4 Tips to Show your Teen that You are Grateful for Them

By: Kelly Scott, MA.Ed. (CYS Program Director)

Let’s face it, in today’s high paced and demanding world, we forget and frankly do not have time for many things. One thing we may forget as human beings, is to show the people we care about the most, how grateful we are for them. It has been proven, time and time again, how being grateful and showing gratitude can not only make the people around us happy, but also makes ourselves feel good and happy. Here are some easy, simple ways to show we care and are grateful for our teens:

1.       Listen. Sounds easy enough, right? Listening is a skill that can be quite difficult, especially for us control freaks! However, it is truly the most important thing we can do for our kids (as well as friends, neighbors, and loved ones). Next time you are so eager to tell them to clean their room, or lecture them about driving too fast, just try to keep your opinions to yourself and just listen. It will be overwhelmingly eye opening.

2.       Ask Powerful Questions. Instead of asking “why” all the time (which can, by the way, put your teen or anyone on defense), try to go with “what” and “how” questions. Utilizing what and how questions provide your teen ways to answer with open responses. The other question starters are more for yes, no, and simple answers. After you ask the question, go to number 1 and LISTEN! This shows that you care about what they think and it allows your teen to solve their problems, critically think, and process their next steps verbally.

3.       Be specific and elaborate when you say “thank you.” Instead of saying “thank you for doing the dishes.” Maybe say “Wow, you don’t know how grateful I am that you helped around the house today. I really see how you are taking so much responsibility in following through with what you say you are going to do. This makes me trust you, whole heartedly.” This not only makes them feel appreciated, but it also is teaching them a very important life skill. To appreciate things and for the people that do things for you.

4.       Model gratitude. Actions speak louder than words. It’s important that we show our teens how gratitude helps us mentally and emotionally. When someone does something for us, or is just there to support us, let them know and show them that you truly appreciate them. Remember to thank the youngsters in your community often as well. In our community, we tend to forget to show our appreciation for the children and teens around us. Getting that appreciation from other adults is a needed asset for their development.

Humans need to feel important. It is in our nature to have purpose and feel connected to one another. By modeling and showing gratitude to our teens, we are making them feel important. Try it and see for yourself!

Let’s recap:

1.       Listen to your child…really, really, actively listen to them; (that means, no long lectures!)

2.       Ask your child powerful questions to initiate communication and learn about how and what your child thinks.

3.       Say thank you with gusto. So instead of just “thank you” tell them what and why you are thankful.

4.       Model how thankful you are for the people, things, animals around you. This will provide examples to your own children in order for them to do it themselves.

7 Ways to Help Your Teen Thrive

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By: Kelly Scott, MA.Ed. (CYS Program Director)

The Search Institute conducted years of research to identify building blocks of healthy development that help young people grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible. They developed a chart based on the research called the 40 Developmental Assets. (You can find that chart here: http://v.fastcdn.co/u/73824624/35782691-0-12-18-English2557998.pdf)

This very valuable research helps us understand the most important take-away: youth with the most assets are least likely to have issues with alcohol use, violence, illicit drug use, as well as risky sexual activity. The study found that the top 7 assets teens most commonly lack include positive family communication (33%), youth as a resource (32%), healthy adult role models (28%), parent involvement in schooling (32%), community values youth (25%), reading for pleasure (22%), and partaking in creative activities (20%).

Because the research focused on teen’ strengths, we get a more positive picture of what we need to instill in our children. It’s helpful to look at areas where teens are commonly lacking and help instill and strengthen those assets. Based on the research from The Search Institute, we composed, “7 Ways to Help Your Teen Thrive”.

