Tag Archives: teens

Mar 29

“Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority and show disrespect for their elders.  They contradict their parents, and tyrannize their teachers.”  This was written by Socrates 2000 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Problems with teens aren’t new, but things have obviously changed.  Today’s youth, especially young women, face a plethora of issues that effect normal adolescent development.  Exposure to an explicit violent amoral media, drugs and alcohol at school, predators on the internet, bullying, and gang activity are among the new issues teens have to deal with today.

How does a parent know their daughter or son is becoming “at risk”?

1)  Abrupt Changes:  Adolescence is a time of great change.  Brain research shows teens are undergoing massive growth and reorganization in the pre-frontal cortex.  As a parent you must pay attention to abrupt dramatic changes in attitude, values, beliefs, dress, appearance, friends, patterns, and relations with parents.

2)  Instability:  We know teens are moody and unpredictable; however, marked changes in a teen’s emotional state that is not temporary is cause for concern.  Extreme moodiness, sadness, hostility, agitation, belligerence, personality changes, talk of suicide or hopelessness are serious warning signs for you as a parent to seek help for your teen.

3)  Irresponsibility:  Most teens vacillate between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay dependent.  When a teen begins to show a pattern of irresponsibility, i.e. lying, manipulating, breaking promises, being late or absent, a lack of any honest effort – this begins a trajectory that should be interrupted, not ignored.

4)  Divorcing their Parents:  All teens and parents have moments they just can’t seem to resolve–disagreements, even some anger or withdrawal.  However, teens cannot be allowed to divorce their parents in favor of a peer group.  Parents must stay close to their teens.  Extreme behaviors such as yelling, threatening, outright defiance or rebellion are cause for concern.

5)  Refusal:  Teens can be stubborn and uncooperative; however, outright refusal to receive parental feedback, communicate, or acknowledge problems is not acceptable and should be considered serious.

But wait, there’s more!

As if the above information wasn’t enough for parents to deal with.  Of equal concern is the juvenile system itself.  Today in Portland, and many other major jurisdictions across the country, it’s not uncommon for a juvenile to have a half dozen felony convictions and still be in the community and public schools associating with your kids.

We know that one of the prime risk factors for anti-social behavior is “negative peer associations”.  It is crucial for today’s parents to be vigilant and know who your kids are with, who their parents are, and all critical contact information.

A Chinese proverb says, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark”.

Looking for help?  The Academy at Sisters is a private therapeutic boarding school in Central Oregon for at risk girls.  Call 800-910-0412 and ask for Chesley or Denise.

Jun 03

“We have created a culture of bogus victimology that almost daily seems to drown our moral sense – by making excuses for vicious criminality, and obscuring the real suffering that such criminality so often leaves in its wake.”

Charles Sykes

What is the true significance of being sexually abused or “violated”? Literature on the subject is as various as victims themselves are. The effect on an individual varies as greatly as the hotstar nature of the offense and the nature of the victim. Experts on trauma admit the area still remains unclear and in need of more investigation.

There is not necessarily a “normal” reaction to sex abuse, so we must focus on the most commonly agreed on effects of abuse. We know that at its core, sex abuse is a violation of a person’s most inviolate possession, “the self”. Without too much psycho-philosophic inferences, suffice it to say that the most highly prized personal possession has been transgressed.

The “self” is commonly referred to as mind, body, and spirit. A training card at a recent workshop stated eloquently that “there is no part of life that does not contain the spirit”. As one specialist in the field stated, “It is the spirit that holds the fabric of the self together, the power to know, to love, and to will.”

In treating the effects of being sexually violated, the endeavor then is to assist the victim in restoring their “spirit”.

May 26

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.”


“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit, we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

Every day, every one of us meets life situations which call for thought, opinion-making, decision-making and action. Some of our experiences are familiar, some novel, some are casual, some of extreme importance. Everything we do, every decision we make and course of action we take, are based on our consciously or unconsciously held beliefs, attitudes and values.

Values are one of the top three risk factors for anti-social behavior. The other two are beliefs and attitudes.

Values + Attitudes = Behavior
(Thinking) + (Feelings) = (Behavior)

Values are an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or state of existence is personally and socially preferable. In other words, our values are the things that are most important to us. – Honesty, money, self-respect, excitement, harmony, privacy, security, love, friendship, comfort, image, power, humor.

Values are a cognitive component of human beings that are learned as we grow from childhood to adulthood. In the end, however, what you choose to value is entirely up to you.

