Mental Health

Our Kids Need Us

Delaney Ruston, MD
June 2, 2020
people in circle

In these past few days, we are experiencing an intensity that is hard to put in words. I am not going to write about all that is happening in the wake of a pandemic, protests, politics, and so much more. What I want to focus on is how we help our kids emotionally and mentally right now. Social media and news are playing a major role in many of their lives currently. Social media can connect youth with others, but at the same time, there are increasingly more taxing and painful posts of yelling, riots, death.

Teens say they have never seen Instagram change so quickly. For example, today many people are posting black squares for #blackouttuesday. These past few days, it is only socially acceptable to post about the current events happening.  If anything gets posted that is not related to the issues at hand, then people write “Read The Room” — meaning don’t post your usual content, such as a photo of a sunset or a happy selfie.

With all this intensity happening on social media, it is more important than ever to figure out effective ways to be engaged in our kids’ lives. I have some suggestions here and I hope some bit of it may feel helpful.

Validate, validate, validate

Youth are extremely energized by what is going on, and social media is on fire, particularly, Instagram with calls to action. Many of us, including myself, want to help our teens see the 360-degree view of the situations, but that reaction often makes them feel we don’t respect what they are feeling. Validation is letting them know that you understand why they think something and that it is valid. It does not mean you condone it, or agree with them, although you very well might. It is saying you love them, and you want to understand how they see things. What they believe is so important, and we want them to know that.

The power of other adults

One of the key things parents can do right now is to purposely enlist the wonderful wisdom of other adults to share with their kids. For example, my co-producer, Lisa, called her younger brother, who is close to her 16-year-old daughter, to have him talk to her about things she can do right now that are safe and useful. He stressed to her that going to big protests right now was not a wise idea for various reasons including Covid-19 risk and the potential for violence. He suggested instead, she put her energy into learning all she can at this moment. His words resonated with her.

Take advantage of nature to soothe emotions

I have been amazed by the number of birds I find that now let me get close to them and watch them pick up sticks and eat worms. My stress melts as I watch these scenes. If your kids or teens are not already unplugging to go outside, what are new ways that might entice them to? Things you could consider saying could include telling them you want to show them some cool nature you discover, or perhaps you can tell them you are feeling emotional and it would help your mood if during the day they had 15 minutes to go on a walk with you. You could ask another family to meet outside altogether (staying distant, of course). When our kids unplug and get outside, we all know how it can lift their spirits.

Calm, calm, calm, family conversations

Pull out an old photo, grab special cookies, show them a quick magic trick, do whatever you can do to bring the family together, lay on the rug, and just hug for a moment. Can all the outside images on screens be put aside for a few minutes during a family talk? Talk about anything, talk about the issues of the day, and focus on calm, calm, calm.

Be their sounding board for news

Work to get information to your children that you want them to see. One parent made sure to text her daughter key information she wanted her to know about current events. She knew emailing would not get it to her, but texting would. The information was reliable and not overly sensationalized. The sound, fact-based news brought clarity to some key issues. Her daughter read the text and found it helpful.

Help them get some sleep

The data is so convincing that sleep is critical for the emotional health of our youth, and teens tell me that now that they are on their screens until 1 or 2 a.m. They need a break, and so many upsetting incidents are playing out late at night, which will cause their minds and hearts to race, keeping them up longer. Furthermore, you may be asleep and not there to tune into what they are feeling. When I ask teens if they need help ensuring getting to sleep earlier, many say yes that they do want their parent(s) to make sure their phone goes out of the bedroom. Others may not be happy at first, but after a few nights of better sleep, they may agree it’s worth it.

Here are some ways to approach it:

Consider saying something like, “We are in such an intense and stressful time, and for me, I want to parent with integrity, and to be the best parent I can be, I really need to help get you a little more sleep than you have been getting. I know you want to be with your phone (or other devices) at night, but now is the time when sleep has to be the priority.”

Consider everyone shutting down together. If you normally have a device in your room, perhaps you can say how you too are going to keep devices out of your room for this extremely volatile time so you too can get the best sleep possible so to be able to be your best self when facing everything in the day.

Final thought

Civic engagement is a good thing, no matter your politics. Our kids are thinking about these topics right now. Let's be a source of support and engage them in all the important topics of these intense times.

Here are a few questions to get the conversation going:

  1. What things are you doing to take care of your emotional health during these times?
  2. Which friends or family do you like talking to the most about what’s going on?
  3. What ways are things being talked about in social media and the news that you think is helping? What do you think is hurting?
  4. What topics are happening right now that you want to learn more about?

We NOW have a way for people to host online events during this time. We still strongly believe in the coming together as a group model for showing both movies, so these temporary online events will be here only while the social distancing is in place.

Click here if you are interested in hosting an ONLINE screening for your community.

Click here if you want to attend an ONLINE screening.

