Raising Resilient Teens Mindfully Part 2

Raising Resilient Teens Mindfully Part 2

I’m excited to share the transcript from our most recent and insightful workshop, “Raising Resilient Teens Mindfully Part 2,” led by Brian Shiers.

It was an enlightening session that delved into various important aspects of parenting teenagers with mindfulness and love.

Brian began by acknowledging the universal challenges we face as parents, especially in this day and age. Our role is more than being caregivers. We need to guide our teens through a world full of complexities.

He emphasized how mindfulness isn’t a ‘style’ of parenting but a powerful tool to enhance self-awareness.  This self-awareness helps us recognize our own functioning, and with more clarity, groundedness, and less judgment, we can be more effective as parents.

Some key areas he covered:

  1. Identity, the Innovative Brain & Social Media
  2. Self-knowledge: Self Worth and Self Esteem
  3. Emotion Awareness: How to Regulate
  4. Mastery of Skills: Avoiding Snowplow Parenting & Importance of Chores
  5. Hope for the Future

IDENTITY, THE INNOVATIVE BRAIN & SOCIAL MEDIA

Identity is a crucial aspect of a teen’s development. Our teens’ nervous system undergoes a neurological critical period, characterized by rapid changes that increase the potential for complete development. This period explains many of the behaviors we see in teens, such as moodiness, reactivity, and what may seem like disrespect towards parents or family rules.

In the past, people often attributed these behaviors to hormones and developing sexuality. However, hormone functions are far more complex than just sexual maturation. It’s actually about brain differentiation, which is critical for overall development.

Some of the best theories suggest that innovative and rebellious teenagers from thousands of years ago who pushed against tribal norms and practices were more likely to survive and pass on their genes. The stormy teenage brain is thought to have evolved as a way to challenge attachments to elders and encourage innovation and tribal identity among peers. These powerful brain changes are necessary for teenagers to form deep bonds and secure their future.

SOCIAL MEDIA A FORCE MULTIPLIER

Social media has become a force multiplier that leverages teenagers’ fundamental need for tribal identity. Although the creators of social media platforms may not have been aware of this evolutionary neurobiology, they have unintentionally amplified these needs. Social media provides a curated, 24/7 environment for teens to connect with their peers and build their identity.

As parents, it’s important to find a balance between acknowledging the potential negative effects of social media and understanding their genuine need for connection with others.

Just like alcohol, social media should be used in moderation, especially for teens who are “followers” who may be more vulnerable to seeking online validation.

Setting limits on technology is vital to manage children’s nervous systems and ensuring their well-being.

Some strategies to consider include:

  1. limiting internet and phone use after 10 pm
  2. keeping technology out of bedrooms, and
  3. monitoring phone use during homework.
  4. staying informed about AI advancements like chat GPT, bots that have the capacity to negatively influence children

Unplugged time is crucial for children to consolidate and process their thoughts and emotions, helping them develop emotional intelligence and resilience. Encourage them to spend at least an hour a day without technology, engaging in simple activities like eating or looking out the window.

Real-life connections and maintaining family identity are essential in today’s fast-paced digital world. Encourage teens to get out of their rooms, out from behind their screens, to make plans with friends and family in person so they strike the right balance between their online and offline lives.

AUTHENTIC SELF KNOWLEDGE

Teenagers need to develop an authentic inner knowing. They need help with this, but they may not always want it, making it a challenge.

Identity relies on two sources: a teen’s internal experience and the way others mirror them back. As teens, they need both peer validation regarding their skills, appearance, and friendships, and parental reflections of their inherent qualities and character.

While parents cannot provide peer-level validation, they play a crucial role in reflecting on their child’s attributes and nature.

To help our children develop authentic inner knowing, we can start by modeling it ourselves. We can practice self-awareness by observing ourselves in quiet moments and applying mindfulness in conversations, driving, and daily life. The more we understand our strengths and areas for growth, the better we can share our experiences out loud, particularly with another adult in the household. Discussing our wins, struggles, and psychological aspects transparently and without judgment can set a good example for our children.

Brian emphasized the importance of sharing personal experiences with our teens, especially when it comes to handling personal failures, rejection, and modeling resilience. By openly discussing our own challenges and triumphs, we provide valuable insights and lessons that can guide our children’s own journeys.

For example, during drives or family activities, we can share stories of times when we faced failure or rejection and how we navigated those experiences. By highlighting the emotions we felt and the strategies we used to bounce back, we teach our children the importance of resilience and perseverance. These stories create a safe space for our teens to explore their own feelings and experiences, knowing that setbacks are a natural part of life.

Our transparency encourages our children to develop a growth mindset and understand that failure is not a reflection of their worth but an opportunity for growth and learning.

Self-Worth & Self-Esteem

A key aspect of development is balancing self-worth and self-esteem. Self-esteem is often transactional, based on things like being liked or good at activities. However, many factors are beyond a teenager’s control, such as subjective grading or athletic performance. If self-worth depends on things they can’t control, it can lead to problems.

Self-worth comes from self-knowledge and reflections from parents, family members, and sometimes peers and teachers. When parents show joy and delight when they see their children, it communicates that they are lovable and valued just for existing. This helps build a strong sense of self-worth.

