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‘Tis the Season… for Holiday Stress

The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends but they can also be highly stressful.  Managing the increase in shopping, travel, children’s activities and other obligations this time of year can be very helpful in reducing stress and allowing you and your family to enjoy the holidays.

    1. Take control. You might not be able to control everything on your holiday to-do list but you can control how you react to them. For example, instead of getting worked up during holiday traffic, use the time in your car to listen to a book on tape.
    2. Unload and learn to say “no.” If there are holiday tasks that you just can’t or don’t want to do, let them go – if you can. Also, don’t commit to new things just because you feel you have to. Learning to say “no” may take some practice and might feel uncomfortable at first, but taking on too much can be more stressful than “passing” on a request in the first place.
    3. Choose holiday activities that you can do as a family and are fun for everyone. It’s okay to stop doing activities that members of your family no longer enjoy. If you start a new tradition and it doesn’t go well, do something different the next year.
    4. Maintain your children’s bedtime routine. Even during the holidays, keeping the daily bedtime routines will ensure you and your children are well-rested.
    5. Delegate. Let each family member be responsible for cleaning/decorating a room. Create a “job jar” with everyone taking a turn choosing what his or her job will be. Be sure to make your expectations clear to your children and consider lowering your standards a little bit. Your home doesn’t have to look perfect to be welcoming and your children will be proud of their contribution to the holiday celebration.
    6. Be realistic about relatives. Don’t try to solve past family issues over the holidays and use discretion instead of bringing up every little irritation. If going to a relative’s house every year causes a lot of stress, decide if you really need to do it. Maybe you can go every other year instead.
    7. Create a budget and stick to it. Managing your money during the holidays doesn’t have to add extra stress. Budget how much you want to spend on gifts, food and the household during the holidays and stick to that amount.
    8. Don’t give in to the “Gimmes.” The familiar phrase of, “I want, I want!” can wear parents down over the holidays, but giving in to your child’s every request can cause financial distress. It’s okay to tell your child that a gift is too expensive and that even Santa Claus has limited funds. Another way to fight the commercialism of the holidays is to start traditions that don’t cost any extra money. Bake cookies, go caroling, give to needy families or volunteer.
    9. Set limits for college kids. A college student home for the holidays can wreak havoc on family routines. Your teen has been on his or her own and doing things very differently for months, so you’ll need to set some ground rules in advance. Everyone’s going to have to compromise during the visit so it’s important that parents and kids be respectful of each other.
    10. Set aside time for yourself. One of the best things you can do for your family is to take care of yourself. Whether it is exercising, meditating, reading a book, enjoying coffee with a friend or simply going to bed at a reasonable time, it’s important to de-stress yourself during the holidays. Prioritizing obligations and setting limits and boundaries about how you spend your time will not only save you some unnecessary stress this holiday season, it will teach your children a valuable lesson about what is important to your family.

Here are some other posts you may find helpful (click on the title to go to the post):

Social Hosting and Safe Holiday Parties for Teens

Fun and Alcohol-Free Party Ideas

Helping Your Teenager Manage Stress

Drugs, Alcohol and Abusive Relationships in Teens

Signs of Depression in Teenagers

Helping Your Teen Through Depression

Encouraging Your Teen to Get Naturally High

Failing Safely: Helping Teens Succeed by Letting Them Fail

Parents, talk to your teens.  They will listen!
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Social Media Causes Isolation in Teens

Social media was originally thought to be something that would expand our worldview and help us feel connected to people who don’t live in our neighborhood.  With only a few swipes on their smartphones, teens can now meet more people, develop relationships and have more opportunities for seeing beyond the world around them… or so it may seem.  What’s actually happening is that teens are becoming more sheltered and less independent than any generation before them.

According to social psychologist Jean Twenge:

  • Today’s 12th graders spend less time outside of the house without their parents than 8th graders did in 2009.
  • The number of teens who spend time daily with friends dropped by 40% between 2000 and 2015. (Smartphones became popular around 2012.)
  • Only 55% of high school seniors have jobs when school is in session, compared to 77% during the late 1970s.
  • Teens are also driving less and depending on parents more for rides.

