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A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers
A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems
for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers
A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers
A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers
A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers
A Guide to Thirty-six Common Problems for Counselors, Pastors, and Youth Workers

Helping the Struggling Adolescent Copyright © 2000 by Les Parrott

Requests for information should be addressed to:

ZondervanPublishingHouse

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Parrott, Les.

Helping the struggling adolescent : a guide to thirty-six common problems for counselors, pastors, and youth workers / Les Parrott III. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN: 0-310-23407-7 1. Teenagers—Counseling of—United States. 2. Church work with teenagers—United States. 3. Adolescent psychology—United States. I. Title. HV1431 .P37 2000

362.7'083—dc21

00-023350

CIP

This edition printed on acid-free paper.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New Interna- tional Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Interior design by Amy E. Langeler

Printed in the United States of America

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CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

11

How to Use This Book

13

PART ONE: EFFECTIVE HELPING

1. Adolescence:A Struggle for Identity

17

2. Characteristics of Effective Helping:A Self-Inventory

29

3. The Heart of Helping

34

4. Common Pitfalls in Counseling Adolescents

46

5. Legal and Ethical Issues Related to Counseling

51

6. Avoiding Counselor Burnout:A Survival Kit

61

PART TWO:THE STRUGGLES OF ADOLESCENTS

Abuse

71

Anger

82

Anxiety

94

Cohabitation

107

Depression

116

Drugs and Alcohol

124

Eating Disorders 138

Forgiveness

156

God’s Will

164

Grief

172

Guilt

184

Homosexuality 195

Inferiority

208

Internet and Computer Game Addiction

221

Loneliness

230

Masturbation

241

Obesity

250

Obsessions and Compulsions

263

Overactivity and Work Stress

273

Panic Attacks

279

Parental Divorce 291

Parents

300

Peer Pressure

313

Phobias

321

Pornography

331

Promiscuity and Premarital Sex

341

Rage,Violence, and Gunfire

353

Schizophrenia

363

Schoolwork

377

Shyness

387

Siblings

398

Sleep Disturbance

407

Spiritual Doubt

417

Stuttering 425 Suicide 430 Victims of Violence 440

PART THREE: RAPID ASSESSMENT TOOLS

Using and Interpreting Rapid Assessment Tools

449

Anger Situations Form

451

Are You Dying to Be Thin?

453

Attitudes Toward Cohabitation Questionnaire

457

Bulimia Test

461

Checklist for Making a Major Decision

469

Child’s Attitude Toward Father

472

Child’s Attitude Toward Mother

474

Clinical Anxiety Scale

476

Cognitive Slippage Scale

478

Compulsive Eating Scale

481

Compulsiveness Inventory

484

Concern Over Weight and Dieting Scale

486

Dysfunctional Attitude Scale 490

Eating Attitudes Test

493

Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale

496

Fear Questionnaire

499

Fear Survey Schedule—II

501

Generalized Contentment Scale

504

Goldfarb Fear of Fat Scale

506

Guilt Scale

508

Hare Self-Esteem Scale

510

Index of Self-Esteem

513

Intense Ambivalence Scale

515

Internal Versus External Control of Weight Scale

518

Internet Addiction Test 520

522

Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test 524

Inventory of Religious Belief

Mobility Inventory for Agoraphobia

527

Novaco Anger Scale

529

Obsessive-Compulsive Scale

533

Reasons for Living Inventory

535

Restraint Scale

537

Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale

539

Self-Efficacy Scale

541

Self-Rating Anxiety Scale 545

Self-Rating Depression Scale

547

Skills for Classroom Success Checklist

549

Skills for Study Success Checklist

551

Stanford Shyness Survey

553

State-Trait Anger Scale 561

Stressors Rating Scale

564

Teen Alert Questionnaire

567

Tough Turf Peer Pressure Quiz

570

List of Rapid Assessment Instruments Cross-referenced by Problem Area

573

Biblical Guidance for Struggling Adolescents

576

Helpful Web Sites

585

Index

591

PART

ONE

Effective Helping

1

ADOLESCENCE: A STRUGGLE FOR IDENTITY

D uring World War II, Erik H. Erikson coined a phrase that stuck—iden- tity crisis. He used it to describe the disorientation of shell-shocked sol-

