Helping Teens and Families Live Happier Lives

teenage girl hunches over and cries with the title "sad and overwhelmed"
teenage boy smoking a joint with the title "unmotivated and disinterested"
teenage girl perfectionist looks insecure and holds sign reading "me 4 class prez."
teenage girl in despair about dropped notebook "overcome by trauma.'
angry teenage boy in baseball cap with title "angry and belligerent."
boy in hoodie using tablet: "shy and withdrawn."

Helping Teens and Families Live Happier Lives

teenage girl hunches over and cries with the title "sad and overwhelmed"
teenage boy smoking a joint with the title "unmotivated and disinterested"
teenage girl in despair about dropped notebook "overcome by trauma.'
angry teenage boy in baseball cap with title "angry and belligerent."
teenage girl perfectionist looks insecure and holds sign reading "me 4 class prez."
boy in hoodie using tablet: "shy and withdrawn."

Helping Teens and Families Live Happier Lives

teenage girl hunches over and cries with the title "sad and overwhelmed"
teenage boy smoking a joint with the title "unmotivated and disinterested"
teenage girl in despair about dropped notebook "overcome by trauma.'
angry teenage boy in baseball cap with title "angry and belligerent."
teenage girl perfectionist looks insecure and holds sign reading "me 4 class prez."
boy in hoodie using tablet: "shy and withdrawn."

Helping Teens and Families Live Happier Lives


How do you talk to your middle school tweenager about heavy topics like suicide? Well, let's
talk about that today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and
family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families to live happier lives.
I lead two organizations, Teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501c3 organization, child
and teen counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump
onto Facebook Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's answer today's. There have been
several reported runaways and suicide attempts at our middle school this semester. How should
I be talking to my kids about this without freaking them or me out? Thank you for your question.
This is a really tough one. I totally understand the discomfort and the fear aligned with all
this. How you talk about it, the first thing is make sure that you are feeling grounded and comfortable
or at least able to embrace the discomfort of the conversation.


Because if you're scared of it, and you're hesitant, your kids are going to pick up on that. And
they're going to be just as hesitant, if not more. So it's really important that you're doing
your work on yourself, whether that's through journaling, talking to your own therapist or
whatever that is, make sure you feel you can talk about this in a direct and respectful manner.
Second, let's create an environment where there's little to no distraction where you guys
can talk. Maybe that's in the car, maybe that's in her bedroom or in the kitchen table. And again,
that is without a cell phone present. I know that's a challenge, but that's, you know, the cell
phone just going to get in the way. Third is just talk about a directly with some compassion.
You know, you can say, Hey, I know, there's been a lot of, you know, suicide attempts at school
lately. And I imagine it's got to be kind of tough. I'm curious how you're feeling about it. Now,
you may get the you know, don't let that throw you.

It's okay. Stay in the conversation and say, Well, if I were you, I would have a lot of feelings.
And I just want you to know that I want to be a safe place for you to talk about that. And you may still
get the shrugging of shoulders and say, Hey, you know, I just want to make sure you're feeling
safe and you don't feel alone because a lot of times suicide or running away comes from the same
place of feeling trapped, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like you don't know what to do. And
so it feels like, you know, it's the cliche line. It's the permanent solution to a temporary
problem. Some kids relate to that. Some kids won't, it just depends. But I want to make sure you
don't feel trapped. And I'm wondering, have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt like you
need to kill yourself or run away to escape your problems? Right now, I know the alarm bells in
your head are ringing, like, I can't say that. I'm gonna give them the idea, and you're not. You're
not. If they haven't thought about

