• Residential Treatment Center for Teens 14-17

Relationship Issues

Identifying Unhealthy Relationships and Creating Healthy Ones

Identifying Unhealthy Relationships and Creating Healthy Ones 150 150 se_admin

Creating new relationships is an important part of development in adolescence. This is a time when teens are beginning to form their own interests and identities outside of their family unit. It can be exciting, but it also comes with a new set of challenges. As teens begin to create new relationships, both with friends and romantic, they also run the risk of relationships changing or even ending. For teens who have not experienced a relationship that ends, it can feel confusing or overwhelming to figure out what comes next. When a friendship or relationship with a significant other turns bad, it can be devastating to many teens.

Identifying Unhealthy Relationships

Most adults remember their first crust or their first school dance. There is a spark of excitement around new relationships, especially during our formative years. And because everything is new and thrilling, it can be easy for teens to get swept up in a relationship. Some teen girls may find themselves forgoing their friendships to spend all their time in their new relationship. They may begin to eschew hobbies or interests they previously enjoyed, instead of trying to mold their interests to fit those of their romantic interest. 

A relationship becomes unhealthy when it involves mean, disrespectful, controlling, or abusive behavior. Some teens who have grown up in an environment where fighting or abuse was common may believe that this behavior is normal. Teens in unhealthy relationships may make excuses or misinterpret bad behavior. If a boyfriend or girlfriend is acting jealous or possessive, they may think “Oh, that just means they really like me.”. It is important for teens to understand the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and ask themselves the following questions:

Does my boyfriend/girlfriend:

  • get angry when I don’t drop everything for him or her?
  • criticize the way I look or dress, and say I’ll never be able to find anyone else who would date me?
  • keep me from seeing friends or from talking to other guys or girls?
  • want me to quit an activity, even though I love it?
  • ever raise a hand when angry, like he or she is about to hit me?
  • try to force me to go further sexually than I want to?

Encouraging Healthy Relationships

Understanding the traits of an unhealthy relationship is helpful, but it is equally as important to understand how to create a healthy relationship as well. Here are some qualities to think about for a healthy relationship:

  • Mutual respect. Respect is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Does your partner respect your boundaries? Do they listen when you say “no” or you tell them that you are uncomfortable? Respect goes both ways and means that each person understands and values the other person’s boundaries.
  • Trust. Jealousy is a natural emotion, especially for young adults who are experiencing a relationship for the first time. But it is important to pay attention to how you or your partner react when those feelings of jealousy arise. Can they recognize that emotion without being controlled by it? Do they trust that you are committed to their relationship? Without trust, you cannot have a healthy relationship.
  • Honesty. Without honesty, there can be no trust in a relationship. Can you and your partner talk openly about your concerns or needs? Do they follow through when they tell you they’ll meet you for dinner or text you later? If your partner is consistently being honest with you, it can allow you to feel more confident in the relationship. 
  • Support. It may be easy to celebrate together when good things happen, but is your partner still there for you when things go wrong? In a healthy relationship, your partner will be there for you to lean for support no matter what is happening. Sometimes, there is a fear that big disappointments or setbacks will be too much for others to handle. You may worry that your problems will make it too hard for them to love you. But a supportive partner will always be there for you, no matter what. 
  • Fairness/equality. Just like friendships in elementary school, relationships are about taking turns as well. Does one person always choose the activity or do you take turns doing something you’ll each enjoy? If a relationship turns into a power struggle with one person fighting to get their way all the time, the relationship quickly becomes unbalanced. 
  • Separate identities. In a new relationship, it is common for two people to want to spend every free moment together, and the time they aren’t physically together is spent texting or calling. Being able to make compromises is important in a relationship, but it should mean that you feel like you are losing yourself. You and your partner should both have other people, hobbies, and interests in your lives. Neither person should feel like they have to pretend to like something they don’t or be someone who they are not. Both people should feel comfortable developing new interests and friendships while they are in a relationship. 
  • Good communication. In any relationship, good communication is key. Can you talk to your partner about your fears or concerns? Do they listen when you talk to them about things that are important to you? Do you feel comfortable talking to them even when the topic is challenging? Does your partner give you the time and space you need to communicate your feelings?

Moving Past Old Relationships

Some relationships may end because they are unhealthy. Some other relationships end simply because they have run their course. People grow and change, and it is just a natural part of life that many relationships will end. But even understanding that it is normal and natural, it can sometimes be challenging to move past an old relationship. 

