Picture-perfect food, beaches, boats, vacation photos, selfies… All of these flood social media. They portray
a perfect life – that no one possesses!
The pressure to look and feel perfect is higher than ever
before. Everyone can fake their lives. And shove it in everybody else’s faces. You
know all of this isn’t the real truth. But does your adolescent?
Most Influential: Social Media
There’s your child, scrolling through Instagram, Twitter,
Facebook or any other social media platform. They find numerous accounts and
pictures of people with perfect bodies at perfect places posing perfectly. Celebrities
and influencers getting paid to post picture-perfect content.
But do you compare yourself to these images? Doesn’t it make it easier to see the flaws you have? Young girls and boys are extremely susceptible to this. Phys.org reports “teens who reported posting more pictures on social media, had a heightened awareness of their appearance, which was related to feeling more negative about their body.” The more time a teen spends online, the more likely they are to have a negative body image.
But you and I know the pictures that flood social media are unnatural
in pose and quality. No one has perfect skin or a perfect figure. “Fitspiration”
accounts, designed to promote one fitness expert over another, can influence
adolescences to create unhealthy eating habits and extreme exercise regimes.
Fashion models post about their “everyday” life and young minds tend to wonder
why their life is not like that. The standard that is being held up to your
child is unrealistic. One natural outcome is bad feelings about their body, and
How to Help
There is help out there. Psychologytoday.com offers an acronym to help teach your child about this aspect of the media.
F – Filter out content that makes them feel negative in
A – Avoid letting them spend all their time on social media.
C – Careful of comparing others lives to how their life is
E – Evaluate what the differences are between real and fake
It is important to teach your children that real life is not supposed to look perfect. Real life is beautiful in its own, unique way. It is different for everyone. Being comfortable with the way you look with today’s Internet is hard. However, for your child’s sake, teach them that everyone is perfect in their own way, on both the inside and outside.
School events. Sports. Concerts. Church. Socializing.
Lots to do. It can seem pretty stressful sometimes. You’re
running them around. Maybe you’re feeling you don’t have any real quality time
So, have you considered a family game night?
My Family Game Nights
I grew up in a very rural area. Hardly any neighbors. This meant no other kids
close by I could play with. So my family and I ended up pretty close.
When we weren’t running around for school functions and
sports, we would sometimes have family game night. Turns out, these were my
favorite nights. Dad might teach us how to play poker or other card games.
Maybe we’d break out an old board game like “The Game of Life”. Sometimes we’d
play Wii sports games or Xbox Kinect games. If you don’t know, these are games
where you actually get up off the couch and pretend to play ping pong or throw
a bowling ball. We were very competitive, but playing these games was always
fun. And it created a bond between us that I think will last forever.
Benefits of Family
Others have talked about the benefits of a family game night. This article at Www.cbc.ca talks about family game night can teach good sportsmanship. No one really stays mad at a family for every long, and Mom and Dad are always there to role model how to be a good loser. You also learn how to take turns and follow rules. Sometimes you get to practice an actual skill.
The article also says you can work on your communication
skills, and perhaps even negotiation skills. You should see the wheeling and
dealing we do playing Monopoly. And of, some games require cooperation and
I think all of these are important to learn at a young age.
You’ll use them over and over and family game night was one of the most
enjoyable time I had while building stronger relationships with my family.
Family Game Night
If you’re stuck on what kind of games to play, here’s a brief list from Www.today.com. It includes classic boards games al the way to video games. Some of them are actually quite recent. Some of their picks include:
The Game of Life
What Do You Meme?
I also recommend the “get off the couch” video games that come with PlayStation, Xbox, or Wii. Coommonsensemedia.org has a list of family video games and includes things like “Family Game Night: The Game Show”, “Hidden Folks”, “Trivial Pursuit”, “Wii Sports”, “Disneyland Adventures”, “Just Dance”, “Guitar Hero”, and many more.
