Rebellious Teenagers- Who Are You?

November 7, 2011

Even before the first year of life is complete, a baby learns that they are separate from their parents. Around the time they reach toddlerhood, they begin working on establishing who they are as an individual by exercising their right to say “no” and by demanding they do everything on their own. As they get a little bit older, they continue to develop a sense of themselves although it is often not as apparent until the teenage years. The main developmental goal for the teenage years is developing a sense of self, most often apart from their parents and the rest of their family.

This can be a difficult process for some parents because many parents begin day dreaming about their child’s future before their child is even born! You may already have an idea of what you would like your child’s future to be like and an idea of what they must do in order to reach those goals, and you are lucky if your child’s goals are the same. If you are one of the parents whose teenagers are rebelling against your values, beliefs, rules, etc the teenage years can be quite
difficult. It may be helpful to know that typically as teens get into their early 20s they will be passed the rebellion stage and often times return to the values that were instilled in them growing up.

So why is it that some teenagers rebel and others do not? Although there is no formula to answer this question, there are a few things that can contribute to it. Let me make it clear now though that the answer does not often lie with any one thing, but is most likely a combination of factors together.

  1. Personality and temperament- We all have differences in our personality and temperament and these differences can play a part in how forcefully your teen will rebel against you. For instance, a person who naturally likes to please others is less likely to rebel than a teen who is less concerned with how others see him or her.
  2. Peers- Parents and family are the most influential people in a person’s life during the early childhood years. As children get into middle school and high school age their peers become more influential. The type of friends your child surrounds him or herself with can determine some of theirbehaviors as they are likely to act accordingly to fit in.
  3. Parenting styles & relationship- The type of relationship a teen has with their parents can impact the likelihood of the teen to rebel as well as the parenting style in terms of flexibility and control.

Emotional Impact of the Sugar Baby Trend

August 8, 2011

          Prostitution has been said to be the oldest profession. But it is taking on a new life with a slight twist in recent times. With the state of the economy as it is, we all hear about how college graduates are unable to find jobs and still have a mound of student loans and other debt to pay off. So what’s a girl to do? Apparently become a sugar baby so your sugar daddy can help you pay off that debt. As I said before, this is basically prostitution with a twist. Young women solicit rich men for “companionship” and whatever else comes with that. In most cases this would also entail a sexual relationship of some sort. There are websites out there that can actually help sugar babies and sugar daddies find one another and the number of sugar babies registered on just one site is in the hundred thousands.

            It has been argued that this is legal as long as the terms of the relationship are established in a certain way. As long as money does not change hands for the sole purpose of sex it does not technically fall under the umbrella of prostitution. This is a fine line if you ask me, but since the sexual relationship is implied and not stated, legally these individuals are okay. So what is the problem with this if it is legal? The sugar babies can (and in most cases do) experience some serious emotional problems due to these relationships. In fact, the consequences are nearly exactly the same as those for prostitution.

             In my professional experience I have counseled many young girls who have been involved in prostitution for money and for drugs while working with the department of juvenile justice. But I am also seeing this shift in the group practice that I work in where young girls from middle class families need help paying bills and are somehow connected with a man willing to help pay those bills. These girls expressed the same emotions and problems as the girls who were labeled prostitutes did- shame, guilt, embarrassment, exposed, vulnerable, “dirty”, anxiety, and depression.

            Although there is no typical prostitute to be able to compare sugar babies to, I can say that in many instances, the emotional impact of being a sugar baby may be greater than that of a prostitute. Prostitutes in many instances use drugs in order to dissociate and put distance between them and the sexual acts. They are also likely to make it very clear the nature of the relationship and create boundaries with their johns to keep intimacy out of the relationship. There is a street culture where it is acceptable to be a prostitute and these women know of others and are able to gain support and knowledge of the business from them and they experience a sense of hardening on the streets as well. On the other hand, a sugar baby is less likely to be using substances and intimacy is expected in the sugar baby/sugar daddy relationship, making it more personal. It is more likely that they are not talking about the sugar baby relationship with others and will not have emotional support from others either. During an interview on the Today Show, psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz reported that these girls have a break in their moral compass that allows them to engage in this type of relationship. I disagree with her, however. They know that it is morally wrong and that is why it is so devastating to who they are and how they feel about themselves.