it, they're likely to say, no, and roll the eyes, and you can probably take them at their word.
If you ask the question, hey, have you thought about suicide before, or running away, and you
get the long pause, or you just get the hmm there may be something more there and I think it's okay
to acknowledge that hey you know your long pause or your ambiguous answer you know makes me concerned
because I love you so much I want to make sure that you don't feel alone and you don't feel trapped
and if you can't talk to me I want to make sure you have someone to talk to whether that's your cousin
whether that's a therapist whether that's your rabbi whoever that is someone who can be a support
for your teenager and or teenager. And if you need to find that person, I encourage you to find
that person. But it's talking about, you know, coping skills that you know, through creativity,
through physical activities, social activities, grounding exercises, exercises like breathing
exercises, there's a lot

of things that help, but helping them understand that being alone with these feelings is overwhelming.
Sharing these feelings in a safe place where you're not going to feel judged, where you're going
to feel supported, not necessarily that you're going to give the answers, just that you can
just listen and understand may be enough. And I think it's helping to create those environments
and helping them understand that those environments are there. Also providing the 988, the
National Suicide Hotline. So if they have, you know, three in the morning they can't sleep and
they don't want to wake you up, but they're willing to call 988, that's an option too. It's a big
topic. Again, running away and suicide, painting with a broad brush here, often come from the
same place of feeling overwhelmed, feeling like these problems are beyond one's capacity
to handle and it'll never end. As adults, we know, most of us, that problems come and go. And no
matter how big the problem is, eventually it passes.

And it depends not, the problem is not what defines us, it's how we respond to the problem. and
helping our kids understand how we respond to problems is what defines us, who we are, not the
problem itself. This is a huge topic, obviously, and I'm going to scratch the surface a little
bit, but I think it's really important to talk about kids directly about this in an open and healthy
conversation, not trying to convince them, not trying to change their minds, but help them
understand that you understand how they feel. That's our question for today. Again, my name
is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center. If you want more information, give us a call at our
phone number below. We love to hear your questions. If you want me to answer your question here
on Tips on Teens, you can email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com. You can also join
our Facebook group, Tips on Teens. We'd love to have you join. Thanks again, and I'll see you
guys next week. Bye -bye.

Welcome to Teen Therapy Center!

The mission of Teen Therapy Center is to help children, teens and families live happier lives. We’re good at it too! We speak both “teen” and “parent” which helps us break down barriers to communication. Our staff is a group of fun loving professionals from a variety of backgrounds. You can meet them here.

Teen Therapy Center offers individual, family and group therapy. We’re happy to offer a free consultation to see if we’re the right fit for you. If not, we can still help guide you to the support you need. Get in touch at (818) 697-8555, we’d love to hear from you!

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Teen Therapy Center is offering virtual therapy through platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, or via phone call. Whether you attend session in-person or from home, our therapists remain committed to providing a high level of care, compassion, and support for you and your family.

Online and Phone Sessions Available!

Teen Therapy Center is offering virtual therapy through platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, or via phone call. Whether you attend session in-person or from home, our therapists remain committed to providing a high level of care, compassion, and support for you and your family.

Our Latest "Tips on Teens" Video

Tips on Teens is our weekly segment on Facebook Live where Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions. We cover a wide range of topics affecting teens and their families. We’ve archived all the videos right here on the site. 

Click below to search our library of Tips on Teens videos for answers to your questions. As always, we love to hear your questions. Send them to us here.


Welcome to Tips on Teens. Let's jump right into today's submitted parent question. Hi. Hello.
I have a 10 -year -old son and I'm newly remarried. I don't get along with my ex -husband one bit.
We agree on exactly nothing, but we share custody 50 -50. My new husband tries really hard to
be nice to my son and to bond with him, but when my son doesn't respond, he gets frustrated and
impatient. I feel like I'm stuck in the middle and I hate the tension. Any advice for me? Yes,
we do. But before we jump into that, let me introduce myself. I'm Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed
marriage and family therapist here in Woodland Hills, California. I specialize in helping
kids, teens and families live happier lives. If you ever have a question for a therapist, wanna
have a free phone consultation, please contact us. Our information is down in the caption below.
Let's jump into today's question. So we have a 10 year old little boy who is not really accepting
stepdad stepdad really wants to be accepted.