Lastly, if you’re looking for more active games, and ones
that you may be able to conjure up from items laying around the house, consider
“Minute To Win It Games”. This was a popular TV show, but now refers to a while
category of games that are fun and can be completed in a minute or less. A
quick Google search can provide you with a list of “Minute To Win It Games”
with instructions and videos. Of course, don’t forget the old classics “Twister”,
“Nerf Gun Battles” and “Legos”.
I think you’ll enjoy family game night. Give a few tries, however. If you haven’t done it before, it will take some experimentation to figure out your own “house rules”. You’ll see what I mean. Enjoy!
Everyone experiences stress, and each person deals with it in his or her own way. But does your tween know how to handle the stresses of life?
Stress is how the body responds to
outside factors. This can be any kind of decision your body has to make.
We often think of stress as the way we feel when our boss hands us a large number of tasks to get done in a short period of time, or when we have to get our house cleaned before guests arrive. It’s overwhelming, frustrating, and overall exhausting.
So how does your tween deal with the stress in their lives?
Homework. Tests. Maintaining
relationships. Any kind of pressures.
They feel it, too. So it’s
important to talk with your tween to make sure they have healthy coping
mechanisms for tough times.
Here are some ways to help your tween manage stress.
Understand how their bodies react to stress.
This could be increased heart rate,
inability to focus, difficulty sleeping, etc. These factors can be extremely
counterproductive to dealing with whatever is causing the stress in the first
place. Knowing the signs of stress on the body ahead of time can help them
process the situation.
Help them know what is in their control and what isn’t.
Putting off that paper until the last minute will only lead to a stressful night, but planning to get it done ahead of the due date will provide time to go over it again and not worry. Free time is necessary to relax so the body can deal with conflict when it arises. If your tween can control what’s in their schedule, evaluate with them whether they are taking on more activities than they can handle.
Practice positive talk.
Stress can lead to negative self-talk, such as talking down to oneself and telling yourself you aren’t good enough. It leads to convincing yourself you aren’t capable of finishing it and can hinder your productivity for a decent amount of time. If this seems like a lot for an adult, think of how it is for a tween.
Find a relaxing activity.
One thing I’ve learned from my mom is that exercising and getting fresh air helps me get out of my head and get back to rational thinking. When I would get overwhelmed with work or overthink a situation, she would go on a walk around the block with me and talk things out. I could get out of my room and into a new environment, and it always left me in a better state of mind to take on my problem. You could try activities like exercising, meditation, listening to music, stepping away from the cause of stress for a little, taking deep breaths, etc.
One thing to remember is that the biggest way your tween learns how to handle difficult situations is by watching you.
So what do you do? Curse at it and
yell? Or problem solve in a calm manner?
Everyone likes a good challenge, your kids included. When a dare is involved, kids have no choice but to step up to whatever challenge they’ve just been confronted with – innocent, funny or extremely dangerous.
2018 brought more dangerous ones
than anything else. Here are the top 3 and the lessons they’ve taught parents
The Drake “In My Feelings” Challenge
The “In My Feelings” Challenge had kids walking along the passenger side of a car dancing the choreographed steps to the Drake song. Most times, the car was rolling along with no help from acceleration, so the speed was close to nothing. While it could have been mostly harmless if kids chose to do the challenge in an empty cul-de-sac or a quiet street, many accepted the challenge at stop lights and on regular-traffic, two-lane roads. (link1 and link2)
Putting themselves in the way of passing cars
Not slowing the car enough and injuring
themselves getting out
Any challenge involving a car is mostly dangerous, especially when the passengers/drivers are barely legal or not legal to drive the vehicle.
Tide Pod Challenge
This challenge needs little explanation at this point. Earlier in 2017-18, kids decided to start eating Tide Pods. Toxic laundry detergent. It’s not necessarily new that kids ingest things they shouldn’t. But the U.S. poison control centers had 10,000 calls because of the pods in 2017 alone. (link)
I confess, when I was in middle school/high school, many kids were eating mouthfuls of cinnamon and choking when their mouths got too dry. They also tried the “Chubby Bunny” challenge. They stuffed their mouths as full as they could with marshmallows. Many people ended up choking or throwing up.
