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10 ways to raise a resilient child
In a stressed filled digital
Teens have more anxiety, stress and depression than ever before so what can parents do to empower kids so they can become strong and resilient in a turbulent society?
We live in complicated turbulent times. This is clear in our teens today. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. In fact, since 2011, there has been a 59% increase in teens reporting depressive symptoms. Somewhere along the way, anxiety became the new normal. Why?
Tweens and teens these days have been raised in an era of terrorism and school shootings and national insecurity. Most importantly, these kids are growing up in the digital age where there is no longer any privacy. They can’t escape it so, it is our duty as parents, teachers and influencers to teach kids how to cope with anxiety and stress. We have outlined ten ways to raise a resilient child in a stressed filled society.
In order for kids to be resilient, they need to learn coping mechanisms but they also need to learn how to get along with others. If kids aren’t getting enough practice relating to people,(because they only know how to communicate via technology) many of them will grow up to be adults who are anxious about communicating and getting along with people. Navigating romantic relationships and employment will be a battle. Developing interpersonal skills is critical these days. Learning how to help others is another skillset that our youth really need to learn.
In an earlier article this year, we shared ways for teens to better manage social media. It’s a problem and not going away anytime soon. But besides social media, there is other stressors kids need to learn how to cope with. It’s the new normal.
If you are reading this and you have young children, you are in luck because you have more time to work on empowering, and preparing your child for whats to come.
LEARN, UNDERSTAND AND EMPOWER!
I was lucky enough to spend quality time with filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston recently. Ruston produced Screenagers and the new documentary Screenagers Next Chapter. The film takes a personal look into why our teens are dealing with more stress, anxiety and depression than ever.
In the film, Delaney finds herself at a loss when she tries to help her own teens through their struggle with their emotional wellbeing. Ruston set out to understand the challenges in our screen-filled society, and how we as parents and schools can empower teens to overcome mental health struggles; build emotional agility; increase communication savvy; and develop stress resilience.
She like many parents identifies with how we, as parents and educators, can empower teens to conquer mental health challenges and build resilience. This task is not easy but it can be done in our schools and homes to help our youth build critical skills to navigate stress, anxiety, and depression in our digital society.
By examining the lives of real teenagers and hearing from experts in a variety of fields, the film ultimately delivers a positive message by offering practical solutions.
“Give teens opportunities to overcome emotional challenges — help them get a comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Ruston said. “Validate more, problem-solve less.” The film demonstrates how parents, especially mothers, tend to want to jump in and help kids navigate problems. It makes parents feel better but it makes kids feel worse.
5 contributing factors to teen anxiety
- SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s been noted that a rise in social media, could a major contributing factor. In addition to being less likely to interact face-to-face, those who use social media frequently are also more likely to be involved with cyber-bullying, which has been linked to depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. CDC data shows suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10- to 19-year-olds and for 15- to 17-year-olds.
- Scientific data shows that 2+ hours a day on social media correlates with a higher chance of having unhappy feelings
- Teens say their main way of coping with stress is to turn to a screen—this is concerning for many reasons and we need to ensure they have other coping skills
- ACADEMIC PRESSURE. Most teens (61%) say they personally feel a lot of pressure to get good grades, and another 27% say they feel some pressure to do so.
- APPEARANCE AND SOCIAL ISSUES. 29% of the teens say they worry about how they look and fit in socially (28%).
- EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. Roughly one-in-five say they face a lot of pressure to be involved in extracurricular activities and to be good at sports (21% each), while smaller shares say they feel a lot of pressure to help their family financially (13%), to participate in religious activities (8%), to be sexually active (8%), to drink alcohol (6%) or to use drugs (4%). (pew research).
- SLEEP DEPRIVATION. There is also a sleep deprivation epidemic. Sleep deprivation is linked to screen time and social media. Sleep deprivation leads to depression. They need to learn other coping skills.” Teens say their main way of coping with stress is to turn to a screen.
10 ways to raise a resilienT child
Based on SCREENAGERS Next Chapter, Dr. Rustan recommends the following:
1. VALIDATE FEELINGS
There is an art to validating our teens’ feelings effectively. Work to tell them you see and appreciate the challenge of what they are feeling and try not to follow it with statements such as, “Oh don’t worry, it will get better.”
A major takeaway was how many parents assume their kids are talking to friends about their depression. They’re not. Some of them are sharing via social media, only to discover it’s not the best place to share these types of feelings. Ruston’s daughter, Tessa, confirms this notion by sharing her own negative experience with sharing her personal feelings on social media.
Bottom line, teens need us to listen to them. And they need us to validate them.
Ruston explains why validating kid’s feelings without jumping in to fix their issues is important. Take time to listen to your teen and hear them out without judging them. This approach works especially well with kids who are fighting depression and anxiety.
