Clinical side: Research and experience in the mental health field, preference for family systems and training in early trauma and attachment disruptions, history of developing treatment programs for families navigating parenting a child with early trauma.
Olivia presented the idea that we have to be aware there is an issue before we can identify the problem, then find solutions. That awareness is occurring with daily news report, whether it’s crimes, relational breakups, or health issues. We are seeing humanity facing unprecedented, troublesome times. Not just our physical health is in jeopardy, but our mental health is endangered. More frequently, teens and children’s mental health needs are publicized.
A recent Christian counselor publication focused on teens and the mental health crisis. Teens and Mental Health: “What can we do to stop the oncoming tsunami that has already made landfall?” (Tim Clinton, Christian Counseling Today, Vol. 26, No. 2)
These are the problems they identified:
- Shattered relationships with peers, (teens learn to hide behind avatars, photo shopped pictures, dangerous behaviors, etc) Relationships built on finding personal benefits, are self-serving, and performance driven
- Fear of parent’s not hearing or validating child’s distress, child is left alone to manage.
- Environments that teach for tests, reduced focus higher-level thinking skills, and less inclination for reflection
- Inability to resolve conflict and work through and reconcile contradictions and pain.
- Lack of ability to analyze and identify cause and effect.
- Superficial approach to ever-expanding volume of knowledge
- Negative impact on consciousness, cognitive and affective functions, activity, verbal and nonverbal communication, conceptual structure of the world and self-reflection
- Hinders depth, nuance and resolution of challenges.
- Dangerous combination of teens’ relationships built on performance (looks, fashion, etc.), teens’ lack of emotional regulation skills, lack of higher-level thinking skills and less reflection–
- Brains become wired to seek dopamine (reward system) that override wise decision making (looking for relief from pain)
- Time spent on social media is isolating and depressive (avoidance of pain)
We have these problems highlighted by the AACC and those listed in the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. In 1998, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study was published. It’s a list of 10 questions labeling adversities that one may experience before 18. (things like a parent or adult in the household swearing, insulting, humiliating, or putting you down). The study was used to correlate the adversities to 9 major causes of death. Unfortunately, the study is used to justify courses of action, and variety of programs, projects, and treatments. The study has some flaws—did not include a wide demographic population, has become confused with causation-not the intended correlation, nor did it identify protective factors that may mitigate the adverse experiences.
I want to identify how we as parents can mitigate the problems noted by AACC and those in the ACE. Dismissing, Disapproving, Laissez-Faire, and Emotion Coaching (https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-parenting-styles/).
- Our presence (times of conversations, comfort) ACCEPTING
- Devoid of expectations in the moment of being present. This doesn’t invalidate our expectations of their responsibilities and actions. We are still parents who have the responsibility to train and define our children. How we define them is important and does not include attacking their sense of self, pushing a need for perfection—higher grades, better looks, etc.
- Attuned, safe, seeing the emotional needs, soothing amid difficulties.
- Nurturing without judgement. Exudes welcome, belonging (which is a powerful gift), love them as they are.
- Accepting their reality (not needing to agree with it), Be willing to see the world through their eyes (together with them).
- Giving the gift of time, energy, the ability to discuss their concerns (feelings, friends, faith, mental health–physical, too).
- Our conversation PLAYFUL, EMPATHIC, CURIOUS
- Bridge building to help them process a topic or issue, stay with the process, ask questions, be open, and use the relationship to resolution. Process is not the result.Introduce conversations, understand viewpoints, pain,Educate on mental health.Teach and model for child and teens skills to see life clearly, manage their feelings, make healthy decisions.Teach and model the ability to accept being bored, frustrated, lonely, sad, afraid, anxious, and stressed—while helping them understand how to bring God and healthy coping skills into that space. This will help them divert Satan’s quick fixes that only provide momentary relief.
- Teach and model how to live in the moment—not online.
To accomplish the parent expectations
- Model and use emotional regulation skills.
- Model and use self-care skills.
- Interact using PACE. (Playful, accepting, curious, and empathic, Baylin & Hughes, Brain Based Parenting, 2012)
- Model and use reflection.
- Promote higher level thinking skills via curiosity, questions, self-reflection.
- Promote exploration, failure is accepted if not celebrated with reflection and problem solving—learning opportunity.
© 2023, Faye Hall. All rights reserved.