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Teen Reports UFO Sighting

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: What do you tell a frightened 14-year-old who claims that he saw a UFO at his grandparents' cabin while they were asleep? He is not prone to weird behavior...no drugs involved....and actually believes he saw this thing fairly close up.....He seems different since he has spoken of this...is refusing to see a doctor,too! It is affecting his life...what do we do?

A: First, I would not treat him like he was mentally ill. He clearly had an experience that was all too real for him. You say he is frightened since he had this experience, not excited or intrigued. I am concerned about why he is frightened and what can be done to put this experience into a perspective that will gradually lessen his fear.

He does need to tell his story in as detailed a manner as possible. Even if he has told it to you in some fashion, ask him to tell it again and while he is telling it ask him questions (what color was it? how long did you stare at it?, etc.) in a very matter of fact manner. I would also raise the possibility of going with him to this cabin (he could take anyone else along too that he chooses) to see if anything happens again.

Kids are growing up today surrounded by a national belief in UFO's and by a constant barrage of TV shows, movies, books, newspaper accounts and religions that treat the existence of aliens among us and alien abductions as fact.

I also have to question your son's motives for both reporting this sighting and for acting (I'm not saying he's faking fear necessarily) frightened. He certainly is getting a lot of attention, isn't he? Is anything else going on in his life that would suggest a desperate need for attention?

Tell him that he can interview any counselor he wants (I wouldn't suggest a psychiatrist at this stage) to see whom he could trust with this information. I would also offer him an opportunity to talk with a university astronomer/scientist about this; I bet you could find a compassionate academic who might give this the right spin without making your son feel stupid.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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