Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Parenting in the 21st Century

Raise your Words
Not your voice
It is rain that grows flowers,
Not thunder
– Rumi


Dr. Daniel Siegal (A psychiatrist and a Clinical Professor at UCLA), in his book ‘Brainstorm – The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,’ talks about the changes in the structure and functioning of the brain during adolescence. In one of his interviews for a teen magazine, Dr. Siegal talks about an architectural restructuring of the teenage brain and an emergence of the adolescent mind that is wonderfully creative,
adaptive, and vibrant.

“Adolescence is the golden age for innovation. The adolescent brain is a construction zone: creativity, innovation, the capacity for abstract thinking, and the need to experiment are traits that drive this period. Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes see the adolescent drive towards experimentation only as a negative, a sign that the teen is being “crazy” or immature.”

Raising kids is tough, and parents are not born with a manual for raising their children. Teens go through social, emotional, and psychological changes between 12 and 18. No two teens are alike, and the values, culture, beliefs, and the environment they grow up in all play a vital role in their wellness and health. The reality is a teen’s brain is in the process of remodeling.

Adolescence can be a challenging time, to say the least, while seeking a secure emotional base or a container where they feel loved and accepted as each teen is going through changes so rapidly. Family can assist in building and supporting a teen’s confidence, help build their identity and be available during their trying times. Our job as parents is to raise a college-bound, portfolio-focused teen with creativity and passion for life.


In India, summer meant playing outside for hours with occasional breaks for food or snacks. We never had many toys, including digital games or social media. Today’s generation of teens, on the other hand, don’t have any time for free play. Their days are packed with structured activities, even in summer, to build up a “portfolio” for the so-called top schools. When my daughters were in high school, they would share how their peers were planning to take many AP courses, online classes, internships over the summer, etc. schedules were packed. Many parents want their teens to go to their chosen top schools only. They have an unrelenting focus on academics at the expense of everything else, including mental health. The physical manifestation of this stress on teens is a growing epidemic – anxiety disorders, migraines, panic attacks, to name a few, and even auto-immune conditions, in some cases.

How can we, as parents, help:
Create a stress-free zone: Parents and teens can develop a “zone out” time together. It could be watching their favorite buzz feed videos/TV, cooking/baking, a time of leisure without judgment or life lessons.

Efforts vs. grades: We can counsel them without an obsessive focus on scores. It can be a life lesson that will help them focus on what they need to do and not stress about outcomes beyond their control. Constantly setting stretch expectations, leading to a relentless pressure to meet them, is toxic for your teen’s health.

Sharing your past: Share your college experiences more as an understanding and awareness for your teen, not necessarily to communicate only your (parent) generation’s methods are correct. It would make any teen feel that they never measure up and can damage the child’s long-term self-esteem.

One-on-One: Celebrating your teen’s accomplishments, sharing their disappointments, and supporting their hobbies helps your teen know you’re interested in them. You don’t have to make a big deal of this, sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up to watch your child play a sport or music, reading together, or cooking or baking, and arts and crafts activity or giving them a ride to extracurricular activities.

Treats: Treats worked in elementary school, and they still do, such as a Starbucks drink or a Jamba Juice. Some parents feel that appreciating their teen’s effort or journey would defocus them and stop putting in their efforts. However, research has shown that positive encouragement is vital for teens to succeed in any environment. It is not a bribe but an acknowledgment of their effort. In addition, an encouraging comment along with the reward will help make the message clear to your child how much you appreciated their efforts.

Be Empathetic: Active listening when you are conversing with your teen, without interrupting with our own opinions or judgments, being curious and open-minded about their point of view, and having patience as they solve their problems could be the best thing you offer your teen. You need to increase your capacity to listen actively, be open, and provide a non-judgmental stance.

For example, when a teen comes home heartbroken as they did not get their desired result in their quiz, a parent could respond, “I saw how much you worked on that; I am so sorry to hear that.” This kind of empathy is powerful to hear someone say, soothes them.

Only STEM mindset: There are some misconceptions that only a few majors guarantee a job. Other than STEM majors, there are other majors in Public Health, Global Health, Economics, Nursing, etc., leading to great jobs and careers. Parents should encourage their children to create a career path that brings them joy as well as a paycheck. Holistic outlook.

The Bureau of Labor published in their latest research that there are going to be more non-stem jobs than today over the next decade.With the present Pandemic, more fields are in the making more so in the health care, public health, construction, real estate and other fields.

Chores/Jobs: As parents, we would like to rescue and complete our kids’ activities and chores. However, it is an excellent time for teens to develop and mature and develop independent living skills. Managing simple tasks like laundry, cooking, or running errands for the house once they start driving, teaches them accountability/responsibility and time management. Holistic outlook.

Limit Setting/Boundaries: By setting up rules, boundaries, and standards of behavior, you give a teen a sense of stability and predictability. Regular family meetings and explaining the benefits and consequences of following rules/boundaries would help. It also helps them internalize the concept of delayed gratification. Of course, there will be pushbacks, yet this practice is integral in a time of chaos.