diers who could not remember their names. Through the years, this phrase has become a useful tool to describe the struggle of growing up. Achieving a sense of identity is the major developmental task of teenagers. Like a stunned soldier in a state of confusion, sooner or later, young people are hit with a bomb that is more powerful than dynamite—puberty. Somewhere between childhood and maturity their bodies kick into overdrive and fuel changes at an alarming rate. With this acceleration of physical and emotional growth,they become strangers to themselves. Under attack by an arsenal of fiery hormones, the bewildered young person begins to ask, “Who am I?” While achievement of a meaningful answer to this question is a lifelong pur- suit, it is the burning challenge of adolescence. According to Erikson, having an identity—knowing who you are—gives adolescents a sense of control that allows them to navigate through the rest of life. Without identities, awkward adolescents carry a “how’m-I-doing?” attitude that is always focused on their concern about impressions they are making on others.Without self-identities they will be or do whatever they think others want. They will flounder from one way of acting to another,never able to step outside of a preoccupation with their own performance and genuinely ask others,“How are you doing?” Erikson calls this miserable state “identity diffusion.” 1

The successful formation of self-identity follows a typical pattern. Teens identify with people they admire. Whether in real life or through magazines

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Helping the Struggling Adolescent

and TV, they emulate the characteristics of people they want to be like. By the end of adolescence,if all goes as it should,these identifications merge into a sin- gle identity that incorporates and alters previous identifications to make a unique and coherent whole. The quest for identity is scary. Somewhere between twelve and twenty years of age, adolescents are forced to choose once and for all what their identity is to be. It is a formidable task. Uncertain which of their mixed emotions are really their true feelings, they are pushed to make up their minds. Their con- fusion is complicated further when they begin to guess what others, whose opinions they care about, want them to be.

Four Fundamental Views of the Self

• The subjective self is the adolescent’s private view of who she sees herself to be. Although this self-view has been heavily influenced by parents and has been hammered out in inter- actions with peers, it is still her own assessment.

• The objective self is what others see when they view the ado- lescent. It is the person others think the teen is.

• The social self is the adolescent’s perception of herself as she thinks others see her. It is what she thinks she looks like to others.

• The ideal self is the adolescent’s concept of who she would like to become, her ultimate goal. 2

For adolescents who never achieve an integrated identity,“all the world’s a stage.” In their adult years they will play the part of human beings who change roles to please whoever happens to be watching. Their clothes, their language, their thoughts, and their feelings are all a part of the script. Their purpose will be to receive approval from those they hope to impress. Life will become a cha- rade, and players will never enjoy the security of personal identity or experi- ence the strength that comes from a sense of self-worth.

HOW ADOLESCENTS SEARCH FOR IDENTITY

Young people look for identity in uncounted ways. In this section, seven common paths are examined: family relations, status symbols, “grown-up” behavior, rebellion, others’ opinions, idols, and cliquish exclusion.

Adolescence:A Struggle For Identity

Through Family Relations

19

Adolescents’families have significant impact on identity formation. To assert individuality and move out of childhood, teenagers will wean themselves from their protecting parents. But individuality may also be found in reaction to the identities of one’s brothers and sisters. If the first child,for example,decides to be a serious intellectual, the second may seek individuality in becoming a jokester. Seeing these places already taken, the third child may choose to be an athlete. In some cases, when young people feel they possess no distinctive talents, they may rebel by separating themselves from the “white sheep.”They may become delinquents or prodigals and gain identity by causing trouble.

Through Status Symbols

Adolescents try to establish themselves as individuals through prestige. They seek out behavior or possessions that are readily observable. They purchase sports cars, hairstyles, lettermen’s jackets, skateboards, guitars, stereos, and designer clothes in hope of being identified as people who belong. Their sta- tus symbols help teens form self-identity because they themselves have what others in their group have:“the jocks,”“the brains,”“the Ravers,”“the Straight Edgers,” “the White Caps,” “the Motherheads,” “the Ram-Rams,” or “the Goths.” Owning status symbols, however, is not enough to achieve identity. Adolescents quickly recognize a struggling teen who is attempting to carve out an identity by buying the right symbols. In fact, they enjoy detecting these imposters and reinforcing their own identities by labeling them as “wanna-be’s” or “posers.” To be authentic, appropriate behavior must accompany the status symbol.