1.       Develop positive family communication: Make a point to talk to your teen and check in at least twice per week. Allow your teen to freely discuss issues without rushing to judgement. Teens need someone they can count on for advice (other than their peers). Perhaps schedule a weekly dinner or weekly lunch to do this. If you have more than one teen, find time to spend individually with each child. It is highly recommended that during this time you give your child your undivided attention… so put those phones away! Also, please try and be self reflective… meaning, listen to how you speak to others in the family… are you always making commands, asking questions, active listening, etc… this can be impactful if you think deeply and as, “How am I communicating with my family?” A great resource on this topic is How to Talk so Teens will Listen and Listen so Teens will Talk, a book by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazliah. Great, practical advice on communicating with your teen! If you feel as though a Professional Therapist or Counselor would enhance the communication between you and your child, we offer a sliding scale counseling center available to suit your individual needs. For more information visit our website at http://www.cyspathways.org/ 


2.       Use youth as a resource: Instead of always telling your teen what you plan to do, try asking them for their input. Utilize their strengths and talents to help them solve some of your own problems or perhaps some social/community problems. How great if you were to have a problem and you asked, “Hey Kim, I have this deadline at work and I was given only 2 days to complete it, what do you think I should do?” Imagine how great it would be to switch roles and get advice from your teen. (If they shrug and say “I don’t know”, keep trying with… “Well, you have so many great ideas with your own situations, I thought I’d really benefit from your advice!”) Allow them to get involved with community issues, as well. Ask for ways in which they would help with the challenges the community faces as a whole. Who knows, you might be surprised by their answers!


3.       Surround your teen with positive adult role models: It is important for a teen to have parents and healthy adult role models in their life exhibit positive, responsible behavior. Obviously, it is not a great idea to use drugs with your teen in order to be their friend, that is a given. Instead, let’s focus on healthy adult role models. What if you show your child how to network? Maybe take them to a city collaboration (there are many cities that have collaborative meetings to try and solve community issues). Go to school board or city hall meetings (all are open to the public), have them go volunteer and work directly with non-profit leaders, take them to places that they may want to have a career in and interview or connect with leaders in that industry (family members might be able to connect with these people, too). This is a great way for teens to start meeting adult leaders in their community with whom they can have a positive relationship with and potentially network. Just do your due diligence and assure that this person has good moral character. Unfortunately, we must be mindful that some adults can take advantage of young, impressionable teens. 


4.       Parent involvement in schooling: Don’t you just love the short, uninformative responses to the infamous question: “Hi Honey, how was school today?” The response is usually a teenage grunt, “fine”, or maybe not even a sound just an, “I don’t know” shrug. Try to ask more specific questions and see what happens. “How did the science quiz go for you today?” or “I heard there was an assembly on substance use today, what did you think about what was said?” The trick, of course, is knowing what is going on at school in order to ask about specific events. Thus, I’m sorry to say that we will need to read the emails from school or check on our teens to see what exactly they are studying. All things which I know sound easier said than done. Some may think that a “shrug” or the “I’m fine” is a rejection, however, research indicates that teens actually appreciate when their parents are involved with their schooling. They like to know that parents are looking out for them. Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to go to an event hosted by the school every once in a while, right? We can fit at least one a year, can’t we?  


5.       Community Values youth: This one can be tricky since we must depend on outside sources to show that the community cares about youth. I know many places of business that do not give teens the respect they deserve and sometimes it’s understandable… that is why the best advice I can give you is to stick with city or non-profit organizations. Volunteering and community service is a great way to show teens that their community appreciates youth. Every city has some type of organization that loves volunteers both adolescent and adult! Google “[your city] community foundation” and one will surely pop up. Then, find a contact person and ask how your teen can volunteer. Since age can be a liability, you might have to volunteer with them and be your teens supervisor… but hey, what great positive adult role modeling you are partaking in!


6.       Help your teen read for pleasure: You may be thinking, “How in the world would I fit this into my schedule?” Our kids have way too much on their plates with sports, hours of homework, community service, peers, scheduled family times, and now I have to instill reading for pleasure? Being a parent is a daunting task, however, reading for pleasure comes in many different forms. For example, you are reading this… maybe it’s not as pleasurable as I hoped it would be, but if you got this far into the article, it means there was something interesting that kept your attention! Articles, newspapers, blogs, etc., are all forms of reading. The best way to instill this asset is to model it, while finding something they enjoy learning. Maybe set up a time in the day where the family has quiet reading time together. “Hey kids, Monday is electronic unplug night and we are all going to pick a book (or magazine, article, blog etc.) we like and read quietly.” Incorporate this into their nightly reading requirement for school. Or maybe start a book club with your teen. Find a book they are interested in, read on your own time and schedule a day of the week to connect and talk about what you read and what you thought. I know that many teens are juggling school work, sports, friends, etc., but if they realize how great it is to escape into a good book of interest, they may just start doing this on their own. If the act of reading is a challenge for your teen, in this digital world, there are audiobooks that can be listened to (check out Learning Ally, or Audible). Lastly, if your child struggles with reading or just needs a little extra help, we have tutoring available via our “Learn 2 Read OC” Program. For more information, visit https://www.learn2readoc.org/


