TRYING TO BE THE BEST, BUT NOT?
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist for Tweens,Teens & their Parents
Tweens are in between elementary school and high school, in between childhood and adolescence. Teenagers are developing the building blocks of their adult selves.
What Tweens & Teens Need
Development during these years contain several critical steps including the development of a strong and healthy self identity that will ground relationships with parents, siblings and peers and form the foundation for successful independence as an adolescent and young adult.
These years can become complicated. The relatively safe and controlled environment of childhood and elementary school is replaced by the for more complex world of middle school and the sudden changes of a maturing body and a rapidly changing environment. School and extracurricular activities such as sports or community and church or temple activities become much more complex and demanding. Peer development becomes more uneven and groups and friendships can change precipitously.
During a teen’s journey to becoming an adult, increasing independence, self-expression, experimenting with different identities, rapidly shifting interests, and varying responses to constraints are normal but frequently challenging aspects of their exploration. It’s important that they have freedom, permission and encouragement to explore and express themselves, yet because their brains are not fully developed they need gentle, yet firm, guidance along the paths they choose. Teens need a lens to the options and opportunities, as well as awareness of the pitfalls and traps they may encounter.
Challenges Tweens & Teens Face
A tween’s rapid and extreme changes commonly bring on signs of stress such as moodiness, increasing anxieties including performance anxiety and perfectionism, and confused, lost, or destructive peer relationships. This can be an equally confusing time for parents who know the signs and often the reasons for their child’s distress yet have less influence over the events and their tweens emotional response.
The teen years are also a time of greater independence which can rapidly lead to significant environmental hazards and exposure. This independence can paradoxically lead to situations where exploration can feel overwhelming and teens may detour to concerning changes in behavior. These changes can be secondary to mood and/or anxiety conditions, excessive risk taking, or substance use. Trauma related to prior life events can often come more to the forefront at this time. Teenagers may also experience distress from traumatic experiences with peers, illness or loss of friend and family members.
My Approach as your Tween & Teen’s Child Psychiatrist
As a child and adolescent psychiatrist with extensive experience helping tweens. I am expertly equipped to approach your child with an open mind, to hear from them and you, and sort through the often complex circumstances that are creating the symptoms of distress.
We will develop a plan together that could include individual therapy, parent sessions, parent-tween sessions, review of academic needs, meetings with teachers and school staff, exploring other treatment needs as psychological testing, neuropsychological testing, or referrals to other forms of support as group therapy. Medication may be explored as well as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
I have found that working with teenagers requires much sensitivity. Establishing a therapeutic relationship requires balancing the confidentiality which is at the forefront of many teen minds with the appropriately concerned parents and families who are often asking for ‘full disclosure’. Successfully negotiating this balance requires experience, sensitivity and patience. The therapeutic relationship with teens also requires a great deal of knowledge of their current popular culture, and the ability to put the cultural norms and fads into an appropriate context.
Teenagers are complex individuals. Treatment options for teenagers are broad and may include different focuses of psychotherapy as psychodynamic, short or longer term, cognitive-behavioral, or mindfulness based approaches. It can be helpful or necessary to also work with schools to review assessments and establish collaborative educational plans. Additionally, as this is a time in life that is highly vulnerable to the onset of clinical depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder and other clinical anxieties, or identification of ADHD, medication may be discussed.