Social media, competitive sports, straight As.
Growing up I thought I had a lot of pressure. I needed to make above a 4.0 GPA. I worked every day after school and all day during the summer. I had to work out numerous days a week (I have never been blessed with a good metabolism), and try to have some sort of social life. Many of my friends at that time had similarly busy schedules. Worries and stress were balanced by quiet times at homes and fun with my friends.
Times now are even busier and more stressful for teenagers. The amount of homework many of my clients have regularly leaves little time for anything else. And yet, many still need to work, play a sport and/or instrument, and try to have a social life. A social life that frequently involves social media. This adds its own level of stress as it follows you everywhere. You may think, well why don't they just stay off of social media if that is an added stress. I know teenagers who do but they struggle to maintain a social life. We live in an age where some social media is pretty much required for those in high school.
The pressure to be the best appears heighted since I was a teenager. It is not enough to play softball for the school. One must also play on a competitive team. First chair is great but in the select band, not just the "regular" band.
When did this happen and how? I was in the top of my class but I can honestly say that didn't make or break me in my career. I probably could have relaxed a little more (enjoyed life a little more) and still be where I am today. I am not saying that we should encourage teenagers to be slackers but we do not need to encourage them to be the "best" at everything. Some things should be done for the joy of doing them. We also need hobbies that are just for fun.
I fear that cases of anxiety will continue to rise if a change isn't made.
Fight Song by Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo1VInw-SKc
If I Was a Boy by Beyoncé https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWpsOqh8q0M
Beautiful by Christina Aguilera https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAfyFTzZDMM
Better Man by Little Big Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph9NQ8ASmX4
Praying by Kesha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-Dur3uXXCQ
Holes in the Floor of Heaven by Steve Wariner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axoeGUI24VY
He Didn't Have to Be by Brad Paisley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjO1F6oCab8
These are just some of the songs that speak to me. In different situations, I need music. I am not musically inclined at all. I can't sing well, play an instrument, or read music. I can, though, listen and appreciate. In sitting down to write this blog, I only picked a few but I could list even more songs that speak a message that I've needed to hear or a client needed to hear. It can be therapeutic and helpful.
I have clients that can play an instrument, sing, and write. I encourage this as it can help so much. Music speaks to most of us in one way or another if you let it.
From time to time, the therapists at Sandhill post a song on our Facebook page that speak to them one way or another. Check it out.
What songs speak to you?
If you give them an inch, they will take a mile.
I think about this saying every time I see an elementary child with his or her hair colored. I think about it when young kids have numerous ear piercings. I think about it when elementary kids are allowed to play rated M video games. I think about it when kids are allowed to watch mature shows.
You see, if kids are allowed to do certain behavior at a young age, they often will find other, riskier behaviors when older. It is "normal" for kids, adolescents, and teens to find ways to push the envelope. They want to find ways to express themselves as individuals and to (consciously or not) push the boundaries of what is acceptable. Often it seems they want to drive their parents crazy! I fear that when we allow children to engage in behaviors that are designed for older youth, we are giving them a mile and therefore they must take 10 miles.
I will add that I coloring one's hair for Halloween or a special event with wash out color is viewed differently by the kids so is not the same. But when a kid is allowed to permanently color their hair at age 8, what is the next step when they are 13?
My son made honor roll.
My daughter was elected Student Body president.
My kids made the select basketball team.
My spouse was promoted at work.
Bragging about one’s kids on Facebook is a great thing. Most of the time I love reading about positive things going on in other people’s lives. It helps me say connected and I like knowing successes that are out there. At times, though, it makes me jealous. My kids struggle with mental illness and that causes behavioral issues. We all work hard to cope. That doesn’t mean we don’t have successes, it just looks different for us. For example, the day at school may have started with my son throwing something and screaming but then he cooled down and had a “successful” rest of the day. This is a win for us. Would that be an appropriate brag though on Facebook?
Your kid may have passed all her classes for the first time in years-a win! You may have finally gone to a therapist for help with a struggle-another win. Your kid made it through a whole soccer game without having a tantrum-woohoo. Or the whole family went to Six Flags and everyone was nice to each other the whole time-this just happened for us and was definitely a win.
So is it appropriate to share these types of wins on Facebook? I think that if it is a successful for you and it won’t embarrass anyone in the post, it is okay to post it. I believe you need to be careful in your wording though. Best report card in years (with a picture of your kid)=good post. My daughter finally passed all her classes=negative post because it may shame her. Junior made it through the whole game relatively happily=positive post. Junior didn’t though a tantrum the whole game=negative post.
What do you think?
I wrote a blog in November about needing a trip with just my husband. Well, we took it. I wanted to reflect on it a little.
