Moms: It’s time to do LESS

Imagine your middle schooler had a tough day at school: His friends ditched him at lunch, your daughter got a bad grade on her report, a seagull pooped on his jacket, etc. After school, your child walks home with a friend, shooting the breeze, talking about nothing. By the time she gets home, she FEELS BETTER! Something about the slow pace, the exercise, the peer support, the nature time, the independence, makes those problems fade away. Now, at home, she feels relaxed.

It’s more normal in today’s overprotective and over-scheduled culture for kids to get picked up in cars, rushed to activities, asked about school/grades/friendships, etc. Moms are looking for problems to solve, wondering whether to intervene, wanting kids to be happy.

When today’s kids do walk home, they pop their earbuds in, stare at their screens, and disconnect from people around them. Rather than using this valuable time to process emotions and connect in compassionate ways, they avoid and suppress emotions, making them feel even worse.

When trying to understand why rates of anxiety & depression are skyrocketing in today’s teens, it comes down to many small things, having a great big impact.

As parents, we want to smooth the way for them, make it easier, protect them from negative emotions and experiences. But our attempts to make life easier for them, may be costing them their mental well being.

Kids need to feel they can handle life’s mishaps on their own. Having time, moving in nature with friends, to process these emotions is natural. Sheltering kids, for fear they will experience a negative emotion, can delay their growth. Don’t buy into the popular culture that says “A good Mom would do everything for and with her children.” Kids need uncomfortable experiences in order to build internal strength and resilience.

As you are making plans for this summer, try encouraging experiences that push your kids outside their comfort zone.

  1. Send them to summer camp (without YOU!)
  2. Make them earn money: get a job, start a business, organize a garage sale or lemonade stand.
  3. Have them walk or ride their bike, instead of being driven, to summer classes, camps, parks, pools, etc.
  4. Plan an “old fashioned” play date. Invite your friends over with their kids (different ages/genders preferred) and send them out into the street while you and the other Moms play cards and sip cocktails. (and invite me to this one!)
  5. Send them to the grocery store to buy groceries and make dinner for the family.
  6. Let them sleep in a tent in the backyard.
  7. Buy a season pass to an amusement park and drop them off.

This fear based parenting culture needs to stop. Our kids are physically safer than anytime in history but the mental/emotional stress of modern living is taking a toll. Do you have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear them.

The love we have for our kids created this overprotective, fear based culture. We can use the same love for our kids to relax, do less, and show our kids the world is a safe and trusting place.

Social media, depression, and pre-teen girls

One of the most shocking changes to occur since teens and pre-teens started using cell phones is the DRAMATIC increase in depression and anxiety. I mentioned this problem in my blog, “Smart Phones, Depressed Teens” but this is such an epidemic (and I have a 13 year old using social media right now!) that I really want parents to understand what is happening, why it’s happening, and how to prevent it.

Our brains are the most valuable asset we have. The quality of your thinking dictates your emotions, and your emotions dictate the quality of your life. So, if you want your kids to be happy, healthy and successful, we’ve got to take a look at their brain health because kids are facing more challenges than any generation before.

One of the big problems our kids face is the CONCENTRATED and unprecedented amount of dopamine they are consuming. From rapid paced TV, to sugar, to text alerts and video games. Taking in this much dopamine is way more than our brains are wired to consume. It’s like giving cocaine to a child and hoping they come out ok. Lots of “highs” give us really strong “lows”.

I am offering a webinar on March 22nd, please click here sign up

I believe another reason why social media seems to be hitting young girls especially hard is something called confirmation bias. Confirmation Bias is a psychology term that means the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information that confirms what we already believe. 

Do you remember what it was like to be 13 or 14? Insecurity abounds! Girls this age tend to feel insecure about what they wear, what they look like, whether they fit in, what their friends think of them, all that external stuff. In days past, it was beneficial to our survival to spend these years studying the people in our tribe and making sure we fit in. But now, when girls have beliefs like, “I’m not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, creative enough, athletic enough” they head to social media for a little “compare and despair”.

Let’s say a girl has a belief like “I have no friends” or “My life is so boring”. With “confirmation bias”, all she has to do is go online and she’ll discover she is right. “Look how everyone else is having fun but me. My friends all got together and didn’t invite me. My life sucks. Everyone else is having fun except for me.”

In “the olden days” you might have the thought “Nobody likes me” but then you’d go to school, someone would talk to you, sit with you and be friendly and it was harder to continue to believe that. With search engines, you can easily find confirmation for whatever you currently believe.

This problem is growing. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen says that 51% of Americans will have some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime. But it’s not all doom & gloom! On the webinar, I will be talking about what a great OPPORTUNITY this is to take responsibility for our own mental and emotional health. With the latest technology and brain research, we know there are many things we can do to improve our mental well being. We can use our kids cell phone dilemma as a catalyst to understand and improve the quality of our minds. There are many ways to encourage contentment, happiness, and motivation in the brain, while discouraging worry, fear, and stress. If we learn the steps to unleash our brain’s potential and claim mastery over things that aren’t working for us, then our kids will learn to do the same.

I hope you’ll join me for this important topic.

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR

Do you have to wake up a grumpy kid in the morning who doesn’t want to get out of bed?

Are you struggling to get your grumpy kid out to the door in the morning?

The first part of the day is stressful for many parents as they try to gently cajole their pre-teen out of bed. When gentle doesn’t work, they resort to pulling off bedsheets, yelling, threatening and other antics that make them feel resentful and annoyed that the day has now taken an ugly turn.

