In most households across America, parents single and/or co-parenting are exhausted by jobs and commitments for their kids. The race to get ahead and plan for the future is leaving kids behind. Our teachers are stretched giving individualized services to overcrowded classrooms. Is it time for us to slow down? Is that possible with this fast pace we call life? What are families to do?
With multiple platforms to communicate, talking seems to be a lost commodity. Getting Back to Basics is a movement where families are being built with friends, neighbors and playmates to create a village of help. Is this helping? I sat down with the creators of A Penny for Your Thoughts: A Survival Guide for Adults and Kids http://www.apennyforyourthoughtscards.com/ Janine McGraw and Kathryn Snell-Ryan, from Eugene, Oregon, who also happen to be family therapists, for their insight.
With the advancement of social media, why is communication so hard for individuals?
Social media is both connecting and disconnecting at the same time. While it allows people to feel close to their loved ones who may be across (the) country through the process of sharing photos, stories, and day-to-day activities in real time communication, it also can lead to separation, isolation and disconnection. It’s easy for children, young adults and adults alike to see all the good things posted on a friend’s Facebook, Instagram, tumbler page or twitter account and wonder how they measure up; socially and materially. Unfortunately, social media is not an accurate reflection of what people’s lives actually look like. All people are hard wired for struggle and we all face adversity. While social media can be connecting, the posting of only positive activities, interactions and “things” can also minimize how we all struggle. Social media can easily lead to feeling disconnected when a person is struggling and believes their peers do not face real life problems or struggle.
What are the dynamics of families today coming through your doors that alarm you the most?
More often than not, tweens and teens coming in to see me with a single parent. While it’s not an alarming dynamic, the reason for the visits is often so that parents can get a glimpse inside their child’s inner world. By the time they’ve come to therapy, their kids are often shut down and not revealing their true feelings or life experiences to their parents, which in turn is worrisome to them.
What trends do you see happening with kids that adults are not aware of and should be? And, how should it be handled?
Kids of this generation are under greater stress – school expectations and testing, endless homework, over-scheduled days/weeks, an abundance of time spent away from parents in child-care/day-care/school, less involvement/connection with extended family, withholding information or feelings at times to reduce stress for their parents. Ways to handle this include setting aside tech gadgets/computers/social media to really be present with kids in the evenings and on the weekends as much as possible. Even really tuning into kids for 20-30 min at a time, with no tech distractions, can allow kids to feel seen and heard. Not accepting the “I’m fine” response from kids when asked how they’re doing. Making healthy communication/conversation a part of everyday life. Before leaving the dinner table every night, having kids talk about their favorite and least favorite parts of their day. Finding a “back-door” communication tool, to help kids explore their feelings, experiences, and skills they can use to cope.
Do you feel that young adults have all the tools needed to handle the adulthood world? What do you feel can help them better handle what they can expect going forward in life to be successful.
In addition to learning social skills, young adults with the ability for emotional self-regulation have an effective tool for facing disappointment, loss, and other upsetting life events in both childhood and adulthood.
Emotion-regulation is the ability to allow for and manage emotional states such as anger, fear, grief, anxiety or happiness. It’s not something that people are born with and already know. Like social skills, emotion regulation is a skill that’s learned, practiced and mastered over time.
Young adults with the ability to manage both difficult and positive emotion means that they know how to integrate how they feel with real life social interactions. When young adults combine emotional skills and social skill they can better respond when they are faced with the real life adversities of being rejected by a college, not being first in a competition, not getting hired, or the loss of an important relationship. Not only can young adults respond to challenges, but they also have the tools to successfully manage positive emotions in an appropriate way at school, at home or in the workplace.
As modern technology keeps adding more platforms where the lack of human interaction magnifies, our world is being shrunk to a small tiny screen. Our social gatherings are being taken up by looking up what others are doing instead of living in the moment. We have gone from letter writing to phone calls and now texting. Our language is now animation. But, the movement has begun. Talking circles are popping up everywhere and we are all invited. Villages are now raising some of our youth and they are learning interaction and social skills on a whole new level. The inventors of our social media platforms are trying to help us reconnect through games that require interaction. Why don’t we start by telling our youth, “We see you, we feel you and we hear you.” Let’s reach out and touch someone with the fine art of communication.