Conclusion:
Trust and respect are earned not by doing only heroic, victorious deeds, making significant changes, saving lives around you, but also by paying close attention to your teen’s emotions and feelings. Dr. Siegal reemphasizes the importance of how young adults need to be seen and soothed by their parents. Relationships with our teens provide a template for relating with people when they step outside our homes. Developmental relationships are connections that help young become their best selves.

If you are experiencing going through a difficult time, therapy can help; for more information, contact.
Geetha Narayanan – 669-500-5362 OR geethanmft@gmail.com

Links:

  1. Auto-immune condition –
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/autoimmune-disease-and-stress-is-there-a-link-2018071114230
  2. Panic/Anxiety attack – https://nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

Books and Resources:

For Teens:

  • Anxiety Sucks! – Teen survival Guide – Natasha Daniels
  • My Anxious Mind – A teen’s guide to manage anxiety and Panic Michael Tompkins
  • The Self-Esteem habit for teens – Lisa Schab – 50 simple ways to build your confidence every day
  • Reviving Ophelia
  • www.dove.com/self-esteem project

For Parents:

  • Brainstorm – Daniel Siegal
  • The whole Brain Child – Daniel Siegal
  • Emotionally Intelligence – Daniel Coleman
  • www.dove.com/self-esteem project
Categories
Interview

Celebrate Counseling

By: Divya Venkataraman

April is National Counseling Awareness Month, according to the Greater Baltimore Counseling Center. It is a time to not only honor the professionals in the counseling field but to also understand the importance of counseling and the vast benefits it can bring.

Counseling has made a huge difference in my life — thanks to my guidance counselor at Monta Vista High School (MVHS), Clay Stiver. Whether it be helping me with anything academic-related, with future career aspirations or even with social-emotional aspects, it is safe to say that a counselor’s presence while I navigate the strenuous years of high school has positively impacted my life. I truly appreciate being fortunate enough to have someone so vested in not only my academic success but my general well-being as well. 

That being said, this month is a perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the often-overlooked profession of counseling and just how remarkable it can be.

Counseling Defined

Merriam Webster defines counseling as: “professional guidance of the individual by utilizing

psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes.”

MVHS Guidance Counselor Clay Stiver expands on this definition of counseling using his own experiences as a counselor.

“I look at counseling as a supportive collaboration towards a goal of some kind — [whether it be] academic counseling, college counseling or social-emotional counseling,” Stiver said. “The goal can be dealing with a crisis of some sort of working on long term goals — academically or social-emotionally.”

Stiver also shares his joys of counseling — and how they shape his profession.

“I really like helping people,” Stiver said. “And high school is such a big transitional time; I wanted to be a support for students — a conduit to success or social-emotional growth. It is rewarding.”

Counseling Responsibilities

Along with being a counselor come responsibilities pertaining to the job; these responsibilities can vary depending on the specific type of counselor — since there are many. In general, Betterteam states that counselors are responsible for hearing what their patients may have to say, creating treatment plans for individual patients and developing strategies for coping.

Stiver describes his specific profession as a guidance counselor for MVHS — someone who handles three main domains when counseling students: the academic and college domain, the career domain and the social-emotional domain. He also outlines the responsibilities of his specialized counseling profession.

“[On] a surface level, my responsibilities cover the three domains of my profession,” Stiver said. “When it comes to academics, it is to make sure my students are on track to graduate [MVHS] and deliver [the MVHS] yearly guidance curriculum. But it is also to give support to parents, students or teachers — to be here for crisis situations and help find resources.”

The Benefits of Counseling

There is often a stigma surrounding counseling — that it exposes your weaknesses and is something that you should not engage in. Yet this is not true.

As Brené Brown — a research professor at the University of Houston — says in her novel Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable but they are never a weakness.”

Brown articulates the importance of sharing vulnerability rather than being scared of the act. Counseling is a way to do so — to help out instead of exposing weakness. Stiver shares the same sentiment; regardless of what one may be going through, counseling has the potential to offer some help.

“[Counseling] can provide new perspectives — a neutral third party,” Stiver said. “It entails having an advocate for, in my case, students who do not feel as though they have a voice. [Counseling] provides a listening ear as support.”

Reaching Out

Clearly, counseling can have innumerable merits — and one can always reach out to get help. In fact, Stiver shares a few ways to do so.

“If I was a student, I would do one of three things — or all three,” Stiver said. “The first is to see one of the guidance counselors [at school] — a brief chat can help a lot, whether it be with resources or social-emotional support. [Another option] would be to go to my doctor and talk to them about what services they may know of or provide themselves. [The third option] is going to my parents — if appropriate given the situation — for help.”

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, guidance counselors — although extremely valuable — are not equally accessible to some students across the United States of America, particularly low-income students. In fact, more than one-fifth of public high schools across the nation do not have access to even one guidance counselor, as reported by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights in 2016. Though many protests have occurred to persuade districts to offer more resources — such as guidance counselors — for schools, progress is still quite slow. 

“We can do better,” Stiver said. “We, as a school, say that we prioritize mental health — it is time to show it.”

Given that this month is National Counseling Awareness Month, it is important, more now than ever, to share the benefits of counseling; every student in the nation should have access to someone who can help them with their school careers as Stiver helped me with mine. Every student in the nation deserves someone to help them live up to their absolute fullest potential — someone who can give them the academic, career and social-emotion support they need.