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 you aren’t taking action

You know what you want: a better career, a cleaner house, to set boundaries with the kids or make more money. So why is change so hard? Before you can make a change, you’ve got to see what’s keeping you stuck. What keeps you stuck is your thoughts. Your thoughts dictate your feelings and your feelings dictate how you act. The first step in making any change is to figure out the thoughts that are preventing you from making a permanent change. This starts with getting quiet and listening to ourselves.

For most of my clients, this is the hardest part. There’s a reason they stopped going inward in the first place. Inside your mind can be all sorts of dark and sordid stories about “the one time you made a fool of yourself and promised you would never do that again” or the very common belief, that “you aren’t worthy of good things.” Here are some of the most common characters that keeps us stuck.

Judgmental Janet – Our inner mean girl likes to be in charge. She says things like “you are stupid, fat, ugly, nobody’s going to love you, you’ll never be good enough, etc.” She’s judgmental and critical, “Nobody’s going to like if you _______” or “You know your going to fail so why try.”

Safety Sal  This voice wants us to play small and play it safe. “Just wait a little longer, your family needs you.” “Keep your head down and appreciate what you have.” “I don’t know what to do.” “I’m not sure” “The timings not right, I’ll wait until everything is ready.” “What if I’m wrong?” This voice is more subtle and sounds so innocent but the perfectionism keeps us stuck.

Critical Christine – “If my husband would just help out more” “If we just had more money….” “If my kids would leave me alone and my boss would stop calling, then….…”  Our inner wisdom tells us, “somethings not right, I don’t feel good” but Critical Christine thinks it has identified the problem and wants to fix it. She convinces us that if we could just change the other person, our job, our financial situation, our house, then the problem would go away. Blaming others feels better (temporarily) but keeps us stuck because we never recognize the real issue is our own thinking.

Whenever we try to make lasting change, these characters feel threatened. They know their days are numbered and they pull out all the stops to not lose power. Before we can start changing our actions, we’ve got to change our thinking and tame these inner wild beasts. Having an hour long coaching call each week expedites things and ensures the changes stick. But you can do it yourself by writing in a journal for at least 15 minutes a day.

We’ve got to take inventory of the thoughts in your head so just write them down, every day. Write down every excuse your mind comes up with about why writing in your journal is a stupid waste of time. How there are other more important things to do. How this is selfish and not working. Whatever negativity you hear, write it down and identify who is saying what. Change the names to fit your characters: Inner Mean Girl, Terry the Turtle (who hides in a shell), the drama queen, the inner perfectionist, etc.

In order to take action and make changes in your life, you’ll need to take inventory of who’s in charge and decide if that’s working for you. Every time you go outside your comfort zone, these characters get ready to pounce. Life Coaching is so effective because once you learn to tame these wild beasts, you take charge of your life and can create whatever changes you want to make.

Are you ready to tame your inner critic to make changes in your life?  Try a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

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.

What’s the quickest way to ruin holiday festivities?

Do you know the one thing that will ruin your holiday faster than anything else? 

It’s not overcooking the turkey, heated political debates, or cranberry sauce on the carpet. The one thing that ruins holiday dinners is EXPECTATIONS. When you have visions of cinnamon scented candlelight over peaceful conversations with joyful children lingering over delicious cuisine, it’s a recipe for disaster!

Visions of perfection?

The reality is, Thanksgiving is not a holiday for most Moms. It’s everything we normally do: clean, cook, wash dishes, manage children, but with more people around and football on the TV. So how do we lower our expectations without feeling like a negative pessimist?

Keep it real….and have fun with the worst case scenario.

Before the holiday begins, get together with your family or friends and make a list of all the crazy shit that could possibly go down during a simple holiday dinner.

My moms going to subtly hint that I should lose weight.

I’ll become a frenetically crazy cleaning machine two hours before people arrive and my children and husband will hide from me.

Uncle John will show up early spouting the latest Fox News reports about “He who shall not be named”.

Aunt Jen brings appetizers but shows up late saying she got the wrong time, directions, or somehow makes it my fault.

The favorite football team loses and everyone’s in a funk.

My Dad asks my husband how much money he’s saving for retirement….again.

Grandma drinks too much and starts telling me that I’m over-parenting my kids….again.

I’ll be upset that I’m doing all the work, don’t get to relax, and I’ll take it out on my family.

My mother-in-law will tell me that I’m doing it wrong. Bonus points for every “it”.

Whatever you can think might happen, write down all your predictions and see how many things you get right. Compare notes with other families to see who had the worst holiday dinner, then take that Mom out to celebrate her win.