This isolation has had a painful effect on our teenagers.  Jean Twenge states that rates of depression and suicide are so high that members of Generation Z are “on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades.” How did this happen? Listed below are some ways that social media harms teens.

  • Social media prevents teens from learning or practicing social skills. The teen years are when the social skills necessary for adulthood are learned, practiced and improved. Because of social media, teens don’t get the chance to put in the work of getting to know a person because everything about that person is already posted and on display.
  • Because of social media, being ignored is now intensified. With all the ways teens communicate instantly through their phones and can see if their messages have been read, teens know when they are being ignored. Because teens lack impulse control, they often reply immediately and they expect the same of their peers. When a teen sees that a friend is ignoring them, the teen feels anxious, ignored, frustrated and unimportant.
  • Social media makes it very easy for teens to know when they’re being left out. When today’s adults were teens, we didn’t know we were left out of a gathering unless someone told us or we overheard someone talking about it. Missing out hurts. These days, all a teen has to do is open their favorite app to see what their friends are doing without them – and others can see it, too. Knowing instantly that they have been left out and that others know about it – even while the event is still happening – can be devastating for a teen.
  • Social media makes it difficult for teens to consider other points-of-view. Social media platforms like Tumblr encourage people to only interact with people who think like they think. The  algorithms for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are constantly being changed, and the trend is moving toward the same kind of like-minded interaction.  If teens are only talking to other teens who also feel lonely and depressed, they won’t hear different points-of-view.  Because their brains are still developing, teens can’t see beyond the situation they are experiencing.  When they talk only to other teens who feel as they feel, they don’t realize that people actually care about and will listen to them.
  • Social media can harm a teen’s already-fragile self-image. People tend to post only the photos and details about their lives that they want others to see. Because teens don’t understand that what they see online isn’t real, they compare their own lives to the perfect, happy lives they see and feel they can’t measure up to others. This leads to feelings of insecurity, jealousy, loneliness and depression. The problem gets worse when a teen receives “likes” and praise on a fake life they show online because it supports their belief that their regular lives aren’t good enough. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Quality time and relationships suffer when social media is a priority. People tend to pay attention to others who are not present more than the people who are right in front of them. We’ve all ignored things in our lives because we were playing on our phones. Teens are no exception; when they are distracted by an app or texting with friends, they aren’t spending time strengthening relationships with the people who are physically around and care about them – their families and actual friends.

 Now that you know the ways social media can hurt teens, here are some ways you can help reduce the damage:

  • Set a limit for your teen of 2 hours per day of phone/screen time. (Go ahead and assume that at least 30 minutes are used at school.)This boundary might be difficult to set and maintain, but you’ll be helping your teen immensely. This will work best if the entire family has to follow the limitation.
  • Encourage your teen to get naturally high. A natural high comes from participating in any activity they enjoy, even if they aren’t good at it. Support and encourage your teen in finding THEIR OWN natural high, not what you want for them. Doing so will be especially helpful for improving their self-esteem.
  • Unplug and spend time with your teen and your family when everyone is together. Sit down for a family dinner and have everyone put their devices in a separate place. Being present with your other family members will strengthen your relationships with each other and also set a positive example for your teen.
  • Tell your teen to get to work!  As long as it leaves plenty of time for completing schoolwork and spending time with family, a part-time job will provide opportunities to practice social skills, learn responsibility, impulse control and discipline and make their own money while being independent. A bonus is that they won’t be able to play on their phone!
  • Take an interest in your teen. Don’t just ask “How was your day?” and leave them alone. Ask open-ended questions about their daily lives and ask about the things THEY think are important, even if you don’t understand.  Listening to your teen will help you understand them better and will let them know you care. When you’re asking your questions, be sure BOTH of you are free from cell phones or other distractions.
  • Get them moving. Exercising regularly causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals that may help with depression. It also reduces fatigue, helps with concentration, helps increase self-esteem, serves as a healthy distraction and is a positive way to cope with difficult situations and feelings. Also, it’s an opportunity for them to look at the world around them. It doesn’t have to be intense or last a long period of time. What’s important is that your teen gets moving and does it often. Again, this will work best if you’re setting an example and doing it too.
  • Encourage your teen to spend time with friends, in person. Invite their friends over for pizza – and have them turn in their phones at the door. They may think it’s lame at first, but they will enjoy the face-to-face time and will actually communicate with each other, which will strengthen those relationships.

