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On the Right Track: How to Approach Behavior Therapy with Your Teen
The teenage years are a trying time for kids and adults alike. Not only are teenagers coping with behavior-impacting hormonal shifts, they’re subjected to peer pressure, feeling the effects of greater autonomy, and possibly coping with one of many psychological or behavioral issues that tend to pop up in adolescence. Parents only want to help their children, but the teenage years are also when kids are the most likely to push back and resist that help. Keeping these things in mind, how can you effectively approach behavior therapy with your teen?
Introduce it to them the right way
The most important thing to get across is that behavioral therapy is not punishment for bad behavior. If a teen acts up, becomes defiant, or shows other negative behavioral traits, consider asking them, “This isn’t like you. Is something going on?” Putting teens in a position where they are made to feel defensive can cause them to be more resistant to the idea of seeking help. Behavioral problems are a symptom. Rather than pointing to behavioral therapy as a way to remove negative behaviors, point to it as a way for teens to get help alleviating the feelings that are triggering them. Make sure they are aware of what they are getting into. Answer all their questions from, “What is a board certified behavior analyst?”, “How long will therapy last?” to questions like “What should I expect from therapy?” When you are both well informed, you know what to expect and how to handle big changes together.
Approach behavior therapy as a team
While teenagers benefit the most from behavior therapy in this situation, parents should get in on the action too. Family sessions can offer parents long-term strategies for helping their kids, while offering a safe learning and communicating space for adults and teens alike. While privacy is important to teenagers, it’s important to meet with a behavioral analyst as a family to discuss how treatment goals are being met. Ask your teen if they are comfortable with this before plunging into their space.
Seek out a certified Applied Behavior Analyst
Applied behavioral analysis is a means of controlling negative behavior by applying interventions, with an emphasis on the relationship between behavior and the patient’s environment. The analyst will create and oversee a treatment plan after analyzing the patient’s behavior, and tailor it to a teenager’s abilities. Positive reinforcement is used to encourage good behavior, while a lack of reinforcement is used to dissuade negative behavior.
Kids with behavioral problems aren’t automatically bad kids, and discussions of behavioral therapy shouldn’t make them feel that way. Parents should view therapy as a way to help their children develop healthy coping skills for dealing with the stresses that cause negative behaviors, not a way to make their lives easier by altering their children’s behavior. With the right approach, teens will be more receptive to receiving help, and receptiveness can be the difference between successful therapy and failure.
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