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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  Phew. I am having a hard enough time getting through remote schooling with my kids these past months and now I am hearing concerns that kids may not be back in school this fall or, if they are, they will be wearing masks, distancing, and maybe even going only a few days a week. My kids want to be back to school in the fall. They are hearing the rumors too. They are asking questions. How do I address these with them–not knowing what the new school year will bring? I don’t want to say they will be back when they may not be. I also don’t want to have them fearing the worst all summer. What’s the best way to approach this uncertainty?

Answer: Although our children think we do, we do not have any control over what will happen in the future. We cannot make it all better or promise that life will return to normal. Uncertainty is hard for all of us. Take heart.  Although this is a very difficult experience, there are real-life lessons here for all of our kids, which will serve them well throughout adulthood. Remember the saying, “It is not the number of times you get knocked down that is important, it the number of times you get back up.”  Life is full of uncertainty and change. Helping your kids learn to accept this with grace (as much as that is possible in children) is so important.  

Here is what might help: 

Offer HOPE: Let your kids know that it is the job of the schools, communities and our government to figure out how to get the students back to school safely. Many people are working on it. It may look different, but a plan will be made. They will soon know what it will look like, and together you will all work on making it work.

Offer VALIDATION: We know that being with friends is a really important part of school. Acknowledge for them that you understand it is hard not to know, and that it is also hard for you. Encourage them to talk about their fears and worries. Talk about this together. This is a way to validate what they are feeling and that you are hearing them, you understand and are feeling it, too. This amazingly lightens the mood.

REFRAME: If you can, reframe the way they, and you, are thinking about this. They are experiencing something extraordinary right now. We are all learning more about science, technology, our interconnectedness and our own ability to be resilient. Because of this pandemic, they are going to be part of a generation that takes big leaps forward in their ability to problem-solve and adapt. As horrible as this virus has been, we have learned so much about ourselves. Encourage them to think about what they are missing and why is it important to them. It can offer a new appreciation.

REDIRECT: Encourage them to take another path in action and thinking. When the worries start to take over, have them focus just on today—what can make today a good day, like building a fairy house or making things from found objects, for example. Check out websites for these kinds of activities together. Foster their compassion. Focusing on the needs of others and getting out of our own heads is the best way to feel better (packing boxes at a food bank, walking the neighbor’s dog, saving the Earth by picking up litter or planting a tree, or reaching out to Facetime with a grandparent).

Try this “formula” I have given you (hope, validation, reframe, and redirect). Hopefully, you will soon have clearer answers to give. Try this on yourself, too. 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 14th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote brings me comfort when I am restless and sleepless over my worries. You can think of it anytime your mind is troubled before sleep; it might be especially helpful now. We have lots to be concerned about, as we are now weeks into the Coronavirus shutdown, with uncertain ends in sight. We worry about our loved ones, our country, our businesses and jobs, finances, and daily food. Some parents are suddenly in the role of schoolteachers to their children, on top of their many other work and home responsibilities. Even when experiencing a job loss at this time, some have had to spend many hours of navigating to access benefits—a job in itself!  

It is important to understand that worries and anxiety are about the future “what ifs.” Learning to sort out which of your thoughts really deserve your attention and which are simply creating more anxiety, staying in the moment, addressing those things that are right in front of you–helps keep worries manageable.  

Here are the lessons found in Emerson’s quote:

1.  Finish each day and be done with it.

Reliving it doesn’t change anything. Berating yourself over things done, and not done, is useless spinning. Allow yourself to close the book on today and stop reviewing the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments, or the things you cannot control. In the morning, they will not seem as bad.  

2.  You have done what you could.

Celebrate your full day, as weird and uncommon it may seem, and the things you were able to do, big and small. Try to remember a moment from the beginning of the day. You managed, and you got through it.  Perhaps your day had some moments of fun. Perhaps you reassured your child, reached out to a friend, or cooked a good dinner–good for you. Perhaps you shuffled the kids outside, and took a moment for yourself—good for you. Right now it is about putting one foot in front of the other and navigating what changes come—one day at a time. Today, you have done what you could.  

