Brooklyn Letters’ friend, The Drake Bennett Summer School (http://www.drakebennett.org) is coming to Park Slope this summer! Students have six classes daily, plus four hours of rest and recreation. The morning classes are in English, math or geography, and science. The afternoon classes are drama, art, and sports and the Drake Bennett Summer School takes recess seriously.
They offer an enrichment track for thriving students, and an Orton-based support track for students who are smart but need explicit multisensory support.
A Speech & Language Pathologist will be on staff for 1-on-1 and small group therapy. We don’t want students to miss any of the morning core curriculum classes, so kids needing speech therapy see the SLP in daily pull-out sessions during the afternoon.
• Ages: Children rising to 1st-6th grades in 2013-14
• Hours: 8:00am-6:00pm (early dismissal optional)
• Class size: Maximum 12 students/teacher
• August in Brooklyn: August 5th-30th at The Park Slope Jewish Center, 1320 8th Avenue (at 14th Street)
Full-day (8:00am-6:00pm) tuition is $2,800- $14/hour for 200 hours over 20 days
They are a 501c3 non-profit, with a limited number of means-tested scholarships to offer, covering 30-90% of tuition, for families qualified for public school free lunch.
Applications with a 33% deposit are accepted in the order received; the balance is due by May 31. We offer a discount of…
• 10% for deposits paid by April 15
Mention code Brooklyn Letters and receive an additional $100 discount (offer only available to the first 5 parents to sign up)!
The Advanced Literacy Skills Hour is for students reading and writing at or above grade level. Every day we work on oral expression/elocution, informed-ear spelling strategies, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Older students study Latin roots, suffix and prefix usage, poetry, Aesop’s Fables, grammar, and syntax. We still diagram sentences.
The Geography Hour covers a subject that is rarely taught at most elementary schools. Kids doing well in math take geography instead. We have a globe for every student, lots of mapping puzzles, geography games, and a rare collection of geographical and historical atlases. Students learn the geographical significance of wet, dry, and moist environments. The continents and oceans are introduced, along with major rivers, mountain ranges, and agricultural lands. Older students learn about latitude and longitude.
During the Science Hour students conduct experiments in chemistry, microscopy, or physics. On microscopy days, we examine plant, animal, or mineral specimens, and record our observations. On chemistry days we make concoctions like white-glue silly putty, cornstarch quicksand, polymer worms, and borax slime. On physics days, we celebrate Newton by launching objects from catapults, crashing things together, and experimenting with inertia and gravity.
The MultiSensory Literacy Hour is for students not yet reading and writing at grade level. We focus on speech development, vocabulary building, phonics, spelling, decoding, fluency, reading comprehension, and penmanship. These concepts are taught in a structured and explicit manner, with all the patience that struggling students deserve, using Orton-based lesson planning and procedures.
The MultiSensory Math Hour is for kids who don’t like math, and have difficulty grasping math concepts. Students not yet performing at grade level in math should benefit from these classes. New learnings are introduced explicitly, patiently, and with real-world applications. Tactile teaching tools are used to create clear mental pictures of math procedures. Color coding helps students understand place value and time telling concepts. We play math games so students can see that math can be fun.
Afternoon Program for All Students
Why play Chess? Chess builds memory. Chess improves concentration. Chess develops logical thinking. Chess promotes imagination and creativity. Chess teaches children to look both ways before crossing the street. Chess develops the scientific way of thinking. Chess is cheap. Chess is fun. The Chess & Puzzles Hour combines chess with other spatial-skill activities.
The focus of the Art Hour is art appreciation, drawing, and painting. Students learn basic color theory, and how to blend in order to achieve rich layers of color. They learn to mix paint, layer colors, and use wet and dry brush techniques. Students who lack fine motor dexterity are patiently helped with their abstract brushwork creations.
The Drama Hour gives students a chance to be somebody else for an hour each day. Kids warm up with improvisational activities, and theater games, then work with Reader’s Theater plays – dramatic presentations read and recited by the players from printed scripts.
The Sports Hour is a PE program providing fundamental-skills instruction in one sport each day over a ten-day cycle. Students learn throwology, basketball, touch football, softball, soccer, tennis, table tennis, fencing, ultimate frisbee, and miniature golf – with no scorekeeping or competition.