Using a poisonous substance
Using items for something other than their
Even though your tweens are growing up and you don’t think you have to remind them not to eat unsafe items…
…remind them not to eat unsafe items.
This is when the subject sits on the ground, motioning like they’re shifting gear in a car, and a second person pulls their legs, so they speed away out of the frame. (link1 and link2)
Pulling the subject so hard they smack their
head off the ground
It looked harmless on the surface, but having
someone else in control of your body will likely result in injury at some point
2019 is looking a little more
promising when it comes to challenges.
So far, we’ve seen the “What the
Fluff” Challenge, confusing dogs by “disappearing” behind a blanket; the “Snoot”
challenge, making a hole with your fingers and having dogs stick their noses in
it; and the “Trash Tag” challenge, encouraging people to take before and after
pictures of an area of nature filled with trash and cleaning it up.
The moral of the story is not all challenges are bad, but analyze the challenges you see popping up on your social media and ask yourself (a) would my kid try this, and (b) do I want them trying this.
But remember, many times your kid will see a new viral challenge before you do. Encourage them to practice commons sense and think about the consequences of their actions.
For a little bit more from us on pop culture and social media, try…
The world is moving faster and
faster, and it has definitely changed since you were a kid.
As soon as children reach the teenage years, they go from all the leisure time in the world, with planned snack breaks and scheduled play dates, to no free time whatsoever. The moment they walk through the middle school doors, they are pushed to join clubs and activities that will help them on their journey to their dream college.
The only catch is that while they need to maintain their grades for their higher education ambitions, they also need: the right extracurriculars to complement their future majors (as if they would know what those might be as an incoming middle schooler); sports teams to stand out on college applications; teacher relationships for recommendations; and so on …
You get the point.
They need diversity in their interests, but consistency to show these interests are real and not just being used to build a resume. They have to do everything they can – but there is still only 24 hours in the day.
From Me to You
I‘m comparing myself to my peers
constantly. I can’t help it.
Especially when I do particularly bad on an assignment. I can’t help but peak at my neighbor’s paper to see how they did. This isn’t exactly something I’ve just recently picked up.
I had a lot of overachievers in my high school. The kind that are now at Ivy League schools pursuing the many varieties of engineering degrees. It’s hard to be around that much success when you aren’t physically, mentally or intellectually capable of that same success.
So what am I supposed to do?
I overcompensate now by overworking myself. Can I join a new club? How about get another job? If I can’t get that summer internship I want, I can at least make some money.
But, I’m realizing, I need to be able to stand out with the talents I was given. But it never feels like enough. It always feels like I need to be doing more.
But there are still only 24 hours in a day.
I never consider it an option for me to drop one of my tasks, even in my most stressed out times.
And here’s my point. More likely than not, your kid is in the same boat.
A UCLA survey of college freshmen found that incoming students at four-year colleges and universities spent half as much time socializing in their final year of high school as those who entered college in 1987 (that’s you, parents!) Kids today are spending more time keeping up with the busy day-to-day schedule they’ve created for themselves.
There are some negative effects to this, such as developing high amounts of stress. And maybe your kids are making decisions based on anxiety, rather than any real interest in the activity. Or, maybe you’re taking control of your kid’s after school activities. Are your decisions based on anxiety about their future? (For an article with a balanced view, try this: 2013 New York Times article.)
Importantly, I just had to do a little bit of research to turn up some surprising facts. Kids today are too busy to maintain even the basics of what you held down at 16, i.e. a job. About 60 percent of teens in 1979 were employed. About 34 percent of teens today have jobs, according to Business Insider. And that number is projected to go down even further.
Can’t teens even be motivated by money?
Well, maybe. But there is something more important. College.
