What Teens Want

When you think teens report wanting the most from the adults in their lives?

Did you think that it was a new bike or car? How about money or to stay out late? Did you guess that they wanted to spend more alone time with their friends or mates? Oh, wait maybe you thought they wanted more privacy on their devices and social media?

If you guessed any of these, you are wrong.

Today when I finished a workshop with a dozed youth classified “at risk” which means they have been labeled to have environmental or emotional factors which may set back, or halt, positive developmental cycles, I asked them to randomly write down what they wanted adults to know. The young people could have wrote anything. They were instructed to use whatever language they wished and that no topic was off the table. Each child sat with their backs turned to one another so they could have full privacy while writing. Each response was folded and placed in a pile to ensure that they would not be matched to their statements.

When I got home, I read the notes that each young person entrusted me with. I was shocked to discover that 100% of the notes, every single note, said almost the same thing.  Each note made the same plea. Each child wanted adults to listen to them. They wanted to be heard.

So here it is. The age old fight that parents and adults have been having with young people since the dawn of time. Note, the children did not say that they wanted to be heard and be right. They did not say they wanted to be heard and get their way on anything. The young people said they wanted to simply be heard.

As adults we often do not properly listen to our young people. Here are some common reasons why:

  • We are so busy we simplify what our young people are saying to us by speaking for them and inserting what we think they are trying to say to speed things up. This makes us miss what they are actually trying to say.
  • We simply do not like what they are trying to share with us. It can be uncomfortable to hear  things our young people have to say at times so we shut them down or clobber them with rules, or insert our values, rather than understanding.
  • We do not know what to do with the information they are trying to share with us. Often as parents we feel that we are expected to know the answers to what our young people are having challenges with. This is our personal expectation, to “fix” problems is part of a mature adult’s human nature. While young people are most often not seeking answers as much as companionship and understanding.

When our young people feel they have no voice, they stop talking. When our young people stop talking to us, they start talking to others…most often peers. I feel it is no coincidence that out of 12 at risk youth who were given a platform to communicate anything they felt important to adults, all chose to speak on the topic of being heard.
As the balance on this conversation, here is my advice to parents and adults who interact with youth.

  • Be easy on yourself. You do not have to have all of the answers. Most often young people are not looking for answers to a problem, they are looking for understanding and comfort in the situation they are facing.
  • If you allow them, young people will tell you what they are feeling and what they are seeking from you in a specific situation. If they are able to be comfortable, trust you and know they are being heard, they will ask you for what they need.
  • When you do not have the answers, he honest about that. You can still help them find a resource which can help.
  • If you are, for whatever reason, unable to have a conversation with your youth and offer your undivided attention, do not have the talk at that time. Let the young person know they are important and because they are important you would like to speak to them (in an hour, or tomorrow at 4pm) at another time so you can give them your undivided attention. And make sure you stick to what you set and that you are completely present.
  • Mirror what they are saying to you. For example, “I heard you say…..” or “When you said….”
  • Start conversations with your youth when things are not serious. Young people are super smart and funny. They have lots to say. Having fun conversations with our children is the number one way to help them understand how important their thoughts and feelings are to us.

There are many ways to show your youth that they are important and that their voices are heard. As human beings we need to know that our thoughts and our feelings are understood by others. When we do not feel understood or heard, we feel isolated. When we feel isolated, we tend to further isolate not only ourselves, but others.

Trauma Healing Myths

kintsugi-9I have spent a lot of time in reflection lately. I found myself thinking about some of the many roads that I have taken over the years in search of personal growth, healing and spiritual balance. Boy! I have really fallen off the cliff a few times during my quest!

At first, I felt saddened by how many seemingly wrong turns I had made. I felt inadequate when I pegged my life progresses next to just about everyone else that I could think of. I felt small and I started to feel a sense of fear at the thought that I have no retirement plan, no HMO, no life insurance and my total life savings over the past 40 years could perhaps buy a dinner for 8 at a middle class restaurant.

It is common for us to compare ourselves to those around us. It is natural to feel inadequate at times. It can even be healthy to glance at what others are doing as long as we keep things in perspective.  The important thing is to not only think about where we are going but to remember where we have been.