Parents should consider their work-life balance and how it affects their ability to enjoy and appreciate their children. Mindfulness can help parents become more self-aware and present in family moments. It’s essential for both parents’ well-being and their children’s development.

EMOTIONAL AWARENESS & REGULATION

Recommended Book

Brian recommended a great book called “Hold On To Your Kids” by Gabor Maté and Gordon Neufeld. It’s about raising teenagers and emphasizes the importance of parents over peers in a teenager’s life.

As parents, we might notice our kids pulling away, being less respectful, or not listening. Although it can be alarming, we have the emotional maturity and experience to step back, understand the situation, and adjust our approach.

Parents can offer something their teenagers’ peers can’t: emotional support and patience. We need to maintain family activities to keep our kids engaged, such as annual events, holidays, birthdays, and vacations. It’s also important to have one-on-one activities once or twice a month to build relationships.

The key is to find a balance between giving teenagers space and not micromanaging them. They need more autonomy but also depend on us, even if they don’t acknowledge it. As parents, we should create a safe environment for them while also offering support when needed.

To do this, we can plan family activities, volunteer together, have game or movie nights, go for walks, or take long drives. Some activities can be chosen by teenagers, while others should be mandatory. The goal is to build and maintain relationships with our kids during this challenging time in their lives.

Emotional awareness and regulation are critical for self-actualization in teenagers. Balancing the tension between the attachment drive and authenticity can be achieved through validation, which helps maintain a connection while acknowledging the child’s genuine experiences. When faced with a teenager’s difficult emotional state, parents should first self-regulate by using mindfulness practices to manage their own emotions.

The key is to validate the teenager’s authentic experience while still setting limits on their behavior. This can be achieved by recognizing early signals of one’s reactivity, using meditation skills to calm down, and validating the other person’s valid emotions or experiences. The more parents practice these techniques outside difficult situations, the better they can apply them when needed.

Brian gave an example of how he and his wife addressed their son’s anger regarding new rules on the use of devices. Brian and Laurie practiced self-regulation and managed their tone of voice, validating the son’s feelings without giving in to his anger. By allowing their son to self-regulate, (go for a walk) they were able to reach a more positive outcome, with the son eventually apologizing.

Emotional Regulation & Sleep

The proliferation of social media and constant connection to peers through phones is negatively impacting sleep time for teens. Sleep is essential for brain development, memory consolidation, and emotion regulation. Well-rested teenagers are better equipped to handle daily challenges and thrive.

The challenge for parents is maintaining open communication while also prioritizing sleep. This can lead to friction, as enforcing sleep schedules may cause unpleasant moods or arguments. However, to develop resilience in our children, we must tolerate this friction and balance it with love and care for our kids.

Finding a balanced way to express the limits we set, validating their frustration, and communicating the care behind our decisions is not easy, but essential for their well-being. We must tolerate pushback in order to help our children meet their needs and develop resilience. Mindfulness is a valuable tool that can help parents manage the stress that arises from such situations, ultimately benefiting both parents and children.

MASTERY

To promote self-actualization, it is important to focus on mastery and autonomy. Another important aspect for helping kids develop mastery is avoiding snowplow parenting. This means we should be cautious about doing too much for our children or removing obstacles from their path. If we constantly help them overcome challenges, we might unintentionally send the message that they can’t do it on their own.

As parents, we need to find a balance between support and letting our children struggle and develop skills independently. This is particularly important during their teenage years.

Additionally, with the rise of smartphones and social media, some aspects of teenage life have changed. Kids now get their driver’s licenses later, have fewer in-person social activities, and might not have part-time jobs or volunteer work. These activities are essential for building autonomy, mastery, and new relationships outside of school.

To support our teenagers’ development, we should consider encouraging part-time work or volunteering, as well as continuing discussing our concerns with other parents and seeking advice from articles or experts.

Chores are another significant aspect of self-development, as research shows that children who grow up with chores have greater job satisfaction, better relationships, and higher incomes. By incorporating responsibilities around the house, (that have a time schedule to it like taking out the trash on certain dates), parents can help their children develop essential life skills, even if it may cause some friction and challenges especially when their friends don’t have to do chores.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

With recent challenges like divisive politics, the pandemic, and climate change, it can be difficult for young people to maintain optimism about their future. This anxiety can also impact their academic performance, relationships, and personal identity.

To help with this, we must first model a positive attitude ourselves. Avoid constantly discussing negative news or spending excessive time scrolling through distressing headlines. Instead, educate your children about how the media landscape has changed over time and how it’s now designed to capture our attention with negative stories. Encourage your family to explore multiple news sources and focus on good news as well.

Introduce your children to resources like

The Good News Network and  Human Progress highlight positive stories and innovations.

Brian’s family, they have a “Good News Sunday” where they share uplifting stories at dinner time. This helps to balance their perspective on current events and instill hope in their son.

Encourage discussions with your kids about the good things happening in the world and how they can contribute to positive change.

For those concerned about climate change, consider sharing resources like the Hold This Space website, which offers science-based information and solutions without causing overwhelm.

By providing a balanced understanding of the world and highlighting the positive, we can help our children feel more hopeful and empowered about their future.

I hope you found this workshop recap insightful and valuable and hope to see you in the Fall for more workshops!

Warm regards,

Kalika Signature for Harvard-Westlake Parents Mindfulness Club