Kids today are not only competing with the best and brightest in their school, many of whom are applying to the big Division I and Ivy League schools, but they’re also competing with just many, many more of their peers. More high school grads are going to college (and many, many fewer are taking STEM or trade jobs – which is a problem we’ll discuss another day.) Dr. Lauber has told us that when he went to college, only 50% of this high school peers in his small town went to college. Now, its more than 80%. Nationwide, college applications and college attendance has sky rocketed. In 1990 there were around 12 million undergrads. Today , there are 20.8 million (National education stats.)
Maybe this is all starting at too early of an age. I believe today kids want to know how they stack up in their classes. And with each new grade level, there is an even fiercer competition.
Quick question: have your “future plans” for your kid seeped into their “KID years?” Do they have to have perfect grades, two or more extracurriculars and a squeaky-clean record. If your kid thinks this, are they handling this pressure well?
How you can help
OK. I’m not a parent. So just ignore what I’m about to write if you want. But I want to be helpful if I can. So here is a quick summary (of what other people have written) about “what you can do about this.”
Keep a family planner. Encourage your child to have their own planner to keep track of assignments and after-school activities. But also keep one at home in a place you and your child will see every day, such as a bulletin board in the kitchen.
Talk through commitments with them before they decide to join. This saves a lot of stress in the long run. Are they joining because they want to? Or because they think they should? Is it worth taking that time away from homework and other obligations?
Make goals for each new activity. For sports and clubs, the goal might be to “always enjoy the work they’re putting in.” If they stop enjoying the activity, it might be time to re-evaluate spending time on it.
Prioritize with them. Add some perspective to which of their activities deserve the most attention when life gets busy. With school work, sports practice, a club meeting and an after-school job all in the same night, things can get hectic. which should they do first?
Make sure they have time to themselves each week. Not time just with friends. Not just time with family. Time alone. Reflection periods are necessary to the recharging process for kids (and you too, parents!) Let them play music in their room, or veg out on the couch at least some time each week.
And talk with them. How are they doing? A quick check on a car ride home, or maybe while gathering the laundry can make a real difference and alert you to things you want to respond to further.
To learn more about the inner struggles your child may be facing when it comes to Instagram, read our other blog post here.
Have you updated your ideas about your kid’s careers? A lot has changed. Your child may not be old enough to be looking into colleges or jobs, but you need to know that the future is not necessarily like the past, and that includes the job market. Careers that were booming when you first started out are not the same careers your kids will choose. Some job opportunities have only recently been created. And the top majors at many universities and colleges are different than before.
For example, CNN partnered with CareerBuilder and recently listed the top 10 college majors of 2019 (found at onlinecourses.net ):
Other websites say healthcare and technology/business occupations are in high demand and that STEM careers are also booming. “STEM” means Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, by the way.
You’ll find the list a bit amusing, probably. Zuma instructor? But the graph does provide their average salary.
Offshore Wind Farm Engineer
Social Media Manager
Chief Listening Officer
Information Security Analyst
User Experience Designer
The Best Jobs for the
According to thebestschools.org/ the following careers are expected to grow significantly in the next decade, perhaps when your child will be searching for a job.
Solar Photovoltaic Installers
Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 105.30%
2026 Projected Total Employment: 23,200
Median Annual Wage 2016: $39,240
Wind Turbine Service Technicians
Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 96.10%
2026 Projected Total Employment: 11,300
Median Annual Wage 2016: $52,260
Home Health Aides
Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 46.7%
2026 Projected Total Employment: 1,337,000
Median Annual Wage 2016: $22,600
Personal Care Aides
Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 37.4%
2026 Projected Total Employment: 2,770,100
Median Annual Wage 2016: $21,920
Projected Growth, 2016-2026: 37.4%
2026 Projected Total Employment: 145,900
Median Annual Wage 2016: $101,480
They have 20 other future careers listed, check out their website for more. M
What You Can Do
As you look at these lists, don’t get alarmed. Simply do some research. Maybe put your earlier expectations aside and consider how you can let your child explore some of these new opportunities as they grow.
