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Posted on November 16, 2017 at 2:55 PM



Written by Registered Counsellor, Ginger Henderson

Are you struggling with a teen who seems to be in a heightened emotional state regularly? Does your teen's behaviour seem out of the normal realm of “teen hood”?  There is a handful of tactics I encourage parents to use in order to de-escalate conflict within the home.



 When you stop and think, what verbal and non-verbal message is your teen getting from their parents, family and other significant adults in their lives? Are they feeling respected, understood and supported? Yes, we must set our own boundaries for respect from our teens, however,  what are we modelling? I often see parents having difficulty understanding what teens find significant, or the way the world has changed, for example: social media, cellphone use, need for validation. However, a parent's uncertainty can come across as a lack of respect for what is influential to a teen. We must be observing our own behaviour when we are seeking change within our home. A teen feeling lost, misunderstood or who has a need not being met, will act out. It is our job as parents to help them learn the tools to get those needs met appropriately. Are you sending out a message that you are open for unbiased discussions, that even if they made a large mistake they can turn to you? I hear from teens often that they will ‘test’ their parents with small issues to see how they will react, in order to see what would happen if they confided in them regarding a bigger issue. I understand that when you have a teen acting out it is hard to want to sympathize and remain calm, reminding yourself that the more supported they feel the higher the chance they will want to connect with you.  



You are going to want to catch your teen in a calm mood and then explain it is time to have a brief chat. I will emphasis the word brief; they don't have the capacity to process the amount of information we would often like them to retain. It is also vital to have the communication feel more collaborative and less of a lecture. So you have your teen calm and ready to talk, now what? Ask questions! The goal here is to have your teen understand you want to help them feel better. Some of my top recommendations:

 *What is not working for you around here?

*What do you think we need from you?

*Is there something from us that you need to help you feel a calmer?

*If we could both change one thing, what do you think we EACH should change?    

*How do you think you can help us have a better relationship with you?

*Do you need a hug?

 Asking questions, and actively listening to their responses, helps each of you feel heard and promotes a change that is seen by everyone as collaborative. This also is a great step towards your teen communicating assertively, the most successful from of communication. These are all aspects of a healthy adult, which is our ideal result when raising teens.



 Is your teen one who needs downtime, for example, a dark quiet environment like a bath with candles, their own time out room or space that has peaceful music and low stimuli? Perhaps they need a physical outlet such as sports, fresh air or hiking? It is important for you, and your teen, to understand how they best recover from a demanding situation, or recharge after being ‘on’ all day at school or with peers. Individually, we all have different needs when it comes to our stress-reducing outlet, understand your own and your teens can help when they may need guidance after a taxing event, such as a conflict. Encourage having healthy ways of distressing as a family, start with asking them what works for them. An example of this would be: “ when you feel overwhelmed do you get an urge to run in the fresh air or would you rather a quiet space?" Again asking questions helps them get to know themselves, it also shows you want to hear from them. Once you have clear idea of their type of outlet, help them understand when and how to use it. 



With all the stressors, our teens are facing now days, matched with the yet to be developed brain function needed for efficient cognitive functioning, it is common for a teen to lack the skill of emotional self-regulation. As a parent, we can help them learn how to stop and check in with themselves by giving them some important focus points. As always, we must keep in mind, that a calm brain in an open brain, meaning if your teen is heightened you will need to help them be calm before there can be space to focus.

I like to teach the teens I work with, (and adults), the top five check in topics. I refer to them as their "pause and ponder" moments :

* What am I saying to myself that isn't helping?

* What do I need to be different right now, and what role can I play in this change?

* What is my motivation for this behaviour I am choosing, is there a better way of going      about this?

* How can I look at the big picture here?

* How can I learn from that difficult situation that just occurred, my role/their role and what could have led to a more positive outcome?


A teen who learns how to check in with themselves, with the pause and ponder skill set explained above, is well on their way to purposeful self-regulation. These skills also promote independence and self-awareness, both qualities curb the need for heightened behaviour.



