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By Teresa Mercer, LCSW, LCAC – Feb. 18, 2020

At some point most of us have probably lost some or all of our self-control. It may have involved our emotions, shopping, eating, or even something as simple as the urge to pop bubble wrap lying around.

Losing self-control can create a lot of problems with relationships, the legal system, the workplace, health, the school system, etc. While many of us learn from these experiences, there are some who will continue to have problems.

Think about how you learned self-control. Was it modeled from your home environment, social environment, or did you just instinctively know how to obtain and maintain self-control? It’s probably a combination of all three.

This fast-paced world and its ever-changing technology raises the concern that our youth are growing up with too many conveniences and instant gratification. This leads to lack of self-control. As a school social worker, I have talked with many young people over the years that can’t manage their emotions appropriately when they do not have their cell phone or get their game systems taken away.

Self-control is required in many aspects of life. It can also be achieved through various techniques.

Of course the first way to teach children self-control is to model it. Children of any age are watching and learning from us all the time, so self-awareness and regulating your emotions and behaviors is important.

Engage in activities that require a lot of patience and determination. Think about trying yoga or meditation. Both encompass the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental self. Mindfulness techniques also teach self-control. You can practice mindfulness just about anywhere at any time, by yourself or with someone else.

Mindfulness practice involves paying attention to and focusing on the present moment – and only the activity of the present moment, such as your breathing. This can be practiced at work or in the classroom.

Some games that promote self-control are the blinking game and charades. You probably remember the blinking game from childhood.  Sit across from your child and stare into each other’s eyes. The first one to blink loses the game.

People of all ages are tempted at times to do things they are specifically instructed not to do. Charades is another game to play. The person who is doing the acting out of the word must stay in control and not blurt out the word. It’s hard to keep quiet and not get frustrated when the other players are not guessing the correct word, especially for a child/young person. This is a great way to practice self-control. Children can also learn controlled breathing by blowing bubbles slowly.

Finally, learning effective ways to manage anger and other low moods is beneficial to everyone. Teaching children to express their feelings, listening to them, being non-judgmental and respecting their feelings only increases their skills in self-control.

Remember, it’s important to model the behavior you want from your child. You can only encourage and develop effective self-control skills in your child if you are demonstrating the same skills.

Teresa Mercer, LCSW, LCAC – April 23, 2019

Upholding Values in Today’s Society
By Teresa Mercer, Youth First, Inc.

I have worked with people of all ages, and that has given me the unique experience of learning about the different value systems of many people. It has been very interesting to listen to every person’s story and what is important in their life, whether they are 6 or 60 years old.

Values reflect our sense of right and wrong. They help us grow and develop. They help us create the future we want. The decisions we make every day are a reflection of our values.

We learn most of our values from our parents and extended families. Our family values stem from our social and cultural values. Sometimes new life experiences may change values we previously held.

Individual values reflect how we live our life and what we consider important for our own self-interests. Individual values include enthusiasm, creativity, humility and personal fulfillment.

Relationship values reflect how we relate to other people in our life, such as friends, family, teachers, managers, etc. Relationship values include openness, trust, generosity and caring.

Social values reflect how we relate to society. Social values include justice, freedom, respect, community, and responsibility.

In today’s world, it may seem our society doesn’t practice many values. We have a rise in discrimination, abuse of power, greed, etc. What are we leaving behind for our future generations? Maybe it’s time society takes a hard look at its values.

Here are some things I feel our society needs more of:

  • Empathy – Empathy is defined as understanding and sharing the feelings of another. People need to understand who others are and accept who they are.  Focusing on how we can grow together should be our ultimate goal.
  • Respect – Mutual respect is needed for all of us. This is what makes us human. Having respect for everyone, despite the differences between us, is vital in order for a society to function well.
  • Love – Having love in our hearts keeps us from feeling the need to harm others. Love helps us acknowledge the similarities we all share rather than the differences of color, religion or sexual orientation.
  • Loyalty – Loyalty is a value that binds us to a person, thing or sentiment. With loyalty, we do not betray. If we all shared loyalty, it would help us build the strength needed to stand up against something that would harm our society.
  • Honesty – One form of honesty in society is accepting yourself. With honesty, you can admit your flaws and take the necessary steps to improve yourself. When we can admit to our flaws it can help someone else admit theirs. Ultimately, we can all help each other become better people.

Values can be contagious; if you practice them, many others will also, including our children. Hopefully more practice from all of us will leave the world a better place for future generations.

This column is written by Teresa Mercer, LCSW, LCAC, school social worker for Youth First, Inc., a local nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 55 Master’s level social workers to 76 schools in 10 Indiana counties. Over 38,000 youth and families per year have access to Youth First’s school social work and afterschool programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success.

By Teresa Mercer, LCSW, LCAC, January 2, 2018 –

As a social worker and therapist, I have the pleasure working with teens.  I have worked in a variety of settings with them:  inpatient, outpatient, substance abuse treatment, in-home therapy and currently a school setting.

Although they all have their own unique personalities and styles, teens are all similar in several ways.  They all experience moods but are not always sure how to express their feelings. They are all attempting to figure out life and how they might fit in.

They all seem to fight for their independence while sometimes rebelling against our suggestions and advice.  They all want to feel safe, loved and needed.  They all want to be heard, even if we don’t agree.  They all want to be respected.

