Alyce Galea, Psychologist
Early on in therapy, teenagers often find it hard to identify the stressors or triggers that might be contributing to their difficulties.
One way that you can start to identify your current stressors is by doing the stress bucket activity.
I often like to conceptualise our wellbeing as a bucket.
Stressors can be categorised into three domains:
Once we have determined what our current stressors are, it is important to identify those stressors that you have some control over, and those that you have absolutely no control over. That way, we can then focus on problem solving ways of relieving the stress of situations that you may be able to change, even slightly.
Two ways we can learn to relieve stress are:
For example: Regularly practicing relaxation or deep breathing, exercise, starting a journal, listening to music.
Alyce Galea is a psychologist at Hopscotch & Harmony who works with adolescents and young adults across a wide range of settings, including schools and community mental health services (Headspace). She is particularly interested in supporting young people experiencing mood and anxiety disorders, low self-esteem and interpersonal difficulties; and has a particular interest in working with young women exhibiting traits of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Hilary Sanders, Psychologist
Life as a teenager can be tough. We all remember what that was like, right? Your hormones are racing, your body is changing, you're juggling competing and increasing demands at school and at home, perhaps also sport and work commitments. You want to be unique, yet at the same time fit in. Impress your friends, your parents, your teachers — There's a lot going on!
Now, imagine on top of this, you are also questioning your sexual orientation. You have noticed you're not attracted to the opposite sex in the same way as your peers. However, attraction to the opposite sex (heterosexuality) is the most commonly expressed sexual orientation in society, so what does that mean for you?
Sexual orientation (or sexual identity) refers to the enduring or evolving pattern of one's sexual, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to a particular sex. Commonly used terms to describe one's sexual orientation include, amongst others, heterosexual/straight, homosexual (gay, lesbian), bisexual, queer, asexual, and pansexual. The acronym LGBTIQA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Asexual, and others) incorporates sexual orientation, gender identity and intersexuality, and is often used to refer to sexual identities that differ from heterosexual. It is important to note that these "labels" do not rigidly or personally apply to everyone, and some would prefer to not use labels at all. Sexual orientation is diverse, and unique to the individual.
Living in a heteronormative society can accentuate a sense of difference when you do not identify as heterosexual. Feeling "different" is especially challenging during adolescence because this developmental stage prioritises social belonging and acceptance. The threat of judgment, ridicule, or rejection from others can be overwhelming for young people during this time, and can influence how they express their sexuality, if at all. Research has also found that non-heterosexual young people are more likely to experience mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and depression, compared to other young people (see this link for more information).
We want to ensure our young people feel supported as they learn about themselves and their emerging sexual identities. How we approach sexuality can have a lasting impact on their relationship with us, and their emotional wellbeing, so it makes sense to reflect and think about it.
It’s never too soon, or too late, to begin the conversation!
If you've been asking yourself "What should I say? What if I say the wrong thing? How do I approach my teen, if at all?", the following tips may help.
Helpful services and links:
- Q Life: QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for LGBTIQA+ people, offering peer supported telephone and web based services between 3:00pm and midnight every day of the week, all around the country. You can call them (between 3pm and midnight) on 1800 184 527 or chat online: https://qlife.org.au/
- BeyondBlue 'Families Like Mine' resource: 'Families like mine' is a multimedia guide that offers practical advice to families of young gender diverse people, same-sex attracted and bisexual people, and those who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/who-does-it-affect/lesbian-gay-bi-trans-and-intersex-lgbti-people/families-like-mine
- Kids Helpline: Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. Kids can call on 1800 55 1800. Their website also has information for parents: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/
Hilary Sanders is a psychologist at Hopscotch and Harmony Werribee and Belmont who is passionate about supporting people of all ages, however has a particular interest in working with adolescents and adults. Hilary values diversity, and encourages individuals to celebrate their uniqueness- she believes human difference is what makes life interesting! An LGBTIQA+ advocate, Hilary acknowledges the complex nature of sexuality, and is driven to support individuals experiencing challenges arising from sexual diversity
by Georgina Psomiadis, Clinical Psychologist
You are surely familiar with the concept of separation anxiety, particularly in children. The tears and clinginess that could be experienced when a child first separates from their parents. Of course, it’s very appropriate for young children to experience some mild anxiety when they first start school or spend their first night away, though with some practice, are soon able to regulate themselves during times of separation because they know their caregiver will come back for them. Then there are children who are not able to regulate themselves and continue to show signs of distress for an extended period of time.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fifth Edition (DSM-5, 2013), Separation Anxiety Disorder is categorised by showing developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the individual is attached for at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents (if not better explained by another condition such as refusal to leave home because of excessive resistance to change in autism spectrum disorder, amongst other conditions). In this most recent edition of the DSM-5, adults have now been included in this diagnosis, though the length of excessive fear lasts for more than 6 months.
