Improving care. Changing lives.

President's Blog ~ October 2019

The time of change is in the air as children go back to school, the leaves begin to change and fall and the last memories of summer begin to fade as we prepare for the year ahead. During this time of change, there can be additional stress in families’ lives. The pressures of school, hectic schedules, and managing family and extracurricular activities can be challenging. Every year, as our families grow and become older, we face new challenges. Sometimes we may not feel equipped to deal with the challenges before us and they may test our abilities as parents, caregivers, spouses, and friends.

As parents and caregivers, we all have times where we feel like we are in over our heads. Even if parents are lucky enough to experience “smooth sailing” when it comes to raising their children, as times change they may be confronted with new challenges that overwhelm them or leave them feeling confused as to how to best help their children. Challenges such as screen time, social media, bullying, and use of substances including the increasingly popular vaping can cause tremendous stress for children and their parents.

So what do you do if you discover your child is being bullied online or is vaping with their peers before and after school? Probably the best place to start is by having an open discussion with your child. It takes many years to create a trusting relationship with our children and as they grow older it can be even more difficult to have open and honest discussions about what is going on in their lives. As adults, we may sometimes feel like we are being shut out of our children’s lives and it’s hard to know what their struggles are. Despite these concerns, even older children and adolescents need their parents. While they may not seem as receptive to our help, they still need us and often want our guidance and support. One of the first steps in having these conversations with our child is to help them feel safe and supported. It can be very difficult as a parent to not get angry or judgmental when we discover our child is doing something we do not approve of. Yet, to have that initial conversation it is important to create a space where your child feels they can trust you and open up to you.

By creating open lines of conversation and helping our children feel that they can be open with us, we can create a bridge that lets us into their lives. Once we have a better insight and understanding as to what their fears, pressures, and concerns are we can be in a better place to help and support them. As parents, we also have to set limits and be clear about family expectations. It’s normal for adolescents to test the boundaries and it’s important to be consistent in our limit setting while still being open and supportive. This can sometimes be a challenging line to walk, but it is helpful to remember that we are not their friends, we are their parents, and it is our role to provide them guidance and be the guardrails on their road to adulthood.

Peer pressure and social norms can sometimes be overwhelming for children and adolescents. Access to substances, especially in our ever-changing culture, can make experimenting easy. It can be hard for adolescents to resist temptation and say no. As parents, we need to be open and realistic about the kind of pressures our kids will likely face and try to give them the tools and resources to know how to handle situations they may encounter. Most importantly, we want our children to know that we are in their corner and are available to them whenever and wherever they need us.

Despite these efforts, many parents and caregivers can feel overwhelmed by the scope of the challenges and not know what to do or where to turn. By the time some parents discover the issues their children are facing, the problem may be more than they as parents or their child can handle. In these cases, it is helpful to seek help early. Try not to wait until the problem is overwhelming. If the problems your child is facing are beginning to interfere with their day-to-day functioning at home, school or in social relationships, it can be helpful to seek help before the problems worsen. At the Judge Baker Children’s Center, we can provide such support to parents and their children. If you need help, please call our Center for Effective Child Therapy (CECT) where caring professionals are available to help.
The one thing we all can be certain of is change. I hope that you and your family navigate the changes ahead and learn, grow and adapt to new circumstances. If you need help along the way, know that resources are available and you don’t have to worry alone. My best wishes to you for a new school year and a positive year ahead.