Attitudes are the beliefs that represent values in daily events with specific persons or objects.

Generally, your values have been influenced by:

Past experience
Society (Advertisements, magazines, TV, internet, etc.)
Others (Teachers, coaches, etc.)

Knowing what’s most important to us provides a blueprint and direction in our lives.

May 19

Children of divorce often pay the highest price when families find themselves in the unfortunate position of dissolution or even possible reconciliation of marriage. For over a decade, the Academy at Sisters has provided expert care and educational services to teen girls who find themselves in the throws of their parent’s problems.
You can help your daughter through cooperative co-parenting. Divorce is traumatic for everyone involved. For kids there can be guilt, anger, stress, and depression. Adults must do their best to help their children adjust.

Some primary dos and don’ts of parenting are:

1) Be polite and civil to each other in front of your children.

2) Do not share negative feelings about the other parent with your children.

3) Talk to each other directly. Never use your children as messengers.

4) Don’t compete for your child’s loyalty or affections.

5) Respect each other’s rules.

6) Cooperate, communicate and try to be consistent for the kid’s sake.

If your daughter is struggling to cope with these family issues, we can help. The Academy at Sisters is a girls only, emotional growth boarding school in the resort town of Bend, Oregon.

How can Academy at Sisters help? What are a few of the services she and her family would receive?

Personalized treatment planning with Case Management and oversight by a Clinical Support

Team for medication management, any necessary testing and expert consulting

Weekly therapeutic individual sessions, 5 different Emotional Growth Groups which meet

Weekly in addition to Specialty Groups which are targeted to meet special circumstances and needs (Adoption, Grief & Loss, Victim Recovery, Body Image, etc.)

Family support and guidance to assist in successful reintegration back home
Equine Assisted Growth Program (EAGP), which is highly beneficial to students with a history of trauma, victimization, poor boundaries and/or lack of confidence; allows students to heal in a multitude of ways.

Community Outreach and Volunteer Services for development of empathy and to foster a sense of self-worth and confidence by “giving back”

An array of outdoor recreational opportunities in the resort town of Bend, Oregon

An opportunity to reach her full potential and for parents to “have their daughter back”

May 12

Why is it important for you to move past the traumatic event?
“Your objective is not to become perfect. If you have been raped, your objective is to be as you were before the rape, but stronger and wiser. If you were abused as a child, your objective is to rid yourself of the feelings and behavior caused by the abuse and claim the talents and well-being that are yours by right.”

Moving past the traumatic event can strengthen oneself. You can become stronger than you were before the victimization.

Traumatic events not only affect the physical self, but also the mind. Too often the physical aspect is treated, but the mind is not.

Using Trauma to Build Strength:
“When trauma is incorporated into our reservoir of experience it becomes a resource; a wise friend instead of an enemy.”

Traumatic events can be a learning experience if dealt with. After examining what happened and looking at what could or could not have been done differently, it can teach an individual what to look out for.

Processing Trauma:
We are all different when it comes to dealing with life’s experiences. “We are as different from each other mentally as we are physically. So what matters is not how terrible our experiences seem to others, but how we feel about them ourselves.”

Some things in life are easier to deal with; unfortunately, in life people are faced with difficult and traumatic events. These traumatic events, although hard to deal with and work through, can help a person learn and grow.

Although hard to deal with, breaking the traumatic event into smaller issues and tackling them is very beneficial.

“Imagery can be a very powerful tool in healing and moving past the traumatic events in a person’s life. The use of imagery in healing is powerful because it is natural to our species. Our ancestors knew how to use imagery to change their feelings and they knew how to use their feelings to change events. They rehearsed success and were confident they would achieve it. Today we acknowledge that a positive state of mind contributes to success. This is done by building new imagery in order to outweigh the traumatic events. The brain builds new systems to cope with our changing needs, such as learning how to cope with traumatic events. Taking control of your brain formation and learning to change your thoughts on a traumatic event will help you heal.”

Understanding yourself

During the healing process it is important for you to understand why you do the things you do. It is important to examine your irresponsible behaviors that are causing you problems, and look at why you are choosing to continue these behaviors.

Common behaviors to examine:

Why do I sleep around when I don’t want to?
People who have been sexually abused may associate this act with false closeness and intimacy. The loneliness may drive an individual to constantly search for a fulfillment, which they may struggle with identifying.

