Raising an adolescent comes with its fair share of challenges, but one of the greatest rewards is their growing ability to comprehend complex thought. 

From the ages of 12-18, children stop seeing the world in “black and white” and begin exploring their own identities, thoughts, and opinions. This is a psychological stage known as cognitive growth, and while it can be a positive period of independence for a teenager, it can also be a time of potential risk. 

This is because the part of the brain that is responsible for rational thinking has not fully developed yet. Although many stereotypes associated with adolescents are very broad and don’t apply to every child, there is actually research to prove that impulsive behavior is normal for growing teens. 

But how do we approach them when their brains literally cannot even understand us? How can we let them make healthy mistakes without putting them at risk? 

Although adults are past the stages of understanding what they’re thinking, empathizing with developing teens can prevent life altering mistakes later on. Here is some advice to help you guide a growing adolescent, especially between the ages of 12-16. 

Encourage a Healthy Home Environment

Teens think and act very differently than younger children, but they will never stop looking up to you as a role model, even if they won’t admit it. Every family dynamic is different, whether you are a single-parent household or consist of a blended partnership. What matters is how you make your home a safe and positive environment.

For example, simply telling your child not to drink alcohol or relying on teachers to do the work for you will not stop them from doing anything. This is not just because they want to rebel, it has everything to do with their psychology. Since they do not know why it is bad for them to drink prematurely, they do not see any reason not to other than a bunch of adults keeping them from doing it. 

Instead of relying on punishments to keep your child from going to parties, make it a safe place to rely on if they make a mistake. They will inevitably do things that neither of you like, but instead of making it a completely negative experience, offer it up as an opportunity to grow with your child. 

If your teen comes home past curfew, save the discipline for later and make it clear that you’re happy they’re home safe. Listen with empathy, practice fair discipline, and be a positive role model. 

Be Honest

As mentioned previously, simply talking to your teen won’t prevent them from trying risky things. However, being authentic about these dangers may stop them from participating in permanently damaging behaviors. 

Have deeply authentic and open conversations about sex, alcohol, and drugs. Be very clear about what can happen if these actions are taken without using it as a fear tactic. 

However, part of honesty is also being clear about your boundaries. Make it very evident that these kinds of behaviors cannot happen in your house, and establish boundaries that they and their friends must respect when under your supervision. 

State the consequences that will follow if they choose not to listen and why they must be set (e.g. when you are leaving this house, you cannot drive with more than one person under the age of 18 because it is against the law, and you may risk someone else’s life as an inexperienced driver). 

While it is out of your control what happens away from your house, you should also encourage your teen to recognize dangerous situations on their own (e.g. I will not get in a car with a drunk driver. If this happens, I will call a trusted guardian). 

However, you can still make it clear what you expect out of your child when they are under your roof, which can greatly prevent them from wanting to engage in risky behavior. 

Be Supportive

Although you may not always be aware of what your teenager is up to, if you set your parental boundaries in an empathetic manner, they may respect you enough to consider your advice.

Mistakes can and will happen. Your teen is human, just like you, which means that they may do things that they regret. However, instead of using it as a way to ridicule them, take these opportunities as a chance to bond. 

The greatest way that you can teach your teenager rational thinking is by allowing them to trust you. This does not mean that you don’t set firm boundaries, but it can include offering your child a safe place to turn to when they know they have made a mistake. 

These crucial years may be hard, but they can also be extremely rewarding. Cherish these memories, teach your child with compassion, and be patient.

Consuming alcohol is one of the social standards of adult life. It goes along with almost any sort of party or lunch or gathering. Work parties will serve champagne, football games always have been, and there are always lovely wine and painting nights. But while alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, having too much can be extremely dangerous. 

Crossing the line between normal drinking and excessive drinking is dangerous for our physical and mental health, as well as those around us. 

Read on to find out how much drinking is too much drinking and what you can do about it. 

How Does Drinking Affect Your Body?

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it suppresses the central nervous system so much that it weakens and undermines your ability to speak, move, see, and think clearly. This impairment of thought is often sought by people who tend to binge drink or drink to get drunk. It is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine, making its effects almost instantaneous. 