7.       Help youth partake in creative activities. This includes outside activities involving some type of art or creative expression. Teens report having the least exposure in this area. It may be time to let our teen explore their right brain and find an activity they enjoy trying. Sign them up for an acting, art, pottery, or any type of creative arts class. (Sorry, sports don’t count!). Attending plays, musicals, or concerts counts, but, they must have at least 3 or more hours a week for it to be meaningful. The nice thing is that most junior high and high schools offer some type of class or even club that teens can partake in to access their creativity!


There you have it, the 7 ways to help your teen thrive. Let’s recap:

1.       Develop positive family communication. Support positive communication and provide a safe place for your teen to seek advice without judgement.

2.       Utilize youth as a resource. Empower your teen to have a useful role in the community.

3.       Surround your teen with positive, adult role models. Demonstrate boundaries and expectations by modeling healthy, responsible behavior.

4.       Involve yourself with school. Support and actively participate in helping your teen succeed in school.

5.       Show that their community values them. Empower your teen to realize that adults in their community value them.

6.       Help your teen read for pleasure. Have them commit to learning through reading a book, article, or blog of their interest at least 3 or more hours per week.

7.       Support youth creativity. Help your teen develop constructive use of their time by setting aside 3 or more hours to the arts through lessons or practice in music, theater, or other fine art.

Now that these are in place, go read the other 33 other ways and see what developmental assets your teen may need help gaining.

5 Tips to Engage Your Teenager

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by: Kelly Scott, MA.Ed. (CYS Program Director)

Tip 1:

Teach and model Mindfulness. That sounds daunting…especially if you don’t know much about mindfulness. The practice of Mindfulness is simply awareness in the present moment and being attuned to what is happening right now and knowing that the right now is all you can control. Anxiety is rapidly becoming the number one cause of teen depression, alcohol/drug use, self-harm, etc. Of course, a little anxiety is healthy and we all need it in our lives to keep us on our toes… However, our kids these days have so much more to worry about than ever and unfortunately, social media isn’t helping. The younger generation is worrying excessively about everything, especially their future. If this is new territory for you and you just don’t know where to start, try the Instant Help for Teens series (like Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety: A Workbook for Overcoming Anxiety at Home, at School, and Everywhere Else) or the “Dummies Series” that has a “Mindfulness for Dummies” book. If anxiety, however, is taking over your teens life and is seriously affecting their well being, safety, or everyday function, please seek professional help. You can start with California Youth Services’ Pathways Community Counseling Center: www.cyspathways.org

Tip 2:

Have intentional family time at least one to two times per week AND hug your teen often! This may seem obvious, but, let me tell you…communication is key to engaging your teen. You really need to talk to your child every day; and tell them you are there for them, support them, and do not judge them harshly when they tell you something deep. Please…very, very crucial: Listen to your teen with an open mind. If they tell you something that is frightening to you (such as having certain sexual feelings and acting on them or experimenting with illicit substances) and you immediately punish them, your teen will be reluctant to tell you other things in the future. That’s right, instead, they are going to go to their friends and we know how factual that information is!  If you aren’t sure how to respond or react right away, the best thing to say at that moment is “Thank you so much for telling me, this is very important. Please let me reflect for a moment and process the information so I can give you the best advice possible.” Then schedule a time to meet with them soon after and go research, research, research and get advice on the best way to respond. Taking too long to respond may backfire, so talking with your teen later that day or the next day is highly recommended. As for hugging your teen often, not only is this great for building the bond…but it is also great for “sniffing” out your teen. Give a great big, bear hug. Think about it…if you hug your teen after every time they come home from hanging out with their friends or a party (and it’s not rare or is commonplace), first they won’t think anything odd about it and second you can smell all kinds of potential problems…alcohol, smoke, even rapid heart rate (hmm… what are they hiding? Right?!) What a great prelude to the next tip we suggest “…I’m so happy you’re safe at home! Today is the day for a random drug test…” Should you want more information on the rapidly growing drug epidemic, guidance on steps to take if your child’s test result is positive for a certain substance, or even know a family member/acquaintance that could benefit from an educative program, please seek further information from our JADE (Juvenile Alcohol Drug Education) program at http://www.calyouthservices.org/jade/ or call our main line at (949) 303-9016.