As our children reach school age, some of us come to learn just how challenging exceptionality – regardless of dis/ability – can be to negotiate, both for our children and ourselves. The overwhelming majority of primary and secondary, public and private schools in this country aim straight for the middle of the bell curve of intellectual and social development in both how and what they teach. The student “ideal” upon which most curricula are based is a child who progresses in predictable stages academically (“on grade level”), is well adjusted with peers and teachers, and pursues “age appropriate” interests and relationships. But what about the child who does not conform to these norms? How can we as parents help make sure that an educational system built for the “rule” does not leave our “exceptions” behind?
Most special education experts define “exceptional children” to be those kids whose performance deviates from the norm, either below or above, to such a degree that individualized special education and related services are necessary for them to benefit fully from education. The term is deliberately broad and inclusive: it includes children with learning, emotional, and physical disabilities as well as those whose intellectual gifts or special talents are so superior that they, too, need to have their curriculum and instruction modified in order that they may fulfill their potential. Further complicating this picture and raising the stakes even higher for parents, teachers, and schools, is that exceptional children may — and often do — possess two or more special abilities and/or disabilities.
In general a “special needs” student is one who has a physical, learning, and/or emotional disability that interferes with her education. What does this mean? A child who cannot walk due to a birth defect or injury but who has no cognitive impairment is a “special needs” student in so far as she needs a fully wheel-chair accessible school and, perhaps, a paraprofessional aid to assist her to get around. On the other hand, a child with autism will need specially trained teachers, a modified curriculum, and a variety of related services.
The federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), first enacted by Congress as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 (and most recently reauthorized in 2004), mandates that all schools receiving public funding must provide all children with disabilities, from age three through 21, “free appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” with the necessary related services (e.g., speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, etc.) to allow them to benefit from an education.
Like all individual rights and services guaranteed under federal law, however, it not enough to ask for help. Your child must first be evaluated and certified for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) if your child is under age three.
Although the IDEA mandates and helps fund educational and related services for children with disabilities, it is up to the states and their local school systems to see that special education is delivered. As there is considerable variation from state-to-state, it is important to consult your state’s Department of Education and your local school district for the specific procedures and regulations that pertain to your child’s school. In New York State it is the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education that oversees the implementation of federal and State laws and policy for students with disabilities. In New York City, the Department of Education’s Office Division of Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners is charged with keeping schools and families of students with disabilities informed and supported concerning current special education policy and procedures.
The federal government, via IDEA and other legislation, has established and funds a nationwide network of Parent Training and Information Centers whose mandate is to help families of children of all ages (birth through age 26) with all disabilities – physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional – to, among other services:
• Understand their rights and responsibilities under the IDEA;
• Obtain appropriate services for their children; and
• Resolve disagreements and understand the benefits of alternative methods of dispute resolution.
Advocates for Children, Resources for Children with Special Needs, and Sinergia/Metropolitan Parent Center are the federally designated parent centers serving New York City.
Regardless of regulatory differences among states, I encourage both “newbie” and veteran parents of children with disabilities alike to keep current on the fundamentals of the special education evaluation and certification process. To more fully acquaint yourself with special education policy and procedures in New York City I recommend Advocates for Children’s Short Guide to Special Education and other publications. To know the following core operating principals will get first-timers pointed in the right direction, and save the rest of us more than a little heartache and frustration.
• You have a right to get your child tested and evaluated — at the public’s expense — for special education and related services even if his teacher or school’s principal does not feel it is necessary.
• If you feel that your child’s school lacks the resources or expertise to conduct a thorough evaluation, you have the right to request that it be either conducted at the school-district level or in the private sector, if the school district also lacks appropriate expertise, at public expense.
• Once the initial evaluation has been completed, you must be invited in writing to attend a conference concerning the school or district-based assessment team’s conclusions and recommendations. Attend this meeting! Bring someone you trust to this meeting. This person need not be an educator or lawyer, just someone who whom you believe has the knowledge and skills to help you advocate for your child.