As I started thinking about how far I have come from where I had been. Then I started to relax and I began to smile. You know, some of the things that I have done wrong really are hilarious, sad and ridiculous, but hilarious all the same. I  eventually came to the understanding that I am a miracle and I am more than alright.  No, my successes are not as tangible as others…yet. BUT! I am on my way. I just had such a long way to go on my road of healing.

As I was thinking about all of this, I thought of some of the main myths I have held as true along the way. When it came to healing, I found that I personally held these three myths as true for a long, long time. It was not until I let them go that I was able to heal.

3 Trauma Healing Myths

1.) We will be who we were before whatever happened to us happened.

False. We will never be who we were before. We are always changing. Sometimes we change for the better and sometimes we take detours to our wellness. We are not capable of being the same person we were a day ago, so it is really impossible to be the person we were a decade or two ago. Besides, we were never the person we remember ourselves to have been anyway as we view ourselves through a very limited and often skewed set of filters anyway.

Our perception of self is and has always been separate from who we were and even if you were the most in tune, present person the world has ever seen (which I assure you, you are not) and you had a true image of who you were (which I assure you, you do not), your memory would not retain it in a pure form as our memory is not built that way so it would be moot anyway.

What does all of this mean? It means that you do not have to worry anymore about becoming something you used to be. It is impossible to be a you, that you remember…who you never were anyway!!! You are free from ever absorbing the comment “You just are not who you used to be” ever again. You do not have to spend another second wondering who you could have been before trauma because that person is you, you have not gone anywhere and you are free to be anything you want to be. The decision of who you are is yours and you can make it today. The really cool thing is that if you do not like the person you are or your perception of who you are which you hold….you can change it at any time. You are truly free.

2.) We will no longer grieve over what happened to us when we are healed.
False. You will grieve for the rest of your life depending on the depth of trauma you have absorbed. I bet that there is not a person on the planet (who has any age to them) who does not grieve over something. It is human nature to wish you could have done something different or to wish with all of your heart that something did not happen to us.

Here is a personal illustration: My mother has been gone for 13 years and there are days where I feel like a child and I am simply pissed off that I am living life without her. I am almost 40 and there are days where I still need her. This will never change. I am getting ready to have my second child. She will not see me pregnant or know this baby, she did not know my first child either. This still hurts, I still grieve. I grieve in waves but it is still present. One day, I will be a grandmother and I will likely think of mom then too and I will grieve for her that she did not get to be a grandmother long enough…

Grief is grief. When we have trauma we also have a grieving process which, at times, can be life long. Just as we have filters that tell us who we were, or are in myth one, we see our traumas through filters. What happens to us takes on new meanings as we grow and change over time. This is healthy. It means that the trauma is being processed rather than repressed. This does not mean we are doomed to a life of grief, it means that we are able to acknowledge how we truly feel and that we are present and accepting of who we are. That IS what healing, true healing is.

3.) All effects of our trauma will magically melt away and become separate from us.
False. Some of us will always carry scars of the past with us physically, mentally and emotionally. This does not mean we are not healed. It means that we are aware. Though there are many ways to recovery…recovery does not mean that we live as if nothing has happened. That is denial. What we should eventually work towards is a place where we can control how much the trauma controls our current existence, our relationships and our desired daily activities.

I once heard a story about monks who spend years learning how to make the perfect clay bowl. They take the bowl to their teacher and hundreds are turned down and deemed imperfect. Eventually the monk will arrive with a “perfect” bowl. The teacher smashes the bowl. The student then takes the bowl and puts it back together by fusing it with gold. This is an art form today called Kintsugi. They value the journey of the bowl. The bowl was perfect, was shattered and not useable, and then restored. Its bonding being gold which is much stronger than clay….hopefully you get the picture.

What does all of this mean? It means that the stuff that happens to us, simply happens. What we do with it is what matters. The stuff we gather after we break such as knowledge, empathy and understanding are our gold! You have gold that you have not mined for inside of you! It means that you are filled with riches and gifts that the world needs and can benefit from. Your trauma will always be there, so let it be golden.

