Last week I delivered a training to educators and counselors on how parents can learn to instill learning discipline among tech-savvy youth at a state educators’ conference. Attendees traveled to Rocklin from across the state to learn how to promote mental health among students.
Below is one of several features to share insights with parents about the social and emotional issues impacting the hearts and minds of modern youth and what we can do about it. This first segment raises awareness about the impact of modern life on young hearts and minds. The next two segments will address 1) the social norms youth experience on and offline, and 2) insights for parents on how to accept the things they cannot control, and focus on the things they can do to empower their children to build trustworthy relationships.
Gordon Jackson, Assistant Superintendent at the California Department of Education offered opening remarks at the 2nd Annual Student Mental Wellness Conference last week at William Jessup University in Rocklin, (Wednesday, Feb. 28 and Thursday, Mar.1). “The time is now,” Jackson said, “for all adults to work together to help students who are struggling with non-academic issues. We all need to find the time to give more of ourselves [to our youth].”
Organized by Wellness Together (student counseling services with offices in Sacramento, Rocklin and Laguna Niguel) and the California Department of Education, this conference drew over 900 attendees from across the state to learn how to better respond to the social and emotional issues adversely impacting the mental health of youth today, including anxiety and depression, addictions and bullying.
The overarching theme of this event is to help the adults in the lives of youth focus on each student as a whole person, with inherent capacities to be well, rather than focusing only upon the problem or the issue at hand. There were many workshops offered to teach these skills to facilitate the human connection youth need in order to be secure, learn and grow. These skills are important because youth are growing up in a world wherein the impact of devices and social media can inspire very intense feelings of isolation and anxiety in young and old alike.
Marlon Morgan, M.A., LPCC, PPS, is the CEO of Wellness Together.Concerned about the lack of face-to-face connectivity that students experience today, he offers the following statistics about time spent online: 6 hours and 40 minutes per day for youth, and 7 hours and 43 minutes for adults. “Loneliness kills,” he said, “[our children need] meaningful connections to help answer life’s questions. In middle school, [these questions are] ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What am I worth?’ There is a search for identity and significance and every interaction we have with a student answers their questions for better or for worse.”
Featured keynote speakers were Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, author of Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child; Dr. Jean Twenge, author of iGEN: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are growing up less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely UnPrepared for Adulthood; and Dr. Isaiah Pickens, founder and CEO of iOpening Enterprises, an organization devoted to helping modern youth take charge of their own life stories, and counter the negative narratives they are experiencing in the social network.
Below are some of the insights that I gleaned from these keynotes to help parents better understand and respond to how the life experiences of tech-savvy youth are informing them:
- We can help youth envision how they define themselves and their successes as how to serve the well-being of others (‘yes brain’) rather than only focusing on the things that make us feel insecure and disconnected (‘no brain’). Tip: Identify the positive things your child has to offer and help them find a way to help others.
- Youth need help reaching their potential and managing screen time. Since 2010 most of the time spent outside of school is on the smartphone. In 2011-2012 there was a spike in teen depression and isolation. Tip: Establish a house rule that all devices are turned in at bedtime, while having dinner or in a conversation. Encourage activities such as swimming, running, etc. that do not involve giving 100 percent attention to a smartphone.
- We can help youth build connections through conflict, (which tends to focus on differences such as opinions, appearances, beliefs, social status, etc.), by changing our mindset. Tip: If your child is being left out of a group, listen to what your child has to say about what they experienced and how they identify with it as only painful; then help them create a better version of themselves that acknowledges their strengths. By the same token, encourage your child to be aware of circumstances when peers are not being welcomed into a group or activity, and find ways to include them.
The most important take-away from this event is to avoid minimizing the life experiences of children and teens. They are engaged in real-life dramas that can make or break their worldview as full of hopeful promise or only painful risks. Youth need parents, as well as educators, to be attuned to how their childhoods and teen years are informing them. This Saturday is National Day of Unplugging. Take time to be fully present.
To learn more about creating a family culture that strengthens the parent child bond and regulates the use of technology, contact Joanna.
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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