One of the major theories that inform separation anxiety is Attachment Theory, first founded by John Bowlby then extended by Mary Ainsworth. The basic perspective of Attachment Theory is that the kind of bonds we have in our early life shapes the kind of relationships we form as adults. The developing child builds up a set of models of the self and others, based on repeated patterns of interactive experience. These internal working models are thought to form relatively fixed representational models which the child uses to predict and relate to the world.
A securely attached child will store an internal working model of a responsive, loving, reliable caregiver, and of a self that is worthy of love and attention and will bring these assumptions to bear on all other relationships. On the other hand, an insecurely attached child may view the world as a dangerous place in which other people are to be treated with caution, and see themselves as ineffective and unworthy of love.
Within the first 6 months of life, parental responsiveness is a fundamental factor impacting the quality of attachment. This is where mirroring responses are crucial. The onset of a smiling response at 4 weeks marks the beginning of the cycles of interaction between the caregivers and their baby. The baby’s smile evokes a mirroring smile in their parent; the more they smile back the more the baby responds, and so on. These are called ‘mirroring’ responses because it is thought that what the baby sees when their caregivers copy their expressions, is in fact, themselves… i.e., they are developing their sense of self. The physical holding, protection, nurturing and caring that is also felt by the infant further creates the sense of inner security.
Between 6 months and 3 years old, the goal for the child is to keep close enough to their caregiver, to use them as a secure base for exploration (i.e., separation) when the environmental threat is at a minimum, and to exhibit separation protest or signalling danger when the need arises. The over-anxious parent may inhibit the child’s exploratory behaviour, making them feel stifled or smothered; conversely, the parent that may not have the capacity to be attuned to the child’s needs may inhibit exploration by failing to provide a secure base, leading to feelings of anxiety or abandonment.
Attachment relationships continue to evolve throughout the lifespan. The child-parent relationship forms the primary attachment figures until adolescence, which is when peer relationships become the primary attachment figures, then romantic relationships in adulthood.
If a child has developed an early insecure attachment and an internal working model/core belief that others can’t be trusted and they are unlovable, there is a tendency for later peer and romantic relationships to reinforce and strengthen this internal working model. For example, a teenager with this internal working model may act either by avoiding developing close relationships, being ‘clingy’ or controlling of others, which would elicit undesired responses from others that will reinforce their initial core belief.
How can therapy reduce or eliminate excessive separation anxiety?
A key element in psychological therapy, whether that is for children, adolescents or adults is for the therapist to become a ‘safe base’ that the patient can feel secure to ‘explore’, whether that is the exploration of the physical environment for young children (play) or their internal world (adolescents and adults). Many of the elements that foster a secure early attachment as outlined in Attachment Theory are typically utilised in therapy (i.e., mirroring, being highly attuned/sensitive to the patient’s needs, support, validation, unconditional positive regard) so the patient can first start to develop a secure sense of themselves, which only after this is achieved can extend to feeling secure with significant others. Of course, as parents tend to enact their own attachment style onto their children, parenting support and explicit teaching of responses that foster a secure attachment, especially for young children is also an essential component of therapy.
Dr Annabel Chan, Clinical Psychologist
The new year has begun, and already an incident of bad behaviour has gone viral, inspiring public fury and a trial-by-media for the YouTube star Logan Paul. In a video posted on New Year's Eve, Logan Paul and his friends go camping in Aokigahara, unfortunately known as the "Japanese suicide forest", and film themselves discussing and laughing at a deceased person they find.
Condemnation was swift and widespread, and Logan Paul had since taken the video down and issued an apology. In doing so, he joins a long list of popular online celebrities that are watched by millions of young people, but only break through to adults when their behaviour generates criticism and outrage.
Less than a year before Logan Paul's Japanese outing, Swedish video game vlogger PewDiePie arranged to have "two semi-naked Indian men dancing while holding a banner reading ‘Death to all Jews’” appear on his YouTube channel, which has 59 million individual subscribers and over 4 billion views. Public response was similar, and PewDiePie has returned to vlogging without further problems.