• If your child’s school or school district does not have the resources to provide IEP/IFSP-mandated related services within the school (e.g., occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc.), by law these services must still be provided at public expense by a private provider.
Put all your requests for testing and evaluation for special education and/or related services in writing to the appropriate school and/or district special education administrator. By sending a letter (via certified mail is best) you will not only be able to track accurately your efforts on behalf of your child but will put her school district “on notice.” The school district must respond to you within a very limited timeframe (usually 60 days for an initial request and 30 days once your child has already been certified for an IEP).
Once your child has been certified for special education services, by law there must be an annual review of her IEP/IFSP mandated program placement, educational goals and related services. Again you must be invited to the annual review conference in writing. Again, you may bring an advocate with you. Before attending this conference, review all report cards and other written communications sent home by the teacher and other service providers. The more current you keep with your child’s progress at school, the better you can advocate at the annual conference and throughout the year with her teacher and related service providers.
Having undergone the initial special education evaluation and certification process with my own son who has dyslexia and associated learning disabilities more than six years ago, I wish I could say that once you’ve gotten to the first annual review you can sit back, breathe a big sigh of relief, and return to family life as usual. Alas, by this point, you have successfully navigated only the tip of the iceberg! The good news is you have gained the fundamentals to explore what lies below the surface and chart your child’s educational course in the years ahead. And, of course, you’ve become an important ally and resource for other parents just setting sail.
Whatever their specific needs, our exceptional children need exceptionally committed parents and other adults in their lives to help them reach their educational and social potential. Needless to say, ours is a long and winding road, often very difficult to navigate alone, especially so when we may have more than one job to juggle as well as other kids and needy family members to care for. The following are my seven basic “rules of thumb” for effective parent advocacy – which has kept this special ed mama centered and sane for many years!
• Trust that you know your child best. Never accept on face value that you don’t have the expertise or experience to find out and do what is best for your exceptional child.
• Seek the counsel of other parents who have been down the same road before you.
• Don’t fear labels: “special needs” and “gifted and talented” are just short hand for paths to getting what your child needs.
• Emphasize collaboration over confrontation with your child’s teachers, related service providers, and school administrators.
• Know your rights under the law.
• Not every one of your child’s needs can be addressed all the time — not at school, and not at home. Pick your battles well and always assess the personal, family, and public resources at your disposal at any given time.
• Talk often with your child! Be honest and straightforward about what you are doing on her behalf and listen to her own desires, fears, and hopes.
Remember that it is hard-wired into us as parents to consider our children exceptional – unique, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable – regardless of dis/ability. This way of thinking is a cornerstone of our humanity. It is also what makes us our children’s first and most important teachers and advocates.
As a Special Education Parent Advocate, Patricia Connelly counsels, assists, coaches, and advocates on behalf of families of children with disabilities, as they navigate the often muddy and choppy waters of the special education “system”—regardless of educational setting or disability classification—from initial evaluation and certification for services to subsequent annual and triennial IEP (Individualized Education Program) conferences and through every critical period of transition. Patricia’s practice provides “soup to nuts” services, including consultations via telephone and in-person; review of IEP and relevant evaluations and other documents; attendance and support at school and program-related meetings; research needed to support the child’s needs; correspondence with schools, district, city/state agencies and others as needed; as well as preparation for and attendance at mediation and/or due process hearings. Patricia can be contacted at email@example.com.
Tags: all handicapped children act, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Letters, CPSE, CSE, department of education, disability, dyslexia, IEP, IFSP, individualized education program, individualized family service plan, individuals with disabilities act, Manhattan, New York, New York City, NYC, Patricia Connelly, resources for children with special needs, RSA, special education, special education parent advocate, special needs
Do you want experienced NY State certified teachers specialized in reading intervention supporting your child’s reading development at your home? Susan Littman, Jo-Ann Kalb, and Shelley Padilla will help your child become a more confident reader while addressing decoding (sounding out letters), reading fluency, reading comprehension, and encoding (spelling).
Sounds too good to be true but you have come to the right place. Our reading specialists are trained in a variety of approaches including Great Leaps, Sounds in Motion, Orton Gillingham, PAF, and Shelley Padilla is Certified Wilson Instructor.