Why do I choose partners to abuse myself with?
If a childhood is traumatic, an individual might choose a partner that beats them up, rejects or humiliates them.

For a victim of sexual abuse the refusal to eat often starts with a sense of being ‘bad’. In our image-conscious society ‘bad’ easily becomes ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ becomes ‘ugly’. This distortion is projected onto the person in the mirror and overrides all other information. Then magic enters our thinking, ‘if fat can be conquered, then life will be different’.

Self-cutting and burning:
Sometimes self-loathing, anger or shame can become so intense that they are harder to bear than physical pain. When this happens, physical pain itself can seem to alleviate the feelings because the brain laboratory reacts to pain by releasing ‘feel good’ chemicals. This begins a cycle of blame, the verbal attack of oneself because of the self-harm, followed by depression, then more self-harm to deal with the emotional pain.

Understanding why you do these behaviors does not justify these behaviors. This opens the door for change and healing. The vicious cycle must be broken by changing the unhealthy messages you are telling yourself.

May 05

“Forgiving your self means that you give up the right to blame yourself for what you could not control. You may have achieved some level of intellectual self-forgiveness through your rational analysis of the assault. However, emotional self-forgiveness can take much longer and it requires you to acknowledge and process your anger, grief, and other strong feelings.” This is a process that needs to continue even after the cognitive healing has taken place.

Moving on
The past will always be part of you and you may be faced with memories of what happened. It is important to remember, what happened to you does not make you who you are. Changing your thinking is a life change and it is necessary to continue to work on your emotional growth and using rational self-talk.

Making amends
“Perhaps there were times when you misdirected your anger regarding your victimization onto other people who did not deserve it. If you feel guilty about these actions, you may want to apologize or make amends to these people.” It is not acceptable to excuse your behaviors because of your victimization; you need to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Your victimization does not give you the right to hurt and victimize others. If you acted irresponsibly towards others and used your victimization as an excuse, you need to change these behaviors and make amends to those you hurt.

At no time should you ever use your victimization to excuse your irresponsible, hurtful behaviors.

Apr 28

In an effort to provide some perspective on problematic behavior I want to
provide for you some guidelines on anti-social behaviors and understanding what you’re seeing. You will see some familiar terms here because we strive to address any antisocial traits when we see them.

A truly anti-social youngster approaches the world with a sense of
ownership and entitlement. For them they want things they’re way right away. They see life as a one way street – their way. This is reminiscent of the egocentricity of early childhood.

The responsible child internalizes deterrents from parents, teachers and
others. He or she anticipates consequences of behavior before acting. To some degree they allow fear to be a guide. The antisocial child “cuts off fear”. They know the consequences but the rush is worth the risk.

Another hallmark of anti-social youngsters is disregard of injury to others: personally, emotionally, physically and sexually. This character trait is usually inculcated in the responsible child by nine or ten. The antisocial youngster does not accept obligations – life’s demands, frustrations or challenges. Another trait is that the antisocial youngster is taking the short cut – the easy way out. Never working through anything disagreeable, he or she perpetually seeks the most expedient course, generally digging themselves into one hole after another.

Another trait and a very fundamental one is lying chronically usually to escape accountability or exonerate themselves from blame for some wrong doing. It is common for kids and adults to blame others as in “he started it”. While the average person may do this on occasion, the antisocial person refuses accountability, because of this they don’t learn from mistakes they simply blame and excuse make. The antisocial person considers themselves unique without much in common with others. Because of this rules don’t apply to him.

Apr 21

In their longitudinal studies, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice found some daunting statistics on child abuse and neglect. Their “findings strongly indicate the relationship between abuse and neglect and delinquency and adult criminality and violent behavior.” Although no single factor is likely to account for development of criminal behavior, the importance of childhood victimization as a risk factor for delinquency, adult criminality and violence has become increasingly recognized.

• Figures for 2003 indicate that nationally about 96,000 children (under 18 years of age) were sexually abused.

• Abused, neglected children are 4.8 times as likely to be arrested as a juvenile.

• Twice as likely to be arrested as an adult.

• 3.1 times as likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

• 17.5 % of dependent children have been sexually abused (male and female; all ethnicities).

• ¾ of perpetrators are friends or neighbors.

• Age at highest risk for sexual abuse in males – 4 years of age; females – 14 years of age.

Abuse, Defined.

Abuse, according to Websters: A corrupt practice. Misuse (drugs), coarse, insulting speech. Mistreatment.