Logan Paul himself is following the footsteps of his older brother Jake, who has attracted criticism for posting sexually explicit content and activities including breaching security at the White House in Washington.
Meanwhile, machine-generated cartoons depicting popular children's characters in violent and sexual predicaments are spreading rapidly, causing regular outbreaks of parental alarm and media attention.
So, let's take a look at what can we do to help children and young people use video media safely, socially, and critically.
As always, the first thing is:
When a controversial video goes viral, it's easy to get swept up in the reactions of others and simply join the shouting, giving the loudest voices the biggest say for fear of missing out, being left behind, or judged for not reacting. In the case of Logan Paul, some parents are broadcasting their disapproval of the video on social media and, more deliberately, announcing what they're doing to protect their children.
While discussions of these issues is important, some of this is virtue signalling - defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group". The Cambridge Dictionary further explains it as “the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favour for certain political ideas or cultural happenings”.
Social media platforms allow for fast and easy virtue signalling. By publicly denouncing Logan Paul, banning children from YouTube, or declaring they will monitor their child’s every mouse click, these parents signal superiority over other parents and create competition and pressure to follow suit. It can be tempting and simply easier to just go with the majority voice and follow whatever other parents are doing.
What works for one family or child or parent may not work for another. Children’s' attitudes may change with age, environment, or peers. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting response, because each child is a unique individual, so…
DON’T PRESUME YOUR CHILD’S REACTIONS
If your child has watched Logan Paul’s videos or subscribed to his channel, it doesn't automatically mean they agree with everything Logan Paul posts, or that they are even a fan. Anyone who has watched The Bachelor and enjoyed it knows that we can be entertained by content that goes against our values and morals. Psychoanalysts call these “ego-dystonic behaviours”.
"Ego-dystonic" refers to thoughts and behaviours that conflict with a person’s ideal self-image. These are impulses or acts that we carry through even though we dislike them and don't want to be associated with them. Some children may find Logan Paul’s videos distressing, offensive, or discomforting, but watch them anyway due to peer pressure, fear of missing out, or morbid curiosity.
"Ego-syntonic" is the opposite. These are behaviours and feelings that are in harmony with our identity and ideals. These children may enthusiastically watch Logan Paul’s more outrageous videos in support of their idol (Logan's fans call themselves the "Logang"), may find them genuinely entertaining, revel in schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from another person’s misfortune), watch to see what the fuss is about, or simply can't see anything wrong with the content.
Even if that seems unsettling or unfair….
DON’T TELL YOUR CHILD HOW TO FEEL
Children are not clones or extensions of their parents. They have their own thoughts, feelings, values and motivations. No matter what you think of Logan Paul, it is important to remember that this isn't about the parents.
Every adult has been a child, and we all know a sure-fire way to ensure rebellion is by telling a young person what to do “because I say so”. If a child doesn't understand the reason for a rule or value, they are much less likely to stick with it. What really matters is finding out and understanding how your child feels about Logan Paul, and definitely…
DON’T PUNISH YOUR CHILD
Logan Paul made a mistake and is being judged in public, not your child. Banning children from an entire social media platform because someone else misused it is counterproductive and punitive. Additionally, children who are banned from something popular online are likely to simply access it through schools and friends instead, with no parental guidance or support.
It's very easy to get wrapped up in fears of harmful media leading children astray, but…
DON’T ASSUME ALL YOUTUBERS ARE BAD FOR YOUR CHILD
Graphic from Juvenoia: Kids These Days
For people born last century, it can seem ludicrous that a young person with a camera can become a famous millionaire just by making silly or mundane videos of themselves and posting them online. It can also be confronting to feel disconnected from a younger generation that enjoys these performers and their content, on a new medium that transcends television or radio.
Consciously or not, most parents expect, or at least hope, that their children will share their worldview, opinions, and values. For that reason, it can seem like a natural, knee-jerk reaction to ignore, dismiss, or remove something that a child values but a parent doesn’t. So, if your child expresses an interest in something that you dislike or find pointless, fight that urge.
Popular YouTubers are peer leaders and role models in the world of social media. Research has consistently shown that children from the age of 8 derive more pleasure from peer relationships than family relationships, and are more easily influenced by friends than by authority figures. This is an important stage of a child's development, as the capacity to develop social bonds outside their family predicts higher rates of overall general functioning and social successes.
