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A Guide to Thirt y-six C ommon Problems


for C ounselors, Pastors, a nd Youth Workers

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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. TeenagersCounseling ofUnited States. 2. Church work with teenagersUnited
States. 3. Adolescent psychologyUnited States. I. Title.
HV1431 .P37 2000
362.7'083dc21
00-023350
CIP
This edition printed on acid-free paper.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International 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 meanselectronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any
otherexcept 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
00 01 02 03 04 / DC/ 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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CONTENTS
Acknowledgments ....................................................................11
How to Use This Book ..............................................................13

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

PART ONE: EFFECTIVE HELPING


Adolescence: A Struggle for Identity ........................................17
Characteristics of Effective Helping: A Self-Inventory ..............29
The Heart of Helping ..............................................................34
Common Pitfalls in Counseling Adolescents ............................46
Legal and Ethical Issues Related to Counseling ........................51
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
Gods 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

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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
Childs Attitude Toward Father ......................................................472
Childs 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 ScheduleII ............................................................501
Generalized Contentment Scale ....................................................504
Goldfarb Fear of Fat Scale ............................................................506
Guilt Scale ....................................................................................508
Hare Self-Esteem Scale..................................................................510

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Index of Self-Esteem ....................................................................513


Intense Ambivalence Scale ............................................................515
Internal Versus External Control of Weight Scale ..........................518
Internet Addiction Test ..................................................................520
Inventory of Religious Belief ........................................................522
Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test..............................................524
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

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P A R T

O N E

Effective Helping

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1
A D O L E S C E N C E : A S T RU G G L E
FOR IDENTITY

uring World War II, Erik H. Erikson coined a phrase that stuckidentity crisis. He used it to describe the disorientation of shell-shocked soldiers 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 dynamitepuberty. 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 pursuit, it is the burning challenge of adolescence. According to Erikson, having
an identityknowing who you aregives adolescents a sense of control that
allows them to navigate through the rest of life.
Without identities, awkward adolescents carry a howm-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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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 single 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 confusion 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 adolescents 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 interactions with peers, it is still her own assessment.
The objective self is what others see when they view the adolescent. It is the person others think the teen is.
The social self is the adolescents perception of herself as she
thinks others see her. It is what she thinks she looks like to
others.
The ideal self is the adolescents concept of who she would
like to become, her ultimate goal.2
For adolescents who never achieve an integrated identity,all the worlds 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 charade, and players will never enjoy the security of personal identity or experience 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.

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Through Family Relations


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 ones 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, lettermens jackets, skateboards, guitars, stereos, and
designer clothes in hope of being identified as people who belong. Their status 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-bes
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 reputationsomething 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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tabooed pleasuresthe 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 acceptance, or even for adventure or curiosity.4 Nearly every adolescent will experiment 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 peoples 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 ones self-image by other
peoples opinions. Adolescents perceptions of themselves change, depending
on what they believe others think about them. For example, if a young person 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 identity in academics or sports. If, however, he hears that others believe it was a mistake 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
wont have any problems, that they are the best, or that they will someday be

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the greatest. Aware of their weaknesses, they feel uncomfortable with an affirmation 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 adolescents 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 dont
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 differences 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 question 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 entitled Who I Am, and another called Who I Would Like to