often without warning. This can be mind-boggling to some adults (though I dare those adults to look at your high school yearbook and check out your own version of this time of life), and, as a result, adolescents are sometimes easily dismissed as flighty and unreliable, and their many hats are laughed off or, worse, forbidden.

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."


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.


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?).


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


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).