However, this may mean your child is more likely to admire and listen to the advice of YouTubers than anything offered by their parents or other adults. That can be confronting, but isn't always a bad thing. YouTubers are often creative, productive, and pro-social leaders of change and awareness campaigns. Many are relatable and worthy role-models who are candid with their fans and offer valuable advice on their experience with difficult topics such as mental health and chronic illness.
For example, the Draw My Life trend has been cathartic for many people, giving young people an accessible way to understand the lives, struggles, and strength of many others around the world. Other trends are just plain fun!
Creating online media content is also a real job, a passion and a legitimate career in a booming industry that could and should be an option for any child today.
But there's still bad content on YouTube that my children are exposed to! What now?
5 Things To Do
Social Media, Selfies and Self-Esteem: 4 questions to ask your teen and helpful messages to discuss
Self-esteem development during adolescence is an important area of focus for psychology. Self-esteem refers to the judgements young people make about their worth as a person and is closely associated with mental well-being.
The way that we are communicating with peers has changed dramatically over the past decade with the growth of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Although social media has made communication and keeping up with peers easier, it has brought about an added pressure to adolescent’s self-esteem development. It has never been easier to compare yourself to peers than it is right now. On social media, your life is on show and young people are able to create a beautiful ‘highlights reel’ which is often unrealistic and highly filtered. This in turn feeds comparison to unachievable standards and can leave you feeling not good enough.
Here are some conversation starters to have with your adolescents as well as some helpful messages that we need to be sending about social media.
Sit down with your adolescent and ask them:
“What does it feel like when your post doesn’t get many likes?”
Helpful messages to discuss:
- Just because a person has more likes on their post does not mean their contribution is better or more interesting
- Likes do not equate to your self-worth, what you do is much more important than what you look like. What do you do to help you feel good about yourself?
Look at Instafamous celebrities’ profiles with your child and ask, “What do you think about this person’s profile? What does their life look like to you?”
Helpful messages to discuss:
- People’s profiles do not accurately portray their real life
- Social media celebrities are paid to post perfect photos online as advertisements
- People do not post the ordinary or painful parts of their lives online, just the best bits
- Check out stories of celebrities (such as Essena O’Neill) who realised that social media fame doesn’t equate to happiness
“How do you feel when you compare your number of ‘friends’ to other people’s number of ‘friends’?”
- Friendships are about quality not quantity
- It is impossible to have good friendships with hundreds of people and online friendships are not always genuine friendships
"What inspires you on your social media feeds?"
- Follow your interests and ‘like’ information that actually makes you feel good on social media! Find healthy and positive pages and people to follow online
- As we spend so much time online it’s important that our feeds have information that is related to who we want to be as a person - not just the people we want to look like, but the kind of person we want to be on the inside. Do you want to travel the world? Are you interested in making music? Are you into cooking? Do you need some positive thinking or inspirational quotes? There are pages dedicated to exactly this, Get out there are find some that spark your interest.
Helping your teens to think about their motivations behind posting up that hundredth sexy selfie will help them (and you) to think about healthier ways of getting validation and building self-esteem. It’s probably not going to drastically change their posting behaviour, but it might help them to see their online behaviour through a new lens. Through having this conversation, you might be able to come up with ideas about other ways to feel confident – such as learning about their strengths and building on them. This is how positive self-esteem is developed. It might even help you to reflect on whether your child has enough opportunities to experience success and develop their strengths. If not, think about how you can facilitate this by increasing their opportunities in the ‘offline’ world.
Remember, social media is a big part of your teens life so understanding more about it will help you to show your interest in your child’s life bringing you closer together which is so important for your relationship.
If you have concerns about negative impacts that social media is having on your child’s self-esteem and you are unsure how to tackle this, speak with a psychologist skilled in this area.
If you are interested in learning more about supporting your child or student around these issues, let us know you're interested in our Social Media, Selfies and Self-Esteem parent/teacher group starting early 2018.
Shivaun Pereira is an Educational and Developmental Psychologist at Hopscotch & Harmony who works with families and students struggling with academic, behavioural and social challenges at home and in the classroom. She also has a particular interest in adolescent mental health. and facilitates Social Media and Self-esteem workshops for parents and teachers.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Grief And Loss
Infant Mental Health