After I was finished pondering these thoughts I asked myself what was golden about me? I came up with so many wonderful things. We are all golden. We are all perfectly imperfect and we are all normal for who we are, what we are and where we have been. Of course we still have work to do, who doesn’t? But waste no more time in illusion. Resolve to not give in to whatever healing myths you are holding on to. Do the work that you need to do to live life in a full and comfortable, peace filled way.

Your road to healing will be unique to you. Your healing outcome will be unique to you. And your healing myths will be unique to you. You are unique. There are many roads to healing and there are many myths and stops along the way. The most important thing in my opinion, is that we learn to be honest, loving, truthful and accepting of ourselves.

Rosy Shades Plunge

“So what is the “Rosy Shades Plunge”?

The Rosy Shades Plunge, if I haven’t lost you all ready, is the practice of seeing what is right with us and others, before we allow ourselves to focus on what is wrong with ourselves or others. Accentuate the positives as the song goes.

“It sounds a bit Hippy Dippy to me”.

Right!? It does sound a bit like all of the other head in the clouds, new age, fluffy we are all winners, coaching, positive thinking B.S. that we have been running from for two decades. This is exactly what I thought too when I thought it up!

I must admit when I first started thinking of the idea of only focusing on what is right with me, I felt a bit silly. I fancy myself to be a bit of a realist. I know that there is nothing that is really terribly wrong with me, yet I have always failed to understand until recently is that with this type of thought pattern or awareness of self, it meant that I felt nothing was ever really right with me either. So at best, I was striving to be mediocre. I did not want to be mediocre at best…I wanted to be supernaturally awesome! Well, I have yet to hit super hero status but I have seen some major shifts in my life since I have taken what I am calling the Rosy Shades Plunge.

Ok, that is the last time I am going to use the verbiage, “Rosy Shades Plunge”. I know it sounds stupid and slightly annoying… What we are really going to spend our time on is the WHY. Why is it so important for us to focus on what is right with us?

Why we must start focusing on what is right with us and others today, this very minute.

  1. Like attracts like.

When we are focused on what is wrong with us, we instantly take our mental awareness to that which we feel we are lacking. We come to ourselves from a place of needing more. We say things like, “ I wish I were prettier, I wish I were richer, smarter, thinner, more successful, taller, stronger and so on.  When we come to ourselves from a place of lack, we also come from a place of being impoverished. We begin to own feelings of inadequacy which eventually will make us internally bankrupt.

Like attracts like. We draw people and situations toward us based on what we not only feel we deserve, but that which we feel comfortable with. If we feel stupid and unsuccessful, we are not going to hang around people who we view as smart and successful any more than people who are smart and successful will want to hang around with us. This occurs not because of simple judgement, but because the two different types of thinkers have nothing in common! This common ground, or lack of, can transpose into any situation of lack.

  1. We typically only focus on one thing at a time.

It can be incredibly difficult to change the mental/emotional tide within us from a place of lack to a place of abundance or in this case, negative to positive, especially if there has been no significant outward physical results to hold on to. We are creatures of habit. We go with what we know and we tend to believe what we feel our eyes are seeing over what is not seen. The trouble with this is we see what we want to see, or, what we are searching for.

Soooo…if you feel you are not a success, you will likely be looking for those things about you that are not successful. It is natural to want to be successful so badly that you are in hyper drive combing for every little error you have made in an effort to not make them again. The trouble with this is that it can quickly turn into an obsession. We can become obsessed with what is wrong with us. I personally have had obsessions with the flatness of my stomach in the past. I eventually became so obsessed with it that it did not matter how thin I was, I could still see potential places of “fluff” just waiting to creep in. You get the point.


This is why we must focus on what is right with us. When we focus on what is right with us we minimize what is still developing rather than maximizing it. We must learn to allow ourselves to see the good in who we are and in the efforts we are making. We should take it a step further and allow ourselves to see the good in others before we pick them apart as we are only really seeing in them what we have not learned to like or accept within ourselves. With this understanding we can even learn to see the good in conflict and disappointment if we try.