Through my years in working with them, I’ve heard the same concerns from many of them.  It doesn’t matter where they live, which school they attend, their socio-economic status, their grades, etc.  Most have expressed they do not feel understood by their parents, guardians, or most adults in general.

They complain that they are treated like children.  They are upset that some adults think they are irresponsible and not “ready for the real world.”  They are tired of having their ideas and thoughts not heard or appreciated, and yet they are expected to be responsible.

Now I do know adolescents can be challenging. Some of the things they choose to do are beyond words.  Many times while talking with them I ask them to explain their thought process, because I really need to understand what made them choose to do or NOT do something!

However, they are still a fascinating population to work with and I love every day I am with them.

I decided to collect responses from a number of teens.  My intention is to let adults know that our youth do give some thought to their decisions, they are aware of what’s important and they are capable of making good choices.

But most importantly, the group in this survey wants us to understand some things about them.

Below are the 3 questions I asked and a sampling of their answers.

  1. What are one or two things you would really like for your parents/guardians or other adults to understand about you?
  • School is stressful and they really do try their best.
  • They have busy schedules with sports, other activities and school.
  • Talk with them and listen to them instead of lecturing and/or yelling.
  • Sometimes expectations are overwhelming. Please be understanding when they can’t meet all the expectations.
  • Sometimes what they want for their life is different from what their parents want for them.
  • School and friends are important to them.
  • Pay more attention to their sad moods.
  • Understand they need privacy and time to themselves.
  • Realize they get just as stressed out as adults do.
  • They are capable of making good decisions.
  • Don’t compare them to siblings.

 

  1. What is one thing you would like to see different in the United States, such as what would make our lives better (this includes everyone, not just you or your family) or make the country better?
  • Teens overwhelming said more kindness, acceptance, tolerance and understanding of people (too much hatred in the world).

 

  1. What is one thing your family can start or stop doing that would improve family connectedness? If your family is already doing things that are going well, please share.
  • Eating a meal together
  • More activities/outings
  • Less arguing
  • More talking things out
  • Having less electronics at the table when eating

Whether or not you live with a teenager, I hope this brings some understanding.  Sometimes we can get so busy with life that we don’t acknowledge teens for “being teens” with ideas, perspectives, thoughts and feelings.

addiction-recovery

By Teresa Mercer, Courier & Press, Feb. 2, 2016 –

If you are a parent, grandparent or guardian, you know that raising a child can bring challenges, struggles and fear of the unknown.

There will also be good times, however. Children of any age can bring many happy and proud moments. Many will reach milestones such as completing kindergarten, finishing junior high and graduating from high school. Attending dances or proms, getting a driver’s license, entering the workforce and going off to college will be other new experiences for many.

There are many things for a parent to worry about. You may wonder how your child will perform in school, whether they will struggle socially, if they will experiment with drugs or alcohol or if they will experience issues such as depression, anxiety, etc.

Today’s world has changed. Social media, the Internet, movies, games and music create opportunities and the need for immediate gratification among our youth. They are exposed to and familiar with drugs and alcohol like never before.

As a school social worker, many times I have listened to parents say, “I raised and taught my child well. I only hope they take these things with them.”

All parents want the best for their children. They try to provide love, guidance, nurturing, morals, beliefs and values. But still many young people will make the decision to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and there will be some who are on the road to addiction.

Addiction within a family is a challenge, especially for the parent. Many times they will blame themselves. The “what if’s,” “should haves” and “could haves” can really take a toll, but no parent wants to give up on their child.

Leah Davis, M.Ed., outlines some ways to help prevent your child from becoming involved in drugs and alcohol:

1. Don’t give in to their demands. Just because they want something doesn’t mean you should get it every time. Don’t give in to their tantrums.

2. Don’t always rescue them from the consequences of their negative behavior. Don’t allow them to make excuses or blame others for their poor decisions or choices.

3. Don’t model poor principles such as lying and cheating.

4. Show affection to your child. Kids of all ages need hugs and time together. Don’t you? They also need to know it is ok to express their feelings. Let them build self-esteem by experiencing interaction with others through sports, clubs, etc.

5. Don’t focus on the negatives or weaknesses of their personality or habits. Praise them as much as you can. Take an interest in their ideas and accomplishments.

6. Rather than passing judgment, show them forgiveness, understanding, patience and love when they make poor choices or decisions. Let them know you make mistakes too. Turn a mistake into a learning opportunity.

7. Don’t demand perfection, but don’t be afraid to set rules and expectations. Let them know their ideas and questions are respected by giving them the opportunity to talk while you listen. Acknowledge their need for independence, but let them know you have to set rules.

8. Don’t be unpredictable. Have consistent routines in the home such as eating dinner together. Be consistent with your reactions to behaviors. If it’s not OK today, it’s not OK tomorrow.

9. Don’t be uninformed about drug and alcohol use. Discuss your attitudes and beliefs.

10. Don’t ignore your own value as a human being. It’s important for you to model good behaviors and healthy ways to cope and communicate. Avoid resentments and negativity that can lead to self-destructive behavior.

Remember, it’s never too late to intervene with someone struggling with an addiction. Seek professional help or reach out to your child’s Youth First school social worker. But it’s equally important to be proactive with behaviors, ideas and actions that can start at home.