Tip 3:

Drug Test your Teen. I know this sounds a bit harsh and maybe for some a little crazy, but let the drug prevention experts tell you the benefits of drug testing your child BEFORE alcohol or substance abuse becomes any type of problem. It is also very engaging (think about all the conversations you can have about this topic?). First, when you drug test your child, you are using it as a tool. Think about it…if your teen is at a party or event and their peers are telling them to try a particular drug, they have the best excuse in the world: “Sorry, my mom/dad randomly drug tests me and I can get my phone taken away if it comes up positive.” This helps them still “look cool” in front of their peers. Second, if you drug test your child as a young 13-year-old, when starting Jr. High, it becomes a normal rite of passage, and won’t become a big deal in the future. They won’t think …oh they don’t trust me so now I’m getting drug tested. Instead they will think …oh this must be what all parents do and it’s just part of growing up. It’s also a great way to start the conversation of the reality that using drugs, even marijuana, can affect our everyday lives and can potentially become a serious problem. Finally, if the tests ever do come up positive, you have a way to intervene promptly and do something early about it. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to do this at home, in a monitored place, or even on some school campuses (there are some schools that provide free, monitored take home or on campus drug tests). Please reach out to us to learn which schools offer that and check out our website about drug testing to learn more about how to do this. www.calyouthservices.org/drug-testing/) We also do a great job (we’ve been doing this for over 20 years) with helping steer teens back on the right direction when they get off track…so we can be there for you if your child ever does test positive for a specific substance. We also have a prevention tool, “Stay Ahead of Your Teen” (Parent Alliance Membership) that offers all of our great programs and services ready for you in a one package deal when you need it. Click here to learn more http://californiayouthservices.mykajabi.com/p/Parent-Membership-Alliance

Tip 4:

Monitor your Teen’s Communication and Whereabouts. Many parents have concerns about this since they want their teen to become independent and self-sufficient and want to build that trusting relationship. We completely understand that and know this skill is important. However, when your child is emerging into the teen years when you think to back off, it is actually more important to tighten those reins. The reason is simple: Lack of judgment development can impair healthy, safe, and wise decisions. You know how all the crazy things you ever did was during those teen and young adult years (on a side-note, those things you did then are considered criminal and would get you in a serious legal or expensive pickle now)? That’s because we don’t develop the judgement part of our human brains until the age of 25! During the lack of judgement, peers can be very, very convincing! If a parent monitors their actions, a parent can step in when things get way out of hand! Trust us, we have seen many kids being at the wrong place at the wrong time, making the wrong decision. If things are monitored, you would know exactly what, who, where things are happening. The apps we recommend to help you start monitoring social media, texts, emails, etc are: Life360 and Teensafe. Also, please make sure to meet and get to know all the friends they hang out with, their friend’s parents, and learn why they like to go where they go…(what is so appealing about that place?) I’m telling you, this will save you a lot of hardship down the line (and please don’t be that parent that hosts parties because you want to be monitoring their “hang out” space. That can get you in a serious legal problem but that’s for another conversation for another day.) By the way, maybe your teen won’t realize it as they are still developing, but as an adult they do reflect back and come to appreciate how much their parent cared about them growing up. If you are interested in promoting wise choices in your teenager, please refer to our “Decisions” program, to learn more information please call our main line at (949) 577-3861 or visit our website http://www.calyouthservices.org/decisions/     

Tip 5:

Take care of yourself and model positivity! This is important, because a happy parent, makes for a happy teen. Please take care of your physical health, your mental health, and of course make time for yourself to do things you love. We can’t tell you enough how important it is to show your child that life is good. That you are allowed to do things you love, have passions, and that it’s ok to make mistakes (as long as we learn from them, right?). It also shows your teen that you can be vulnerable and that you are human! There has been countless and countless of research done on happy, resilient teens, and one that we share often is the work done by the Search Institute who identified building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets®—that help young people grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. https://policywise.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/40-Developmental-Assets.pdf Take a look at that list, check off all that apply, and we hope that you see which ones that perhaps your child may need to “develop”. This is a great tool.