  1. We see others through the shades of judgements we place on ourselves.

Sad, but true. Remember like attracts like. We look for that which supports what we are focused on. If we are focused on the parts of ourself that fail, we are ultimately focused on failure, even when we desire success. Our eyes are constantly working to acknowledge that which our thoughts are focused on, if we are not careful, this will be the exact opposite of what our hearts and spirits most deeply desire.

It is human nature to grow to a place of judgment and envy of others, this is a symptomatic outcome and proof of obsession with ourselves. When we start picking apart someone else for their success, for their beauty or for whatever they have, we are simply just feeling the pain of our obsessions and the extent of our inner bankruptcy. This is the true root of the hater…which we have all been at some point.

There are also times where we can not easily look at someone who has a more obvious or largely outward expression of that which we are lacking. For example, someone who feels the pain of financial struggle of middle class may point out the shortcomings of someone who is living on the street. They may yell at the homeless or they may say bad things about them, they may say they even deserve their situation because they “choose it”. They may say that the homeless person does not deserve a handout because they will “drink it up anyway”.

Eventually these lines of thinking deliver us to a place of isolation. We can not relate to those who are doing better than we are and we can not stand to look at those who are not doing as well as we are. It is a very tough place to live and unfortunately many of us are living in this place. I know there has been large portions of my life where I have lived in this internal poverty.

  1. We must keep sight on who we are leading and where we are leading them.

As many, I am a mom, wife, coworker, business owner and I wear many more hats. Just like everyone else, I am expected to present a consistent and good example for others to follow, learn from and to grow from. Though I am aware of this responsibility, it took most of my life to understand what the responsibility meant and to fully embrace and accept it. We all know that we are expected to be this “great person”. Most of us can recall a moment or two of resentment over this obligation.

I firmly believe that every human being wants a good life and that every human being wants their children to be happy. There is no other single understanding more important to achieving this than learning how to see the positive in ourselves. It is our vision of self, our perception of self that shapes our whole world and it also shapes the worlds of those we lead.

When we see the good in self, we shine this light on everyone else around us. When we celebrate ourselves, we look to shine the light of celebration on others. When we embrace who we are and when we are loving and understanding to self…we embrace others and we are able to be loving and understanding of them.

Most importantly, when we truly see and acknowledge who we are in the full sense, we are able to truly see others for who they are, not who we choose them to be.

So, there it is. The Rosy Shades Plunge. It is my hope that you will be able to jump into the notion of learning to sight the positive before the negative. Remember, this does not mean that we do not see the negative or that which still needs work, it is simply an agreement to see what is good before we focus on what is not.

If you would like some assistance with this topic or practice, I am a certified youth coach and I also assist adults in making healthy life changes. I would love to assist you.

Hannah Tiffin

“How was your day?” “Fine.”

“How was your day?”


We have all been there. We ask a question and we get a one word answer from our young person to what we feel was a valiant attempt to start of a conversation. When our first question falls flat, most of us will straighten ourselves up and try to mask our frustrations, and we will ask another question. Some popular mom questions are…

“Did you like your lunch today?”  (yeah)

“How are your friends?” (good)

“Do you have any homework?” (no)

“What went on at school today?” (nothing)

“Are you hungry?” (yeah)

“What is your favorite color?” (I don’t know)

“What do you want for dinner?” (pizza)

Whew! I get tired just reading these questions! It can be exhausting trying to communicate with a young person. As a mom, I admittedly fire off this bombardment of questions to my 12 year old daily. As I read them from her perspective I feel they sound knaggy. I can also tell you, if I approach my daughter with this line of specific questioning, near about the fourth one, she gets a bit agitated. And she is one of the most even tempered, good natured children I have ever met!

The issue with the above questions are they are information gatherers, but none of them are true conversation starters. Each question listed here has the opportunity for a one word answer. Often if you leave a teen an option to offer you a short answer, they will. Young people (and co-workers!) will take the one word route if left to their own devices. Yes, no and I don’t know, are the three most popular answers a young person will offer. Sometimes they will even tune you out completely, not answer you, and let you tire yourself out until you leave them alone.