When you consume too much alcohol, it can affect your body in permanent and negative ways. Alcohol damages the liver and pancreas by forcing the liver to work an unhealthy amount of overtime trying to metabolize it and causing the pancreas to excrete toxic chemicals that can lead to pancreatitis.

In even more serious cases, excessive alcohol will damage the brain. It causes communication pathways to break down and be disrupted, which outwardly shows itself as abrupt changes of mood or impaired motor control. If this process is repeated enough times, then the damage becomes permanent. 

Drinking too much alcohol also makes you vulnerable to numerous types of cancer as well as immune system failure. 

Beyond that, excessive drinking and alcoholism are closely linked to anxiety and depression, with the person often looking for a short-term cure for underlying mental illness.  

Defining “Too Much” Drinking

But what exactly does “too much alcohol” look like? It’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot but at its core, it is vague and subjective. Drinking excessively to one person might be having more than one glass of wine while drinking excessively to another person would mean chugging half a bottle. Even doctors will give widely different answers. 

However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines binge drinking as a woman having four or more standard drinks and a man having five or more standard drinks within a couple of hours, and heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking at least five times in the past month. A standard drink is defined as 1.5 oz of spirit, 5 oz of wine, or 6 oz of beer. 

But, these are only official guidelines and the truth is that it’s far more individual than that. Differences in sex, body weight, ethnic group, and age all play their parts in how alcohol affects you. For example, people with more bodyweight will tend to have a higher tolerance to it because there is more space for the alcohol to spread through the body. 

Alcoholism is a step beyond even heavy drinking. This is when a person begins to depend on alcohol as one depends on any addictive substance. Feeling a compulsion to drink, a lack of control over the amount of alcohol drunk or the time spent drinking, and not being able to have fun without having alcohol involved are all telltale signs of alcoholism or alcohol dependency. 

A heightened tolerance of alcohol, so that you need to drink more to get the same effects is one of the earliest signs of alcohol dependency. One of the most easily spotted signs is the worsening of platonic, romantic, and familial relationships, professional abilities, and even the ability to take care of yourself. When binge drinking becomes alcoholism, it becomes an addiction, negatively impacting all other aspects of life.

At this stage, drinking becomes a physiological issue, not just a mental one. A person who is dependent on alcohol has little control over it and would need to get professional help in order to free themselves from it. 

But the good news is that there are a plethora of treatment options for alcohol dependency, from individual therapy to support groups like AA, as well as rehab centers if you need it. Alcohol addiction is frightening but it doesn’t have to be forever.  

Divorce is a word that many couples avoid as long as possible. Understandably, many people remain together to try to work things out or to avoid separating the family.

No matter how you get here, once you get to the point where you both decide to end your marriage, you inevitably have to face the challenges that come with it. This may mean a long road or legal bindings, financial obstacles, and emotional turmoil, which can be extremely stressful for you, your partner, and your children.

With that being said, you are not alone, and a divorce is a normal event that is sometimes the healthiest choice for everyone involved. If you are given the proper tools, support, and resources, you and your partner can amicably end your marriage.

Although navigating a divorce can feel like a lonesome process, there are several resources available to help you. Whether you need assistance legally, financially, or mentally, many tools can help you during this stressful time.

Prevent Stress

With a divorce, stress is unfortunately inevitable. However, it is also manageable. Everyone’s way of coping with divorce is different, valid, and personalized, so try to discover what works best for you.

For example, if you find joy in practicing meditation, prioritize a 30-minute relaxation exercise before meeting with your divorce lawyer. If meditation isn’t for you, maybe walking, reading, or a spa day is.

Validate Each Other’s Feelings

Although it may be hard to remember a time when you and your partner weren’t in the middle of divorce proceedings, you were in love with this person at one point in your life. Even if you may not always agree with how the other person feels, it is important to validate them.

Empathize with their perspective and listen to each other. Save tough conversations for when you are both emotionally calm and collected. If emotions run high, step out and take breaks to cool off. Divorce is an emotion-filled process and it can be difficult to be empathetic under high duress.