If your child has additional oral language, receptive language, and auditory processing difficulties, our language specialists (licensed and certified speech language pathologists) address these issues in addition to reading and writing difficulties. Contact Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org & 347-394-3485 .
Meet our reading support staff:
Susan Littman is a NYS Certified Reading Specialist, a NYS Licensed English Language Arts Teacher, and a Literacy Coach, who has helped many students with reading difficulties in elementary and middle schools. Her education includes a Masters in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Masters in Literacy with a special focus on reading disabilities from Long Island University. She also has worked extensively in several District 15 schools, including in P.S. 321 and M.S. 821.
Initially, the process begins with an evaluation of your child’s readings skills, using standard reading assessments, personal observation and interaction with your child. Input from you, the parents, and your child’s teachers, is also vital to get a better understanding of your child’s strengths and struggles. Then, based on your child’s instructional needs and goals, Ms Littman will develop an individualized reading plan. This targeted intervention is customized to help your child make progress, whether the issues are decoding words and/or reading comprehension.
Ms Littman has created a welcoming space in her centrally located Park Slope brownstone where she sees students after school or on weekends. It is a quiet room where a child can concentrate and where distractions are minimized. Here, in this comfortable, supportive environment, Ms Littman will teach your child the strategies and skills s/he needs to become a confident, competent reader.
LOCATION: Home office at 399 2nd Street (Park Slope) and Ms. Littman makes Brooklyn home visits.
TYPE OF SERVICES: Initial reading evaluation, consultation with teachers and other involved specialists, individualized reading intervention plan
EXPERTISE: Students with phonemic awareness, phonics, and reading comprehension difficulties.
AGES: All ages.
HOURS: Flexible, after school and on weekends.
CONTACT: 917-287-3776 email@example.com
After a successful 30 year career teaching grades 1, 2 & 5 in Park Slope, including 10 years as a school librarian, Jo-Ann Kalb became a Reading Intervention teacher in 2003. Jo-Ann is currently a Reading Intervention teacher at PS 10 in Park Slope and is able to work with small groups as well as one on one. She received training in the following research based literacy programs: Great Leaps, Sounds in Motion, Rewards & Orton Gillingham based Wilson Reading and PAF. She uses a combination of programs and strategies gleaned from her long professional career to work with students who struggle with reading, phonemic awareness or dyslexia.
She offers one on one tutoring and group work. Jo-Ann typically recommends at least two sessions per week to see progress with a young reader who is struggling with decoding. She does an initial reading assessment prior to creating a treatment plan. I engage the family in the learning process and leaves follow-up work for the student to complete. Jo-Ann tailors the program to meet the child’s individual needs and provides all materials. She can also arrange after-school or summer groups using the Sounds In Motion program: a phonemic awareness program that takes advantage of children’s movement while learning consonant and vowel sounds.
Read more about her rave reviews!
LOCATION: Manhattan and Brooklyn (Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Prospect Heights, Bay Ridge, Ditmas Park, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene).
TYPE OF SERVICES: Initial reading evaluation, reading intervention using research based reading programs.
EXPERTISE: Working with children who have phonemic awareness problems and/or dyslexia.
HOURS: Home-Visits: Mon, Wed-Fri 3:30-7PM, Sat & Sun 10 AM-3 PM
Shelley Padilla is a New York licensed Elementary Education (Pre K, Kindergarten, Grades 1-6)/Special Education teacher earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education from Buffalo State College and a Masters of Science from Adelphi University in Mental Retardation and the Emotionally Disturbed. Padilla found her love for teaching by becoming involved in Special Education since an early age, working as a camp counselor in Special Ed camps, and subsequently has taught several types of special needs children in various school settings around the country, including self-contained classrooms for elementary grades and resource room for grades K-5.
Shelley Padilla has achieved Certified Wilson Instructor status, specializing in working one-on-one with Special Education students in grades 4-12 and has also trained in the Wilson Fundations Program; a phonics-based program for young children (K-3), and currently oversees and supports teachers using this program. Additionally Padilla is training other teachers in the Wilson Reading Program at a K-12 Special Education school on Roosevelt Island, NY.