So what is a parent to do? Right? We are in a real spot. Let’s be honest planning to knowingly go though conversational death with someone is not high on our lists of things we want to do daily, especially after we are tired and still have lots to do. We know before we even start the conversation that we are going to be frustrated, we know they are not going to answer us and feel like they do not want to talk to us anyway.

Honestly, this is where many parent/teen relationships become severely compromised. We are parents, we are not superheroes. Many of us are tired and just trying to survive our work and family obligations. So many parents stop trying at this point purely out of acts of self-preservation. This is also where many children will start isolating themselves to the confines of their rooms and virtual environments.

If this is happening to you, you are not alone. Most parents have moments of falling short while trying to communicate with their young people. Even I do, and I am specifically trained and highly skilled in navigating conversations with young people! The good news is you do not need to spend a year learning how to communicate with your young person to start getting better results today. The good news is you can start right now.


Here are my top two tips for a quick fix for the communication deficient.

  1. When addressing young people it is vital to frame our questions in a more directional or open ended way if we are going to spark a conversation with them.
    1. Instead of “How was your day today?” ask something like “What topic are you learning in History right now?” This makes them have to long answer. Next ask something like “So tell me your thoughts on…” This is an open ended question they will not be able to answer “fine” “Yes” or “No”
    2. You may ask something like “Tell me about your best friend” or “Tell me about the best thing that happened to day”
  2. Let them answer. This is vital. Teens take longer to process thoughts than we do as adults. If they are really trying to communicate with you, or you are looking for a direct answer from them, it will take a few seconds longer than you will be comfortable waiting for. They will answer if given time. So often we clutter up the conversation with more questions. No one likes to be asked questions on top of questions. Right?

Ok, so there are two huge and important tips in boosting communications with your teen. There is so much more to it than this but these two things are plenty to get you started. Now go out there and try it and let me know how it went!



Taming the Inner Critic

trollAn 12 year old’s struggle with anxiety and self-doubt.

“It’s green because it’s snotty. It’s got a big nose because it is nosey and always butting into my business. I gave it cat ears because it seems to be able to hear everything that goes on around me. It has hawk eyes because it seems to see everything I see and more. It is like super-sensory. It has big feet because it uses them to stomp on all of the positive stuff. t has hair all over its body because it is prickly and pokes me. It has a long whip like tail that forces me into making quick decisions and it has a swirly tummy that hypnotizes me until I cannot take action, it’s like I am frozen. Oh, and it has sharp little teeth because it feeds off of all the negativity it creates in my day. ” (Client)

“Does your Inner Critic Troll have a voice?” (Hannah Asks)

“YES!” (Client)

“What does your troll sound like?” (Hannah Asks)

“It has a high pitched, nagging voice that is always asking me things like what if or trying to make me too scared to do something I want to do.” (Client)

“How are you doing with this inner troll now that it has a name and a face?” (Hannah Asks)

“OH! I am doing awesome! I am not afraid to go to a new school and I feel like I can finally do anything I want to do!” (Client)

“How so?” (Hannah Asks)

“Well……I mean how seriously can you take the voice of that thing? I mean really? It is a nagging little Troll, it’s too silly to take seriously. I mean come on.” (Client)

“So you are not hearing the voice of the inner critic anymore?” (Hannah Asks)

“Yeah, it still starts to nag me, but now I just flick it off like the green snotty booger it is. I have too much to do in my life to be worried about a little jerky troll telling me what to do.” (Client)

“I agree!” (Hannah)

This powerful conversation is a clip of a part of a larger conversation a young client and I had recently. This client and her family gave me permission to share this with others in hopes that they will be able to see the same powerful results in their lives that this young person did.

Prior to this conversation the youth was afraid of school. She wanted to make friends, do well in her studies but was too shy to raise her hand due to a fear of being the center of attention and she feared others calling her stupid if her answers were wrong. This child became so riddled with self-doubt that others feared it was going to severely impact her life in a negative way if she was not able to get a hold of the negative self-talk, anxiety and stress she was placing upon herself. It became so bad that the youth could not sleep through a full night due to nightmares, she shut herself off from the world around her and had not successfully secured any relationships with other children. She became so stressed that she often broke out in a rash of painful hives. She was spending most of her time closed in her room reading or drawing.