2. EMPOWER PROBLEM SOLVERS
Rather than jump in to try to fix their problems, ask, “Do you have any solutions in mind?” or “Let me know if you want any input from me.” Empower your child to try new things without your help. Trust them!
Talk About Your Emotions: Let them know about how you work to handle stress and other difficult emotions. It is not about burdening them but sharing feelings appropriately.
3. SUPPORT WITH RESOURCES
If your teen is systematically avoiding the social time, schoolwork and other activities due to anxious and/or sad feelings, get support and find resources for help on the Screenagers website. This includes learning what you can do at home, such as opposite action, exposure interventions, and behavioral activation.
4. PRIORITIZE SLEEP
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 6– 12-year-olds get 9-12 hours of sleep a night, and 13–18-year-olds get 8–10 hours a night.
Keeping phones and other devices out of their room at night is important. For teens with devices in their bedrooms, 36% report that they wake up and check it at least once a night.
Another study shows that just having a phone (or other mobile devices in the bedroom) negatively impacts sleep duration and quality even if teens report not checking them.
5. TEACH THE 3 Ex’s OF WORRY
This is a great skill for both youth and adults regarding everyday worry. Author Lynn Lyon teaches the 3 Ex’s strategy. “Expect” -recognize that worry often arises and practice accepting it; “Externalize”-pull it out and personify it, “Hello worry ”; “Experiment” does the opposite of what the worry demands, -it demands attention.
6. PRIORITIZING FACE-FACE TIME
Find more ways teens can have screen-free time with peers, younger kids, and adults of all ages. Examples include jobs, getting to know their friend’s parents, having neighbors for dinner.
I highly recommend getting your child involved in some sort of public service. When you give back and help others, it makes you feel better about yourself. I am a big believer in this. Teach compassion early on. Those who learn to love and care for others have less anxiety and depression.
7. SEEK SUPPORT- ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO BE A SELF ADVOCATE
The best thing about raising my older son with ADD was he learned how to be his own self advocate early on in life. This is paid off for him! He has never been afraid to ask questions and be his own advocate. I agree with the teacher in the film Screenagers who says, “The most successful people in life are those that can ask for help.”
Start this when your kids are young. Have them learn to do things on their own. My 11 year old does his own laundry and this makes him feel good about himself. Try hard to not be a helicopter parent and let your child make mistakes, it makes them stronger.
8. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
In a massive analysis of a number of different mindfulness/anxiety studies, mindfulness was found to be ‘associated with robust and substantial reductions in symptoms of anxiety.’ Encourage your child to go for a walk, listen to music, meditate, go to yoga without bringing a phone.
There are some amazing apps that can guide you through mindfulness. Here are three (with links) for you to have a look at:
Smiling mind – a free app has tailored programs for different ages.
Stop, Breathe, Think – start by choosing words to describe how you’re feeling right now, and the app will suggest the best meditations based on where you’re at.
Insight Meditation Timer – another free app with guided meditations from over 700 teachers. It also has a very excellent feature that shows a map of how many other people are meditating in the world (using the app) at the same time as you.How to make the world feel a little bit smaller and a little more connected. Nice.
9. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
When your child wakes up in the morning, make sure you greet them without any distractions of digital technology. In other words, don’t be checking your e-mail when you greet your child in the morning or when they get home from school. Put down your device and give them the attention they deserve. Also, show your kids what it looks like to be an authentic person and not worry about what others think etc.
Again, show your kids how to care for others. Involve your kids in your service work. In order for our youth to be happy in the new digital age, they will need to be compassionate souls. As the song goes, “its what the world needs now” love sweet love.
10. EXPLORE NEW INTERESTS
Offline, it’s always great if you can help kids build healthy self-esteem by getting them involved in something that they’re interested in. It may be sports, music or taking apart computers or volunteering—anything that sparks an interest and gives them confidence.
Since kids have so much anxiety about grades and getting into colleges, make sure your child knows that no matter what route they chose in life, it is their road. Not all kids are destined to go to college. I always tell my son, it’s his life and path. He knows if he fails at something, he is empowered to get back up and try again. It’s not on our shoulders. We are here to cheer him on and pray he makes good choices. We don’t judge him and he knows it.
For specific ideas on how to practice validation and empowerment while helping your kids build skills for stress resilience, read this parent guide from SCREENAGERS NEXT CHAPTER.
Encourage your schools to incorporate students’ social and emotional well-being programs into the curriculum.
Our youth will need all the help they can get when it comes to coping mechanisms to manage emotions and stress.
In the Screenagers film we see schools using mindfulness programs, Procedural Justice programs, Mental Health clubs in middle and high schools. This is huge! Please let me know your thoughts on this matter. Get out and see the SCREENAGERS Next Chapter film as well.