Shelley Padilla excels at changing the lives of children that have difficulty in reading by allowing them to see how being a better reader can affect many areas of their lives especially in education. Padilla utilizes her skills to collaborate with teachers, therapists and parents in order to maximize the achievements of students in their educational and emotional needs. Padilla really knows how to make learning to read fun and exciting while showing her students all the possibilities available to them when they learn to appreciate the world of reading.
The Wilson Reading System directly and systematically teaches students to achieve success in reading. Unlike traditional phonics programs, Wilson Reading instruction is very interactive and multi-sensory, thus teaching total word construction and not just phonics. Students learn to encode (spell) and they learn to decode (take words apart) as part of their reading process. Evidence shows that when a direct systematic, code-based instruction is skillfully implemented by a Wilson Reading knowledgeable teacher, it is the most effective approach for problem readers.
The ability to read and comprehend depends upon the rapid and automatic recognition and decoding of single words. This is dependent upon the ability to segment words and syllables into phonemes (smallest unit of sound). This system is based on the multi-sensory language techniques and principals first described by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham.
LOCATION: Manhattan (Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Murray Hill, Gramercy Park, Clinton, Chelsea, Union Square), Queens, and Long Island.
TYPE OF SERVICES: Initial reading evaluation and reading intervention.
EXPERTISE: Working with children who have difficulty with decoding (deciphering letters when reading), reading fluency, and/or encoding (spelling) issues, including working with students with dyslexia.
AGES: Kindergarten through High School
HOURS: Home-Visits: Wed. after 4, Thurs. after 3, and weekends.
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org & 917-719-6925.
Manhattan: $110-$130 per hour and either Jo-Ann Kalb or Shelley Padilla can work in your home.
Brooklyn: $100-$120 per hour and Jo-Ann Kalb works in your home.
Queens: $100-$120 per hour and Shelley Padilla can work in your home.
Long Island (Nassau County): $100-$120 per hour and Shelley Padilla can work in your home. She resides in Baldwin.
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The beginning of the school year is an ideal time to consider a neuropsychological evaluation for your child if he/she is struggling. Please contact her directly for further information. Dr. Whitman offers a free 30 min. consultation by phone or by e-mail: email@example.com & 347-560-1399
Dr. Lindsay Whitman conducts neuropsychological assessments with children and adolescents. A neuropsychological evaluation is most helpful to parents who suspect their child or teen may have a learning disability, developmental delay, attentional problem, or who is displaying behavioral or psychological difficulties (anxiety, depression) that may be interfering with their cognitive or academic functioning. This type of evaluation is best for parents who desire to truly understand why a child or teenager may be struggling to meet developmental, academic, or social milestones. A neuropsychological evaluation identifies which kinds of interventional or supportive services would best support a child or teen through these challenges.
Dr. Whitman has evaluated children and adults with a variety of developmental and learning risk factors including developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury, and psychiatric/mood difficulties. At New York University, she obtained specialized expertise in the cognitive assessment of individuals with seizures/epilepsy. Dr. Whitman has presented empirical research at national and international neuropsychology conferences and has published peer-reviewed articles on issues related to cognitive functioning in individuals with epilepsy and aspects of adolescent personality development. She is a certified coach for Cogmed, evidence-based, computerized, non-pharmacological intervention designed to strengthen attention and working memory skills in children, adolescents, and adults. This fun and engaging program was developed by Swedish neuroscientists, is easily completed in your home, and is an excellent alternative to medication for individuals struggling with attentional difficulties.
Dr. Whitman is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. She completed a PhD in clinical psychology/neuropsychology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science/The Chicago Medical School. She completed clinical internship at West Virginia University School of Medicine and a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. She also holds a masters degree in early childhood risk and development from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. Dr. Whitman has met the education and training requirements of the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology to become board certified in clinical neuropsychology. She is currently in the process of obtaining board certification.
What would I learn about my child from a neuropsychological evaluation?