Abuse: Any act or absence of action either physical or emotional, that violates the well-being or dignity of the individual.

Derogatory: Expression of a low opinion or disparaging remark.

Disrespectful: Lacking regard or concern or to treat as unworthy or lacking value as a human being.

Apr 21

First and foremost our number one goal for kids we work with, all kids we work with, is to produce “self-efficacy”. By that we mean, “self-reliance”, “persistence”, “courage to endure adversity”, “resilience”, and “confidence”.

In order to achieve this we believe we must focus on certain aspects of a child’s makeup. Primary in our focus is “attitudes, values, and beliefs”. Secondarily, we focus on anti-social behaviors. Thirdly, we focus on personality factors. You will learn more today (probably more than you ever wanted to) on the mechanics of how we approach this change process.

Charles Swindoll once wrote: “We cannot change the past – we cannot change the fact that people will act a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

We use a tool called, Thinking, Changing, Rearranging, which is really a primer on Rational Emotive Therapy developed by Jill Anderson. A major premise of this tool is not letting your emotions control your life, that facts are more important than feelings, and that you can’t control events and others, but you can control how you react to them. It’s a rare person who doesn’t get discouraged but we all must learn to endeavor to persevere to be successful.

The value of courage, persistence and perseverance has rarely been better illustrated than the life of one famous American:

At age 22 – Failed in business
“ “ 23 – Ran for Legislature and lost
“ “ 24 – Failed in business
“ “ 25 – Elected to the Legislature
“ “ 26 – Wife died
“ “ 27 – Had a nervous breakdown
“ “ 29 – Ran for Speaker of the House and lost
“ “ 31 – Defeated for election
“ “ 34 – Ran for Congress and lost
“ “ 37 – Elected to Congress
“ “ 39 – Defeated for Congress
“ “ 46 – Defeated for Senate
“ “ 47 – Defeated for Vice President
“ “ 49 – Ran for Senate and defeated
“ “ 51 – Elected for President of the USA

This is the record of Abe Lincoln.

Also, central to our approach is accountability. Choice and free will are the cornerstones of our philosophy. We believe that regardless of a child’s background they can learn to do things differently, see things as they truly are, and learn to think rationally. Unfortunately, most of the kids we work with follow Ziggy, the cartoon characters philosophy of “I like things the way they aren’t”.

We want kids to actually get better not just feel better. Good mental health is not the absence of problems; it’s learning to cope with problems rationally.

Mar 31

“If you are patient in one moment of anger you will avoid 100 days of sorrow.”

Many people who have not learned to understand anger within themselves struggle to recognize it as it approaches, only becoming aware once it has exploded and become overwhelming. Learning to identify anger as it begins to escalate is an enormous step in taking control of anger within yourself.

Definition of Anger:
1. [n] belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong (personified as one of the deadly sins)
2. [n] a strong emotion; a feeling that is oriented toward some real or supposed grievance

Physical Cues –
Anger is a normal reaction to a perceived threat. All animals have certain physiological reactions to threat which allow us to respond physically: for example, to run away from danger, to fight to protect ourselves or our family, or to ‘freeze’ in order to avoid being seen by another creature that poses a danger.

Examples of physical cues girls have listed in discussion:
Ringing in ears
Feeling over heated
Clench jaw
Get very quiet
Heart begins to race
Get knots in stomach
Experience a back ache
Make fists
Get sweaty palms
Feel legs shaking
Tap feet

These signs can be used as ‘cues’ to let you know when your anger is escalating and you need to take control before things get out of hand. Some of these cues may take place sooner than others. If you tune into these physical cues to anger, you can learn to recognize them earlier and respond to your emotions in more planned and effective ways.

Ask Yourself: What can you do to control your physical cues? What coping mechanisms could you use that could help you stop the escalation of anger? Have you ever controlled your physical cues in the past, if so how? What would it look like when you do control your physical cues?

Emotional cues –
When people get angry they frequently notice themselves starting to feel differently.  It is important to notice how you are changing internally when you experience anger so it can be kept in control.

Examples of emotional cues girls have listed in discussion:

These signs can be used to help you identify when you are getting angry. These emotions are not always bad emotions, but when used to fuel anger they can be hurtful. When these emotions are noticed in relationship to anger it is important for you to take control of these emotions so they do not spiral out of control.

Ask Yourself: Why do you notice emotional cues when you are beginning to experience anger? How is anger tied into your emotions? What can you do to control the emotions you are experiencing due to anger?