When people treat you wrong, it is very easy to hold a grudge. You may not understand how it could be possible to forgive someone for a slight, especially if the action was especially hurtful. Maybe you think forgiveness is about the other person and somehow,they benefit from you forgiving them. Forgiveness is not about the other person; it is about you.
Forgiving another person does not always mean they stay in your life. Sometimes you do not even let them know you are forgiving them. You do not even need to trust them again. Just forgive them to eliminate the negativity in your life.
Even horrific crimes can be forgiven. For safety reasons, you may want to use an indirect way of forgiving them instead of contacting them directly. Write a letter as if you plan on sending it to the other person. Talk about how what they did made you feel, and about how it made you think about yourself. Write about how you are no longer going to allow them space in your head and how you forgive them for what they did to you.
When you finish writing, seal up the letter in an envelope and put their name on the front. Then either throw it away (shred it first!) or burn the letter. It does not have to actually be read by the person you are forgiving, this exercise is to help you get past the negativity and the chains that are holding you back as a person.
If you find you can’t forgive on your own, you may want to talk with a professional. Therapy can really help you get past this hurdle. Especially if the person committed a serious crime. If you have been abused, particularly over a long period of time, you may need therapy to help you get past what was done to you. There is nothing wrong with seeking help.
Once you have forgiven the other person, you will feel like a weight has been lifted, or chains have been removed. Grudges are not healthy for you and they do not affect the other person. When you bottle up negative feelings, you can increase your risks of developing heart disease, and other health conditions. You tend to age faster as well. Not forgiving others can dim your overall outlook on life, so why put yourself through all of that?
Remember that forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about eliminating the negativity in your own life. So free yourself today by forgiving others for the wrongs they have done to you.
Scientists tell us there are certain things we can do to improve our mental wellbeing. These techniques will help you feel more positive about yourself.
They teach you how to ride the lows and wait out the lows. Once you know that, nothing can stop you from getting what you want out of life.
Today, we’re going to share with you five ways to boost your mental health. Keep reading for more.
1. Connect With Others
Good relationships don’t need years to build. They can form in a matter of months, or weeks even. Plus, they don’t have to be an all-in, best-friends-for-life type of relationship.
Just talking to a neighbor or members of your church can have a great impact on your mental health. You learn to listen, empathize, and build a strong sense of self-worth and value.
Have you and a friend not seen each other in a while? Then, reach out and try to arrange a coffee date so you can get together and catch up.
How about your children or other family members? Why not try to set an hour during the day where you talk or play games?
We all know how social media has become an important part of our lives. And it’s made it easier to stay in touch with important people in our lives, especially if they live far away.
It’s good to text and chat on a regular basis. Just make sure technology isn’t replacing your face-to-face communications with people.
2. Learn New Skills
Learning a new skill or hobby can have a significant boost on your mental health. It’s an excellent way to meet new people and improve your self-esteem.
It’s nice to have a sense of purpose, other than your work. It gives you something to look forward to each day.
The problem, however, is many people complain they don’t have enough hours in the day. Luckily, though, technology has made learning more accessible.
Here are some of the ways you can use those high-tech gadgets you have to good use:
• Sign up for an online course, like learning a new language or a practical skill like programming
• Look for free video tutorials online to help you out with a DIY project
• If you enjoy cooking, find healthy recipes and learn how to make them
• Try a new hobby that challenges and entertains you, like painting, writing, or gardening
• Learn to play a new sport or physical activity
3. Pay More Attention
We’re all guilty of not paying attention to people and things going on around us. We’re always busy with work or scrolling through our social media feed.
Learning to focus all your senses on the present moment can improve your mental well-being. It also boosts your mood and lowers stress levels. Experts call this type of focus ‘mindfulness’.
When you practice mindfulness, you enjoy the little things in life. Things like watching a bird soar overhead or taking in the nuances of nature are just two small examples.
When you’re in tune with the small details, you feel more relaxed and at peace. Plus, you start to get a better understanding of what makes you happy or anxious, which is a healthy way to approach life’s challenges.
4. Get Physically Active
When you do any type of physical activity, you boost your physical fitness, as well as your mental wellness. It could be a short 15-minute walk, an hour of cycling each week, or 30 minutes at the gym. You pick the activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good.