*General intellectual functioning (IQ)
*Academic achievement skills (word reading and phonetic decoding skills, mathematics, spelling, reading comprehension, writing skills; ability to apply academic knowledge or perform in a timely manner)
*Attention (auditory, visual, ability to sustain skills over time)
*Executive functioning (working memory, planning, problem solving, and organizational skills; ability to reason, inhibit responses when needed, and/or be behaviorally “flexible”)
*Learning and memory (verbal and visual)
*Language (expressive/receptive, naming, verbal fluency)
*Fine motor dexterity and coordination (handwriting, pencil grip, ability to complete written tasks in a timely and efficient manner)
*Psychological and Emotional Functioning (parent, teacher, self-report)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 347-560-1399 www.lindsaywhitmanphd.com
PAYMENT: Private pay only. Dr. Whitman does not accept insurance but is happy to provide a receipt for out-of-network reimbursement. Cash or check accepted.
HOURS: Wednesday & Friday 9AM-5PM
LOCATION: One Grand Central Place, 60 E. 42nd Street New York, NY.
TYPE OF SERVICES: Neuropsychological evaluations for children and adolescents. Dr. Whitman is also able to conduct neuropsychological evaluations with adults.
EXPERTISE: Dr. Whitman is trained in the evaluation of children and adults with learning disabilities, developmental delay, intellectual disabilities, and all other clinical conditions associated with cognitive difficulties (e.g., AD/HD, autism spectrum disorder). She is trained to evaluate children and adolescents with medical conditions such as epilepsy/seizures, traumatic brain injury/concussion, and perinatal toxic exposure (e.g., alcohol, lead).
Tags: Academic achievement skills assesment, ADHD evaluation, ADHD screening, American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology, attention problem evaluation, attention problem screening, auditory skills assessment, autism, autism evaluation, autism screening, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn & Manhattan Neuropsychological Evaluation, brooklyn heights, Brooklyn Letters, Carrol Gardens, certified clinical neuropsychologist, Chelsea, Clinton, Cobble Hill, cognitive assesment, cognitive functioning, cognitive functioning and seizures, developmental delay, developmental delay evaluation, developmental delay screening, downtown, downtown brooklyn, DUMBO, East Village, executive functioning assessment, Fine motor dexterity and coordination in children, Fort Greene, General intellectual functioning, Gramercy Park, hand eye coordination in children, improving memory skills in children, IQ test for children, learning disability evaluation, learning disability screening, Lower East Side, Manhattan, math skills, mathematics skills, Midtown, neuropsychological evaluation, New York City, new york city Brooklyn & Manhattan Neuropsychological Evaluation, new york city Neuropsychological Evaluation, NYC, organizational skills, organizational skills assessment, Park Slope, personality tests for children, phonetic decoding skills, problem solving skills in children, psychoeducational, Psychological and Emotional Functioning, Psychological and Emotional Functioning assessments for children, reading comprehension, reading comprehension assessment, Red Hook, spelling skills in children, Union Square, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, verbal fluency assessment, verbal memory, visual memory, visual skills assessment, West Village, Windor Terrace, word reading skills, working memory assessment for children, writing skills, writing skills assessment
“All she wants to do is sit on the computer/ hang out with her friends/stay in her room. It’s like we don’t even exist!”
“Whatever I suggest, it either goes in one ear and out the other, or he does the complete opposite. It drives me crazy!”
“I used to know what to do to make her feel better—now everything I say or do is wrong. It’s like I’m the enemy.”
“It’s as if I don’t even know him anymore—like he’s a stranger to me….”
These are just a few of the comments I have heard from parents of the most wonderful, complex, dynamic (and utterly maddening) patients I have the pleasure of working with: Teenagers.
Whenever I meet with an adolescent and their parents for the first time, the first half of the battle is with the young person, working through their resistance to being in therapy and accepting the need for help. Through the process of joining (meeting the adolescent where he is at), the provision of empathy, and the offer of a non-judgmental and supportive therapeutic space, the adolescent frequently comes around to engaging in the therapeutic process. The second half of the battle is talking the beleaguered parents of the adolescent off the ledge of anger, frustration, and fear that readily accompanies the experience of parenting a teenager in distress—if not simply parenting a teenager in general.