            So what can we do about this new trend in relationships? If you have a young daughter living on her own who is not yet established financially, please be aware of this trend. Make sure she is aware that you are there to help and support her in whatever way you are capable of and help her to learn about her financial options as well as how to be financially responsible. Take pressure off of her to be self-sufficient and “perfect” (which is a huge problem for many young women). Create an open relationship where you daughter can talk to you about what is going on (in my professional experience the sugar baby is too embarrassed to ask her parents for help or she does not want them to be able to use this information against her). If you know your daughter has engaged in this type of relationship, encourage her to receive professional help. As far as the sugar daddies go, I hope they are willing to put out the necessary money for the counseling these young women will need while starring in their role as sugar baby.

Teenage Client’s Anger Toward Therapist Q & A

June 16, 2011

          Q. I had really thought that my teen liked her counselor but now she is acting angry and won’t tell me why. She says she wants a new counselor. Should I let her switch to a new counselor?

           A.  In general I would say no. It is a counselor’s job to establish a therapeutic relationship and bond with their client. They build trust and once that trust is established, a counselor uses that relationship to help the client heal. Although the positive relationship in itself can be quite healing, it is often necessary for a counselor to push the client to discuss difficult topics and to confront the client on discrepancies in their behaviors and what they report wanting from their life. Most people have a hard time looking at themselves objectively, teenagers especially and therefore become angry at the counselor for challenging them. I have experienced this several times, even with clients who I have had a solid therapeutic relationship with. As the client begins to process what has happened and continues to work in therapy, the anger dissipates and the therapeutic relationship deepens, leading the way for more work to be done. If your child has reported not liking their therapist consistently, however, this is a different issue.

            There is always a chance that this is not the reason why your teen reports not wanting to work with her counselor anymore. I suggest talking to your teen and expressing that you do not want to interfere with their confidentiality in counseling, but that they need to be honest with you if they want to switch counselors and see what they say. It may also be beneficial to talk to the counselor and get their take on the anger. Although the counselor needs to protect your teen’s confidentiality to keep their trust, they should be able to tell you something in general terms such as they confronted them on behavior or were asking tough questions. If there was a huge breach then certainly allow your teen to switch counselors. In some cases it may even be appropriate to file a complaint with the licensing board.

            If you have a question about counseling for yourself or your family or the counseling process, you can email me at

Plastic Surgery as a Means to Avoid Bullying

June 8, 2011

        A few weeks ago NBC’s The Today Show aired a segment on teenagers obtaining plastic surgery as a means to avoid being the target for bullying. Bullying is the new epidemic in the lives of our children and teenagers, with the consequences being deadly in some circumstances. For most children, however, it is a normal part of life and does not greatly affect them in the long term. Whether it is due to prevention of bullying, in reaction to bullying, or to improve their physical appearance, more teens are resorting to plastic surgery.

        Although it may be beneficial for some teenagers, there are a few problems that I see with this trend. Bullying is a fact of life, there is probably no teenager that goes through school without being made fun of, talked about, or teased for one reason or another. If a teen were to get plastic surgery to change their appearance, it is likely they will only be made fun of for something else. One thing specifically that may still make them a target is the fact that they had plastic surgery. Since a lot of teasing is not even based on legitimate reasons, there is no guarantee that the name calling will end due to the surgery either. It is more important to teach our children skills on how to deal with bullies and to help them build their self-esteem, especially since as I stated before, chances are they will just get picked on for something else. Children need to be taught that self-esteem needs to come from within and that who you are on the inside is more important than appearance.

        Another worry when children and teens are requesting plastic surgery is the possibility of a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a disorder in which an individual sees nonexistent flaws with their physical appearance. So if your child insists they need rhinoplasty but everyone believes she’s got the cutest little nose, therapy may be in order. Individuals who have BDD tend to seek plastic surgery for their perceived flaws but are never satisfied afterwards. They find more and more “flaws” to have “fixed”.

       Bottom line is that this is a decision that cannot be made in haste. Take time to think it out, weigh your options and really decide if there is more positives than negatives to obtaining plastic surgery.

Finding the Right Therapist for Your Child

May 16, 2011

       It is hard for a parent to admit that their child or family needs professional help. Once they do, most don’t know where to turn to get the help that they need. For the average person, the mental health field can be quite confusing. There are several options depending on your situation, and once you know what type of professional you need, it can be hard to determine who the best professional is to help you. Often times people select a therapist solely based on the fact that they take their insurance. Although whether they take your insurance is important if this is how you plan to pay for therapy, there are other factors that you need to take into consideration.

