Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Posts tagged ‘family’

What Are We Doing To Our Teenagers?

We are stressing them out. And they’re going to burnout or breakdown before they even finish the journey!

My son is an excellent student. He is a unique 10th grader. He is conscientious, he has excellent time-management skills, he has good social skills, he does chores without being asked… He’s too good to be true! But this comes at a price. In addition to all of these wonderful things, he spends hours redoing school assignments to get a higher grade and stresses over what major he should choose two years from now so he can choose the right college in enough time to apply and get a great scholarship. He worries he’s not good enough or smart enough or won’t be successful enough. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he said nothing, just college money. Woah! Slow down mister! You have your entire life to worry about the big stuff. How about just being a kid? And yet, he’s not alone. His friends are the same way. It’s a blessing and a curse to be a smart kid, and I’m wondering if ignorance really is bliss. There are many high achieving students who are stressing themselves out. And we as a society are encouraging it.Stress

I once knew a high school student whose parent worked at a very prestigious university which would allow the student to attend for free. Even so, the student pushed herself to take multiple advanced classes and get high honors as well as volunteer hours so she could get a scholarship. Why? She didn’t need a scholarship. She said she wanted to prove to herself she could. My son’s middle school science teacher told the class what he teaches now in 7th grade is what he learned freshman year of college. 4th graders are learning geometry. Kindergartners who didn’t learn to read in preschool are behind.

Why are we doing this? Why are we pushing and pushing and insisting they know more and more? I know what you are going to say. Because we need to compete with other countries, yada yada. But at what cost? Playing a sport and pushing to win, practice and games every night of the week, a different sport every season. High academics and volunteer hours and student leadership. Plus, they have to score at certain levels so the school gets accreditation and funding. It’s building and building and building and they’re not sleeping or eating right. Pushing harder in sports but not given the right education about nutrition and what a body needs to maintain that level of intensity. Or weight training without safety training. Or pushing themselves without teaching life balance…

How do you feel every day? How stressful is your job? Are you stressed? Are you tired? I’m sure you are. We all are. As a society, the pressures we are dealing with are more intense than ever. So what do you do to unwind? To relax? Do you watch TV, read for leisure, exercise, hang with friends, drink, eat, nap? Have you learned in your life that your body needs rest and a break from the pressure? Most of us have learned that and most of us know our limits and say I’m done, I’m just gonna sit here and veg for a while. But as we are teaching our children about competition and responsibility and what it takes to succeed, are we also teaching them how to set healthy boundaries, life/ work balance and self-care? I’m afraid we are not. I’m afraid we are pushing our kids to do more and be more than they can handle.

I am not suggesting complacency or lethargy or apathy. But come on, how about some balance? There is no way any of us would tolerate the schedules and work and pressure these kids handle every day. We’d balk. But they can’t. Because we have trained them to believe they have to do this to succeed. But do they? Do they really? Is it worth it in the long run? I’m not so sure. We told our son we’d rather he be a C-student and happy than an A-student and miserable. He said, really? We said yes. When these teens are shutting down, quitting, getting injured, getting sick, pushing back, getting anxious or depressed or suicidal…at some point we have to realize that they are KIDS, and being a kid just isn’t fun anymore. I think it’s time we as parents and educators and community members encourage downtime and balance. The whole idea of putting more recess back into the school day is fundamental to helping students realize they can’t keep pushing themselves without allowing themselves some breaks. We as adults know this because we as a society have more stress and high blood pressure than ever before and wait until a crisis before addressing the problem. I’d like to see us as a community be more proactive about teaching overall physical and mental health. It’s a sad day when I have to tell my teenager to stop doing homework, that’s enough. But if I have to push him to get a B instead of an A to save his mental health, I’m not afraid to do it. Perfection is an illusion.report card

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Give Older Adults More Choices

What will you miss when you are older?

What are the inefficient frivolous things you do as an adult that probably waste time or money but you don’t care? Do you go out of your way to a store you like even though it’s an extra five minutes, or splurge on yummy ice cream you don’t need? Do you drive up to the convenience store at 10:00 at night to pick something up? Do you hold onto bad habits that you know you shouldn’t? Do you sometimes stay up late watching TV? These are things we take for granted as mobile independent adults. We do what we want, when we want, because we can. But what if you couldn’t drive and you were dependent on others for rides for everything? Or what if you were on a limited income and there was no room left for frivolous? Or if you lived in someone else’s home and they bought the groceries or controlled the TV? These are the losses that older adults face every day and their children don’t realize.