Then, once you start noticing the difference, you start to feel good about your looks. That’s when your confidence will soar through the roof.
In addition, your brain signals the nervous central system to release ‘feel-good’ hormones known as endorphins. These wonder chemicals trigger a positive response, which boosts your mood. They also reduce feelings of pain and anxiety.
Check out the following tips on how to get moving to boost your mental health:
• Look online for free activities catered to your fitness level
• Find local centers where you can dance, swim, or cycle
• Try running with a ‘couch to 5K’ app or podcast
• If you have a chronic health condition or a disability, there are many exercise’s and physical activities that can be customized to meet your needs
5. Give to Others
According to research, acts of kindness and giving are great ways to improve your mental well-being. The reason is that when we help others, our brains trigger the release of another ‘feel-good’ hormone called oxytocin.
This chemical promotes feelings of empathy and trust. It also makes us calmer, happier, and more inspired to do more.
Giving to others could be volunteering at a local shelter or helping out someone on a personal level. The point is to offer your time and energy doing something for other people. In return, you’ll feel good about yourself, knowing that you’re valued and appreciated
How Can a Healthy Imagination Help Our Relationships?
There’s no doubt about it; relationships are hard. It can seem nearly impossible when you are trying to make two lives work together. If you are struggling in your relationship, it may be worthwhile to examine your imagination. Believe it or not, a healthy imagination can truly help your relationship.
It has been said that “the world of reality has it limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
It has also been said that “imagination is more important that knowledge.” (Albert Einstein)
Imagination (Re) Ignites Passion
When you are with the same person for so long, it can often seem like the passion will fade, or maybe things will seem to get a bit boring. Well, imagination is one of the main ignitions of passion. If you improve your imagination, the passion in your relationship will improve as well.
For example, you could cook your significant other a fancy dinner and serve it to them on a picnic blanket on the floor. Then use your imagination to imagine you are in Paris! You might just be surprised by how much fun the two of you have with imaginative ideas like this.
Imagination bring hope back into hopeless situations. You don’t have to give up on your relationship situation. You can reignite the passion by igniting the imagination of how things could be…in the future.
Imagination Helps You Make Plans
One of the main indicators of caring about someone is making plans that involve them. Without a healthy imagination, it can be difficult to see past the dreariness of day-to-day life. If your relationship seems to be in a rut, then it’s time to tap into that imagination to create something fun for the two of you to do! Try to think of something you haven’t done before, and don’t be afraid to try something incredibly unique.
Start small and take small risks in your relationship. Step out of the comfort zone. The effort itself will prove your willingness to try to change even if things don’t do perfectly for you.
Imagination Can Help You Through the Rough Patches
All relationships have rough patches, where you may not be happy with your partner or feel that you aren’t going to make it as a couple. Sometimes, if the relationship is truly worth it, you need to persevere to get there, and imagination can help you through that. Imagination can help you envision a future together where things are better.
It can help you solve problems that are causing challenges in your relationship. It can even remind you of past times you have had together and how fun they were, even if things are currently difficult.
Whether or not you realize it, imagination is essential to helping your relationship last. Imagination is an integral part of passion, making plans, and surviving the rough patches that will inevitably come along. So if you are in a relationship that is currently struggling, it’s time to work to improve your imagination today. Even if you aren’t currently in a relationship, a healthy imagination is a great method of preparing yourself for future relationships that may come your way.
Use Love Languages to be creative in your imagination
The 5 love languages was created by Gary Chapman and written about in a book by the same name. The languages include words of affirmation, quality of time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Speaking your partner or family members love languages makes them feel loved. We tend to speak our own love languages which may not match up with others missing the mark. Knowing others love language allows us to use imagination that has a more powerful influence for the future.
Resiliency is the ability to adjust to life’s difficulties and overcome challenging and stressful situations. On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how resilient are you? How resilient is your child?
Resilient parents don’t automatically have resilient children. This can be frustrating for parents who want their kids to get motivated about school, say no to bad choices, or accept rejection and failures. If your child scores low on the resiliency scale, you can build new skills to help them grow emotionally and mentally.
Resilience has several attributes that parents would love to see in their children:
Emotional awareness and regulation
Inner drive or motivation
Future focus and readiness for change
Strong social connections/relationships
Physical health, sleep, and diet
Creating this in your child will be a process that occurs over time. The hope is that children will show these characteristics by the time they turn 18 and leave the home but even if it takes longer it is a goal parents will want to continue nurturing in them.