For some, losing a significant other because of a break-up can feel very painful. To go from seeing them and talking to them every day to having no contact may feel inconceivable. It may be hard to imagine your life without them. Because of that emotional pain, it is easy to see why fast-forwarding through those hard feelings may sound appealing. You may try to distract yourself by keeping busy with other things and people, ignoring those painful emotions. But the reality is that the end of a relationship usually requires a grieving period, where you can take some time to process what has happened. Rather than trying to suppress your feelings, allowing yourself to feel them is integral to the healing process. Know that you can always reach out to family and friends for emotional support as you go through the process. 

After a relationship ends can be the perfect time to reconnect with yourself. If you were in an unhealthy relationship, take some time for yourself before attempting to jump into a new relationship. Perhaps you found that you were losing your identity in your previous relationship, choosing to go along with what the other person wanted instead of thinking about your own needs. Taking a break can help you assess what those needs are. Reconnect with your own interests and passions. This could be engaging in activities you previously enjoyed such as cooking or hiking. This could also be joining a group where you will be surrounded by people who enjoy the same interests as you do. It can feel validating to be around like-minded people who appreciate your talents and passions. 

It can be easy to replay a relationship over and over again, remembering where things went wrong or wishing you had done something differently, but blaming yourself only brings about negative emotions and delays the healing process. Instead, try to see the relationship as a learning experience. Every relationship, if we let it, can teach us something about ourselves and give us greater clarity about what we need to be happy. Know that a relationship isn’t a failure just because it ended. If you grew as a person and learned something to move your life forward, then it served a purpose and was truly a success.

Remember that just because a relationship failed, that does not mean that every relationship will fail. Each relationship teaches us a little bit more about ourselves and what we are looking for in a partner. By practicing those traits of a healthy relationship and looking for a partner who also has those qualities, you can work to build more healthy relationships in the future. 

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

Solstice East supports a therapeutic culture where acceptance, change, and growth is recognized and embraced. Our approach employs the guidance of The Hero’s Journey and its themes, providing a foundation for our students to advance victoriously and grow closer to internal harmony. Solstice East students embark on a therapeutic journey that teaches inner growth and understanding and fosters positive relationships. Our groundbreaking approach allows our students to heal while compiling skills and practices to best serve them throughout their life journey.

For more information about how Solstice East handles social media addiction, please call 828-484-9946!

women and youth supporting each other

How to Build Up Other Girls Instead of Feeling Competitive

How to Build Up Other Girls Instead of Feeling Competitive 2560 1437 se_admin

Teenage girls have a reputation for being competitive. So much so that the terms “Queen Bee” and “mean girls” have worked their way into common vernacular. This sense of competition may stem from a variety of reasons such as issues with confidence, a feeling of scarcity around opportunities, or learned behaviors. And while this competition is often seen as a given for women, the truth is that there are ways that we can change our perspective and learn to build other girls up. 

Women Supporting Women

Pursue Your Passions: Being engaged in activities you are passionate about can help you feel more confident and connected. By exploring your interests, you begin to build a stronger self of self. And that strong self of self can help guide your moral compass when you encounter those negative competitive behaviors, whether in yourself or in others. 

Practice Empathy: Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a crucial part of understanding how our behaviors can directly affect someone else. Negative competitive behaviors often present themselves as being malicious or underhanded. When those feelings arise, you may find yourself wishing for your own success, perhaps at the cost of someone else’s. It’s important to remember that there are opportunities for everyone and that when you act on those competitive feelings, it can have a real and negative impact on others. 

Use Social Media for Good: Social media is often thought of as a negative thing where young women are flooded with messages and imaging about how they could look/act/be better. And while that can be the case, there are ways to use social media for good. You can follow accounts on social media that you find inspirational where women are lifting each other up. You can also use your own social media for good. Leave positive comments on a friend’s post describing her recent success. “Like” a co-worker’s selfie where she was feeling confident. 

Work Together: If you find yourself struggling with competitive behaviors, try putting yourself in situations where you will have to work collaboratively with other women. Perhaps it’s a sports team or joining a local group of volunteers. Notice how that when you’re working together, one person’s success means that every person is succeeding. The more you practice lifting other women up, the more it will just become a part of your automatic response. 