3.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can.

We are not perfect. We make mistakes, forget things, get tired or even angry. Give yourself permission to have a moment, or many moments of struggle. Some days run smoothly, others are just, well, not smooth. It is human to have to keep trying, and right now there is a lot being asked of you. If you are trying under these unusual circumstances, then you are doing the best you can. So try not to be the first one to cast judgment on yourself. 

4.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Thank goodness for that! We get a new chance every day. This virus will end or at least we will find a way to manage it. The world will keep spinning and there will be many new days.

5.  You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.  

That’s the pledge. After sleep, the worries that keep us up can seem trivial in the morning light. Living in these strange conditions created by the virus has given us gifts and lessons in the midst of our concerns. So tomorrow, you will wake up anew, ready to embrace what may be a really great adventure in life.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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Studies have shown that a daily routine alleviates feelings of stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. It’s also proven beneficial for those working through addiction, insomnia, and helps give structure to children who may otherwise experience anxiety. Though our daily lives have been upended in recent weeks, this can be a powerful time to establish our priorities through routine.

Here are some reasons why and how routine can enhance your mental wellbeing, as well as some examples to try in your own life.

Ease stress: With so many decisions to be made each day, it can become overwhelming quickly. Having the majority of daily decisions planned in advance can lessen stress. It’s okay to start small with one decision and work up to planning more. Try: Put together your outfit the night before or pack tonight’s leftover dinner as an ready-to-grab lunch for tomorrow.

Provide structure: Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from structure. Even as adults, we perform better when we expect predictable and controllable moments. When our day has a rhythm, we feel grounded and focused. Try: Write down all the things that you need to do during your day. Once these priorities are met, sprinkle in what you want to do.

Better coping skills: When most of our daily tasks are repetitive and expected, it gives us the confidence to make it through our day. This will help to establish better coping skills for life’s curveballs. Try: Allow yourself time each day to process your emotions. Write in a journal, meditate, or express your feelings creatively.  

Forms habits: It takes 21 days to form a habit—why not use a routine as practice? The more consistent you are, the better established your routine will become. Try: Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. A proper sleep schedule reduces stress, anxiety and gives you the energy to power through your day.

 

Your routine should represent your lifestyle and meet your responsibilities. This means that if waking up at 4am is impossible for you, don’t make yourself do it. Set yourself up for success! With this being said, a daily routine should never feel like a prison. Leave room for flexibility and the opportunity to adapt to life’s changes.

We all rely on each other for support and encouragement. If you are experiencing severe stress or are having difficulty performing day-to-day tasks reach out to a loved one or professional.

 

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on April 27th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

We don’t like things that are not clear and understandable. We don’t like feeling uncertain and lacking control; uncertainty can lead to feelings of insecurity. In the best of times, parenting is about helping kids feel secure, so they grow up hopeful and happy. This is tough to do when parents themselves are struggling during this time.

Although we all are troubled by living with the virus threat, parents and caregivers have the important job of helping their children and teens understand and follow the current health restrictions, while keeping them hopeful and secure.

Some parents recently shared with me how they have tried to help their children deal with the changes caused by the Coronavirus restrictions. Their comments may be helpful to you:

Explain the Coronavirus in age-appropriate ways. For young ones, answer what is asked. Don’t supply more information than they need. Limit their exposure to media coverage. They will be curious and need to process it in pieces. One grandmother, a social worker, assured, “Don’t be alarmed if their play includes the virus. This is normal and a good way for you to identify their concerns.”

Welcome the expression of emotion. Expressing emotion is healthy at any age. If it is safe to do so, don’t try to quiet it, squash it or make it better. Let it come out in a variety of ways. There is time to talk it over after the expressing is done. Sometimes we rush to “fix it” but really we just need to listen. When it was announced the school would not reopen, one mom of a high school senior watched her daughter grieve the loss of her senior year activities—prom, graduation and such. Her daughter wrote a 3-page paper called “Senior Year Ruined” she sent it to her English teacher, who then reached out to talk with her. This expressing of how she felt ended up helping both him and her. This daughter is also learning to bake, and decorated her cake creation with “R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) Senior Year.”

Try to have a routine. A regular school day runs on routine. Children get comfortable with this. Establish a schedule that your child can follow at least on weekdays. One mom who has a high school junior says, “We set up a daily schedule. Each day is a different subject for at least 1 hour, she completes that first, and then 1 hour of something educational but fun. She also has every other day for either practicing dancing or Girl Scout “homework”.

Let kids participate in the planning of the day. This may limit battles over assignments that they resist and gives them some power. Remember, having some control helps kids feel secure.

Knowing what to expect also helps kids feel secure. Another mom said, “Setting-up projects the night before is really important to support the kids with knowing what is expected, and to assist with the day flowing, especially since I’m working from home.” She also found it is important to “keep the routine when co-parenting with kids going back and forth between two homes. When possible, mirror what is happening in both homes.”

Acknowledge the ‘now’ and focus on the future. A mom of a 16-year-old said that “cancellations of outdoor events have been a challenge to explain”—her son likes helping in the pit crew at races, and it is an important activity for him. “We simply talk with him, and acknowledge all of the feelings he has around it. We then talk about plans once the quarantine is lifted.” Another grandmother has a “post-virus bucket list” full of all the things the family will do when the cautions are lifted.

Security for your kids comes from some consistent routines, allowing the normal and healthy expression of emotions, giving them some power to make decisions, a positive future focus, and above all else, love. We are all in this together. We will find our way.

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children, and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.” 

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In recent weeks, we’ve all seen changes in our daily lives: our routines, our social connections, and our sense of safety and security. It can be easy—and normal—to find yourself dwelling on the negative.  However, having an appreciative and positive mindset during these trying times will be beneficial to your health and to the health of those around you.

Here are a few things to adopt to help shift your focus and attention and lift your spirits:

Have gratitude: We are all grateful for different things—more time with our children, partners and pets; no longer having a commute; cooking with a full pantry; a beautiful backyard to play in—whatever it may be, revel in your feelings of gratitude for it. Celebrate anything that makes you feel especially grateful and encourage your family to do the same.

Self-reflection: If a lot of feelings are coming up for you, don’t shy away from them. Let yourself feel and process these emotions. This is also a great time to remind yourself of all your accomplishments and dreams for the future. What do you truly need? What matters most to you?

New skills: When you learn something new, your brain forms new connections and strengthens neural pathways helping your cognitive function. Learning a new skill can also increase your self-confidence and sense of purpose in the world. 

Rediscover hobbies: Do you miss reading novels? Playing the guitar? Gardening? Now is the time to dive back into those activities that bring you joy. Encourage those in your household to do the same and appreciate the time you now have to revisit or try new things.

Self-expression: Humans are inherently creative beings. Take this extra time at home to express yourself in productive and creative ways. Write, paint, construct—express yourself and how you may be feeling right now. It’s healthy to process your emotions through creativity rather than bottling it all up.  

Get physical: Appreciate your body’s capability for movement! When you move your body, you allow yourself to be more present rather than “in your head.” Focusing on your physical and mental health also helps your immune system stay healthy.

Deep breathing: Going back to this technique will help calm your nervous system. Conscious breathing breaks throughout the day will help to regulate your emotions and allow for restful sleep.

It’s not selfish to feel grateful, appreciative or open to finding joy right now. Keep doing those things that ground you and make you happy. Remember, you are not alone. We are all going through this situation together.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 26th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

This is indeed a really strange time—not going to work, having the kids and even (for some) a spouse at home. How unexpected. This is not something any of us had planned on. For some, this is a great adventure in family time. For others, it may feel like a really overwhelmingly big challenge. The threat of illness and possible financial problems can keep us stressed. You are not alone in that.