Don’t compare your child to others. Focus on the qualities of your child only! Comparisons places to much pressure on you and your child and will sabotage your efforts to develop this mental strength.
Parents have to model resiliency. You can’t preach resiliency if you don’t practice resiliency. Children will always do what you do over what you say. Put words and actions together to encourage resiliency.
Peers have a strong pull on children actions contrary to what your teenager tries to tell you. Be aware of who they are interacting with and work to know your children’s friends and their family, if possible. You don’t have to ban a friend you feel is the best influence on your child but you can talk with your them your concerns and offer suggestions on how to set boundaries and stand up for themselves and what they believe in.
Start with emotions. The more you validate and empathize with your child the stronger their conscience development. A strong moral compass will help your child overcome tough circumstances and follow the right path. This way you don’t have to be hovering over their shoulder every minute. If your child handles a situation poorly or makes a wrong decision, be empathic but encourage them to try again. Isn’t this how we all learn? Focusing on your child’s emotional awareness will produce more resilient people. about changes in behavior and encourage your child’s friends to be at your home and offer your supervision over them. Children with high emotional awareness will be more resilient people.
Young children will need to increase their emotional vocabulary. Label feelings, explore different feelings, validate positive and uncomfortable emotions. Make feelings ok and don’t push them down or brush them off but don’t over focus on them. A good healthy, emotional balance translates into greater resiliency.
Older children can have more complex conversations about feelings and social situations. Don’t shy away from cultural discussions and world situations. Use them to explore thoughts and ideas, helping the older child to see all sides of an issue. A more open-minded approach will rap children who have better judgment and compassion.
You can learn more about resiliency by consulting with Ron Huxley through a free online course at FamilyHealer.tv or schedule a session today.
It often seems that confidence is elusive, like a smoky mirage. Sometimes, it feels magical and wonderful; other times it can be frustrating.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can build up your self-confidence without having to resort to any crystal. ‘How?’ you ask.
Start by recognizing that confidence is a skill you can learn. You set a goal and take small steps each day to work towards it.
Keep reading to find out more about self-confidence and why it matters.
What Is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence isn’t tangible. You can’t touch it and say, “This is confidence.”
It’s something we get a feeling for when we, or others, have it.
Likewise, we can recognize when someone lacks it. Even when they try to attempt to compensate for it, we sense it and feel bad for them.
The good news is that self-confidence is a soft skill, which means you can learn it and apply it to your daily life. It’s not fixed, like your height for example. It’s mainly based on your mindset and the actions you do to follow through.
You can boost your confidence and self-esteem by trusting your abilities. Seeing yourself succeed in your mind is the first step in making better decisions. Then, when your decisions make your life better, your confidence gets a nice little boost. And round and round it goes.
Bear in mind that confidence is infectious. Even though we can’t see it, we still sense other people’s confidence levels in the way they behave and speak.
When someone is confident, they exude excitement and energy. You’re motivated to work hard and feel that same energy.
The downside is it goes both ways. When one person lacks confidence, it can deflate everyone around them. They just get the sense that there’s no point in trying.
Why Does Self-Confidence Matter?
There are different reasons why being confident can improve your life. Below, you’ll find a few examples of how it can make you a happier, more fulfilled individual.
Allows You to Take Positive Risks
We all need the confidence to bring balance and a sense of direction in our lives. Making a conscious decision to develop your confidence will allow you to take positive risks. It gets you out of your comfort zone and puts you on the path to success.
The trick is understanding your own strength. You have to believe that you can master whatever skill you’re striving towards. Yes, it’ll be weird and difficult in the beginning. Yes, you’ll make mistakes along the way. So what?
That’s what life is about. This is what boosts your self-esteem and makes you better at everything you do.
Empowers You to Embrace Your Failures
We all make mistakes. We all fail and meet obstacles in our lives.
The key is to understand that failures are a necessary part of progress. Read that again and really take it in.
Often, we feel that when we fail, it’s the end of the journey. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
To fully embrace your failures, you have to think of them as detours. When you’re forced to change lanes or take a detour that doesn’t mean the entire journey is over. It just means you’re taking a different path, but you’ll get there eventually.
