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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier (Mike Ferry)

As author Mike Ferry points out, adolescents today experience alarming rates of depression and stress. He shares five ways parents can help their teen be happier. We present, “Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier.”

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Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier (Mike Ferry)Pimples. Hormonal changes. Emotional extremes. Argumentativeness. Romantic relationships. If you have an adolescent son or daughter, you may be living through these and other aspects of the teen years. It’s a period of great upheaval, for kids and parents (not to mention the teachers who never escape the drama of middle and high school).

Stress, anxiety and depression

Adolescence has always been hard, but today’s teens are having an especially difficult time. For a variety of reasons, teens are suffering from higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before. Consider this statistic:

17% of high school students seriously consider suicide (22.4% of girls)

That’s unbelievable! Unfortunately, the trend continues into the college years:

54% of college students have extreme anxiety
30% of college students suffer from severe depression

As parents, there are some strategies we can employ to help our teenage children endure this rough patch and emerge stronger in young adulthood. We can practice these “protective factors” at home to boost our kids’ emotional immune systems.

Five Things Parents Can Do

Here are five ways to make teens happier and to promote long-term positive mental health.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike Ferry(1) Have a consistent home or family routine. I know how tough this can be. My wife and I have four kids; managing their sports schedules and social calendars seems harder than running a federal agency. If possible, try to have at least one family meal per week. You could also plan a family game night once a month and make it clear that nothing will take priority over it.

(2) Promote healthy habits. Our physical health impacts our emotional health. Encourage plenty of exercise and a healthy diet. Sleep is often sacrificed due to homework and hanging out with friends, but it is an essential aspect of sound mental health. Do all you can to help your teen get at least eight or nine hours of sleep every night.

(3) Practice spirituality. Teens are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. Spirituality offers emotional support and guidance, in addition to a sense of purpose. If your family actively practices religion, help your teen grow in the faith by attending services on a regular basis. Getting involved with your religious community’s youth group strengthens social bonds and creates shared experiences that can sustain your teen in difficult times.

(4) Boost confidence. Many teens suffer from negative self-esteem. This may result from poor body image, stressful social interactions, or feeling inadequate in some way. You can help your teen feel more confident by celebrating his or her victories, large and small. Show your teen that effort leads to results, and that he or she has the power to achieve success in a variety of areas. For more ideas, you can check out my blog post on ways to develop a growth mindset in your child.

(5) Know what’s going on. Monitor your teen’s activities, both in the “real world” and online. Take a peek every now and then at your son or daughter’s social media profiles. Invite your teen’s friends to your house to hang out. Stay in touch with how your child is doing at school and beyond. Often, troubling emotional situations can be avoided by proactive and positive parenting.

Hang in there, parents of teens! It’s a wild and unpredictable ride, but it will be over before you know it. Your child will grow up and leave the nest (hopefully) with the tools needed for academic and personal success. With a great deal of patience and care, we can get our teens on track for stronger mental health in the present and down the road. If you’re interested in learning more ways to guide your teenage child through this tumultuous time, you may want to check out my online course, “The Parent’s Guide To Surviving Adolescence.”

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7
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May 28, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

May 16, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give Your Kids the Gift of Free Play (Pam Lobley)

Author Pam Lobley shares why free play is so important for children, plus some ways to create more of it. We present, “Give Your Kids the Gift of Free Play.”

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Give Your Kids the Gift of Free Play, Pam LobleyChildren’s lives these days are often planned down to the minute. They go from school to after-care to sports or dance. They take music lessons or participate in scouting. They have homework. Even weekends (especially weekends!) can be jammed with tournaments, practices, and tutoring.

How It Used to Be

Not surprisingly, free play for school-age kids has all but disappeared. Decades ago, it was the only kind of play there was. Kids went outside and played with whatever and whomever was in their neighborhood until it was time to come home for dinner. No one worried if they were improving themselves through lessons or skill building; they were simply expected to play.

In our crazy ‘get ahead’ world, we think our kids will be better off with lots of classes, camps, sports and other types of enriching activities. But studies are now showing how important free play is for our children. It is, in fact, a key part of their healthy development and social skills. Free play teaches flexibility and problem solving. It allows children independence, and teaches them negotiation and compromise as they make up rules to their own games and then have to play by them.

Some Free Play Ideas

Why Can't We Just Play. Pam LobleyIf you children seem whiny, combative, anxious or even just tired, it could be a sign that they are burned out on activities and need to just play. Here are some free play ideas you can easily incorporate into your busy lifestyle.

Seek a daycare or camp offering free play. When you choose a daycare or camp for your children, try to pick the one with the least structure and the most recess. Make sure they have time to make up games on their own, or play in a free-form way (remember “Red Rover” or “Freeze Tag?”). They should be able to play without adults making the teams, calling the shots and deciding the rules.

Teach Them Games You Played. If they’re having trouble figuring out what to play, teach them games you played: House, Cops and Robbers, Capture the Flag, etc. They can play these at a park or in a backyard. Show them the game, but then let them play on their own with their friends or siblings. If you need to be nearby for safety reasons, fine, but don’t interfere with their games. Playing on their own is what gives them independence.

Don’t be afraid to do NOTHING! It might feel weird to have an empty Saturday afternoon, but resist the temptation to run off to the movies or a museum. Sometimes a little boredom is just what kids need to get creative and invent something, or unwind and daydream. When they race from one thing to the next, their minds never get bored enough for this.

Enforce “unplugged” time. They can’t get bored enough to daydream or invent if they are always on their phone or playing a video game. You may have to bear some loud wails of protest, but if you can establish that there are certain times of the day when screens are not allowed, they will eventually accept it and cope by thinking of something else to do.

Do not attach a value to their play. In other words, pretending to be Spiderman for an afternoon is just as good for them as batting practice. As Einstein said:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Our children spend so many hours a day in the pursuit of knowledge – letting them cultivate imagination is a gift.

Essential to Happiness

Learning to entertain themselves, and to function in situations when things aren’t going their way, is an essential part of your child’s happiness. Free play will teach this, and they’ll have fun, too. ###

Pam Lobley is an experienced writer, having written comedy, plays, newspaper columns, blogs and books. This article features her book, Why Can’t We Just Play? It’s about the importance of free play in a child’s life, written as a sweet and funny memoir of a special summer she spent “doing nothing” with her kids. Learn more about Pam’s work at her website [link].

 

May 9, 2017 Posted by | Anxiety and Depression, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment