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Teen Dating Violence and Healthy Relationships

Teen dating violence has become a real concern with its own frequently used initials (TDV). February is now Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). Teens, young adults, parents, professionals, and anyone concerned about future adult relationships can all benefit from learning about this problem

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Adolescent Mental Health and New Ways for Life Skills

  Adolescent Mental Health and New Ways for Life Skills @2023 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq and Susie Rayner, GradDip FDRP Approximately 25% of adolescents today would meet the criteria for at least one mental illness diagnosis, with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) being among the most prevalent. For many adults, mental illness begins in adolescence: “More than one-third of all mental disorders begin before the age of 14 years, and nearly one-half by age 18.” Since 2007, “child and adolescent mental health have become prominent as a worldwide public health problem.” (Ribeiro et al, 2022, 2) Stress on Parents All adolescents face numerous difficulties navigating the years from 12 to 17. Parents are often at a loss as to how they can be most helpful through this period of significant ups and downs. They don’t know what is normal and what a parent is supposed to do. These challenges for parents include addressing the following teen problems: mental health issues (diagnosed or undiagnosed) mood swings (unpredictability with emotions and behaviors) physical and hormonal changes gender identity issues teen peer pressure – exploration with illicit drugs and alcohol, sexual relationships and risk taking a generation of just plain lazy technology and setting limits on screens online trolls and predators luring teenagers into dangerous and sometimes fatal situations online scams and fake news entitlement / selfishness social media addiction and access to inappropriate content teenage academic pressure and burnout Limited Services Yet only a small percentage of adolescents with mental health problems get the help they need, and parents of adolescents are particularly concerned about how they can help their teens. Since COVID began, waiting lists for therapists are long and when therapists are available their cost is beyond the reach of many (most?) families. But there may be another way of helping adolescents between the choices of therapy or nothing. A recent major study looked at child and adolescent services in low-and-middle-income countries, where 90% of the world’s children live but also where most mental health services are unavailable or unaffordable. “Our main results show that several interventions have been shown to be effective in treating youth mental health problems in LMICs [low and middle income countries], particularly psychoeducation and psychotherapy, with 54.5% and 48.9% of studies finding positive results respectively,…” (Ribeiro et al, 2022, 9) In other words, psychoeducational approaches may be just as helpful as psychotherapy, especially when psychotherapy is not available. In addition, this research found that “non-specialists” can be helpful in educating others about positive self-help skills. New Ways for Life With High Conflict Institute, we have developed four different methods of teaching skills that can be useful in high conflict situations—or any situations. We call them the 4 Big Skills for Life: Flexible Thinking Managed Emotions Moderate Behaviors Checking Yourself We teach and apply these skills in detail in four settings: New Ways for Families®: For separating and divorcing parents New Ways for Mediation℠: Mediation skills for all mediators New Ways for Work®: Coaching method for anyone in the workplace New Ways for Life™: For teenagers 12-17 (approximately) In the New Ways for Life method, we apply these 4 Big Skills specifically by teaching teens: How to write emails, texts, DMs and social media posts that are BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm) This can be so helpful because of all the stressful communications they get from their peers. (Moderate behaviors) How to calm themselves with Encouraging Statements, even when no one else is around who feels encouraging. (Managed emotions) How to use our Making Proposals process, to help them learn to make decisions with their friends and family members in a productive way. (Flexible thinking) Taking responsibility and not just blaming others. (Checking themselves) When we developed New Ways for Life, we wanted it to be simple and immediate in its applicability for teenagers. So, there is a Youth Journal that guides them through the skills, explaining each of them and encouraging them to write in the Journal about their perspective on each skill and how they might apply them. We explain the value of each skill and that they take practice. This includes some commentary on the brain and how we can learn to tame our brain when it makes us terribly upset. There is also an Instructor’s Guide giving you a step by step guide into teaching these skills in your choice of a group environment or in a 1:1 setting. Coaching Adolescents with New Ways for Life This method is designed for many kinds of professionals who can be the coaches: youth leaders/groups school counselors youth counselors or therapists youth mentors or coaches youth community support centers youth justice /prevention support workers sports coaches parents school teachers any parent or professional that is involved with or works with young people ranging from 12 – 17 years old. For example, you might be a sports coach and want your team to play the game cohesively and work together to be the best they can be as a team. We know that the top athletes spend money on mind-set coaches, so that their minds are positive and in alignment with their athletic ability. It’s not all about their sporting ability, it’s also about how they act, how they think and how they interact with their team-mates. As professionals we are rearing the next generation of politicians, doctors, teachers, builders, computer IT experts and so on. These skills are a gift. They are simple, fundamental skills, helping them so that they can be their best in difficult and stressful situations in their future lives. As parents, we all know that parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, however, you can help by teaching these skills to your adolescent. You will be giving them life skills that they can use as they venture out into the big wide world and in their home environment, and who knows, they may even teach their parents a thing or two about

