Giving Our Kids Presence vs. Presents
The sign outside Ecobambino read, “Raising a child is the hardest [job] you’ll ever love,” a play on the Peace Corp slogan. One of the reasons why it is so challenging is because we’re preparing them for an unpredictable future.
How do we prepare our kids for the world they will inhabit as adults? What skills do we need to teach them before they leave home? What tools do they need to help them become independently fulfilled adults?
In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, perhaps some of the best things we can give our kids is our presence (not to be confused with presents). When we give the gift of our time and create meaningful opportunities to connect with them, our kids will find their way. When we are fully present with them, we help them feel worthy, let them know they matter, and help them see how they fit in and belong. In creating meaningful opportunities, we let them discover what fuels them and what they are passionate about. When we help them recognize that they are works in progress we convey our trust that they will find their own way. When we convey that they have many miles to go before they get a glimpse of knowing where what directions they want to take (hopefully with amazing detours along the way), we give them space and time to explore their potentials. Our kids will definitely face challenges, but their struggles will be embedded within the broader context of our love, support and trust.
Our kids are connecting, learning and relating in new and different ways than we did in our childhoods. Many teens have formed communities of support via Instagram, Snapchat and group texts. They are learning that they are not alone by reading and sharing stories (sometimes via posts) from and with people like them online. Whether through the music they listen to, the T.V. shows they watch, the things they read about on BuzzFeed, or the things they talk about at lunch with friends, our kids are exposed to a lot and are feeling more pressures than teens did decades ago.
In observing, researching and reading about teens, we now understand that while our preferred/learned ways tend to be one-on-one connection and in-depth personal conversations, for them a wider audience and public platform may be the path to connection, support and understanding.
Like in the movie The Internship, our generations have much to learn from each other and our ways of being in the world. We may prefer/enjoy the face-to-face of a coffee shop, but our kids are at the coffee shop- with a peer or alone and with their laptop and phones. They too are connecting, working, learning, and catching up with a friend.
One example of important work and proactive efforts is the youth mental health nonprofit Teenz Talk, a peer-to-peer organization founded by a high schooler in Palo Alto last year. Here’s a sample of their approach:
PURPOSE: We empower youth by harnessing peer-to-peer connections to maintain wellness, aiming to erase the stigma around mental health through conversation and education.
● You are not alone. We all face stress & mental health challenges. Learning how to cope with this early on is a global matter for our generation. TeenzTalk is here to start the dialogue around mental health & highlight a variety of resources.
● Embrace the activities you enjoy. It naturally may take exploring many different areas, before discovering the ones that are truly for you.
● Connect with your peers to share aspirations & setbacks. We're here to support each other. Through our unified strengths, perseverance, curiosity, & compassion, we can achieve wellness together. Your story deserves to be heard.
We’ve been struggling with the term “suicide prevention” this month and Teenz Talk affirmed why. As adults, we tend to focus on what we want to prevent, yet when it comes to mental health, we do not always do enough to talk about and teach what we want to promote (well-being). Schools teach units on healthy habits, nutrition and physical
Not sure how to talk about mental health? Then bring change to mind can help.
Online Help for Teens by Teens
#WELLBEING4ALL CAMPAIGN “MISSION: open discussion on mental health & directly fight the stigma by sharing our own real experiences”
How To Help A Friend from NAMI- National Alliance on Mental Illness
13 Reasons Why Not (video below)- Let’s help all of us be each other’s reasons why not
Online Help for Parents
American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults. Though it dates back to February 11, 2014, it is a helpful resource and includes a Spanish version : )
We wish everyone the opportunity to Connect and Be Well.