For example, one concern many career counselors express is that some kids never seem to consider jobs far from the “family tree”. This can limit their options. Your child has several years to try out different skills and likes. See how many different careers you can expose them to.
Because, just as reporter Samuel Clemens once said:
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work
a day in your life.” – Mark Twain
Instagram fabulously documents a teenager’s life. It shows the highs of every event: the laughs, the candid moments, the wide smiles.
What could better serve as the diary for an adolescent, impressionable young soul?
The answer? Just about anything else. Because while Instagram looks fun on the surface, the need for “the perfect looking life” takes a terrible toll on the self-esteem of teenagers (and let’s be honest, adults, too).
For those of you who may not be aware of a typical night scrolling through the Instagram Explore page, I’ll go through it for you.
The Explore page is catered toward your personal interests. The more you search something – say a television show – the more you will see actors associated with the show and clips showing small parts of the show. It’s meant to be harmless.
Until your searches get the better of you.
Since beginning my college break, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to get back in shape. This past semester didn’t leave me with a lot of time to keep up with a good workout regimen, so I’ve used the free time to go for a couple of runs. Now, I find myself clicking on more posts on Instagram that have to do with fitness.
The only problem is that the people who run Instagram fitness accounts look FANTASTIC. Seriously, I don’t understand how some of these girls look so good when they’re working out.
I’ve learned that a lot of people my age, especially women, fall into this hole. The so-called “Instagram models”. They acquire enough followers to get sponsorships to promote items like slimming tea and hair vitamins. They also display their perfectly thin waists and impeccable sense of style that no normal teenager or young adult would be able to maintain or afford.
I wanted to look up new workouts or get some fitness inspiration. And I found that. But what I also found was a sense of self-hatred and inadequacy.
And probably the worst thing to think while trying to better yourself:
“I’ll never look like her, so why even bother trying?”
Why? Because fitness should be for health reasons not for appearances!!
But I digress.
With New Years resolutions in full swing, I urge you to reach out to your children if they’ve expressed an interest in improving themselves via health and fitness. I guarantee they will find themselves on the Instagram Explore page sooner or later.
Want to hear some more thoughts on this? Look here.
You can help. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing this with your kids:
1. Instagram is not real life. Yes, those might be real people, but picture-editing apps make up a large part of the Instagram experience, and that should not be forgotten.
2. Your child’s personal journey should not try to match anyone else’s. That fitness model has been training for years, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do as many reps/have those abs right away/look as effortless as that model does. If they really want to have someone to workout with, help them find an able friend who can be their workout buddy.
3. They should separate social media from any form of bettering themselves. Maybe try a social media cleanse. Help them manage their time on social media. It will help their goals in the long run.
4. Posting their own pictures isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they have an amazing group of friends as a support system. Friends love to hype up their friends. Just make sure your child is doing it through confidence and not the need for validation and likes. (Note: This is a very slippery slope.)
5. Going off No. 4, making a group chat with friends can be a good alternative. Teenagers rely on their friend’s opinions for everything, so creating a chat with the main purpose of restoring each other’s self-esteem could play to all of the friends’ benefit.
The worst thing that can happen is your child loses motivation to reach their goals or surrenders their self-esteem. Once that is lost, social media has an even greater grasp on the child. Don’t let your child fall into the pattern of looking at themselves as subordinate.
My dad’s adventurous palette definitely helped me eat out of my comfort zone. Growing up watching him eat everything and anything from brussel sprouts to SPAM, I always wanted to have what he was having, even if I didn’t like it.
On the other hand, my younger sister was like my mom. A bit more of a picky eater. Even though my sister’s not unhealthy, even now she sometimes turns down vegetables simply because she grew up not liking them.
As a parent, you’re always under a microscope. Your kids are watching. Chana Stiefel, from Parents Magazine says “Your child learns by imitating you.” Have you thought about how your eating habits influence your kids’ eating habits?