David and I went to Branson and Silver Dollar City for the weekend. We dropped the kids off at school Friday morning and then hit the road. My older sister and brother in law graciously watched them for us. My best friend dropped them off at their house after school.
It was a very strange car ride. No arguing, no “how long till we get there,” and no “I’m hungry.” I’d like to say no bathroom breaks but I needed one;)
We arrived in Branson around lunch time and went right to Silver Dollar City. It was very strange again. We went to whatever rides we wanted and if a line was too long, we just went somewhere else. We shopped at all the little craft stations set up and went to the presentations on cast iron pots. We ate when we were hungry and the bill was small compared to what we were used to. It was a very different experience than traveling with children.
Once checked in at the hotel, we walked to some antique stores and looked around. We then came back, watched tv shows of our choices, and had some grown up time;)
The biggest thing David and I noticed was that the whole trip was much quieter than we were used to. We found ourselves frequently just holding hands and walking around in silence; simply enjoying each other’s company.
The second biggest difference was our agenda was really no agenda. That is not something that can frequently work when our three kids are with us.
I feel the weekend was much needed and we definitely need to do it more often!
A lot is changing in my life right now. My oldest will be starting middle school (whoa!), my son going into second grade, and my youngest kindergarten. My husband will be home for the summer for the first time after just completing his first year of teaching. And I will be starting full time at Sandhill.
Yep, going full time here at Sandhill and leaving the great agency I have been with for five and a half years. It is bittersweet. I'll miss my coworkers and kiddos but am very excited for my new chapter to start. I am looking forward to seeing more clients of all ages.
I've had a few panic attacks about the change as I will no longer have a salary but earn as I go. When those happen, I use the coping skills that work for me (deep breaths, positive thoughts, talking to those close to me) and I know I have made the right decision.
Sometimes we need to make a scary leap to grow.
If you would like to know any details like my new hours or accepted insurance just contact me. I would love to hear from you!
There have been a lot of articles recently about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Some of them positive but a lot of them negative. I read the book years ago and loved it. Here's why I love the series:
1. It accurately portrays teens. I know some who were mad that the teens didn't all immediately run to the adults in their lives but the series was not an after school special showing what kids should do, it showed what they do. Unfortunately, it is common for teens to not seek adult support.
2. It has lead some teens to seek out support they otherwise would not have. I have first hand knowledge of kids talking to their parents about bullying, suicidal ideation, and/or self harm after watching the series.
3. It has opened up some parents minds of some aspects of what is going on with teens that they had no idea about.
4. I've had clients tell me they had no idea some things they have done that were mean could have such an impact on another.
5. I've had clients open up to me about suicidal thoughts they had in the past but never shared.
6. The portrayal of how Hannah's suicide effected her parents was so raw and emotional. I know (because they told me) it has helped some clients see that if they died, it would devastate their parents. Sadly, they had reported before watching the show, they knew their parents would be sad but didn't really "get" just how much.
7. It shows how ingrained our rape culture is and the need for drastic changes. The level that the other students protected Bryce was disgusting.
8. The portrayal of the outcomes of the rapes on the victims also showed how much shame and fear are involved especially with the idea of reporting it.
9. Clay realizing he should have told Hannah how he felt made me hope that others watching will take the leap to share their feelings.
10. It was a very diverse cast which was awesome!
11. The fact that some of the "good" kids in the school engaged in negative and dangerous behavior was powerful. I think often we put people into boxes and forgot we all have numerous sides. For example, Marcus was top of the class, very involved in school activities, and viewed as a "nice" guy. He was able to frame Clay without anyone suspecting anything.
12. The fact that everyone missed all the signs that Alex was suicidal was incredible. He gave many clues that he was not handling things well but no one told. This is common but needs to change. I'm always proud of students who share that they are worried about a friend. Better a mad friend then a dead friend.
13. The acting was amazing!
The one thing I did not like was the graphic portrayal of Hannah's suicide. I do not think it was necessary but I still feel the series very much worth watching.
My oldest child will be starting middle school soon and with it comes the issue of a cell phone. My husband and I have discussed it and decided it will be time for her to have a cell phone. She will need it to reach us at times and start being more independent. We are unsure, though, if she should have a smart phone or not. I have written about the dangers of social media before and I know it is a lot of responsibility for a tween. I work at a middle school and see first hand the drama it causes. It is very difficult for kids (and, let's be real, adults too) to stay off of social media when they have easy access to it. Right now, my daughter has an Ipod and we closely monitor it. Of course, we can try to closely monitor a smart phone but it is a bigger challenge.
On the other hand, it would make sense for her to have a smart phone instead of a regular cell phone and Ipod. Plus, she needs to learn more responsibility. I know that we can set up limits and enforce consequences if she does not follow them. Also, she has never broken the rules when it comes to the internet.