If the environment within the home is mostly surrounding conflict, your teen may not know how to change the atmosphere, so teach them. Learn how and when to call a pause" “ Things feel so tense, let's take a break and play an old card game, take the dog to the park, or make your favourite meal.” We want our teens to feel that home, and our relationship with them, is their safe place, and although there may be conflict it's okay to press pause, connect, and then return to the conversation. I recommend coming up with a “pause fun list” with each other, again when things are calm, collaborate on ideas of easy activities to do jointly. This way when the environment feels strained, it is less daunting to pick an activity to break the ice. These pause and connect moment help maintain the bond, even when things feel tense, teaching your teen that your relationship is stronger than the conflict. We must remember how difficult it can be to be a teen, and with the online world our kids are living in today, they need us more than ever. They need to know we are resourceful, safe and will guide them through these complicated and overwhelming years. Setting boundaries and teaching them how to learn from their emotions and experiences, while supporting them unconditionally, is the best way to raise confident and self-directed adults.

 As a parent of two, 20 and 18, I can empathize greatly with parents who are struggling with the balance of boundary setting, support, discipline and the steep learning curb of keeping up with their ever-changing environment. We must be kind to ourselves, take time for self-care and focus on what we can change. At times, it takes a village, and if you look around the village and notice it is quite large and easily accessible. Ask for help, from family, friends, your teens' school or a professional such as myself. Our kids need us to be healthy and calm in order to be that source of strength they often cannot be for themselves. 

Closing Thoughts

It is vital that you investigate there isn't something more serious going on such as: generalized anxiety disorder, depression, an eating disorder, or a possible learning disability, etc. If any of these significant difficulties, or others are present, or you are unsure; you will want to investigate further and bring in professional supports.

As a registered Counsellor, with a private practice in Victoria B.C., I am happy to help patent’s, teens and families find a more effective way of communicating. If your family needs assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


101-4475 VIEWMONT AVE.



Experiencing Relationship breakdown? Try these effective communication tools for help!

Posted on September 3, 2017 at 1:10 PM


Experiencing a Relationship Breakdown? Try these effective communication tools for help!


The base for any foundation of a solid relationship is cemented in the ability to communicate effectively. When I see clients in conflict with others, a breakdown in communication is usually the main culprit. Regardless of the type of relationship (coworker, teen, parent, spouse, etc), if the communication styles applied are inadequate that is the first issue that needs to be addressed.


For two people to begin to communicate effectively, a desirable outcome and motivation must be shared equally by both. Knowledge of the other person’s communication style, and why they have adopted it, is vital.


It is said that there is five (5) communication styles that a person will use:



Example “ Don’t start to worry about my feelings now.”

This communication style is rooted in overwhelmed emotions of anger, powerlessness, or hurt however, these feelings are most often ineffectively conveyed through sarcasm or indirect statements. The recipient is often left confused, annoyed or resentful. The end result of passive aggressive communication is rarely a satisfactory resolution of a pressing issue. If you are finding this style matches your pattern, it is important to check in with yourself. Is there a past hurt with this person? Do you not feel emotionally or physically safe to converse openly with the person you are in conflict with? These issues will need to be understood in order for your destructive communication style to develop into a more effective one.



Example “I guess I will stay home, and hope I can trust you.”

The person who defaults to this type of communication will most often not be seeking to change their style, but yours. This is not always out of malice, but can be a defence mechanism. The patterns to be mindful of are: using influence to change opinions, conniving and controlling language use in order to manipulate an outcome. Recognizing this style in others, can promote appropriate boundaries.



Example “That comment made me feel disrespected – here is why …”

Using assertive communication is most often paired with confidence, balance and straightforwardness. This is known as the healthiest form of communication, as the person who is assertive is usually self-aware, and does not resort to disrespectful language or manipulation. This style leads to goal setting and often results in the respectful achievement of a desired outcome. The person on the receiving end of this communication will feel sure of where they stand with the communicator, and often that there is a balance of mutual respect.



Example “I will do what I please, and you have no say about it ...”

One of the least effective forms of communication is aggressive. The basis of this style is control and victory over the listener; with absolutely no regard of the recipient’s needs. The communicator can present as demanding, intimidating, loud and even explosive. Of course the recipient will more often than not feel afraid, demeaned, or powerless, and will usually give up on voicing their opinion.



Example “It's okay, I know you didn't mean to hurt me, it’s no big deal.”

The opposite of aggressive, yet equally as ineffective, is submissive communication. The desired outcome of this communicator is to please the recipient and avoid conflict. Although this may sound peaceful, the communicator rarely achieves their needs being met, and can even have their personal rights be dismissed. This communication style is usually paired with an unequally balanced relationship.


Moving forward, where do we go from here?