        Finding the right person is essential to making positive changes. Let me be clear though that by “right person” I do not mean that there will only be one person that will be able to help. In fact, most therapists may be able to help, but some will be better able to do so than others for several different reasons.

        I will provide a guide for you on the different types of therapy services available and how to make sure the therapist you choose is the best to help your family in several upcoming entries.

       If you are looking for a therapist in Brevard County, please feel free to call or email me to see if I may be a good fit for you! My contact information can be found in the About section of the blog.

Therapist Relationship with Teenage Clients

May 6, 2011

Q. My child does not want to go to counseling and doesn’t think it will help, how do I know if it will and if the therapist is the right one for them?

A. Children and teenagers do not typically want to be in therapy. You may need to try to separate their feelings about going to therapy from their feelings about their therapist. This can sometimes be hard when your child won’t talk to you about what goes on in therapy and really does not have to. You can try to start a conversation about how they feel about their therapist and what they like about them without asking questions about what they talk about in session. For instance you could ask questions such as “What do you think of Jessica?” and “Do you think she understands what you are going through?” If you get the feeling your child is finding your questions to be invasive, it is best to back down.

      Give the therapist some time to make a connection with your child and for results to become apparent. Over time your child should resent going to counseling less if they have made a connection with their therapist. If your child consistently states that they do not like or trust their therapist, it is a good sign that it is not the right therapist for them.

      As far as if therapy will help, only time will tell. I will say that if your child does not like their therapist, chances are it won’t, however, because your child won’t feel heard, understood, and will not take their counselor seriously, all of which is important if progress is to be made. Look for changes in their behavior, not only for the reason that you have them going to counseling but in all aspects of their life. Keep in mind that sometimes things get worse before they get better as well.

      If you still aren’t sure, you can always ask for an update from the therapist. My recommendation is that updates be given in front of your child so they can hear exactly what is being said and will continue to develop trust in the therapeutic relationship. If the counselor has something to say that should not be said in front of your child, they will have sense enough to not add it in at that time.

Planned Teen Pregnancy

April 29, 2011

        Although teen birth rates have dropped since the early 1990s, it is becoming a more talked about topic since MTV has been airing their shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”. Statistics state that about 1/3 of girls will become pregnant during their teen years and most of these are unintended. Most, but not all. Today I’d like to talk about those teen pregnancies that are planned.

         Parents and other adults have a hard time understanding why a young girl would decide to have a baby, especially when she does not have the ability to provide for the child either financially or emotionally. Other teenagers would look at their life and decide that they aren’t ready to give up their freedom and fun-loving lifestyle. So why is it that some girls overlook these reasons to not have a baby and make that life changing decision to become a parent? They are looking for unconditional love. In my experience with working with teenage girls in the juvenile justice system, I have heard girls who wanted to have babies state that they want someone to love them. These young girls reported not feeling loved and cared for by their families and yearned to feel the unconditional love that they should have experienced with their parents. Often times they report a conflicted relationship with their own mother.    

          We all have a need to feel loved. It is a strong need, and the experience itself can become intoxicating, leaving individuals desperate to feel it again. In this state of need and desperation, people often don’t think clearly, hence the sayings “punch drunk love” and “blinded by love”. Girls will often look for love through relationships with boys, relationships that often become sexual. As girls begin to realize that this “love” is conditional and not real, they begin to get more desperate to experience unconditional love. They begin to realize that unlike a romantic relationship, a parent/child relationship does not end.

         There is no reasoning with these young girls. They are often emotionally immature and are fixated on their dreams of what their life would be like with a child. Trying to help these girls to see that there is no guarantee that their child will love them unconditionally is fruitless, even though they report not loving their own mothers this way. They believe they know what it takes to be a good mother, even though they have not had good parental role models. So what can you do to help prevent a girl you know from becoming a teen mom by choice? It is important that these girls find a relationship with an adult that is supportive, trustworthy, and stable. Be there for her, show her what unconditional caring is like and that she does not have to go to such lengths to obtain it.

Jessica Stebbins, M.S., Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
IMT 1258
Discovery Institute, P.A.     Rockledge,FL