We have a little time to decide but it will be a decision we make together. I would love to hear other's experiences.
Play dates. Music lessons. Sports practices and games. Clubs. Before and after care. Camps. Electronics.
These are just some of the tools we use as parents to help keep our kids busy and safe. As I mentioned in my last blog, there has been a major shift in society since I was a child as children are not really given much unsupervised time. There are pros and cons to this. One big con, though, is the effects on parents.
Parents are expected to be ever present and watchful of their kids while also tending to household needs (such as cleaning, cooking, maintenance, laundry, helping kids with homework, etc). Imagine this: I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my eldest and attempting to help her with her math. Meanwhile my seven year old and four year old want to play. My husband is not home yet. My solution is usually to have them play in the living room (which is near the kitchen table) or play downstairs. This seems reasonable although I do know a few people who don’t feel I should even let the kids play downstairs without supervision.
It would be great if I felt comfortable letting them go outside in the yard, yet I don’t. I would let them go in the back yard as it is fenced in but there is too much chance one of them will go out front. Of course, they would receive a consequence if they do that but I fear other risks. The possibly unreasonable fear of being kidnapped, the fear of injury, or the fear of having the authorities called (which based on articles I read about this occurring it might not be an unfounded fear).
This means many parents have to add the unrealistic expectation of finding ways for their children to be entertained. Of course, it is okay for children to be bored and find ways to entertain themselves, but being real, if I’m trying to help my other kid with her homework, I don’t want to deal with the distraction of her siblings. A solution I might use then is tv or a tablet. L
This type of pressure to be ever present shows up outside the home too. If I take my kids to the park, I feel they should be able to run around and play on the playground without me. This doesn’t mean I just sit and play on my phone the whole time (I like a big slide and swings) but it also doesn’t mean I won’t be on my phone at times. My kids have been known to fall down and get scraped or interact with another kid in a less than ideal way (push or yell). Before I jump in as a parent, I want kids to try to solve the problems (wouldn’t it be great if the kid pushed said “hey, that wasn’t nice” and then my kid apologized without any adult making him). I have noticed, though, that other parents do not always agree with me. They are quick to jump in, frequently follow their kids around the playground, and give me the “stare” (you know the one where they are saying with their eyes, why aren’t you watching/playing/handling your kid). This is a lot of pressure on the parents and is not necessarily best for the kids. Of course, there are some kids that need more support than others but if we don’t let our kids be challenged a little, they won’t learn as well.
I’ll end with saying sadly I don’t have a solution to the pressures parents face. Other than to say keep doing the best you can. I will keep working on finding the best balance of supervision and independence for my kids and you can do the same. Maybe my grandkids will have a better balance that way.
“I’ll check in in a few hours.”
“I’ll be home by dark.”
“I’ll ride my bike there and back.”
These were common things my friends and I would say to our parents when we were younger. It was common for me to be playing in the neighborhood with no adult supervision when I was as young as seven. You read that right, seven! My mom will say she was watching me but based on the rules I broke, I know she wasn’t. And neither were my friends’ parents. I didn’t have neglectful parents and my friends’ parents weren’t being neglectful either. Things were different growing up in the late eighties/early nineties. I often wonder if I was part of the last generation of kids who played without an ever watchful eye. My little sister is six years my junior and I know she had a very different experience and was watched much more closely. As a parent of three myself, I cannot imagine letting my children play around the neighborhood the way I did. But I’m not entirely sure why.
Statiscally, we know that strangers are much less likely to kidnap children than a friend or family member (http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts). I know this and yet I don’t let my ten year old bike around the block by herself. I’ve been conditioned to fear her being kidnapped even though that is very unlikely. In fact, according to the article BECOMING SAFETY AWARE Parent’s Guide to Child Safety , children are one hundred times more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a kidnapping (http://www.keepyourchildsafe.org/child-safety-book/child-awareness.html). I read many statistics like this and yet it does not change my decision to limit my children’s freedoms.
I have a few reasons for this:
1. There is always that small chance they will be kidnapped and that horrifies me!
2. The judgement of others (let’s face it, Children’s Division will be called if my younger two are found somewhere by themselves regardless of their maturity level).
3. I would guess most of us don’t know our neighbors the same way we did when I was younger (for a variety of reasons but let’s face it, we are not as neighborly).
4. Not as many adults are around to hear or see if a child is in distress (in the majority of homes, all the adults are working).
5. Kids are not as mature (most likely, though, because we don’t give them as much independence).
I know this makes things harder on parents and teaches the kids in a different way. Check out my next blog on how I think parents are affected.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.