In addition to addressing the specific concerns the parent has about the teen (such as depression, anxiety, conflicts with peers, eating disorders, substance use, defiance, and ADHD), I have also found that parents benefit tremendously from psychoeducation about the developmental stage of adolescence. This information serves to normalize at least some of what the parent is experiencing, decreasing anxiety and re-framing the experience of parenting an adolescent as something that is universally both terribly frustrating and profoundly rewarding. After all, this young person—for all their instability and ire—is developing into an independent entity with responsibilities of his own. In other words, they are on their way to becoming….gasp!…an adult. And all of their irrationality, defiance, and emotional instability is, in truth, absolutely, positively…..necessary!
That’s right—a necessary part of their developmental process is to ‘rage against the machine’, create anarchy, say “black” when you say “white,” fight the system, focus on their peers over their family, and challenge parental rules and values. The only way they are effectively going to separate and individuate on their way to adulthood, is to challenge what they have been taught in an effort to try it on for themselves as they develop their independent identities. Seriously, it’s their JOB! That being said, it’s your job to forge on and continue to set limits, teach values, educate about safety out in the world, and still manage to keep strong the foundation of love and support—even when you’d rather be shipping them off to sea. Not an easy task, to be sure. But while it’s important to acknowledge your feelings about all of this as being valid, it is also important to be mindful of the fact that while it is ok to have your feelings, it might not be appropriate to react to them.
For example, your teenage daughter (you remember, the little girl your friends used to call your “appendage”) suddenly stops spending time and talking with you but locked in her room texting and Facebooking her friends about all that is relevant to her life. For some parents, this might bring up feelings of rejection, sadness, and grief over what feels like the loss of a relationship that once was. You might also feel like you have gone from being the center of her universe to being little more than her chauffer, her maid, her waitress, her secretary, or, in some cases, her enemy—particularly when she thinks you are taking your role as her ‘warden’ too seriously.
With all these shifts and changes, you may find yourself feeling more irritable, resentful and angry than at any other time in your life. As a result, you might find that you punish more harshly, limit more severely, and wonder more regularly what you did wrong to deserve all of this from your ungrateful and unappreciative offspring. And when you sift through the anger, it makes you just plain sad. So you find yourself using guilt to persuade her to talk to you, spend time with you, have more than 2 seconds of physical contact with you in public, and to not role her eyes when you won’t drop her off a block away from her friend’s house. (By the way, it’s ok to think to yourself, “If you role your eyes one more time I’m going to rip them out of your head,” but, again, not to act on it).
My suggestion to all of you who can relate: talk to your kids about how you feel. Not in a fit of rage, or when they do what they do to push your buttons and tick you off, but when you are having a quiet moment together and the timing feels right. Tell her you understand that it is important for her to try on new ways of being and to separate herself from the family in an effort to move towards independence; but for now, she is still a member of the family who is both loved and who has the ability to hurt other people with her actions and her words. Tell her you miss her and would like to carve out some time together to re-connect. If she does not respond to this olive branch, tell her that you will be there for her when she is ready. Because at the end of the day, that is what she needs to know: that she can test you and push the limits (and your buttons), and that in spite of it all, you will love her anyway. Now go to your room and think about that!
Last but not least, know that you are not alone. Reach out to other parents, join a support group, talk with your teenager’s therapist, go out with your friends and let off some steam. As noted in an earlier installment of the Mindful Parenting series, one of the most important ingredients of parenting children of all ages is making time for self-care. And to those of you with a teenager at home—who is probably bugging you to get off the computer so they can check their News Feed on Facebook right about now–this especially goes for you!
Fara is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Park Slope where she specializes in working with children, adolescents, parents and families, coping with trauma, addictions, anxiety and depression. Utilizing both traditional psychotherapy and creative arts therapy in her work, she provides individual, couples and family counseling and has developed and implemented psychotherapy, psycho-education and creative arts therapy groups for children, adolescents and adults. She can be reached at: email@example.com or by phone at 917-359-3335.
Tags: Brooklyn Letters, brooklyn parenting, child therapy brooklyn, dealing with teenagers, difficult teenagers, Fara Jones M.A. LCSW Psychotherapist, mindful parenting, New York City, parenting teenagers, parenting teens, Park Slope, psychotherapy, raising teenagers, relating to teenagers, talk therapy, therapy
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