Prepare Your Legal Team

It’s not the fun part of the process, but it is necessary to prepare for some of the messier aspects of divorce. Hire a good, experienced attorney and file your divorce papers promptly.

Don’t create power struggles with your partner, especially in a legal manner. When it comes to matters of the heart, Involving your lawyer should be the very last thing you should do. If this divorce is not a situation where your life or personal safety is on the line, try your absolute best to approach marital issues respectfully.

Seek Out Mental Health Care

Divorce is stressful, but if it is getting to the point where you are having a difficult time managing your mental health, approach a professional. If you’ve been noticing a significant difference in your emotional wellbeing, please approach a counselor to talk about the divorce in a neutral, judgment-free setting.

Organize Your Finances

On top of everything else, filing for divorce is expensive. The process involves the division of finances and assets as well.  With that in mind, try to plan by having proof of income, assets, and debts ready before you even meet with your lawyer or enter the court.

File Divorce Papers

Unless your partner has already done it for you, you will need to file divorce papers to prove that you and your current spouse are officially ending the marriage. This is important for legal and financial reasons.

Reach Out to Others

Reach out to your friends and family, especially if you are having a difficult time processing the divorce. Because you have shared a significant portion of your life with this person, it can affect everyone involved. Your loved ones will want to help you, so let them support you during this difficult time.

If Children Are Involved…

The first thing that you and your partner should do is be honest with your children, no matter how old they are. They may not completely understand yet, but if you explaining what is happening is the first step to ensuring children have the resources they need to cope.

When it comes to you and your partner’s grievances with each other, keep it away from your child. Don’t put your child in the middle, and never use them as a way to get back at your partner. Remember, this is about ending the relationship with your current spouse, not their relationship with you.

Above all, let your kids know that you both love them, no matter what happens. If they express negative feelings associated with the divorce, validate them. Take accountability for moments of weakness, and allow yourself to amicably end the marriage without your children experiencing immense amounts of trauma.

Parenting can be difficult enough as it is, but add a global pandemic on top of everything, and life can get even more stressful. Children are famously resilient, but they are still people. Much like anybody, their capacity to adapt can shift, especially when consistency is no longer present. 

Resiliency means rising above hardship. The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but especially for children. When children are taken away from their usual routine, it can severely affect their overall wellbeing.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent emotional breakdowns. When it comes to children, it is important to understand what needs need to be met and what keeps them healthy. Everyone’s situation looks different, so as a caretaker, it is essential that you remain aware of what you may be missing. 

Are you currently financially insecure? Is your child having a difficult time making virtual connections? Do you have secure wifi access? These are all questions you may need to consider as you care for your child during a global pandemic. 

As you make your way through the inevitable obstacles that come with COVID-19, it is important that you not only help your child but help yourself cope with a new routine. Here are 5 things that you should do to encourage resilience in your household. 

  1. Assess If Needs are Metyou must remain

While it may be hard to evaluate your surroundings, it is required for the wellbeing of your child. Do you have dependable wifi access in your home? Are you currently unemployed? Are your children getting bored without a consistent routine? These types of internal questions may appear overbearing, but they are exactly what you should be asking.  

When you do this, you are holding yourself accountable while figuring out what your children may need to succeed. For one thing, we are not all financially secure, so if you are in a situation where you know you will need assistance, plan and see if you can receive monetary support.

When you are aware of what your family needs, you are one step ahead of the pandemic. Observing your needs and planning could prevent emotional breakdowns, disciplinary action, or mental illness. 

  1. Encourage Self-Care

While this may depend on the age of your children, see if you can implement self-care into their routine. Sit down and talk to them about the importance of taking care of their bodies emotionally, physically, and mentally. 

Keep in mind that this includes you. You may be a parent, but you are still human. Being confined to a household with other people dependent on your guidance may get overwhelming. If you are beginning to feel the effects of stress, take short walks, set aside time to meditate, or read a good book while your children are in classes. 

Above all, normalize the idea of self-care for everyone. Therapy is completely normal for all ages, so offer a safe space for your children to know how it can help them. Reach out to support groups for you and your children to stay connected with others going through similar trials. 

