Have Permit, Will Travel



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My son was granted a driving permit three days after his sixteenth birthday. My attempt to teach him to drive began the following weekend. We set out to practice in an empty parking lot on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We both would have preferred to be elsewhere.

Those first few trips in the car were as anxiety-provoking as riding on a rickety wooden roller coaster.  The first time he tried to drive around the block it seemed as if he might jump the curb and head straight into our yard. The second time he swerved to avoid an oncoming car, and nearly missed hitting a mailbox.

I sat in the passenger seat with clammy hands and a pounding heartbeat. I wondered in silence how the tiny child I had once held in my arms was now legally capable of handling a thousand pound death machine. Surely, I was not the first parent to feel this way. It would have been so easy to back away, give up, put it off, or simply pump up the tires on his bike and say, “see ya!”

I didn’t give into my desire to avoid driving with him. Instead, I told him that he wasn’t quite ready to drive around the block until he’d had more practice. I reassured him that it was normal to be uncomfortable behind the wheel because he hadn’t really had a chance to learn yet. I said it seemed like we were both a little nervous but let him know I was pretty sure it would get easier.

Fortunately, Driver’s ed had started that day. I knew the instruction in the finer points of road safety and parallel parking would help him become a safe driver. I also knew that he still needed to practice regularly for the lessons to sink in, and, at least for now, it was still my job to ride with him.

Thankfully we kept our sessions brief. It has now become our habit for him to drive himself to school each morning. This short, regular trip has helped us both adjust to his new role. Now he has learned how to judge the speed and power that result from pressing the gas petal, how to turn smoothly, and how to come gently to a complete stop. Oh, and he can park between the lines in a parking lot, but he still gets out of the car to admire his handiwork.

Learning to tolerate the distress I felt when I drive with my son was very helpful. I have had to learn when to shout, “Brake! Brake!” and when to simply take a deep breath and let him keep driving. Teaching my son to drive has given me the chance to practice letting him make his own choices in a situations with real life consequences.

While it isn’t always easy, it’s something that I’m trying to do more often in our daily lives. Recognizing that my discomfort in the passenger seat is generalizable to worries or concerns I have for him outside the car makes it easier to let him make his own choices in other aspects of his life. For him to grow into the young adult I know he can be, I must not, nor should I want to, exert the same level of control over his life as I did when he was five.

I visualize the day that he passes his road test and takes my car out on his own. I accept that accidents are possible, yet not inevitable. I trust that hard work and driving practice will serve him well. Before long he will add driving to the list of skills he has mastered. As I hold the image of him pulling away in my mind, I offer him a silent wave of congratulations.

Photo credit: State Farm

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Emily Becker, LMSW, is an EWN therapist who strongly believes that it’s the strength of the relationship you create together that generates meaningful change. Emily strives to greet each session with a curious mind, an open heart, and a wish to hear your story.  Contact her directly at716.400.1605 | ekbeckerlmsw@gmail.com

9 Ways To Help Teen Girls Find Their Voice



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Whoever said being a 14 year old girl is easy probably hasn’t been a 14 year old girl!  The struggle she has to go through to find her True Self and still be accepted can cause many a teen girl to lose her voice.

The article How Can We Help Young Girls Stay Assertive, describes research on adolescent girls “losing their voice” resulting in low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness. This phenomenon can cause teen girls to feel like they don’t belong, leading to isolation, even self-harming thoughts and/or behaviors.

Anyone who is a parent of a teen girl, a counselor or teacher accepts the job to help them feel more secure and to speak up for themselves! Here are some suggestions to help. The first five are from the article. The last four are from my work with teen girls:

1. Encourage her interests. Support her in her pursuits, whatever they are.  Linda Hoke-Sinex, Indiana University Bloomington, says, “When she [the teen] has an area in which she feels confident, it can act as a touchstone to build confidence in other areas of her life.”

2. Point out pressure from social media. Unrealistic media images and the pressure on women to look and act in certain ways is constantly in young people’s faces. Girls may be subject to brutal criticism or bullying on social media because of how they look or act. Unless parents monitor interactions on social media they might miss communication that contributes to corrosive self-doubt.

3. Watch your own talk. Dr. Mendez-Baldwin of Manhattan College says, “Sometimes, women inadvertently send messages to their daughters by focusing on their weight and their appearance. [They say] ‘Oh I need to lose weight’ or ‘I don’t look good’ or ‘I need to get Botox to remove these wrinkles,’ and then that sends a message to the girls that they need to focus on their appearance and that their self-worth is connected to their appearance.”

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What Can I Do To Stop Cutting?



4469573193_b4b4d04691Editor’s Note: The self-injurious nature of cutting is so alarming that people, even professionals, shy away from it. And yet there is a real need to address the reality of cutting head on, illuminate the whys of cutting and get everyone involved expert help. Explore What’s Next has tried to do just that in this series of articles about cutting. In this article, Kate Maleski, LCSW, Explore What’s Next therapist, offers eight helpful ideas if you are cutting and want to stop.

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Why do I feel so much pain? Why am I like this? Why can’t I be more like them?

These are some of the questions that have lead people to think: I deserve pain and I want to physically feel pain. You may find yourself hurting yourself because you feel like nothing else works. Cutting doesn’t heal your pain…

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What To Do If Your Teen Is Cutting? Part ll



96776343_4efe3075ff_zEditor’s Note: In this post Dylan Broggio, LCSW, responds to questions many readers had about what to do if they know someone they love is cutting or if they are struggling with cutting themselves. 

Dylan Broggio, LCSW is a psychotherapist with Explore What’s Next. She specializes in work with adolescents, adults and families. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with Dylan call her at 734.474.6987 or email at dylan.broggio@gmail.com.

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Firstly, thank you all so much for the great comments, questions and support you have offered on my post “What To Do If Your Teen Is Cutting”. This article really struck a chord with our readers, so I thought I would answer some of the questions that have come up in this important conversation.

Question: “I just found out my child is cutting, how can I talk to them about their cutting without upsetting them and causing more cutting?”

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Social Anxiety: When It’s ME against the world…



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Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by EWN psychotherapist Kate Maleski, LCSW-R

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Picture this… A high school freshman trying out for the softball team. She is anxious, surrounded by new faces, new school and longing to be accepted. If only she could make the team maybe starting a new school wouldn’t be so scary. She would already be “a part” of something.

At the end of tryouts names are posted and this girl’s name was not on the list.

That girl was me.

Teens can often feel alone in a very BIG world which can be the cause of social anxiety. In grade school and high school I remember feeling like I was fighting to survive.

Hoping I don’t blush. Sweating, feeling nauseous, worried that I would have to carry on a conversation and no words would come out or even worse, the wrong words! Sometimes I thought: How am I ever going to live through this day, let alone the rest of the year!

EVERYONE HAS SOCIAL ANXIETY! OK not everyone, but a LOT of people have social anxiety! Different people just show it differently.

Here are some tips to help decrease your anxiety:

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