A recent report by Pew Research Center indicates that anxiety and depression are among the top concerns for teens. According to the feature, the total number of teenagers who recently experienced depression increased 59% between 2007 and 2017, and the rate of growth was faster for teen girls (66%) than for boys (44%). PRC also found that seven-in-ten U.S. teens said anxiety and depression is a major problem among people their age in the community where they live, according to a Pew Research Center survey of teenagers ages 13 to 17 conducted in fall 2018. An additional 26% cited anxiety and depression as a minor problem. The following are some insights for parents based upon my 15-year study of the impact of mobile connectivity on youth and families.
It has always been true that children are born into adult communities. They are called families. And every family has experienced the consequences resulting from some form of adult issues that disturbs the peace. These adult issues include: anxiety and depression, bullying and domestic violence, addictions, and sexual exploitation, which are imported and amplified online.
The most common of the adult issues is anxiety which in a cyber-powered world is intensified for all the generations.
Now more than ever, perception is reality as the impact of social media which if unchecked can be an overwhelming shaper of a seemingly hopeless reality. So how can we take charge of our own perceptions as individuals and families?
Habit is defined as a way of thinking about, perceiving and responding to the things that are happening in life, on and offline.
These five habits of tech-savvy families below reflect a universal understanding of the human condition as prone to error (i.e., believing things that are not true and acting on them) and resilient (i.e., the inherent capacity to choose to learn how to grow strong from adversity).
Habits of families who conquer anxiety
- Think resilient thoughts. Examine your beliefs about power and control as individuals and as a family as if it is a civics lesson. Consider the wisdom thought associated with power in a free society:
the Creator of all humanity grants every person intelligent life and free will, and this is power over your own thoughts and actions in all circumstances that can never be taken but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. In this power paradigm, an atheist has the right to declare there is no God in the public square because a handful of people acted on this belief that God grants every person the power to choose what thoughts to believe or not to believe.
With this understanding about the founding of a free society, we encourage folks to create a family creed that declares and defends this power of free agency for every individual, regardless of age or gender. This means that parents too must accept that their child has the same inherent powers of self-determination as adults (memory, intellect and will); this is how we learn how to grow into our potential through life experiences. In this relational model of power in the parent-child bond, parents have authority over the home and family culture to educate children how to use their power wisely (self-control), and children are fellow human beings in charge of themselves.
In this paradigm of freedom and peace, liberty already belongs to the soul and it must be defended. So when our children are attacked, let us not encourage them to respond in kind, but rather respond with the power of kindness that comes from defending love, the dignity of every human being involved or impacted by the cruelty.
If your child is being attacked, and hopefully you will know about it because you have created a family culture of transparency and open communication (see Fresh Start), you can help them center their thoughts.
- First, write down the thoughts that are disturbing them. Face the accusations. Then ask, are these accusations about me true? Of course not, will be your reply.
- Next, write down the thoughts that are the opposite of the torment. These are the thoughts that come from the mind of God. Focus on those thoughts.
- Finally, if the cyberbullying and harassment continues, seek help. For more information about confronting the cyberbullying with a merciful and hopeful heart, and with the aim of seeking justice for all, go to: Confronting the cyberbully
So parents are you responding to the things that are happening in life (on and offline) as victims or as free agents? When something happens to disturb your peace how will you respond? Do you have the desire and determination to teach your child how to make choices that come from within, to resist the pressure to believe the assaults and then to hold yourselves and others accountable for injustices?
- Embrace an open-minded perspective. Families who conquer anxiety realize that their opinions are always limited human understanding of a person or a situation at a point in time; while wisdom engages eternal thoughts that bring about peace, empower self and others and transcend religious dogma.
- Love cast out fear. (1 John 4:18)
- I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand. (Confucius)
- As a man thinketh, so is he. (Psalm 23:7)
- The root of all suffering is attachment. (Buddha) I understand this wisdom thought as unforgiveness being the cause of suffering; whereas forgiveness involves correction and withstanding painful consequences without hate and condemnation in your heart.
Wisdom thoughts help us to widen our window of tolerance to hold up two opposing thoughts at once in our own minds, and then decide which one you want to give your mental energy. Some examples include:
- If your daughter has sent a nude photo of herself to a love interest and is now being bullied horribly, does that make her a slut?