Getting older often means things our bodies once did easily like walking two steps up the porch can no longer be taken for granted. Balance is off, immune system is down, eyesight goes, response time is slower. Things like this that allow us to remain independent, to come and go as we please, to run into the kitchen during a commercial, become difficult. And that sucks. Losing these seemingly small things can add up to a great sense of loss. Driving less or not at all, no longer being able to live on their own, becoming confused with all of life’s changes can make older adults feel very dependent on their children and a burden. They need so much to meet their daily needs that they stop asking for the frivolous stuff that we all enjoy as adults. What can we do to help?CNY_SM_20131129_QUOTE

The longer someone can maintain their independence the better. Even in the little things. Even if they live with you, they may still be able to contribute as productive members of the family. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t patronize them. Ask them to help in ways that they can sincerely productively help with. They aren’t stupid and if you are condescending they will know it.
  • Don’t nitpick or micromanage. Let them do silly frivolous things if they want to. It’s the benefit of being a grown-up. None of us like our every behavior to be analyzed.
  • Let them have bad habits. They have given up so much already. They are adults, they have choices, they know the risks. So do you on your bad habits.
  • Include them in the decisions about their own lives. If you help in making their appointments, include them in the decision of where to go and when to go and whether to keep going.
  • Talk to them, not about them. They’re right here. Don’t talk around them to your siblings or the doctor.
  • Don’t tiptoe around the truth. They know they are old. They know things have changed. Be honest. Choices at the end of their lives are just as important as every other time in life.
  • Don’t yell at them or treat them like children. It may sometimes feel like they have digressed and act child-like. Often this is because they are confused or scared. Be kind and respectful.
Grown daughter talking to parents at home

Grown daughter talking to parents at home

My grandmother ate half a banana and drank a glass of prune juice every day for 80 years. When she went into a nursing home that daily habit stopped abruptly because it wasn’t part of the dietary plan. What daily habits do you have that you would miss if someone else was in charge of your life? Consider these things in caring for the older adults in your life and their dignity and independence will last longer, I promise.

“In a New York Minute…”

“everything can change.”   So sang Don Henley in 1989.  Little did we know then how everything could change on one day in September, 2001.  And I bet all of us know someone whose life changed in the blink of an eye.  One minute you are cruising along, taking the little things for granted, and then out of nowhere, a car accident, or a terminal diagnosis, or the death of a loved one.  We all know this can happen; people say “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow” as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff.  But how many of us have our ducks in a row?

By no means am I suggesting a fatalistic attitude. Like it could all end tomorrow, so let’s throw caution to the wind and walk on the wild side!  But I AM asking, what if it did? Would you be ready?  What would be your regrets?  The sad part of my job is hearing stories of families struck by tragedy.  The lists of coulda, woulda, shouldas.  If only I hadn’t yelled.  If only we had bought life insurance. If only I had spent more time with my family instead of working so much.  (Isn’t there an old country song that says no one has a tombstone that says ‘I wish I would have worked more’?)  But from these stories I have learned an important lesson.  Don’t think it can’t happen to you.  Get your paperwork in order, tell people what your wishes are, and live each day to the fullest.

Talking about what should happen if you are gone suddenly is not morbid, it is responsible.  When people are grieving the last thing they need is to be stressed by the details of financial burden.  And death can certainly be expensive.  But also, does someone know your online billing passwords? Can someone find your loved ones through your cell phone if you are unconscious? Do your children know your greatest wishes for them? Do you have unresolved business, grudges that someone assumes you still hold but really you don’t, you’re just too stubborn to approach them?

Tim McGraw sang Live Like You Are Dying.  Why DON’T we? Why don’t we eat dessert first? Why do we save up six weeks of vacation and never take off work? Why do we wait until we are retired to travel and then feel too tired to do it?  Who in your daily life do you take for granted, or have something unsaid that you would regret if you never got the chance to say it?  Why don’t we sit with the people we love and eat chocolate chip pancakes for dinner and reminisce about the good ole days? Give me one good reason!  Because you won’t be able to later, when the opportunity is gone.

Carpe Diem.  Seize The Day.

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