Portland Family Counseling

The Number One Way You Influence Your Teen

81373-20141021Have you ever wondered about that visceral reaction we sometimes get from watching sports or our favorite show? Have you ever found yourself reaching for a drink of water immediately after observing someone else do the same?

Experiences like this are partially explained by clusters of cells in our brain called mirror neurons. Our brain has a mechanism that literally “mirrors” input it receives from the environment. This is why we’re prone to mimic the behaviors and emotions we observe from others, even on television.

Of course this has big implications for us as parents. Your teen’s mirror neurons are working overtime. His brain is scanning its surroundings and absorbing the actions and nonverbal communication of others. Media images, teachers, coaches, strangers, all matter and influence teens. Peers rule the roost in matters of tastes and preferences (styles, music, activities). But over the long haul, parents still matter the most when it comes to values like honesty, work ethic, communication, empathy and self-respect.

These buzz words may sound cliche or intangible but they show up in our behavior in small doses every day and ultimately have far more impact than anything we could say. Read More

What to do when you lose your cool with your teen

Does this sound familiar?194510-20140812

Parent: “You’re grounded and I’m taking away your phone.”

Teen: “That’s ridiculous.”

Parent: “Maybe you’ll think next time before doing something so stupid!”

Teen: “Maybe you’ll learn how to stop being a controlling psycho.”

Parent: “You really are a spoiled brat!”

Teen: “You’re a terrible parent, that’s why my friends don’t come over.”


I’m guessing you can identify with this exchange. These types of interactions can happen in all kinds of families: yours, mine and even that one that seems so perfect.

Once we’ve lost our cool, many of us aren’t sure what to do or how to do it, so we do nothing. But the costs of doing nothing are too high. We’re often left feeling helpless, embarrassed and hurt. Teens usually feel the same. Other family members are impacted and, over time, the impact of these fights can spill into our work, physical and mental health, and marriage.

Our valiant attempt at suppressing emotions and moving on results in a fragile facade of surface talk and avoidance until the next eruption happens.

Now for the good news

These relationship ruptures, as painful as they are, can be repaired. Effectively following up after a fight helps teens develop more empathy, accountability, problem solving and self-esteem. Even more, your relationship will grow and you’ll feel happier and more empowered as a parent.

Here are 10 steps to help you repair your relationship after you lost your cool. Read More

Some great books and blogs to check out over the summer.

133611-20140605As another school year ends with summer break looming, how are you feeling? Some parents I’ve talked to are looking forward to it, others not so much. I’ll tell you why I think summer is a great time to connect and grow as a family. I’ve also got some good new resources to share with you. Read More

The Perils of Privileged Kids

112104-20140416Teens from upper middle class and affluent homes are struggling with depression, anxiety and substance abuse at higher rates than teens from the general population.

The data that supports this is consistent with what we see in our office on a daily basis. These otherwise charming, bright and likeable teens are in crisis on the inside while simultaneously glowing to the outside world. On the surface, this doesn’t make sense. Read More

Why Friends are so Important for Teens

Students Sitting on StepsGetting pushed away to spend more time with friends can feel sad and disappointing, especially with young teens. As they get older, this disappointment can turn into a lot of fear and anxiety. We’ve all heard plenty of stories in the news and from others about the bad things that can come from peer pressure. Some of these concerns are valid, but overall, peers and friendships are an essential ingredient to healthy and happy adolescent development. Read More

Couples: How to Keep a Fire from Turning into an Inferno

MP900202218The good news first. Arguing and conflict in a relationship is normal and can even be a sign of health! Now the bad news. Unfortunately, many of us experience conflict in our relationship as a demoralizing and overwhelming experience that progressively tears at the fabric of our connection. The typical response for most couples struggling with this is to either check out emotionally or overreact to small things regularly. Read More


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