But it's creating all this frustration chaos. This revolves around three different emotional
needs your son's yours and your husband's. Let's start with your sons. Why? Why is he not accepting
stepdad could be any number of reasons why but you need to figure that out. That could be working
with a therapist or you may already know. Here are a few possible reasons. It's not an exhaustive
list, but these are very common things that I see in my practice. You've met your husband, it's
a whirlwind romance, it's wonderful, you finally feel respected and valued, and it's a wonderful
feeling, and you get married, but your son feels like he was kind of dragged along and didn't
really have any say in this. So if that's the case, that needs to be acknowledged and valued,
because he may see stepdad as your husband, but not my stepfather. And that needs to be addressed.
Could also be that stepdad is trying too hard. And he tries so hard that when your son doesn't
grab on to it, now your stepfather feels

rejected. And now there's all this pressure from you and stepdad. And your 10 year old son can't
handle that kind of pressure to satisfy your emotional needs. He's a 10 year old kid. Third,
he may feel possibly, whether it's an internal perception or external pressure from his dad,
that accepting stepdad is a betrayal of his father. And that's, again, you can't really control
what happens at his dad's house. You already said, you guys don't get along. I assume there may
be some parental alienation aspects going on. But again, that's an assumption from what little
I know, but something to consider. Regardless of any of this, my recommendation is that the
emotional needs for you and your husband need to be second to your sons in this because you guys
are the adults you guys have a fully developed adult brain your son does not have a fully developed
adult brain he's 10 so how do you do this I think you I would utilize the feral cat analogy I use
this quite a bit because I think it applies

to kids and teens a lot in these kind of situations. So if you have a feral cat in your backyard,
but you want to befriend this cat, you don't run after this cat with your hands out going kitty,
kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, right? You have to be patient. You sit outside with a food ten feet
away from you, patient, calm, not moving, not making a lot of sound, just being present, being
available. And eventually that cat comes closer and closer, has a little bit of food, runs off.
The next day, the food is nine feet away. a couple of days later, eight feet away, and slowly you
bring that food closer to you. And eventually, that cat is sitting in your lap and you're scratching
him under the chin. But it takes time. And it's about helping him feel safe, not about satisfying
your emotional needs of feeling validated by your son. This is not an easy thing to do. This takes
time and patience. But even if the father is bad -mouthing the stepdad, eventually your kid
will see the difference between,

while stepdad is always pretty cool and always patient and he's going to see the difference
between what he sees from stepdad and what dad father is saying that may take a while you need
to be patient therapy might help with this process but it's really up to you what you think the
emotional needs are for your child and your family another thing is it's possible while stepdad
may be the man of the house and he may be paying the bills or whatever that is he He may not be the
right person to be the authority figure for your son. And that may be hard to stomach, but it may
have to be you. You may have to be the primary authority figure and allow stepdad to just bond
and connect with him like an uncle, let's say. You know, I know they'll still be in the same house
and there'll have to be some rules, but I would encourage you, the mom, to be the primary authority
figure so stepdad can bond and connect with him. And what will happen is stepdad will be able
to influence your son in a positive

and healthy way instead of being an authority figure. Again, this is a much bigger concept that
we can really talk about in just a few minutes, but I'm scratching the surface here. I'd love
to talk to you more about this if you want to, you always give me a call. But anyways, that's my
approach to this. Again, my name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit
501C3 organization, and child and teen counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California.
If you'd like me to answer your question here on Tips on Teens, email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter
.com or direct messages right here on social media. We love your questions, keep them coming.
Thank you very much and have a great week, guys. And oh, by the way, happy Juneteenth! Juneteenth,
woo -hoo! Bye -bye, guys.

How does YOUR kid fit in?

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"Ask Kent" at CBS Morning News

Our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint, appeared on his ongoing segment “Ask Kent” at CBS Morning News.  Kent answered questions from parents about REAL parenting issues.

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