It seems like it’s your KID that is causing you to get frustrated in the morning. That if she was to wake up happy and on time, you could be happy, too. But it doesn’t work that way. Our feelings come from our thinking. There is always a thought that causes us to feel the way we do and it’s helpful to see what we are thinking, before we take action.

Have you gotten yourself into a power struggle without even knowing it? Beware of “right fighting”. If you and your kid are both fighting for to be right, no one will win. Perhaps you are thinking “A good Mom would start her day with a happier kid”. Blaming yourself or others leads to inconsistent parenting which doesn’t usually give us the happy house we are trying to create. Remind yourself that good moms have grumpy kids who don’t want to get up in the morning, too. This is not a reflection on YOU, or you kid, just a problem to solve.

Below is the problem solving strategy I love from “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk” by Faber & Mazlish. Using this strategy will neutralize any power struggles or right fighting, while empowering you and your kid to solve the problem.

Are smart phones good for teens? What parents need to know.

The introduction of smart phones to an entire generation of children has made some very significant changes that all parents should know about.

Are smart phones good for teens? Or are they causing significant problems?

Here’s some good news! 

The number of fatalities by car accidents involving teen drivers has dropped in half from 2005 – 2015.

Teen homicides have dropped about 40% since 2005.

In fact, mortality rate for teens is down 20% from 1999.

The number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40 percent since 1991.

The average teen now has had sex for the first time by the spring of 11th grade, a full year later than the average Gen Xer.

The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2016, down 67 percent since its modern peak, in 1991.

and some more changes…are they positive or concerning?

The percent of high school seniors who work during the school year has dropped 20%. The number of eighth graders who work for pay has dropped in half.

Only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; down 30% from previous generations. In fact 2015 seniors were going out less often than

eighth-graders did as recently as 2009.

The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day, dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently.

Fifty-seven percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. In just the four years from 2012 to 2015, 22 percent more teens failed to get seven hours of sleep.

By the end of high school, more than one in four teens today still don’t have their driver’s license.

Forty-eight percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys.

The more time eighth-graders spend on social media, the more likely they are to say they’re unhappy.

Here’s the big concern…

Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology and author of iGen, says, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.”

For the first time in history, suicide is the second leading cause of death, closing in on car accidents.

Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.

Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much.

Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.)

Three times as many 12-to-14-year-old girls killed themselves in 2015 as in 2007

 

Here’s what parents need to know about smart phones and depressed teens:

Smart phones seem to be playing the biggest role in these positive and negative changes. Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”

Here are Jean Twenge’s important findings, as published in the September 2017 article, “Has the smart phone destroyed a generation” of The Atlantic,

“If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen. There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.  The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.”

 

Why trying to make your kids happy, will make you miserable.

Seek purpose, not pleasure

As parents, we all seem to want one thing: our kids to be happy. Sure, we want them to have good friends, good grades and a clean room, but the reason we want those things is because we believe it will lead to a happy life. There is a cultural paradigm that says “You can only be as happy as your least happy child.”

I’ve heard clients say to me, “I’m happy if my kids are happy.” or “When all three of my kids are happy, then I can relax.”

THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLAN!

Happiness is not a sustainable emotion. Humans are not wired to be happy all day, every day. In fact, humans normally operate at a 50/50 rate when it comes to positive or negative emotions. Sadness, loss, separation, anger, rejection and illness are all part of the human experience. When we label these things as bad, we cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression.

Our brains are wired to feel negative emotion, but we are also wired to seek pleasure. So when Facebook ads tell us that whiter teeth and chocolate truffles will make us happier, our brains think, “I need that.” When TV commercials tell us that there’s a pill to take if you feel uncomfortable in social situations, we believe something is wrong with us. Constantly seeking pleasure and avoiding natural, negative emotions is making Americans miserable. Between us wanting our kids to be happy, and the media implying happy is the only allowable emotion, what do we aim for?

What’s the goal for our lives, if not happiness?

Purpose, meaning and fulfillment is a kind of happiness that is longer lasting. It’s not about seeking pleasure, but about living life according to one’s values. When we engage fully in our activities and take action on the things that matter to us, we feel connected and aligned with our highest selves. Growth, meaning and forward momentum help us believe we are moving in a positive direction which is key to living a fulfilling life.

The sun didn’t shine in Seattle for three months last winter. The collective depression was subtle but it wasn’t until the day the sun came out that everyone noticed the contrast. Suddenly people were smiling, whistling, singing, SO HAPPY! It wasn’t the sunshine that made people happy, if so, Californians would have been giddy after 7 years of drought. It was the contrast. Californians react the same way when it rains! Seeing sunshine, after so many cloudy days, made Seattlelites stop and engage fully in the moment. It helped them be optimistic and think positively about the future months to come.

So think about giving your kids a contrasting experience to increase their ability to engage the moment. Nothing makes you appreciate a hot shower like a camping or backpacking for a few days. Sugar tastes so much sweeter after not eating it for a week.

Instead of indulging every item on your kid’s Christmas list this year, to try to make them happy, appreciate the joy and contrast in yearning for and not having. Anticipation & delayed gratification are human experiences that increase meaning.

You might be disappointed that the kids and teachers at school don’t treat your child they way you’d like, but try using these experiences as an opportunity for growth, purpose and to create a more meaningful future. It’s hard to teach your kids to appreciate good friends until they’ve had some bad experiences. We can help our kids think about how they want to treat people and believe the changes they make will help create a kinder world.

And most importantly parents, we’ve got to live it, to give it. Kids learn by imitation so we can’t expect them to live meaningful, fully engaged lives if we aren’t modeling how to do it. If you would like to feel like you are making positive forward progress and living according to your values, instead of getting stuck in the pleasure seeking cycle, schedule a free life coaching session today.