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High Conflict in the Schools: Tips for Teachers and Parents

  High Conflict in the Schools: Tips for Teachers and Parents ©2022 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. In the world of high conflict there’s always something new—almost! Now teachers have become the new targets of blame for everything from which books teachers are using to when teachers take their breaks. With the school year about to begin anew, we would like to extend a lot of empathy and respect for the hard work that teachers do and suggest a few tips for teachers and parents. (I might add that my own teaching experience was as a Kindergarten teacher for four years, where I first learned about high conflict behavior in the 1970’s, and continues now as a law school adjunct professor, where I teach how to deal with high conflict behavior in legal disputes.) Jackhammer Parents A recent article in the Washington Post described “jackhammer parents” as a successor to “helicopter parents” and “lawnmower parents” who hover over their children and mow down any difficulty that may face them. (Rise of the Jackhammer Parent) The article was written by a teacher who was on the receiving end of endless emails and complaints about how she was teaching, taking breaks, and that her curriculum was too hard one day in one parent’s opinion and too easy in another’s—about the same day! The author made up the term “jackhammer parent” because they were unlike worried parents in the past in that they were relentless, loud, destructive, and powered by fear. Fortunately, most parents are not like this. This teacher had to come in two hours early before class each day just to deal with their angry emails. While in the past this teacher had always been able to forge a positive working relationship with upset parents, there was no calming down for these jackhammer parents. This may be one of the reasons that there are reports that half a million teachers have left the profession nationwide since 2020, partly due to the pandemic but partly due to anti-school rhetoric that has arisen during this period. (Why Thousands of Teachers are Leaving the Classroom) Many teachers feel that they are now being treated as the enemy. A Case of Blamespeak? In my book, BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns, I use the first chapter to describe Blamespeak: a term I use to describe the world’s increasingly negative and adversarial language, especially as it appears in emails, texts, and social media posts. It seems to have seven key characteristics: it is emotionally intense, very personal (your intelligence, sanity, morals), all your fault, out of context (ignores all the good you’ve done), often shared with others, causes intensely negative gut feelings in the recipient, and it often triggers more Blamespeak in response by the recipient (resisting this urge is where BIFF comes in). This appears to be what today’s teachers are dealing with on an ever-larger scale. I also explained that the people who primarily use Blamespeak may have high conflict personalities (estimated to be 5-10% of adults), which means that they are preoccupied with blaming others, all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions, and extreme behavior. What we have learned about high conflict people (HCPs) is that they see all relationships as adversarial, lack self-awareness, rarely change, and have been increasing in society over the past twenty to thirty years. This means that the goal in dealing with them needs to shift from getting emotional, trying to give them insight into themselves, and trying to resolve the past (forget about it), and instead focusing on calming language, the choices they have for the present and, when necessary, setting limits on future behavior. BIFF Communications These realizations led to the development of the BIFF communication method. While originally developed as the BIFF Response®, this can be used in initiating a correspondence as well. This can be used by teachers, parents, and anyone in a conflict, especially in writing such as emails, texts, and social media posts. BIFF stands for: Brief: usually a paragraph is sufficient, even in response to a much longer email or letter. Informative: just straight information on the topic, without arguments, opinions, defenses (because its not really about you), emotions, or judgments. Friendly: a friendly greeting (“thanks for letting me know your concerns,” “thanks for responding”) or closing (“have a good weekend”), or brief comment showing empathy or respect (“I hear your frustration and am looking into it”). Firm: this doesn’t mean harsh, just avoid or end a hostile conversation so there are no hooks to keep it going (don’t end with “What do you think of that, buddy!”). For example: A parent writes a teacher: “You had your baby in June. If you’d started maternity leave right after your baby was born, you could have been back in September instead of October. I want to know how you’re planning to address the gaps in learning you created.” A BIFF response might be: “Thank you for letting me know your concerns. I planned to stay home three months and my daughter was born on June 25th, which means I return in October. Since the teacher in September is covering my curriculum, I don’t anticipate any gaps. If you find a learning gap or have any other concerns, let’s set up a meeting to discuss. I look forward to meeting you and your son. Best wishes.” This response was Brief (one paragraph), Informative (simply explaining her schedule), Friendly (Thank you; I look forward to meeting you), Firm (it ended the hostile conversation with an open-ended invitation to meet sometime). By keeping it simple and brief, the teacher did not have to spend much time on this email and could get through several fairly quickly. Suppose this parent had used the BIFF method to start the conversation instead. It might have gone like this:  “I appreciate your teaching experience and look forward to meeting you. I have a concern that there may be gaps in what my son

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