I noticed in our session that when she referred to the voice in her head she used a different tone than her typical speaking voice. Her voice became whiny and higher pitched, almost mockingly. This sparked a conversation about the inner voice which then became this troll. In our conversations since this drawing the youth has become extremely outgoing and is excited with her new feelings of being able to take over the world. Now our goals each week are not about what she feels she “cannot do” and are focused by her on figuring out what goals she wants to reach and how to get there.

This is powerful stuff for young people, it is also very powerful stuff for adults. We all have an inner critic. It does take work and reflection but it can be mastered in a few short weeks if you are as committed to do so as this amazing young girl is. I personally believe that this single understanding, or regaining of control could be one of the great game changers of her life.

God bless,


At Risk Youth, Trauma Recovery and Art Healing

8a3dda96-4d4f-4b50-9db8-17fc10559895.jpgSome of you know, one of the highlights to my life is bringing art at risk youth. Earlier this week one of my young people made this amazing painting and I thought that I would share it with you.

I was surprised as I walked past his table and seen this piece on several levels. One, I am always surprised at how inventive and openly creative the youth I work with can be. Of course they have to be “in the mood” to paint. Some days they are and some days they are not. Not much different from most artists I suppose right? I have been thinking about this a lot. When the mood strikes this population one thing is different than with most adults I work with. Creativity seems to come fast and completely unhindered. They seem to dive in head first and become hyper focused on what they are doing. You can almost see the wheels turning in their heads. This is remarkable because many of the young people who I work with have acute difficulty focusing.

The last decade of working with youth has shown me some amazing things. This painting reminds me of the rhythm of creativity and how powerful that rhythm can be. I remember being a new teacher and the frustrations that I felt working with youth because of their seemingly short attention spans. As the years have gone by, I have realized there is also a rhythm to teaching youth. I realized that one of the most important skills being creative gives a young person is focus. It is most often that a youth will come to me unable to focus more than 10 minutes. Years ago I thought this was just them being rude. Then I noticed a trend. By the end of our 3rd or 4th week they would be running out of time to finish their paintings and wish to stay longer!

Today I understand so much more about the brain than I did back then and I understand that the attention span issue that I was experiencing with at risk youth or victims of trauma was most likely due to a pruning process. This is where the brain growth has been halted, deadened or stunted by trauma, under stimulation or over stimulation or drug abuse. I have also learned that creativity is the fastest way to stimulate the brain to grow new neurologic pathways to counter the pruning damage.

Beyond this, I would like to mention the subject of this work. “I love you”. The expression of love is the number one symbol and subject that at risk youth uses to express inner thoughts. I wanted to point this out because I know that many would be surprised to understand that children who are facing or have faced extreme difficulty in life still seem to strive for love (even if it is not apparent on the outside). They not only seek love but they give love. Their paintings are rarely black and red (beyond the first two sessions) and instead are filled with color and life.

I was so proud of this painting because of the focus and care that went into it. If you really examine the painting you will see that this youth had to battle watercolor and keep the colors in their place, create lines and form an idea and then was brave enough to express love in subject and in color expression and he did all of this in one hours time which shows a high level of function, buy in and personal creativity. Something many adults cannot do in such a short amount of time… not to mention in a room with others.

It is an honor to be able to work with at risk youth. I love bringing them the gift of art and the power of personal expression. Being creative is medicine for every one of us. When we are creative we sharpen our minds, our inner core awareness and we are able to share and communicate with the world in ways that we did not understand or have words for before. Creativity helps us actually change the shape and scopes of our brains to the very wiring that we use for everyday activities.

I truly believe that God has blessed me beyond measure that I am trusted with such fragile and powerful students. I am continually renewed as I see them come to a place of personal power through creativity and self actualization. What a beautiful gift God has given to me. My personal road has been more than most people could endure, but I would do it all over again to arrive here at this place. I wouldnt change a thing.