Now, why do some people succeed after failing and others don’t? Those who manage to learn from their mistakes. They go over what went wrong and find a way to fix it.
In other words, they use their failures to their advantage. They use them to prop them up and give them the push they need to keep going on their path.
Let’s take a second to think about Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of these two names? Success? Fame? Glory? All of the above?
How about failure? You’re probably saying to yourself, ‘These are two of the most prominent members of society. They haven’t failed.’
Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but they have—many times, in fact. Yet, they’re smart enough to use their failures as stepping stones to aim higher and work harder. Imagine our much our lives would have been impacted if these two men had given up every time they failed!
One of Edison’s quotes about refining the light bulb is, “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Enables You To Trust Yourself
Many times, we can be our own worst enemies. We critique every move, every word, and every thought over and over again.
In moderation, it can be a great incentive to do better. Although, this only works if we treat ourselves with the same kindness and empathy, we show others. Sadly, it doesn’t happen very often.
The best way to break out of that negative self-talk is to have faith in yourself. Have faith in your decisions. Even if you made mistakes in the past, that doesn’t necessitate future failures.
Own up to your bad decision, embrace it, and move on. That’s now part of your DNA; it’s helping shape a stronger, more resilient person.
Imagine it being part of your arsenal or a superpower. Now, you’ve turned your mistake into something that can make you more resilient and less anxious.
A Final Note
Self-confidence is an integral part of who you are. Understanding why it matters can mean the difference being happy and being miserable.
Having that self-assurance can help boost your relationships and career. You’ll also be able to inspire others to become happier, more fulfilled individuals.
* If you are experiencing severe depression and feel that you no longer want to live, please call 911 immediately. This tool is not a replacement for depression treatment or psychotherapy. If want to schedule an appointment with Ron Huxley for therapy, please click here!
Depression Screening Tool:
(The following criteria may be noticed by you or observed by others within the same two week period)
Do you feel sad or empty most of the day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Have you been lacking interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Have you noticed a significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or major change in appetite nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Do you have trouble going to sleep or sleeping too much nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Are you feeling agitated or sluggish nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Do you experience fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Have you been feeling worthless or experiencing an excessive amount of guilt nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
Are you having trouble thinking, concentrating, or being indecisive, nearly every day? Yes – 1 point/ NO –0 points
*Need five points minimum to qualify as Major Depressive Disorder. This screen should not be confused with an actual diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. If you feel you are having a problem in this area, please consult with a professional, such as your physician.
If you don’t get the right amount of sleep, your mind cannot be at its best. You won’t function properly and may make some serious mistakes. Unfortunately, stress can cause people to stay awake at night. However, getting the right amount of sleep can help eventually reduce your stress levels.
To get better sleep, start exercising on a regular basis. While exercise may give you energy throughout the day, when you go to bed at night, it will help you to sleep better. You will have a quality sleep as well. Some people find that exercising in the evening causes them to be wired, and they can’t get to sleep. If you fall into this camp of people, consider doing your exercising in the morning. This way, you’ll use that energy burst throughout the day and will give you time to become tired.
Try to avoid using alcohol in excess. Although this seems counterintuitive as alcohol makes you sleepy, it causes you to fall into a deep sleep. You then wake up in the middle of the night and have a difficult time getting back to sleep. Without the alcohol, your sleep will be more even and allow you to sleep throughout the night. If you feel you must have alcohol, don’t have more than one drink.
See a doctor if you have sleeping problems that persist. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a decline in your health. Sleep recharges the body and allows it to function properly, including building up antibodies to fight off diseases. When you are deprived of sleep, a bunch of problems can arise because of it.
Hopefully, if you do resort to seeing a doctor, he will find solutions that are not drug-dependent. This may help your sleep problems in the short term but doesn’t do much to fix the reason why you are not getting sleep. Press your doctor for alternative solutions if drugs are being prescribed.
Consider learning meditation as that can relax the mind. It’s much easier to get good sleep when the mind is relaxed than when it is thinking about all the problems you are facing. Meditation won’t solve those problems. But, getting to sleep can help you to come up with solutions faster.
Eating at the proper times during the day and eating the right kinds of foods, can help you to sleep better at night, as well. If you have a heavy meal right before you are going to bed, you could suffer from indigestion, which will not lead to a good sleep at all.
