Building Community to Support Emotional Wellbeing
Raising kids and teens can be such an emotional journey. I was blindsided and felt alone when our daughter began to really struggle emotionally. Weeks turned to months and although I have experienced a lot of personal pain in my life, nothing prepared me for the pain I would feel seeing her in such a state.
One of the main things that helped me and most importantly, Tessa, was building a community of support. As always, I asked Tessa if she would be okay with me sharing her story and she okayed.
Last week, when my family was out for pizza, Tessa mentioned a day that she recalls with a lot of gratitude when she was feeling really low and my friend Christy came over to spend an afternoon with her.
That day Christy helped motivate Tessa to take a shower and helped her organize her room. Her presence and interactions felt very uplifting to Tessa. I was also beyond grateful that Christy had come over and given all that time and loving support to Tessa.
A year prior I had come to Christy with an idea about getting moms and their daughters together monthly to watch a TED Talk and discuss the important themes in each the show. Together we organized this monthly gathering with our 8th-grade daughters—calling it Change Makers. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this was so Tessa could find connections to other moms.
There is a myth in our society that is pervasive and dangerous: challenging times need to be personal times and adversity in our families needs to stay private.
The wonderful thing about building a community is that humans appreciate the feeling of being needed. When someone asks for someone’s support, that person feels that their emotional intelligence and kindness are respected and trusted.
I have always encouraged my kids to find other adults—like teachers, coaches, people they babysit for, school counselors, etc.— in their lives, that they could talk to about challenges they are facing. Most of these adults love when young people come with questions or concerns. I am always so touched when a medical student or film student seeks my advice and support for one of their concerns.
The positive effects of this kind of help are actually documented in research. In 1938, scientists started tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores and followed them for many years. Dr. Vaillant, the lead researcher, found that adults who spent time nurturing the next generation were three times as likely to report being happy as those who did not do this.
When making SCREENAGERS and now in my new movie Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER it has always been about bringing people, together kids and adults, to see a film and discuss solutions—and in doing so creating a community. The whole idea is to take the discussions beyond the auditorium for further conversation in homes and schools knowing that we are now part of a bigger community working to create solutions.
You will see in Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER the struggles and triumphs that happen with our family and several others as teens gain experiences and skills that help them to thrive in the face of all sorts of challenges, including screen related ones.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
What communities of support do you have?
Are there communities (which can even be just a couple of people) that you would like to make happen or expand?
What keeps you from asking for support?
When was the last time someone came to you for support and how did it make you feel?
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