In whatever frame of mind you are experiencing this time of being sheltered, remember that you are not alone. Parents all over the country and the world are adapting to this temporary hiccup in our lives. It is a little like the ice storm years ago that cut power for weeks. We were all experiencing the same thing and life was disrupted.

We will get through this with our own stories to tell and one day this will be a memory. In the meantime, one of the best ways we can cope is by practicing self-care. 

What is self-care? Basically, it means taking time to care for our own needs. The result of doing this is that we will have more energy for the tough jobs, like parenting. It is taking care of ourselves that gives us energy. Think of what happens when your vehicle runs out of gas. It stops; nothing works. When we humans run out of energy, we stop too. It causes us to feel moody, sad, anger easily; we may fill with anxiety. Sometimes when we do not take care of ourselves, something else stops us, like an illness, depression, and other things that sap our strength. Caring for ourselves, especially during stressful and uncertain times like this is not just a good thing, it is essential!

Here are some ideas for quality self-care. This is not just the “get a cup of tea” variety (which can be very nice), but things which may give you lasting fuel for your tank.

Remind yourself that what you are doing is important. Families isolating to protect themselves and the greater community is really important. We are in this together. Everyone is doing a little extra to keep everyone safe.  

Find people with whom you stay in contact. Share ideas for kids’ play or meal planning with a friend who is also home with kids. Check on neighbors, parents, and singles you may know. Think of it this way: reach out to one that feeds you, one that needs you, and one that makes you laugh. These brief contacts can restore your energy and spirit.

Put those kids on a schedule. Organize their day for them (this is really for you). Divide their time so they are not just on electronics (too much is not good for kids) or not driving you crazy with wrestling, fighting or bickering. Help each of your children to identify what they would like to do in each area. 

Here are some possible divisions of time:

  • Help with making and cleaning up meals and doing chores
  • School studies time or completing worksheets
  • Outside time (daily!) for the kids to burn off energy
  • Dancing or high energy playtime
  • Quiet time (puzzles, reading, napping)
  • TV/game/video time

Set boundaries on these activities and take charge.

Limit news consumption. Too much reading, watching and listening to the news can contribute to anxiety. The news cycle repeats throughout the day, so you will always get the latest when you tune in. Always remember to get your news from reliable media sources, and when possible from different viewpoints.

Practice gratitude. At the end or the beginning of each day, take stock on those things for which you are grateful. Think about each child, each supportive person in your life, and moments big and small that made life better. Look for and acknowledge those places in your life where you are truly rich. 

Lastly, remember you are not alone. We will all get through this challenge “at a distance” but together. Spring always comes, let’s be grateful for that.

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Now, more than ever, it’s important to be aware of your mental health. Rather than letting anxiety, stress or negativity overwhelm you, it’s best to stay present and minimize stress as much as possible.

There are many techniques that may help you process and reduce stress. While not every suggestion will work for every person, adopt what works best for you into your daily wellness routine.

Stress-reducing techniques:

  • Exercise: Physical activity can boost your immune system, help you feel good about yourself, increase your energy levels, alleviate stress, and help with sleep. There are numerous home workouts available online to try for free!
  • Meditate: Find some time every day to do even a few minutes of meditation. It helps calm the brain and make you feel more grounded and present.
  • Be informed: Uncertainty or misinformation can increase worry and cause panic. You can stay informed through official, fact-checked channels such as the CDC website or the World Health Organization’s website.
  • Don’t obsess over the negative: Sometimes too much information can lead to overload or more stress. Try to limit exposure to media outlets and make sure your information sources are reliable. Avoid reading before bed—it can increase anxiety or stress.
  • Pay attention to positive news: Despite this difficult time, there is often positive information in the daily news, online, and in social media. Find hope in these stories and share them with those who may need a boost.
  • Think positively: Recall how you and your loved ones overcame past hardships. Remind yourself that things are temporary, and the current situation will pass. Consider the current time as an opportunity to show more care to yourself and your loved ones.
  • Share thoughts/feelings with others: Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help alleviate stress. Others might share similar feelings and can help you process your emotions.
  • Check in with loved ones: Loved ones are often concerned about us and may try to protect us by not being fully truthful. If you are worried about loved ones, reach out to them frequently and lend a listening ear.
  • Learn to say “no”: Although sharing information and feelings can be helpful, it is also important to say “no” when you are uncomfortable. Respectfully set boundaries and leave conversations in an appropriate way.
  • Engage with others (from a safe distance): There is still life outside of the current crisis. Join in a virtual dinner party, video chat with friends or family, listen to music, or start a new hobby.
  • Do some relaxation: Plan some relaxation techniques or activities that you enjoy into your daily schedule. Read a book, enjoy a warm bath, meditate—anything that calms you or brings you joy.
  • Get outside: Go outside for walks! Fresh air and sunshine are excellent for boosting your mood. Get outside as much as you can if you are in an area where you can practice safe social and physical distancing from others.
  • Let it out: Sometimes expressing your emotions can be helpful. Try journaling, keeping a voice diary, or letting yourself be upset for a while. It’s important not to bottle up your emotions.

