(Below is the message Joanna shared with parents, educators, law enforcement, faith leaders and community leaders at the Coalition for Placer Youth, State of the Youth Community annual luncheon at 180 Church in Rocklin, last May 25. Joanna serves as the Chairperson for the Coalition for Placer Youth. Note: featured image above is via www.speedofcreativity.org)
Youth today are exposed to cyber stress and they are swimming in a sea of judgment.
This is their reality, and this stress can leave youth feeling incredibly isolated and disconnected from feeling secure and loved even in the best of homes; the painful experiences which include various forms of bullying, suicidal thoughts and actions, terrorism, sexual exploitation and abuse of drugs, can convince them that their parents would never understand. Their emotional backpacks are very heavy.
Before the avalanche of apps and devices, circa 2004, when my youngest son, my digital native, hit eighth grade, I left a career in technology to focus on what it means to grow up in a cyber-powered world, and the new demands on parents. This was the mentality that passed for “prevention strategy” in the parenting and school culture:
- Deny that it is happening in our community
- Hyper focus on grades and other achievements as evidence of being a good parent, teacher or principal
- Vilify the youth and parents of youth who were caught using
- A permissive belief that some drugs like beer or marijuana were not a reason for concern
- What the children learned that crime was to get caught.
- And so drug use and abuse by youth remained hidden in plain sight.
Since then I have spent a lot of time in the field hanging out with addiction and recovery experts, and listened to the life stories of many young people, including ones in recovery from addiction.
So that is why I wanted to share with you how the sciences of addiction, faith and recovery inform effective prevention thought leadership that can fosters resilience:
- First, the science of addiction teaches us that people do not become addicted to drugs. Rather, addiction is a pathological relationship with intoxication. Therefore, demonizing drugs and youth who are using or addicted, diverts attention away from pursuing reasons to be sober and pursue healthy relationships and lifestyles.
- The science of recovery from trauma and addiction teaches us that resilience comes from the inherent capacity for self-determination. Recovery from drug addiction happens when the higher powers of the soul are ignited to connect in a healthy relationship with self and others.
- The science of faith teaches us that every human being has personal power that must be defended as the same mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: that one Creator of humanity grants every individual, of all creeds, intelligent life and free will – and this is power that can never be taken but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. If you stand for nothing, and you fall for anything.
Prevention and freedom from addiction, are therefore an inside job that is accomplished with family/community support.
Effective prevention is informed by hope
I have learned that when informed by the sciences of addiction, faith and recovery, prevention strategy becomes an opportunity to strengthen the parent-child bond. Without this understanding that the human condition has the inherent capacity to recover from the consequences of addiction we can become hopeless and “don’t ask and don’t tell” becomes the strategy…and this kills open communication essential to understand how our teens lives are informing them and reinforce the good decisions they WANT to make – especially when they and their peers mess up.
The best strategy for prevention, therefore, is to get genuinely interested in your child, and how they are doing in life so you can impart your wisdom.
Digital native and soul power
This inner capacity for self-determination leverages faculties of the soul which involve memory (the brain takes in everything like a video recorder, without determining whether or not it is true); the intellect (executive capacity to reason and learn the truth about your identity as a spiritual, caring, powerful being); the will (which is the capacity to choose what to believe about and how to respond to what is happening and what the brain has recorded).
(To learn more, check out: The Role of a Parent in Healing a Suffering Child – Insights about the Power of Love and Suffering in the Family.)
This soul power is the great equalizer which can give us hope for our youth to learn at very early ages how to make good choices, and to seek wise counsel.
Managing the space between us
- Get interested in your child as a person who has greatness to be unlocked in their struggles.
- Impart wisdom by asking them if they want to know what you know about a situation, problem or issue they are facing. When they give you permission to tell them, and you tell them what you know without condemnation in your heart, that is how they receive what you have to say as love language.
- Be careful with your expectations. Every child can be expected to be a trustworthy person; but not every child can be expected to be a straight A student, go to Harvard, or become a surgeon.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.
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