Holidays are like the world series of motherhood. They aren’t designed to be restful and relaxing for YOU. This is game time, expect the worst, hope for the best, and get to work. The closer you align your expectations with your reality, the more fun you will have.

If you have changed your holiday tradition to make it more fun for YOU, let me know!

Is your day full of hard work? Then claim the next day as “Mom gets to do whatever Mom wants day” and celebrate your holiday victory. When you take a day to yourself to play and relax, take a photo and share it on my Facebook page so we can take inspiration from each other! 

The one thing stressed teens need from Mom and Dad

How helping fix problems and focusing on struggle can make it harder for our teens.

I had a hard time when I first became a Mom. Besides the normal, new mommy angst of “Am I doing it right?” I had a difficult baby. He had a hard time eating and sleeping. He needed constant movement, would get easily overstimulated yet easily bored and cried constantly. I needed support and I needed it bad. I joined as many new mom support groups as I could. One day, I found myself sitting in on a cement wall, alone, in someone’s backyard, watching my child, finally happy, sitting and playing with little rocks. The house was too noisy or crowded for my sensitive baby so I sat, exhausted, angry and lonely outside with the garbage cans and the dog poop. All the other moms were inside sipping coffee and chatting while their babies played happily on the floor.

Every once in awhile, a well-meaning Mommy would come out to check on me “You should come inside. He just needs to learn to deal with it. I’m sure he’ll get used to it after a bit.” A few minutes later, another Mom would come out, “You know what I do, I sleep with my baby, that way she feels secure and comfortable in the daytime.” After that I got, “What if you came inside and just breastfed him, then he’d feel comfortable and you could visit with us.” All the advice was valid and helpful but it just made me feel angrier and more alone. What I really needed was someone to say, “It’s really hard isn’t it. Some days just totally suck but you are such a good mommy. I don’t know how you do it all. Here’s a cup of hot coffee.”

I think we do the same thing to our teenagers. We underestimate the amount of stress they are under and we offer helpful suggestions and advice when all they really need for us to say “It is so hard and you are doing a great job. I am so impressed at how well you are managing. Here’s a cup of tea and a cookie.”

The more we can offer this kind of compassion and support, the better chance our teens have of developing their own compassionate “inner best friends” that encourages them through the tough times. Adolescence is the age where we start to develop our own “inner mean girl” who says things like, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I get it right?” “Nobody likes me, I’m stupid, ugly, fat, lame”, “I’m going to fail”, whatever. This inner mean girl will take charge and steer our life if we don’t get a hold of her and cultivate an equally strong inner best friend.

Kids learn by imitation so the best way to help them cultivate a kind inner voice is to hear us say it to them. In order to offer compassion to our teens, however, we first need to offer it to ourselves. Think about it, these kids of ours used to light up when we walked in the door, now they close it on our face! They thought we were beautiful no matter what we looked like, now they criticize our outfits, our hair, our singing, our choice of words (or is this just me and my kids?). Our babies have turned on us and that totally sucks! We used to look to their joy and exuberance to cheer us up at the end of the day, now we have to work hard to not be pulled into their negative spiral. No matter what we say, we are wrong. Our babies have done a 180 and it’s ok to give ourselves sympathy and recognize this is a hard phase for us, too.

Once you are feeling heard and validated, we can take a minute to recognize that the teen years are inherently stressful. You have this body whose hormones are out of whack, that is highly tuned in to other people’s thoughts and opinions, who can spot a fake a mile away yet are surrounded by inauthentic teenagers. Our teens have brains and bodies that are wired to be outside, moving constantly, listening to their own internal voice, yet are sitting on hard chairs, between 4 walls for 7 hours a day, listening to other people’s ideas. Today’s adolescents are swimming in perfectionism and sometimes, all they need to get through another day is compassion.

Our teens don’t always need us to fix their problems or focus on the struggles with our helpful suggestions, sometimes they just need to know they can do it on their own. “You are doing an amazing job, I can’t believe how well you are managing.” “Do you know what a mess I was at your age?” “By the way, there is nothing you need to do today. The day is yours.” “I try to worry but when it comes to you, I just can’t think of anything. I just know your future is bright.” “You have such a good head on your shoulders, I know you’ll be able to solve any problems that come your way.” “How did I get so lucky to get such a great teenager?”

It’s not easy to let go of worry and control and start trusting our kids to figure things out by themselves. That’s why I created “Leading Your Teen” teleclass.

Would like some support figuring out whether it’s time to lean in or let go? Click here and I’ll tell you all about this 5-week class designed for parents who want to worry less, love more, and create a more peaceful relationship with their teens.