Just as learning someone's love language in a relationship is important (5 Love Languages), understanding one’s communication style can also help you react appropriately to the important people in your life. I encourage my clients to learn their own style, and to understand why they possess it, in order to help significant people in their lives understand their perspective. When a conflict arises it can then be deescalated with compassion for the other’s point of view, grounded in understanding of what is behind their words. When one fully grasps what emotions trigger them to use a specific communication style, as well as its effective or non-effectiveness, we begin to see progress in the success of the relationship.


During couple’s therapy, I have found it helpful to invite each partner to present their style of communication and why they feel they use it. For example, an aggressive communicator may feel they have not had their needs heard, or that they lack importance in the relationship, so being loud and intimidating is what they may turn to. A submissive communicator may have grown up around conflict, without proper conflict resolution skills they may choose to avoid conflict all together. Once we can empathize with why one communicates the way they do, we can help them to find a more effective way to voice their opinions and needs. Self-awareness is one of the most important characteristic of a healthy relationship, with yourself and others. We need to understand how to reflect on our feelings, triggers and behaviours, why they are there, and how they help or hinder our current situations. With self-awareness you will also have the ability to confidently find your ownership during conflict.


Regardless of magnitude, conflicts of some form will occur on a semi-regular basis during significant relationships. The more emotionally intense the conflict, the greater the difficulty one will face in reacting appropriately. When we are in conflict with someone it is crucial to learn when to press pause in the situation particularly if the language used becomes heated, emotions are overtaking logic, or it feels like each participant is trying to prove they are right. These are signs that indicate effective communication has broken down and the outcome will likely be poor. I often suggest that the parties discuss a communication breakdown plan ahead of time, setting up a ‘mini-contract’ for example: "If we aren’t coming to a successful agreement, we pause and write down our feelings and remind each other what our desired outcome is." One of the most effective forms of communication I suggest when communication has failed and significant conflict arises is writing a letter explaining what they need, along with how they are feeling. I have also found success developing a “T-chart” wherein clients describe what they are feeling and what are trying to accomplish, and what they believe the recipient is feeling and trying to accomplish on their side. If we incorporate self-awareness, acceptance of the other’s needs, as well as our own and empathy for each other in our T-chart, both participants will feel heard. Each participant then switches T-charts and reads them aloud to the other, reflecting on what they are reading, feeling and understanding from the other person. This form of written and oral conflict resolution can lead to further bonding in a significant relationship.


Along with understanding ones communication style, I suggest 5 key points for each individual to focus on when communicating:


* Have a clear understanding of others point of view

* Self-awareness

* Mutual respect

* Reciprocal empathy

* Comprehension of both parties desired outcome


When conflict arises, if each individual has these 5 key points at the forefront of their communication, a compassionate resolution is almost certain.



© 2018 Ginger Henderson, R.T.C . All Rights Reserved

101-4475 Viewmont Ave

Victoria British Columbia Canada



Teen attachment to their online world: What parents need to know to stay vigilant

Posted on July 3, 2017 at 1:25 PM

Being a parent comes with no shortage of challenges, matched with a never-ending to do list. While the World Wide Web has many useful resources, it adds more to the already very full plates of parents trying to guide this generation of pre-teens and teens. When we look around at today's society 85% have their noses in their phones; so how do we, as parents, know what is an acceptable and balanced amount of time spent online for our kids?

Many of my clients, who are parents of teens, ask for my assistance with setting boundaries regarding technology. Before this can happen there needs to be background discussion on the who, what and why of apps and social media for their child. There are many factors to consider when first assessing our kids’ relationship with technology and as with every family topic, it needs to be individualized. For example, a child with a cognitive impairment may depend on technology for speech or communication of some kind; in turn, a pre-teen who shows signs of low self-worth will need extreme boundaries set around social media use.

Please read this article with your child's personality, needs and challenges at the forefront of deciding what a balance with technology looks like.

I strongly advise parents to be one step ahead of knowing which social media, apps and games are geared towards their child’s age group. In order to be vigilant you must be adequately informed. If you are unsure whether your online awareness needs improvement, research it: Google, school teachers, coaches, slightly older teens, other parents and your own child are some places to start the conversation. You want to understand what each app and site offers, encourages or how it could potentially harm your child; in addition, take the time to examine why children would want to use them. We want to understand the desire our kids have and knowing our children’s needs can help us to gauge what to supplement, if we are going to restrict. For example, if conversing with friends over Snapchat helps your teen feel connected with their peers, then helping them set up quality bonding time with their peers will fill that need to some degree (if restricting Snapchat is a guideline that needs to be set, based on their behaviour with the app).