June 2, 2020


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Mental Health

Our Kids Need Us

Delaney Ruston, MD
June 2, 2020
people in circle

In these past few days, we are experiencing an intensity that is hard to put in words. I am not going to write about all that is happening in the wake of a pandemic, protests, politics, and so much more. What I want to focus on is how we help our kids emotionally and mentally right now. Social media and news are playing a major role in many of their lives currently. Social media can connect youth with others, but at the same time, there are increasingly more taxing and painful posts of yelling, riots, death.

Teens say they have never seen Instagram change so quickly. For example, today many people are posting black squares for #blackouttuesday. These past few days, it is only socially acceptable to post about the current events happening.  If anything gets posted that is not related to the issues at hand, then people write “Read The Room” — meaning don’t post your usual content, such as a photo of a sunset or a happy selfie.

With all this intensity happening on social media, it is more important than ever to figure out effective ways to be engaged in our kids’ lives. I have some suggestions here and I hope some bit of it may feel helpful.

Validate, validate, validate

Youth are extremely energized by what is going on, and social media is on fire, particularly, Instagram with calls to action. Many of us, including myself, want to help our teens see the 360-degree view of the situations, but that reaction often makes them feel we don’t respect what they are feeling. Validation is letting them know that you understand why they think something and that it is valid. It does not mean you condone it, or agree with them, although you very well might. It is saying you love them, and you want to understand how they see things. What they believe is so important, and we want them to know that.

The power of other adults

One of the key things parents can do right now is to purposely enlist the wonderful wisdom of other adults to share with their kids. For example, my co-producer, Lisa, called her younger brother, who is close to her 16-year-old daughter, to have him talk to her about things she can do right now that are safe and useful. He stressed to her that going to big protests right now was not a wise idea for various reasons including Covid-19 risk and the potential for violence. He suggested instead, she put her energy into learning all she can at this moment. His words resonated with her.

Take advantage of nature to soothe emotions

I have been amazed by the number of birds I find that now let me get close to them and watch them pick up sticks and eat worms. My stress melts as I watch these scenes. If your kids or teens are not already unplugging to go outside, what are new ways that might entice them to? Things you could consider saying could include telling them you want to show them some cool nature you discover, or perhaps you can tell them you are feeling emotional and it would help your mood if during the day they had 15 minutes to go on a walk with you. You could ask another family to meet outside altogether (staying distant, of course). When our kids unplug and get outside, we all know how it can lift their spirits.

Calm, calm, calm, family conversations

Pull out an old photo, grab special cookies, show them a quick magic trick, do whatever you can do to bring the family together, lay on the rug, and just hug for a moment. Can all the outside images on screens be put aside for a few minutes during a family talk? Talk about anything, talk about the issues of the day, and focus on calm, calm, calm.

Be their sounding board for news

Work to get information to your children that you want them to see. One parent made sure to text her daughter key information she wanted her to know about current events. She knew emailing would not get it to her, but texting would. The information was reliable and not overly sensationalized. The sound, fact-based news brought clarity to some key issues. Her daughter read the text and found it helpful.

Help them get some sleep

The data is so convincing that sleep is critical for the emotional health of our youth, and teens tell me that now that they are on their screens until 1 or 2 a.m. They need a break, and so many upsetting incidents are playing out late at night, which will cause their minds and hearts to race, keeping them up longer. Furthermore, you may be asleep and not there to tune into what they are feeling. When I ask teens if they need help ensuring getting to sleep earlier, many say yes that they do want their parent(s) to make sure their phone goes out of the bedroom. Others may not be happy at first, but after a few nights of better sleep, they may agree it’s worth it.

Here are some ways to approach it:

Consider saying something like, “We are in such an intense and stressful time, and for me, I want to parent with integrity, and to be the best parent I can be, I really need to help get you a little more sleep than you have been getting. I know you want to be with your phone (or other devices) at night, but now is the time when sleep has to be the priority.”

Consider everyone shutting down together. If you normally have a device in your room, perhaps you can say how you too are going to keep devices out of your room for this extremely volatile time so you too can get the best sleep possible so to be able to be your best self when facing everything in the day.

Final thought

Civic engagement is a good thing, no matter your politics. Our kids are thinking about these topics right now. Let's be a source of support and engage them in all the important topics of these intense times.

Here are a few questions to get the conversation going:

  1. What things are you doing to take care of your emotional health during these times?
  2. Which friends or family do you like talking to the most about what’s going on?
  3. What ways are things being talked about in social media and the news that you think is helping? What do you think is hurting?
  4. What topics are happening right now that you want to learn more about?

We NOW have a way for people to host online events during this time. We still strongly believe in the coming together as a group model for showing both movies, so these temporary online events will be here only while the social distancing is in place.

Click here if you are interested in hosting an ONLINE screening for your community.

Click here if you want to attend an ONLINE screening.

June 2, 2020


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