  1. Compassionate Caregiving

You may see a side of your children that makes you exhausted. Because they no longer have a school building or extra-curricular activity outside of a Zoom box, they may take it out on you. 

Just remember that they will do this because you are a safe space. You could be the most consistent part of their current life, so try your best to be as empathetic as possible. 

We are all human, so it’s okay if you make a few mistakes along the way. However, try your hardest to approach them with compassion, and patience.

  1. Take a Break

As mentioned previously, part of self-care is knowing when you may need to take time for yourself. For example, if you are experiencing an anxiety attack, take a few moments to ground yourself and breathe. 

Being a parent doesn’t mean you have to be superhuman, so if you need to go for a short walk or have a dance party in the living room, please do so. 

  1. Ask For Help

If you are used to doing things by yourself, try your best to allow other people to help you. Being a parent during a pandemic can feel very isolating, so it’s completely okay if you need to ask your close friend to take the kids off your hands once in a while. 

If you need computers for your children, many schools have programs ready to give them to you with little to no charge. Ask for help if you are financially insecure, or allow others to take over if you need a nanny while you work at home. 

Be Kind to Yourself

Your kids are resilient but so are you. Remember that it is okay not to be okay sometimes and that you don’t have to do everything perfectly. Take one day at a time, celebrate the little victories, and allow your family to grow through perseverance.

Depth of processing is a valuable characteristic for a sensitive person. When HSPs receive information, they take all that, although it may be daunting, places the sensitive person in touch with nature and life. It is a trait that encourages sensitive people’s ability to be visionaries and seers.

The ability to process information more thoroughly is at the root of high sensitivity. Highly sensitive people (HSP) simply absorb information, connect and equate what they find with their experience. If we decide to take the decision without understanding why, we call it intuition. The highly sensitive are strong in their intuition. Jadzia Jagiellowicz’s research found that the highly sensitive use more parts of the brain correlated with “deeper” information processing, especially on tasks involving the detection of subtleties. A study also found that HSPs have more activity in a part of the brain called the insula, a part that makes us aware of our inner states and feelings, body position, and outer events from moment to moment. This part is also called the seat of consciousness.. If we are all aware of what’s going on inside and outside, that’s exactly what one would expect.

There is also a downside: highly sensitive people may feel overwhelmed by so much information. Deep processing has a major impact on a HSP’s decision style. They often cannot move forward until they feel satisfied that they thought through all the possible calculations, consequences, and context of their decision: “What will this mean? What might that mean?” The sheer volume of questions can overwhelm them. Not only do sensitive people try to process everything they receive; they also try to view information in a more holistic point of view to develop a better understanding of the information they receive. HSPs find themselves often in the role of therapist for others in pain. They liked to be needed, and they become satisfied on how much they can help with attentive listening and empathy. It’s a means of being at the same time conscientious and productive. 

Depth of processing is an important and beneficial skill of highly sensitive people. This trait slows us down that is not always appreciated and acknowledged, but it is worth respecting.

Highly sensitive people are quickly overwhelmed by over-stimulation (including external stimulation) or have learned their lesson to escape more stressful circumstances than others do. They may notice every detail in a situation. A study by Friederike Gerstenberg compared sensitive and non-sensitive people on a task of deciding whether a T turned in different ways was hidden among many Ls turned on a computer screen in different ways. After doing the task, HSPs were faster and more precise, but also more stressed than others. If the situation involves many things to remember, becomes noisy, or is long (as in a two-hour commute), they may wear it out earlier from having to do and see so much.

Nevertheless, high sensitivity is not about being disturbed by elevated stimuli levels, although this happens naturally when too much surrounds us. Be careful not to mix being an HSP with another problematic condition: sensory discomfort can be a sign of disorder called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) due to sensory processing problems rather than having unusually good sensory processing sensitivity.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is the quality that makes a person highly sensitive (HSP). It is a genetic characteristic with which some people have from birth. The nervous system of the person is extremely sensitive to any stimulus — including external stimuli from the world and other individuals, as well as internal stimulation such as feelings and intense thinking about a situation. They pay more attention to subtle facial expressions.