A good marriage isn’t something you find. You have to make it great, and then you have to keep making it that way. Most people stop working on their marriage right after the honeymoon is over. They get bogged down in work, kids, mortgages, and all the trials of life. If you don’t stay focused on then intimacy in marriage, you will lose it. Here are a few tips to help you keep the flame of love and happiness lit:
Show Them Respect
Every healthy relationship must include respect. Without it, you are doomed to fail. When your partner wants to speak with you, take the time to do so. Don’t mock their words or belittle them in any way. By showing your significant other that you value their thoughts, feelings, time and effort, you will let them know you respect them.
The opposite of respect is contempt or criticism. That is poison to the relationship and part of the “Four Horseman” of the final days of marriage. The other two destructive forces in marriage are stonewalling and defensiveness. These latter two “horseman” refer to emotionally shutting down and overly protecting oneself.
John Gottman, marriage researcher and author states: “Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts.”
Give Them Priority
Your partner may not always be your number one priority, especially if you had children before you entered the relationship or have another situation that demands a lot of your time. If your partner is always last on your list, though, there will be trouble. Giving your partner at least some priority shows them that you value them.
Marriage needs balance to succeed. After work and kids are gone, couples end up with nothing. Put some time into one another, through date nights, talking after the kids go to bed, enjoying hobbies or activities together, reading, etc. What you do isn’t as important as the fact that you are doing things together.
Have Fun Together
Make time to laugh together. Plan fun activities and do new things together so that you can always remember the experience. Making memories builds bonds. This will give you and your partner good feelings when thinking about one another, because of the great times you have when you are with each other. Fun can involve the children too. Watch funny movies, tell jokes, ask about the highs and lows of the day so marriage and family intimacy deepens.
Learn with Them
Take a class together, or embark on learning a new hobby as a duo. When you stretch your brains in regards to the same subject, it gives you something to talk about. When a couple feels like they are challenging each other and helping each other to become their best, it brings strength to the relationship.
If you are struggling in some area of your relationship this is an excellent topic to read a book on or attend a course. There are thousands of YouTube videos and podcasts. Listen to one on the way to the store or off to visits grandparents. You might discover that one magic idea that causes your relationship to soar.
It has been said that the “capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice” (Brian Herbert).
Maintain Your Individuality
Although time as a unit is important, don’t do absolutely everything together. Give yourself the opportunity to grow your other friendships and hobbies. When you do this, it gives you a break so that you can appreciate each other when you are together, and it also gives you something to talk about.
Women are more likely to connect with friends than men. Developing relationship as a couple and then branching out or reaching out might be something men can work on. Getting involved in men’s groups or sports can be an excellent outlet for men as well.
Express Your Appreciation
Let your partner know that you are grateful for them and who they are. When they have made sacrifices to do something kind for you, write them a thank you card or cook them their favorite meal. Showing your thankfulness and appreciation never goes out of style. The opposite could also be true: Stop showing appreciation for others and they might stop doing the things we appreciate!
Be Creative in Showing Your Love
Say “I love you” to your partner, but don’t stop there. Get creative in the ways that you show your love. Demonstrate it by using your own personal talents through actions such as writing them a poem, making their favourite dessert or composing a song for them. Plan a relaxing vacation weekend or even a one-on-one movie night together at home. It doesn’t take a lot of money to demonstrate that you love your partner.
Gary Chapman wrote a popular book: “The 5 Love Languages”. It outlines how everyone feels most loved in unique ways. We tend to show love in the ways we like to feel loved versus loving them in their own way.
The 5 Love Languages include: Words of appreciation, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. It is possible to have more than one but learning your partners special way of feeling loved is an act of love in itself. Try taking the online quiz to learn with your spouse at https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language
If you would like more help learning how to make love last, consider talking with Ron Huxley for online couples counseling today.
Regret is looking back at our past with distress and sorrowful longing. We grieve over past actions done to us or that we did to others. We WISH it didn’t happen or that we could do it over again. Of course, we can’t, but regret keeps us stuck in the past filled with pain.
Letting go is the process of getting unstuck and moving on in life. How we metabolize pain, in this process, is different for every person and every situation. However, you can give various forms of releasing regret a try and learn about yourself in the process.