Hope you enjoyed this list! We have so many more tips, tools, and ways to engage your teen. Give us a call and learn how we can help. To recap, here are the 5 tips to engage your teen:

1.Teach and Model Mindfulness. Be present and help your child overcome potentially unsafe anxiety.

2.Have Intentional Family Time and Hug Your Teen Often! Communication is key and sniff out potential problems with a great big, lovable bear hug

3.Drug Test your Teen. What? That sounds complicated…but really, it’s not that big of a deal and can be a huge tool later in their lives.

4.Monitor your Teen’s Communication and Whereabouts. What exactly are they up to and who are they hanging out with? This can be very important information and will show you care.

5.Take care of yourself and model positivity. A happy parent is a happy teen. There’s too much negativity in the world, let’s put out some good energy for our overly anxious teens.

10 Ways Parents Can Spot Dyslexia

Monthly Spotlight: Dyslexia

March 2016

No one is born with the ability to read. We have to learn how. For those that find it extremely difficult to learn how to read and often show struggles in various academic areas, they may have one of the most common learning challenges, Dyslexia. Dyslexia affects 1 out of 5 individuals worldwide. Early intervention is key to ensure that an individual with dyslexia succeeds in school developmentally, socially, and academically.  It is therefore important for parents to know how to identify common symptoms of Dyslexia as early as possible. We have created this month's spotlight video for that very reason. It is a practical list of characteristics a parent may recognize and inquire about. Of course not all dyslexics exhibit every single characteristic, but if you watch this video and feel that the descriptions match closely to behaviors of someone you know, it might be worth further investigation.

For more resources and information about dyslexia, please visit Learn 2 Read OC's resource page for links to various sites that are helpful or visit Learn 2 Read OC's Facebook page

Learn 2 Read OC: http://www.learn2readoc.org/

Learn 2 Read OC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Learn-2-Read-OC/1591287161106999

3 Key Areas Parents Should Know About Today's Marijuana

Monthly Spotlight: Today's Marijuana

February 2016

Here is our second video training installment on our February topic of Marijuana.  We hope this training offers some insight into what we feel parents should be aware of as it relates to current marijuana paraphernalia, marijuana edibles, and how the marketing industry impacts our adolescents.   Enjoy.

NIDA for Teens: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-fact...

DEA Marijuana: https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com/dr...

Smart Approaches to Marijuana: LEARNABOUTSAM.ORG

3 Topics Parents Should Understand About Today's Marijuana

 February 2016

Monthly Spotlight: Today's Marijuana

Our organization recognizes that education is the most powerful tool we can use to prevent our youth from heading down a destructive path. Parents and educators play a tremendous role in children's lives, so in this month's video blog series we address some of the basic topics that parent's should know and understand about "today's" marijuana.

Here is a link to our first February training series entitled, "3 Topics Parents Should Understand About Today's Marijuana"

Simple Tips To Help Your Child Manage Stress

Let's face it, stress inevitably impacts most people in one way or another. But now (more than ever before) we are seeing an alarming trend of the serious impact that stress is having on the live of our young adolescents. 

Here is the second part of our two part video training series on this month's topic: Stress.  In this training we cover some simple tips for parents to help their children better manage their stress.


5 Simple Ways to Manage Stress

As we move through 2016 we are happy to introduce our new video blog series!! Over the next 12 months will be covering various topics including Suicide Prevention, The Importance of a Male Role Model, What Parents Need to Know About Marijuana, & Much Much More.

So as promised here’s a link to our first training in our 2016 series entitled 5 Ways to Reduce Stress.