An HSP, or someone with SPS, actually absorbs, or experiences more intensely, more information than the average person. SPS means you feel more deeply than other people, which can be both a blessing and difficult at times. As a result: you do things other people don’t do. Because your nervous system constantly absorbs so much information, you can get over-stimulated and exhausted, especially in high-stimulus settings. As a result, SPS is regarded as a normal, neutral feature. People with SPS are healthy HSPs. You have a slightly different experience of the world than people without that characteristic.

On the other hand, individuals with sensory processing disorder process information in a way that becomes mixed up. Being an HSP with SPS is healthy and advantageous and makes the person more unique.

HSPs have more active mirror neurons responsible for other empathy and more activity in emotionally sensitive areas than non-HSPs. HSPs feel more emotions and often absorb other people’s emotions. They exhibit intense empathy, often sensing those around them’s emotions and needs (which can cause them to slip into a “fix it” mode that can be off-putting). HSPs are considered to have a strong connection to art, music, theatre, nature, animals, stories, and books.

There is evidence that HSPs respond more to both positive and negative interactions, but a series of studies performed by Jadzia Jagiellowicz showed that HSPs responded more than non-HSPs to positive pictures. If they had a good childhood, this was even more real. Throughout her brain studies, this response to positive images was observed in “higher” areas of thinking and perception, in some of the same areas as those found in the deep-processing brain studies. The greater response to positive images strengthened even more by a successful childhood is in accordance with Michael Pluess and Jay Belsky’s new concept of “vantage responsiveness” that they have built in order to emphasize the unique potentiality to positive circumstances and treatments of sensitive people.

E is Also for Empathy

In a study by Bianca Acevedo, sensitive individuals demonstrated increased activation in the insula, but also decreased activity in their mirror neuron system, especially when looking at the happy faces of loved ones. Their brains show more engagement in areas that indicate responsiveness even more than in areas that require empathy. Overall, though, brain activity showing empathy in HSPs was higher than non-HSPs when looking at facial photos showing strong emotions of any kind. This research is important because HSPs are often considered as people-pleasers or codependents. Given their normal brain activity around happiness and sadness, they will want to comfort those around them who are depressed. Sadly, this innate instinct is not always understood, so unscrupulous people can take advantage of it. HSPs also need to be aware that their energy and energy draining situations need to be managed. So there are limitations to what can be achieved by a sensitive person. It is a wise decision often to let others solve their own problems.

An HSP goes to a party. They notice that recently something has been washed in this room– they smell a strong hint of pungent detergent that’s really disturbing, combined with the fragrance of that person’s cologne! Their pupils feel really uncomfortable with the fluorescent lights. They might find that a person gives off a standoffish vibe: maybe that person had a fight with someone. They see another person not feeling comfortable standing up. They observe that they want to sit down–they seem to be quite tired. Disappointed with some of the people in the room, an HSP may go and stand next to someone else that looks pretty friendly but not too loud. However, a non-HSP might see all the people at the party and then they may have no problem mingling and starting a conversation with a person or two.

In endless ways, from the simple pleasures of eating and tasting different food to responding strategically on the basis of our consciousness to nonverbal signals (that others have no idea they are giving off) about their current mood or reliability, an HSP’s knowledge about subtleties is useful. An HSP’s nervous system is more sensitive coming in via our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, hearing. HSPs pick up on subtle details that others miss (like little changes in our surroundings, or non-verbal cues from other people, etc.).  They are also more impacted by sensory input like strong smells, bright lights, loud noises (intense startle responses are common), itchy fabrics, hot or cold temperatures, and hunger. On the other hand, of course, when an HSP is stressed out, they may be the least mindful of anything, subtle or disgusting, except their need for a rest.

The term for high sensitivity is “sensory sensitivity processing,” when the central nervous system is more sensitive to physical, social, and emotional stimuli. Most studies about HSPs show that highly sensitive people can sense the most subtle details.HSPs process sensory information more thoughtfully rather than feeling any physical effects on their bodies. The brain areas that are more involved as experienced by sensitive people are those that make sensory information more complex. Not so much the areas that by their shape recognize alphabet letters or even read words, but the areas that capture the subtle meaning of words. 