Remember, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself, it’s crucial to your wellbeing. A strong body and mind will help you to navigate through uncertain times.

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All three Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy events have been postponed.

Dear Attendees,

Due to our first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Maine and recommendations to postpone large gatherings, at this time we are POSTPONING all three of our “Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy” workshops. We will look to reschedule these as soon as we are able.

If you would like your order refunded to you, please e-mail Mary Gagnon at mary.gagnon@healthaffiliatesmaine.com to make the request. Please giv the refund process a few days to occur if you make that selection. Otherwise, we will hold your order until we reschedule this training.

Thank you for your understanding.
Sincerely,

Mary A. Gagnon, LMFT
Training and Clinical Development Specialist

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Februaury 11th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  I believe my husband may have a gambling problem. What started as a few nights of card games out with the guys has turned into more frequent outings and I suspect trips to casinos. He also buys a lot of scratch and lottery tickets and has been hiding them. I’ve asked him about it a few times and he shakes it off as not a big deal. He recently sold some household items that I know he would not have parted with if he didn’t really need some money and it has me very worried. I want to get him help if he needs it but if he doesn’t see it as a problem, I don’t know how to.

Answer: I am glad you asked about this question.  It is hard to help someone when they don’t believe they have a problem. As with other addictions, admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery. There are several indicators in what you wrote that do indicate a problem. You have noticed his attention to gambling increase, you have noticed he is buying a lot of scratch tickets and is hiding them. You have also noticed he has sold household items which you doubt he would part with if he didn’t need the money. Lastly, it is affecting your relationship; you are very worried.

Before I talk about him and the gambling problem in general, I would like to talk about you. It is important that you put in place things to protect your financial and your emotional health.  

  1. First, take over managing the family accounts. Keep a close eye on bank and credit card statements.  Do this frequently by checking periodically online or by phone. This will ensure that your own credit and finances are not at risk. Address questionable financial transactions early. Gambling addiction can cause people to behave in ways they never would have thought possible previously. This can mean lying and stealing.
  1. Prepare to be able to answer when he asks for money and be careful not to give in to manipulation.  Often with addictions the ones closest to the person with the problem can end up enabling them to continue. You can continue the cycle if you bail him out of debt or cover for him. Without efforts to recover he will have more debt soon.
  1. Confront the problem by talking with your husband about how his behavior is affecting the family. Try not to lose your temper or lecture him. Talk with him about getting help. Offer to go with him. A counselor can support you both in this. They can work with you on skills for setting boundaries. 
  1. Get support for yourself with such groups as GamAnon which can give you tools from people who have lived through this. You will learn not to bail him out if he gets into financial trouble. Even if he does not seek support from such a group, do so for yourself.
  1. Keep in mind that someone with a gambling problem is suffering and feels powerless to stop but often is not ready to recognize or admit this. Sometimes they gamble to treat underlying mood problems. Always take any statements about suicide seriously (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255).