- Or if your son is hooked on oxy, does that make him a criminal?
- It depends on what you think and what your child thinks. When your child is in their lowest moment, you can choose to see your child as magnificent, reflect that truth back to them and encourage them to learn from the experience how to become better versions of themselves in response to the consequences of their choices.
Families who conquer anxiety check personal opinions (closed-minded) against wisdom thoughts (open-minded) which empower family members to learn how to become better versions of themselves (building strength of character) in response to adversity.
- Practice discipline as empowering lessons about self-control. Punishment is often confused with discipline. Punishment is the pain associated with a consequence of a choice or behavior. So when we deliver a consequence with anger in our heart (wherein the child feels your hostility) the chances are you have inspired your child to feel outcast, and the lesson your child learns is that the crime was to get caught. They will likely learn how to keep secrets which harbor risk rather than seeking wisdom and guidance when they fall into shame-inspiring circumstances (such as porn, sexting, drugs or gambling).
While discipline is instruction on how to exercise self-control and take responsibility for all of your thoughts and actions. This means that you accept the consequences with a desire to learn how to know and do better next time. Some examples include: choosing to study for a test or not, or helping a younger sibling how to do a math problem, or allowing them to struggle when you could show them what they need to know. Mostly discipline is about being a trustworthy person. It is instruction through experience on how to exercise self-control and withstand the consequences of every decision without becoming conceded or bitter.
Therefore families who understand that when a person acts in a way that is not in alignment with your core values (of being a trustworthy person), it is possible to learn from the consequences and choose to do better next time.
All behavior issues are learned. And this is the hope. We can always choose to learn to do better the next time regardless of what other people’s opinions are telling you.
- Deliver disciplinary consequences with a clean slate. Offering a “clean slate” after a consequence has been experienced is another way of expressing forgiveness as: correction without condemnation. This means that when a family member has suffered the consequences of a behavior issue, such as losing a privilege or having to find a way to pay for damages, or is experiencing natural consequences of sharing too much on line (being bullied or falling into a pedophile trap), the message accompanying the consequence is that you have confidence in their ability to do better next time. And do not keep bringing up this incident in the future. This is what it means to wipe clean the slate (chalkboard) of wrong doing.
Overall the objective of a clean slate is to give your child hope that you will not continue to hold judgment against them. And if you have a child that continually violates a house rule and does not seem to be learning from the consequences, then it is time to get educated. Depending upon the nature of the behavioral issue you will want to consult a professional. Your objective is to determine if there is something more you need to learn about your child in order to help them and possibly enlist the support of others in the process. (To learn more contact Joanna).
- Seek to understand before being understood: Active listening. You cannot know what is going on in your child’s heart and mind unless they choose to tell you about it. That is why it is important to check your opinion and open your mind to what your child has to say.
The reality is that until your child has shared with you what is happening in their life and how they are thinking and feeling about it, (no matter how much evidence you have gleaned from their phone or other witnesses), you do not know a thing. Without learning from your child how their life experiences are informing them, you are not informed and will likely be bringing your own emotional issues into the situation which only intensifies that burden your child may be experiencing.
There is an old teaching adage: “people don’t care about what you know until they know you care.” The way in which tech-savvy youth feel loved is to be heard – without judgments and editorials about their thoughts and experiences.
Active listening involves:
- Asking your child to tell you what happened. And then listen.
- Giving your child 100 percent attention.
- Withhold your own judgments and emotions when you disagree or are alarmed about what they are telling you.
- Once they have shared their story, repeat what you heard them say so they can know they were heard by you.
- Give them a chance to clarify or restate things that didn’t sound right the way you said it.
- Ask them to tell you what they are learning from the experience, and if they have any questions or want to know anything from you.
- Then, offer your thoughts by asking them if they are interested in the thoughts on your heart for them. Make sure that you are guided by thoughts that are hopeful…forming agreement about what is not right about the situation and how they can do better moving forward.
- Express your confidence in their ability to grow stronger from the experience.
To learn more about conquering anxiety in your home, 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.
Peace on earth begins with peace at home.
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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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