However, many consider this sensitivity to be a gift towards enjoying the finer things in life from the sounds of birds to the first rays of morning sunlight. Rather than it being a negative, all aspects of a HSP can be considered gifts in this fast-paced world.

Setting boundaries sounds easy but it is not. You need to be self-aware to establish healthy boundaries. It’s also important to have confidence in yourself. This will help you have the strength and willpower to establish healthy boundaries in all relationships. The creation of boundaries is an integral part of your identity and a critical component of mental health and well-being. Healthy boundaries can help people to define themselves and identify what they are ready and not accountable for at any given moment. Thus, your interactions with friends and romantic partners will be more fulfilling rather than frustrating.

Here are some tips that can help you create and keep healthy boundaries:

  • Talk honestly and clearly about your thoughts and feelings. Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner or friend honestly but respectfully when needed. It is sometimes hard to understand your thoughts and feelings. It is good to ask for a while to resolve it but do not use it as a tactic to avoid an argument in the future.
  • Ask your friend or partner how they feel. Each one of you is entitled to your own thoughts and feelings, and it is the responsibility of each one to put them in words to make them understandable. Thus, your partner or friend does not have to guess in any way.
  • Be responsible for your choices. Ask yourself how your choices – deliberate or accidental – might have contributed to the situation, instead of blaming your partner or friend for what you feel or what’s going on.
  • Voice your emotions without blame. For instance, it would be far better to say something like, “I feel discouraged and saddened by what happened tonight” rather than to say, “You made me feel ugly because of how you’ve spoken about me with our friends tonight.”

Creating boundaries takes time and practice, especially when you come from a family with uncertain or less-than-desirable boundaries It can be challenging to build boundaries, but it is a must to retain your energy, live in your truth and not get lost. 

You’ll experience more joy in your relationships because you will have learned not to hold onto uncomfortable emotions and the associated dysfunctional behaviors that bring any relationship down. Speak your truth and stay centered vigorously. You can better identify where the boundaries should be in your relationships. Doing so will make the relationship deeper and healthier over the years.

Highly sensitive people are intelligent, receptive and can quickly be overwhelmed. High sensitivity is a marvelous trait, but with a few difficulties. One issue is setting boundaries.

What Are Good Boundaries?

Boundaries are solid and productive. They do not create walls, which shut people out and are not so fluid at the expense of each other. Good borders create positive reciprocity. Every person and situation are unique, and the boundaries must work for every person. Nonetheless, they include a willingness to work constructively on solving problems and a determination to see what happens in both sides. Healthy boundaries often respect all people.

3 Ways Highly Sensitive People Can Set Boundaries

1. Be More Open

We observe what others need before they say anything because of the great ability to empathize and the capability to understand subtle social signals. We may expect that others are equally aware of our needs.  But not everyone has our own gift of intuition, so it is useful to remember that we might need to approach things more directly.  Instead of hinting or suggesting something or saying “no” next time, talk openly.

2. Communicate at Your Time

It is difficult to handle everything we see and hear fully at the same pace as the non-HSPs.  Even though your colleagues and your friends expect you to respond to emails and text messages throughout the day, you must set limits to prevent it from burning out. In order to give yourself time to decompress throughout the day, you must establish boundaries for your communication with others. 

3. Agree on Your Own Terms

Boundaries doesn’t always mean “no.” If you want to respond to a request but are too fatigued or exhausted at this moment, say “yes” on your own terms. You can offer it to someone a couple of available times and/or inform someone for some quiet time to think about it. Pause before you answer your question means that your brain has time to process the request and increases the probability that your response suits your needs.

It may be hard to determine goals and prioritize as a highly sensitive person, but these disciplines of self-care is necessary to reduce fatigue, fear, and exhaustion.  Setting limits on communication to help you manage your levels of energy and communicate more deeply with the important people will make you become clearer about your desires to say “yes” to your own terms.