Here are the criteria for Gambling Addiction from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders from the American Psychiatric Association. Help should be sought if someone has 4 or more of these behaviors:

  • A need to gamble in increasing amounts to get the same level of satisfaction from the process.
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to control or stop gambling or buy lottery tickets.
  • Preoccupation with gambling, watching for lottery numbers or purchasing scratch-off tickets in high amounts or very frequently.
  • Gambling when distressed (helpless, guilty, anxious or depressed).
  • Lying to hide the purchases or the extent of the investment in scratch-off pieces.
  • Chasing losses with more investments the next day, especially when done routinely.
  • Seeks out money from other people for gambling or buying lottery tickets.
  • Has jeopardized or lost significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunities because of gambling
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

Here are the keys to help you and your husband:  

  • Protect your finances
  • Get education about gambling
  • Get professional and community help and support for both of you 

Helpful links:

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on January 9th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  I am a single mom to two kids. My oldest son is 16 and taller, bigger, and stronger than me. He has recently switched from sulky teen to angry teen and twice has grabbed me to the point of it being painful. I’m worried about this escalating into more and it prevents me from bringing things up with him as I am fearful of making him angry. As far as I know he has never been exposed to abuse. His dad was not abusive and I don’t know where this anger comes from. He always apologizes after but I need some ideas to talk to him about the seriousness of what he is doing without making it worse. Thank you.

Answer:  This is a tough situation, and one that I feel needs immediate intervention to help your son, and to protect you. You said that your son “recently switched” from being a “sulky teen to an angry teen.” Switches in personality, like you describe, usually have a precipitating event, or circumstance. It could be something going on with him physically, of which he has no control, or his emotions may be rooted in abuse, bullying, or fear. In our culture, anger is often easier for us to express, rather than the true emotion lying underneath. That is why talking with a professional, like a counselor, can help get to the root of the problem and find new ways of coping.

Adolescent depression is also a possibility to be explored; it can present as profound irritability and a shorter fuse. Your PCP can screen for depressive disorders for which treatment might be helpful.

Substance abuse must also be considered. Many teens experiment and some can have reactions, even allergic reactions, which seem to change their personalities, leaving parents wondering what happened to their child. This is serious and needs to be addressed early. If you don’t feel confident about this, seek parenting help and call your PCP.

Teens have a lot going on not only in physical growth and the demands of school, but also with adulthood looming in the future. This may lead to anxiety. Psychologically, they are doing a push-pull with parents, both pushing you away because they think they are adults while pulling you close for fear of growing up. This is part of normal development. Your son’s school most likely has a counselor whom he could see, or may have a recommendation. Health Affiliates Maine can connect him with a counselor, as can other agencies.

If his father is deceased or absent from his life, your son could benefit from male mentoring. Perhaps there are family members or family friends who might be able to take on that role.  There are other organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, New Beginnings, and Advocates for Children that might have resources which are helpful. 

Here are some things you can do that may be helpful:

  • Connect with his school and see if they have noticed any changes in him or can provide you with information.
  • When you feel it is safe to do this, talk with your son when he is calm, and see if he has any insight into what if troubling him. It’s reasonable to say to him that you both need to work together with a family therapist to learn how to communicate in a safe and healthy manner, and likely both parties need some help in this area. Open communication is the best plan, even when it is difficult and even when you are upset and angry, too. It is best for him to know where you stand and what your limits are. 
  • Take him to see his primary care provider (PCP). Let the PCP know what you are experiencing with him.
  • Your own safety also needs to be considered. If you are truly afraid he will hurt you or your other child, you may have to call 911 for help. At your son’s age, this will most likely lead to other interventions which could help him. He will be angry at you, but later understand.
  • Talk with your other child who may also feel afraid of their brother, yet fearful for him. When brother is angry, it can be an emotional and scary scene for the younger sibling, check in with them often about feelings and safety.

Right now your son needs you, even though he is pushing you away. He desperately needs to find another way of expressing his emotions, and you and your other child need to be safe. This is a very tough time for a parent. Don’t hesitate to get help.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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