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East students are highly intelligent and highly sensitive. Our teens are creative and capable, but vulnerable to the pressures of their surroundings. They often experience the world differently through misperceptions and are impacted by issues of anxiety, depression, identity, attachment, mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Solstice East is committed to treating each student through a combination of individual, family, equine, and adventure therapies as well as treating and diagnosing a range of issues including (but not limited to) trauma, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors, attachment, and identity issues. For more information please call (828) 471-0221.

kids and horses

How Can Horse Therapy Improve Relationship Skills In Children

How Can Horse Therapy Improve Relationship Skills In Children 2560 1920 se_admin

For children struggling with a variety of mental health issues, from trauma to depression to addiction, research has shown that equine programs can provide substantial benefits. From horseback riding to caring for horses through equine-assisted therapy, interacting with horses can help improve overall mental health and relationships with others.

How working with horses can help girls improve other relationships in their lives

While interactions with horses have been found to help a myriad of people, they are particularly effective in helping children with special challenges such as emotional and behavioral issues. Many children with these issues have trouble trusting the adults in their lives, and those with a history of abuse can often appear aggressive or hostile toward others. For these children, a combination of cognitive therapy and working with horses has demonstrated positive results.

Working with horses can teach children about behavior regulation and leadership. As horses are prey animals, they will look for a leader to help them feel safe. Horses thrive on nonverbal communication and if they feel threatened or unsafe, they will retreat from the perceived threat. Because horses can recognize emotion, children will be able to see the immediate effect of responding positively to the horse. In this way, a horse acts as a mirror to your child’s behavior which can serve as a teachable moment for how their behavior affects others.

Another skill working with horses can teach children is intentional attention towards others and away from self. When children have to groom, feed, and take care of horses, they aren’t thinking about themselves. This shift in attention away from themselves allows them to be able to more deeply care about and for other people in an environment that is removed from the pressures of daily life.

Working with horses can also help children develop emotionally in a variety of different ways from helping them feel more secure in themselves to overcoming adverse effects of trauma. Children can gain confidence in themselves as they learn to ride a horse and be assertive in their directions and decisions. They can gain trust by learning to cooperate with and develop a bond with their animal, which can lead to trust in other relationships. This bond can also help struggling children develop empathy and affection in a low-risk environment.

If your daughter is struggling behaviorally, emotionally, or socially, she could benefit from a program with a strong equine component.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls ages 14-17 that specializes in treating teens who are highly intelligent and sensitive but vulnerable to the pressures of their surroundings. Our campus offers on-site equine therapy, an accredited academic schedule, plus world-class therapeutic programming to treat a wide range of trauma and disorders.

In equine therapy, our students learn about communication and relationships, providing a powerful mirror for students to reflect on their moods as well as verbal and nonverbal communication. For more information about how Solstice East can help, please call 828-484-9946.

how to talk to kids

How to Have the Hard Conversations With Your Kids

How to Have the Hard Conversations With Your Kids 2560 1707 se_admin

Having difficult conversations is an important part of parenting. While it may be tempting to avoid talks that you know may be uncomfortable or lead to arguments, being able to have these conversations keeps the lines of communication open in families. When we avoid tough topics, it can lead to feelings of secrecy or confusion around those issues. It is important to remember that if we do not have these conversations, our kids will look to outside influences such as the internet or friends for their education. Parents can properly educate their children by engaging in conversations, even when it is hard. 

The teenage years can be especially challenging because our teens are able to engage in media independently. They are beginning to spend more time with their peers than their family, and their priorities begin to shift. When talking to your teen, there a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Choose the Right Time: The teenage years often contain high emotions. They may feel defensive about their opinions or assume that their parents are going to belittle them. Choose a time and place where you know your teen will feel calm and comfortable. Maybe that’s going for a walk or a drive in the car. Let them know that you want to hear their opinions and that they will not be judged for what they share.
  • Be Honest: You aren’t expected to know everything. If your teen brings up a challenging question and you don’t have the answer right away, it’s OK to let them know that you’d like to do some research before you have a discussion. You can even consider researching the topic together. It’s also OK to admit that a topic is awkward and hard to explain. You can acknowledge that even though the conversation might be difficult, you still want to have it because it is important. 
  • Empathy as a Teaching Tool: Encourage your teen to think about how they might react in a challenging situation. For example, if you’re wanting to broach the topic of race and racism, ask them how they might feel if they were excluded or treated differently because of the way they look. Let them talk through the hypothetical situation and what emotions might be involved. If you’re talking to them about being anti-racist, they can explore what they might do if they witness racism in school or other aspects of their lives. 
  • Check Back In: Difficult conversations don’t just happen once. They are a series of conversations as children grow and develop. Once the lines of communication are open and your teen feels safe having those hard conversations make sure that they know they can always come to you with more questions or concerns. 

Solstice East Can Help

The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. For more information please call (828) 414-2980.