Practice Daily Gratitude
Practicing daily gratitude is a great way to remind yourself of all that you have consistently. Family, friends, a home, food to eat, maybe even a cute puppy to come home to. Whatever your gratitude is toward, reminding yourself of it is a great way to reflect on the good in your life and make the regrets seem less important in the grand scheme of life.
A practical application of gratitude is to use a scientifically studied exercise called 5-3-1. Every morning spend 5 minutes quieting your mind and getting grounded, write 3 things you are grateful for and do one act of kindness for someone else.
Trust the Journey
Reminding yourself that even the adverse events in life are part of a more significant journey allows you to see the larger picture. Yes, you regret this one mistake. But, did that one mistake lead you down a different path that had good outcomes? Everything happens for a reason. Trust that in time you will find out why that mistake or loss occurred.
Having an optimistic viewpoint, however ridiculous it might seem at the moment, is helpful to unlock your thoughts and allow hope to enter them.
Learn to Release Emotions
Emotions in the grand scheme of life (once again; are you seeing the bigger picture yet?) are fleeting. Learning to release your feelings when they are not serving you will aid you now and in the future. Stop beating yourself up for something that happened in the past and learn to move on with a clear mind and focus.
Give voice to your feelings with a good friend or therapist. Learn to journal daily. Stop being afraid of your own feelings states and allow your nervous system to regulate.
Accept the Lesson Learned
Situations or actions we regret typically offer us a lesson—if we are open to learning it. Accept that you learned a lesson and move on with it. Living through a challenging event means nothing if you don’t continue living and implement what you learned into your future life.
Nelson Mandala is famous for saying: “I never fail. I either win, or I learn.” Keeping this perspective will guard the tender-hearted.
“What If-ing” the past Doesn’t Change the Future.
You are living in the land of “what ifs” is tempting. However, “what ifs” literally mean nothing in the practice of daily life. You can spend hours or even days guessing at a different outcome, but it doesn’t matter. Those what-ifs will never directly impact your future other than to steal from it.
Living in the past traumatizes your present all over again. A vicious cycle continues to whirl, adding shame and fear to your life. Staying focused on the now allows you to live healthy again.
Try this simple present-focused tool called “seeing red.” When you start to slip down the slope or regret, look for something red and focus on its shade, texture, smell, etc. Look for another red object and do the same. Repeat this until you feel more settled in the now.
Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Parents use it, just like their children. However, on average, teenagers are the ones who spend the most time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and similar platforms. These platforms confuse and frighten parents!
According to the report, Common Sense Media, teens spend about 9 hours on entertainment media, including social media, games, and TV, every day.
This means that teenagers spent more time with media and technology than with parents, school work, or physical activities.
Parents probably ask themselves: “Will my child become addicted to video games? Will this ruin their ability to think for themselves? What happens if my child is cyberbullied or becomes one? Could an online predator harm my child? Will continual screen use diminish their ability to know how to socialize normally?”
As a Child and Family Therapist, I believe parents are right to ask these questions. The issue is how to get to the answers!
Our current world makes getting answers challenging. Before the pandemic, many parents banned social media, screen use, and cell phone ownership from children, including their teenagers. After the pandemic, many children were isolated from peers without any possible way to connect. Parents had no choice but to let their children go online to stem the growing anxiety and depression their children were experiencing from the isolation. During the pandemic, children were doing school online, but many parents discovered they were “multitasking” and playing games online or talking to friends via social media while participating in school. Being online, for school or social connection, is now a regular part of our lives. It isn’t going away anytime soon.
Why are we concerned? Studies show that social media and online video games reduce our effectiveness in understanding human emotion and create a barrier to communicating deeply. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. The more teens spend online, the more shallow their communication and empathy skills could be. The teen years is a crucial time for skills that will sustain them in adulthood and the right mix requires real face-to-face interaction along with screen time.
Our brains use “mirror neurons” to understand others’ perspectives and emotions through an inner imitation of other people’s actions. These special neurons reproduce emotions and actions in ourselves. This can be outside of our awareness and contributes to “gut reactions” and inform us on knowing right from wrong. It is the key to developing empathy and compassion as our neurons mirror the pain witnessed in other people. When they feel it we feel it too.