Strengthening your teen from the negative effects of social media may be difficult, as he or she will not see the benefit and you’ll be met with resistance, but you know what’s best for your child.  You can do it!

Parents, pay attention to your teen’s social media use.  They need your help to be safe!

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Emerging Adults – Supporting the Transition into Adulthood

There’s a newish term for the period between ages 18-29: emerging adulthood. During these years, emerging adults travel a path during which they want to pull away from the struggles of their teenage years and feel more responsible for themselves, but are also still closely tied to their parents and family.   According to the American Psychological Association, emerging adulthood is defined as an:

  • Age of identity exploration.Young people are deciding who they are and what they want out of work, school and love.
  • Age of instability.The post-high school years are marked by repeated residence changes, as young people either go to college or live with friends or a romantic partner.
  • Age of self-focus.Free of the parent- and society-directed routine of school, young people try to decide what they want to do, where they want to go and who they want to be with – before those choices get limited by the constraints of marriage, children and a career.
  • Age of feeling in between.Many emerging adults say they are taking responsibility for themselves but still do not completely feel like an adult.
  • Age of possibilities.Hopefulness is unlimited. Most emerging adults believe they have good chances of living “better than their parents did,” and even if their parents divorced, they believe they’ll find a lifelong soul mate.

Many emerging adults have more choices than ever before. They may find themselves continually searching for the absolute “perfect fit” when it comes to career, marriage, or parenthood. Parents, though, may feel frustrated or impatient with the slow progress of their emerging adult’s development. Peers may want to help but might not know how, as they are trying to figure out their own path. This leads us to the important question:

How can parents and peers best support emerging adults?

  •  Try not to offer advice about higher education, career directions or love interests. Let your emerging adult come to you when he or she is ready for advice. Allowing time and space for young adults to sort out their choices will be best for everyone involved.
  • Be curious about your emerging adult, but avoid interfering. When they share details about their upcoming choices and plans, help them to discover their wants and needs, not yours. It helps to ask open-ended questions (which can’t be answered with “Yes” or “No”). The goal is to open up space for them to explore their ideas and become more confident in their decisions.
  • Support them in finding organizational systems that work for them. This age brings bills, budgeting, increased responsibilities, a busier social calendar and additional belongings to keep straight. Good organizational systems will help your emerging adult feel more in control and capable of meeting the demands of this new life.  Remember, what works for you may not work for them.
  • Help them learn how to talk to those in authority. Navigating the world as an adult can be difficult and anxiety-causing for emerging adults if they don’t know how speak to adults as peers/colleagues or respectfully advocate for themselves. Brainstorm and role play situations when this skill might be necessary.
  • Don’t rescue your emerging adult. Watching your emerging adult make mistakes is tough. He or she will make decisions you don’t agree with, but they legally have the right to do so and must be allowed to have the responsibility of accepting the consequences of their actions. Experience is often the best teacher.
  • Don’t belittle them when they make mistakes. No one responds well to criticism. Look for what your emerging adult loves, what they do well and what they aspire to do, and focus on that. Remind them that you believe in them and that they have the ability to accomplish their goals.

It is important to trust your emerging adult to create their own life.  After all your hard work of building a solid foundation for them, it’s time to sit back and watch them fly.  It won’t be easy, but it’s worth it. It’s not giving up, it’s giving them control.

Parents, be there for your emerging adults.  They still need you!

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