The High School Transition Denise Williams MA, LAMFT Clinical and SEY Services Manager

The High School Transition
Denise Williams MA, LAMFT
Clinical and SEY Services
Adolescent Development
• American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Middle School and Early High School Age
- Late High School and Older
• Distinct developmental issues that present as changes in a youths
struggles, insights, and interests
Adolescent Development
• Underdeveloped Prefrontal Cortex
- Results in poor decision making and critical thinking skills, and
- May not consider safety risks or future consequences
• Underdeveloped Anterior Cingulate Cortex
- Difficulty staying focused, easily distracted, poor emotion
• Amygdala Driven
- ‘Gut’ reactions, instinctual, anger/fear
- Experimentation with high risk behaviors
• All areas may be affected by traumatic experiences (as interpreted by
the individual) and/or traumatic brain injuries
Adolescent Development
• Middle School and Early High School youth move toward INDEPENDENCE
• Goal of expansion and understanding of self
- Sense of Identity
- Awkwardness regarding body and person as a whole
- Expectations of self alternate between perfectionism and poor self esteem
- Interest are influenced by peers
- Moodiness
Adolescent Development
• Increased ability to use speech to articulate self
- Verbally communicate parents faults
• Less overt affection towards parent, sometimes rude
- Defiance, rule testing
• Complaints about lack of independence
• Regression to childish behavior when stressed
• Focused on present, less about future
• Egocentric – may present as selfishness and as an over
focused on self
Adolescent Development
• Other behaviors to expect include:
- Misreading social cues, emotions, danger
- Getting into accidents
- Involvement in fights
• Sexuality
- May be shy and modest or express overt interest in sex
Girls physically develop sooner than boys – may contribute to
self consciousness or interest in sexualized attention
Focus on attractiveness
Frequently change relationships
Desires to be ‘normal’
Adolescent Development
• Dr. Lorraine Fox – Beautiful Boundaries, Safe Structure, Loving
Limits: Giving Kids What They Deserve
• Boundary-necessary role modeling on how to navigate the world
- Protective wall for children (limits coming and going and access)
• Inside is safe and secure, predictable, sense of belonging
- Role Boundary – what can children expect from you
• Consistency is key
- Allows for safe maturation of judgment and reasoning and
facilitates cognitive growth
Fly Fishing vs. Trolling
• Setting limits – letting go and reeling in
• Giving too much of a ‘line’ when maturity doesn’t match the amount of
freedom given yields unruliness and a lack of respect for limitations
during adolescence
• As maturity occurs, a child’s ability to be responsible (have self control)
will demonstrate the appropriateness of more freedom
- This may not be determined by age alone
- Opportunities for increased responsibility must be made regularly.
Baby steps
- Due to the limited critical thinking skills of an adolescence, it is up to
the parent to fill In the blanks about why certain decisions are made
• Use specific behavior as examples of desired and undesired
Iron Bars vs. Rubber Bands
• Give and take are crucial
- Children are not machines; they will not always do what you want
- They are people with thoughts and feelings
- Ability to start over everyday with developmentally appropriate
expectations (based on previous behavior) will give youth the
motivation to keep trying
• Try not to compare one child to another (siblings or friends),
all children develop differently and require different
- Have a solid base of family values with flexibility for child to venture
out and develop an individual identity
• NEVER feel guilty for implementing limits.
Iron Bars vs. Rubber Bands
• Imposer vs. Mentor
• Assist youth in developing critical thinking skills, ask questions and give
alternate scenarios with different outcomes
- Avoid the tone of ‘laying down the law’
- This sets up an oppositional relationship versus partnership
- Creates fear around making mistakes
• Be willing to share your process for decision making; normalizes not
being perfect
• Discussing limitations, rehearsing scenarios and offering parental
guidance may not be openly accepted, but stead fast and keep trying
Power Control Struggles
• The idea of freedom is enticing for young people
- I can’t wait until I turn 18 years old!
- I can’t wait until I move out on my own!
• Try not to associate freedom with chronological ages, only with demonstrated
• Normalize that there will always be expectations and limitations i.e work, owning a
car, and living independently
- Provide concrete examples often
- Celebrate freedom to exercise good judgment and make decisions
- Stand firm on living with consequences of action
• Rescuing youth from consequences communicates exemption which can
be generalized to all areas of life (PROBLEMATIC)
• Empower youth to use the skills you’ve taught, verbally express faith in their ability
Power Control Struggles
– All people want their way, not just young people
• How are you role modeling when you don’t get your way?
– Youth are focused on the here and now
• (underdeveloped frontal cortex not because of personality)
– Adults have developed frontal cortex’s yet may have been affected
by trauma, drug abuse, stress or other influential factors
– In successful non power based situations, adults take the ‘long view’
• Immediate issues or crisis still need to teach life long lessons as
the core
• This takes the use of emotional boundaries
Power Control Struggles
Emotional boundaries include:
Self reflection
Why is this behavior making me feel this way? Take a step away and provide self care
Reminder of limitations of adolescent development and individual personality characteristics of child
Youth may seem like adults, but developmentally they are light years away from comprehending the
complexities of decisions or actions
What lesson or value and I’m trying to teach. Focus here? Does my consequence teach this lesson?
Is there any part of this that can be flexible? If so, go for it! It role models compromise.
Parents job is to teach
Is there any part of your child’s reasoning that can be validated?
Apologize for mishaps and admit when your wrong.
Although this may be used against you later
Power Control Struggles
• Providing explanations helps develop solid reasoning skills
• Being aware of personal triggers can decrease anger, frustration and defensiveness
- Most kids ask question, push limits and say and do things that are against parents wishes
- It isn’t personal, its apart of a child’s development to figure out how to get what they want
- Opportunity to reiterate values or rules, provide explanation for reasoning and offer how
things can work in their favor next time
• Work power struggles out, role models conflict resolution
• A child’s behavior is not a reflection of the lessons you have taught.
- A parent can provide consistent expectations, consequences and rewards, healthy
role modeling, consistent messaging about family values and positive reinforcement
to motivate and encourage
- No one can control the behavior of another person. All we can you is try to shape
From Challenge to Confidence
1. Ask for eye contact and full attention when giving directives
2. Personalize Expectations
-‘I would like you to..’
3. State your expectation once and consequence or reward to follow (amend for youth with
ADHD who need extra prompting)
– consistency facilitates positive behavior modification
4. Follow up unmet expectations with non-condescending questions
– don’t let youth avoid answering directly about the noncompliance (amend for youth with
ODD or mood disorders)
– Did you hear me when I asked you to..? Were you unclear about what I was asking you
to do?
From Challenge to Confidence
4. Keep focus on youth’s difficulty with self control not non compliance
5. Be watchful of language – Disrespect breeds disrespect and unintentional disrespect
is also possible. Controlling language yields defensiveness and disobedience. (i.e You
need to..)
6. Allow the child to save face.
-Embarrassing or putting anyone down intentionally in front of others will not
yield a healthy positive relationship.
-This especially true for youth whose peer relationships are most important to
-Leads to resentment
Adolescence can be a very stressful time for both young people and their
parents/guardians, but it can be a successful journey!
There is support available:
The Bride for Youth
1111 W 22nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Denise Williams-Griffin LAMFT
Clinical and Sexually Exploited Youth Services Manager
Clinical Services Program
******24/7facility for walk-in counseling and parent consultation