A “party girl,”for example,must not only wear the right clothes,have the right

hairstyle,and buy the right music,she must do the things a party girl does. Soon

the behavior will earn the adolescent a reputation—something she must live

up to if she is to maintain her identity,and something she must live down if she

is to change it.

Through “Grown-Up” Behavior

Adolescents have a strong desire to be like adults. The more mature they appear,the more recognition they receive and the closer they get to feeling that they have achieved identity. Because real maturity is not always visible, young people often resort to behavior that is symbolic of adults. They engage in

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Helping the Struggling Adolescent

tabooed pleasures—the things parents, preachers, and teachers say they are too young to do. The most common of these tabooed pleasures are smoking,drinking,drugs, and premarital sex. By the time adolescents reach high school, smoking is a widespread practice. Drinking has become a status symbol for girls as well as for boys, often beginning in the junior high school years. As with drinking, doing drugs usually begins as a group activity. Recent statistics on the number of sexually active adolescents are staggering. 3 Teens engage in these behaviors to gain independence from family restrictions, to increase their social accept- ance, or even for adventure or curiosity. 4 Nearly every adolescent will experi- ment with these “adult” behaviors at some point, but certain adolescents will struggle intensely in these areas. Their problems are addressed more specifically in other sections of this book.

Through Rebellion

Rebellion is a logical consequence of young people’s attempts to resolve incongruent ideas and find authentic identity. Rebellion results from a desire to be unique while still maintaining the security of sameness. “But,Dad,I gotta be a nonconformist,”the teenager said to his father. “How else can I be like the other kids?” A rebellious attitude is frequently accompanied by an idealism that prompts adolescents to reject the values of family,school,society,and church. However, their oversimplified and unrealistic ideals are often eventually found to be impractical and rarely held for any significant duration.

Through Others’ Opinions

Essential to identity formation is the validation of one’s self-image by other people’s opinions. Adolescents’ perceptions of themselves change, depending on what they believe others think about them. For example, if a young per- son sees himself as a talented actor but is not offered the lead role in the school play, his identity as an actor may be weakened and he may try to find his iden- tity in academics or sports. If,however,he hears that others believe it was a mis- take not to cast him as the lead, his identity may be maintained. Adolescents do not always fall in line with what others think of them. On the contrary. Because adolescent identity is shaped by their perception of how others see them,they may change in order to contradict their perceptions,even if those perceptions are positive. It may be harmful to tell young people they won’t have any problems, that they are the best, or that they will someday be

Adolescence:A Struggle For Identity

21

the greatest. Aware of their weaknesses, they feel uncomfortable with an affir- mation that leaves no room for error. They will go out of their way to prove parents and counselors wrong and to relieve themselves of the burden of being perfect. For some, relief will come only in identifying with what they are least supposed to be, not in being something that is unattainable. 5

Through Idols

Especially in their early years, adolescents will often overidentify with famous people to the point of apparent loss of their own individuality. In our star-conscious society, literally thousands of rock stars, professional athletes, movie actors, and television personalities are available for teenagers to idolize. Celebrities become “models” because adolescents are looking for a way to experiment with different roles. In their search for identity they latch onto notable personalities in order to explore different aspects of themselves. Idols allow them to test out new behavior and attitudes before incorporating them into their own identity. Idolizing celebrities does not necessarily mean that ado- lescents endorse idols’ lifestyles or values.

Through Cliquish Exclusion

In their search for identity, adolescents may become remarkably intolerant and even cruel as they exclude others on the basis of minor aspects such as dress. They persistently try to define, overdefine, and redefine themselves in relation to others. If they see something in peers that reminds them of what they don’t want to be, they will scorn and avoid those people and feel not an ounce of remorse. Teens strengthen their sense of self through ruthless comparisons and persistent exclusions. Erikson sees the cliquishness of adolescence and its intolerance of differ- ences as a defense against identity confusion. 6 Usually in late teens adolescents realize that it takes a well-established identity to tolerate radical differences.

Helping Adolescents in Their Quest for Identity

• At the top of a sheet of paper ask teens to write the ques- tion “Who am I?” and then quickly to write twenty answers to the question. Analyze the answers and discuss the process as well as the content. Did the teens self-censor any responses?

• Using old magazines, ask them to create collages, one enti- tled “Who I Am,” and another called “Who I Would Like to