However, if you are witnessing inappropriate pictures being posted on Instagram by your pre-teen, there is a much bigger interception that is needed. Part of this discussion would need to include topics such as: what your child is seeking by posting this; what their desired outcome is; and until they can process the implications they will need to be supervised on this app at all times.

This leads me to my next point, transparency: when to implement it and how to balance it depending on your child's age and behaviour. There will come a time for the majority of parents when your pre-teen will begin mentioning a different form of technology than you are used to, apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc. As a parent you will need to make the executive decision, based on your knowledge, about what apps, if any, your child can access.

A caution regarding Snapchat: it enables instant gratification significantly, which is not as prominent in texting, therefore can lead to more of an attachment-like behaviour. It also has, in my opinion, a large risk factor for inappropriate and parental guidance.

Once you understand and have agreed upon use of the app, you can help set them up specific privacy settings, a discussion surrounding possible dangers (the general public reaching out and connecting with your children, etc.), and at this point you will want to set up time allotted for the app. Ideally, when kids first start using an app is when we want to discuss how much time they should be spending on it. When it comes to implementing online boundaries, children need to hear that there will be age-related guidelines and, if behaviour remains appropriate, what this will look like. This can be encouraging for them to be working towards the next level of technological freedom; as well as motivating desired and safe behaviour when online.

Guidelines and What to Consider When Setting Them

How do we, as parents, decide how much is too much time on specific apps and technology in general? Take time to evaluate your child's daily schedule - it helps to write it out. Categories I encourage parents to include are: wake up, meal time, school, work, extra-curricular activities and bedtime. Then, you need to take into consideration your child's age and what their peers’ online behaviour is; this is not to say we follow others, however, we want to be cognizant of peer interactions as this is of the utmost importance to them right now.

With this information you can now individually evaluate. If your teen is not involved in any sports or activities, for instance, you will want to limit their online time more so than the child who is going to school then being active for hours. A child, who is home, sedentary and disengaged physically from their peers outside of school, is more at risk for overuse of online behaviour. If, as a parent you are okay with your teen texting frequently, you will need to understand that Snapchat is the new, more frequently used form of communication and consider this time spent as part of your allotted screen time.

Factoring in age and activity level is also a large amount of developing a time allowance for technology. A 12 year old with a desire to be connected the majority of the time via technology is a red flag that needs to recognized, explored and discussed with the child. 16 year olds, on the other hand, should be able to begin to find balance using their online connections. I am a firm believer of leaving technology at the door when it comes to bedtime for kids 17 and under: they simply do not have the ability to self-enforce when it comes to not checking or engaging online when they should be getting the much needed sleep teens need. As teens get older we want to be encouraging this independent self-monitoring, but until we begin to witness this, it is our duty.

As parents we need to be continuously monitoring our kids’ behaviour: if we see it escalating or causing anxiety when the technology isn't available, this is our cue to step in and reset some firmer boundaries. Setting boundaries around technology is important for many obvious reasons; however, doing so is a great way to gauge their attachment to technology. If your teen can have a calm discussion and accept the new guidelines they are most likely in a healthy relationship with technology. If there is a sense of doom, panic or tantrums this is a sign the boundaries will need to be set firmly. Unfortunately, in the generation teens are in right now Internet addictions are on the rise and as parents it is our job to be monitoring, and enforcing rules when our children are not capable to do so on their own. We want to guide our pre-teens by having open, frequent discussions and role modeling appropriate online activity; the goal here is to help them practice a healthy balance between sleep, school, physical interactions with their peers, activities and use of technology. By the time your child is 18, they should be well on their way at finding their own balance with technology.

The most important tool we can have as parents is knowledge. We must know what is available for our teens and why, but also gain as much insight into what are teens are experiencing, thinking and their emotional intelligence. Signs to watch for in your teen or pre-teen are: anxiety, promiscuous language/ behaviour, or being secretive with their technology, along with anger or inappropriate reactions to having their usage scaled back.

As a counsellor I work closely with parents to help guide them towards a more cohesive relationship with their children. If your family is in need of support, I would be happy to assist you.

Ginger Henderson Counselling Services



Ginger Henderson, 


106-4475 Viewmont Ave , Victoria

British Columbia Canada V8Z 5K8

© 2018 Ginger Henderson, R.T.C. M.T.C

All Rights Reserved.