Perhaps this is why cyberbullying has become such a problem with preteens and teenagers? Maybe they cannot feel the pain and suffering of the peers they are tormenting. Without that feedback loop, they lose the natural conscience we need in social situations. Mirror neurons are also a prime component of learning, and this might account for the massive drop in school grades and homework performance. There is more to learning than facts and information. The joy of learning and the social connections that physical schools provide are a necessary part of a teens social emotional growth.
Of course, not all teens are engaged in cyberbullying or looking at inappropriate content. Many really just want to have fun and connect with peers. Teens can learn valuable things online. Additionally, many teens have found groups that support and encourage them through unique challenges in life situations, like mental health or artistic/cultural pursuits. This can’t always be found in our local community. Balance is needed and parents may need to help teens find the good and minimize the bad.
Here are some tips to help you learn more about your teen’s social media interactions and help them if necessary:
Give yourself permission, as the parent, to ask your child about concerns they have or problems they have experienced. Maybe your teen never tells you anything because you never ask, or perhaps you ask in an anxious and condemning way. Don’t assume wrongdoing but don’t be in denial either.
If your teen gives you some pushback, don’t get offended when asked about social media use. These are normal human defenses. Just reassure them that you don’t believe they are doing something wrong but that you are curious and want to know more about social media and how it all works. Be curious and open-minded.
Get on social media yourself and learn how it works. Don’t depend on your teen to tell you everything or tell the right things. You can discover it yourself. I recommend parents friend or link to your child on various social media platforms – even though if they might think it weird. If they know you are online too and can see their content, they might think twice before posting something inappropriate. Sometimes being POTS (parent over the shoulder) has its benefits.
Parenting teens on social media might feel like the old adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and that is exactly what this is…You can’t beat them, so you better join them in the online world!
If you have concerns about what your child is doing or they actively resist you finding out what they are posting or doing or who their friends are, that could be a red flag to pay attention to. Don’t go all “hair on fire” on them. Just note your concern and firmly investigate further. Don’t let a their resistance deter you. Ask questions of them, their friends, their friend’s parents, and look at their media on their devices when they sit them down. Yeah, they will get annoyed. They will live.
I tell parents, who have real concerns about their children’s social media use, insist on having all passwords, account names and even stalk them online! Sounds harsh? It is better to have an irritated teen than an exploited one or one in deep trouble with the school or law. Even the most innocent child can get caught up in things way beyond their developmental capacity to deal with…I have seen it happen many times over. Many teens have hidden accounts, back up phone in case you take theirs, borrow their friends phone, etc.
You are allowed to remove all devices if needed. They may have been gifts to your child, but that gift was intended to be used correctly and safely. As a side note, many teens who lose their devices start finding more outside entertainment or real world social interactions to engage in…they frequently come out of their rooms and talk to parents. Wow, so strange, but true.
Because of this fact, take a “social media fast” for the whole family from time to time. Ban all social media and screen use for a day or a weekend. Provide lots of fun alternatives and food. Food is always helpful! Once you get past the grumbling, the home atmosphere might become more positive.
Don’t focus so much on controlling the child as managing the media. Shaming and condemning don’t get positive results, and children can seek revenge. Be respectful but firm, loving but insistent. Tell them you are removing the devices because THEY are causing too many problems or distractions. You just want to help the ENTIRE family find a better focus and social interaction, not just the teenager, right?
Make discussions about the world and its problem a regular thing. Teenagers want and need support, and they don’t have adult wisdom and experience to manage life’s difficulties. You have to open the space to have these conversations. It may be awkward at first, but making them a normal car-ride conversation or over an after-school snack can open your child up to share their fears, anxiety, and needs.
Parents of teens cannot effectively use control to manage them. You have to use influence if you want to have a lasting effect. Your goal for this developmental stage is to train them for adulthood. It’s only a few years away. If you tell them what to do all the time versus helping them with the best solution and sometimes experience the negative consequences of life, they won’t be ready.
Parenting a teen is like when your child learned to walk. You couldn’t catch them every time but had to let them stumble and fall on occasions. You protected them against any serious threats (sharp objects, going into the street), but you cautiously walked alongside, encouraging and cheering on their successful steps until walking was natural. You can do this for social media and screen use too. Walk alongside them. Protect but don’t smother them. Steer them in the right direction and remove them from obvious dangerous situations. Bring a balance of off-screen activities to the family. And in the end, they will protect themselves, and be better human beings.