Tag Archive for: Ashley Hale

By Ashley Hale, LCSW

“Nobody likes me.”  “I hate school.” “Something is wrong with me.”  “I don’t care about anything.”

As a school social worker, these are common sentiments I hear when talking with students. I think it is safe to say we all sometimes struggle with negative thoughts, but these thoughts are becoming more prevalent in our homes and schools, especially with teens. 

The teen years can be difficult, as a lot of changes, new responsibilities, and expectations emerge. Helping our teens navigate these changes and emotions is challenging, but vital.   

How can we positively influence how teens feel about themselves without so much pushback? It’s important to understand that teens desire privacy, space, and independence as a normal part of their development. This makes it more challenging for parents and caregivers to get them to open up to have genuine conversations. 

Here are some tips to help facilitate meaningful conversations with your teen and promote a positive self-image:

  1. Be authentic. Teens can detect when someone is not being authentic, and this is the key to creating the respect and rapport necessary to build a positive relationship. I highly encourage you to learn about the teenage brain. This will help you gain insight into their thought processes and empathize with their experiences.  
  1. Let them know you care by listening. Sometimes we worry so much about what we are going to say that we forget to open our ears. Listen to your teen while also showing positive regard. Be present in conversations and follow through with your commitments. Put your phone down, nod, and make eye contact. Most teens are more likely to share when they feel less pressure for details and are more in control of the conversation. Watch their mood and body language. Verbalize that you can see this is a hard situation for them. Let them know they don’t have to explain everything right now, but you are there for them when they’re ready. Tell them you love them and show physical affection with hugs if they are okay with that.  
  1. Ask them what they need. Most often, teens don’t want a lecture, they want to be heard. Active listening will open the door. Ask them regularly about their day with specific questions that you change up. Examples: “What was the hardest part of your day?” “What is your favorite class right now and why?” Point out specific skills and strengths. Focus more on providing praise than criticism.  
  1. Don’t avoid the hard conversations. Conversations about sexual health, gender, relationships, consent, drugs and alcohol, and other challenging conversations are hard, but they are essential.  
  1. Take a deep breath before you respond. It’s not uncommon for the things teens share with you to trigger worry, anxiety, and the desire to fix it for them. This often causes us to over respond. Responding with a lecture is likely to shut the conversation down. Note your internal thoughts, take a deep breath, and think about what you needed when you were their age. It is okay to say something like, “I love you. I don’t quite understand this right now, but we can figure it out together. What can I do to help right now?”

Remember, teens will make mistakes. It’s how they learn. Talking to teens can be challenging and takes a lot of patience, but it is worth the effort. You will build a strong rapport and will help them create a positive self-image during the process.  

By Ashley Hale, LCSW – May 25, 2022 –

Most parents have experienced a time where their child fell and hit their head. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether you should take them to the emergency room for an evaluation.

How do you know if your child has a serious head injury? Let’s take a look at what can happen as the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Psychiatric symptoms and disorders are frequent after a traumatic brain injury. A TBI is usually the result of a violent blow or jolt to the head. A mild TBI can affect your brain cells temporarily. A more serious TBI can result in long-term complications.

Although there are many ways to acquire a TBI, the most common ways are falls, vehicle collisions, violence, sports injuries, and explosive blasts. Sports injuries are particularly common in youth. TBI can cause physical symptoms, sensory symptoms, and cognitive/behavioral/mental symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, traumatic brain injuries have wide-ranging psychological effects. Some of the signs and symptoms may appear immediately, while others can emerge days or weeks later. 

Common TBI symptoms are listed below.

  1. Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  2. Feeling dazed, confused, or disoriented
  3. Memory or concentration problems
  4. Mood changes or swings
  5. Feeling depressed or anxious
  6. Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  7. Thoughts of suicide
  8. Agitation, combativeness, or other unusual behavior

Infant and young children’s symptoms are harder to communicate but may present in the following ways.

  • Change in eating or nursing habits
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

A brain injury can change the way people are able to feel or express their emotions. Some may begin to experience emotions more intensely. Some describe the experience as an “emotional rollercoaster.”

Why does this happen? Mood swings are often caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior. Often there is no specific trigger, which can be confusing for the patient and family. In some cases, you may see sudden episodes of crying or laughing, and usually the emotional expression does not match the situation.

I have seen students with TBI become very anxious, lack focus, and appear unorganized. I have also seen students who displayed no psychiatric symptoms prior to their TBI verbalize suicidal thoughts.  

Always seek emergency medical care if you or your child has received a head injury. Fortunately, mild concussion symptoms often improve after the first few months. It’s important to speak with a doctor if you are having problems controlling emotions after a TBI.

Counseling can be reassuring and allow the patient and family to cope better daily.  There are also medications that can help improve or stabilize moods. Family members can help by trying to remain calm during emotional outbursts rather than reacting negatively. Acknowledge their feelings and give them a chance to safely share them. Take them to a quiet place to help them regain control or gently redirect them. 

By Ashley Hale, January 23, 2018 –

I am a big believer that taking part in organized activities can instill principles and life lessons that kids will utilize in their teen years and beyond.

Most of my childhood memories revolve around sports.  From ages 5-18 sports were such a huge part of my life.  I loved competing.

At age 15 a huge curveball was thrown, curtailing my sports career.  I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and was told I had to stop participating in everything but basketball.

I pushed through basketball for another 2 years until I had to stop because my body was giving out.  Saying I was devastated is an understatement.  I knew playing sports was very important to me, but I never realized just how important until the opportunity to play was taken away.

It took two whole weeks to gather myself enough to sit down with my coaches and deliver the news.  I was sure I would walk out of the room totally devastated, but to my surprise I didn’t.

I still remember the exact words my coach said:  “Ashley I’ve watched you give 150 percent since all of this started.  It kills me that you can’t play anymore, but you know the game so well and we’d love for you to stay with us to be another eye and help with coaching and stats.”  I was speechless.

That changed my perspective completely.  I immediately realized that just because things don’t exactly go our way doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it.  There are so many valuable lessons I learned about life and about myself that I gained from participating in organized activities.

  • The value of hard work – I had to work hard to achieve my goals and reach my potential. You can’t snap your fingers and be the person you want to be.  You have to set goals, put in effort, and be consistent.
  • Teamwork – For a team to be successful we had to work together. If a piece of the puzzle was missing, things were out of whack.  We had to figure out how to make them fit together to reach our common goals.  What may be out of reach for one individual can often be accomplished through teamwork.
  • Discipline equals success – It’s a lesson you learn quickly in organized sports; you get out what you put in. If you want the joy of victory you must put in what it takes to improve and excel.
  • Overcoming adversity – Life sometimes isn’t fair and obstacles arise. Through organized sports I learned to sit back, review a situation, make appropriate changes and try again.  The feeling of accomplishment after a setback provides the same high as the adrenaline rush right before a jump ball in a basketball game.

The greatest thing I learned is that although sometimes we lose the things we love most, with support and determination we can make it through. Medical issues took me out of the game but they didn’t take me out of the amazing friendships, bonds, and lessons years of participating in organized activities gave me.

In fact, if it wasn’t for key influences from coaches, teammates, my parents and friends, I know I would have had a much larger mountain to climb.