I know sometimes you want to chow down on a bowl of cereal just because you’re in a rush. And everyone has cravings at times. But remember that kids today have many more food options than you did. They’re going to be making a lot more choices about what to eat. What they eat at home will have a special appeal to them. It will smell, look and taste familiar. Putting a balanced diet in front of them on a regular basis will increase the likelihood that those foods will end up in their diet when they are away from home.
Unlock Food, a website created by the Dietitians of Canada, states that “By creating a positive eating environment and being a good role model, you can help your children develop healthy eating habits that can make a lasting impact on their health.”
I know that living in a household where the rule was “you have to at least try it once, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it” helped me give a variety of healthy foods a fighting chance. Now I eat better I think than most of my friends. Thanks Dad!
Odds are your child will become part of a cyberbullying scheme at some point in their young life. It’s unfortunately just one of the consequences of the new “digital age”. The only question that is relevant is: will they be on the giving end or the receiving end? (I’ll admit for the moment there may be a few in the middle just “watching”.)
So what is cyberbullying?
By definition it is bullying that takes place over the internet, cellphones, or social media. Yes, these things overlap. Social media is on their phone, etc… Cyberbullying is posting or sending inappropriate, negative, or private information about someone to threaten, harass, or embarrass them.
My personal story about cyberbullying
I was in middle school and a new girl moved to my school. That girl and I were similar in ways and I became envious of her. I accused her of stealing my friends. Of course, I now realize my friends liked her because she was just like me. I can now confess we both did our share of cyberbullying each other. Usually on social media or via text message. A lot of hurtful things were said, and because of it, we both lost some friends. We did not get along for quite a while and we did get in trouble with our parents for the way we were acting.
Looking back on the situation, it was ridiculous. None of those things needed to be said/written, and all of those things are still out there – in/on the internet somewhere.
Of course, we eventually got over it and became good friends. Nobody changes as much as a teenager.
So isn’t it ironic that the ever-permanent internet is where today’s teens spend so much of their time? Teens need to change. The internet is permanent. Not really a good match.
What should you be concerned about? Everything…
Anything your kid posts on the internet can become public and it might affect online reputation. Don’t believe them when they say “it will disappear in a few seconds on Snapchat”. (Read our blog post about Snapchat to learn more.)
Stopbullying.gov says cyberbullying is persistent, permanent and hard to notice. Dr. Lauber told us a story about when he left school, he was safe from bullying as a young kid. But his kids experienced even in his house because they were online. There’s no longer any safe place!
Did you know…
the 2015 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying?
the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates an estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey?
Cyberbullying is not always easy to catch. Unless your child shows or tells you, or you’re very knowledgeable on their social life (texting, social media, etc…), you may be unaware of what is going on. Parents and children use technology differently. This makes it difficult to know when cyberbullying may be happening. Below is a graph from cyberbullying.org on cyberbullying victimization, along with some signs of cyberbullying and some helpful tips.
Is your child bullying or being bullied?
Cyberbullying happens to children of all ages at least once in their lives and at any time of any day. KidsHealth.org mentions some signs of cyberbullying:
being emotionally upset during or after using the internet or the phone
being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
avoiding school or group gatherings
changes in mood, behavior, sleep or appetite
wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities
So what can you do?
I confess, I’m not a parent yet. And maybe my generation will be more prepared for it, since we’re the first generation to live through it. But here’s what I found (and Dr. Lauber endorses these tips!)
Be open and honest with your child. Be someone they can come to for help.
Offer your comfort and support.
Praise them if they seek your help.
Talk to someone like a principle or guidance counselor at their school.
Encourage your child to “be the better person” and not retaliate.
Provide punishment for those who are bullying.
Limit technology time and monitor it.
Learn more about online safety.
Set a good example yourself.
No one wants their child to be bullied or to bully others, but it happens. I believe it always has and always will. But I hope I’m wrong.
All you can do is try your best and help your child make good choices. The good news is I lived through it. Your child will to.