Finding identity beyond social media

Teen life today involves more social media now than ever. Research finds that 94 percent of teens go online daily, and 74 percent of teens use more than one social platform. While social media creates connections in creative, fun ways (think: Snapchat face filters!), it also has many risks. Teens are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying, isolation, perfectionism and comparison on social media. You as a parent play a vital role in helping your child navigate social media and identity.

Here are three ways to help your teen cultivate identity beyond social platforms:

Help your teen set boundaries

Boundaries are critical for teen social media usage. When you develop boundaries for social media, be sure you and your teen do it together, as a team. Ensure the boundaries are centered on love. “Rules are fear-based, but boundaries and guidelines are more relational,” says Julie Faddis, Assistant Clinical Director at Shelterwood. “If you and your teen are struggling to have open communication, work on solidifying the foundation of trust and forming that positive relationship.”

When your teen establishes boundaries around screen time, they have more time to cultivate offline interests. Boundaries free up time to build relationships, stay active in their hobbies and serve in the community. Help your teen create realistic boundaries and then follow through with love and consistent reinforcement. Read more on how to help your teen set boundaries here.

Help your teen build a support system

Teens may be connected to hundreds of “friends” digitally, but they also need in-person community. Research shows that more social media time can lead to isolation and loneliness. Help your teen expand their circle, so they know they have a network of people who love and trust them beyond their screen.

Create opportunities for your teen to further engage with people who could be a positive influence. Support systems connect your teen to meaningful relationships beyond your family. Your teen can learn his or her value as a person beyond the image projected on social media. Read more on how to help your teen build a support system here.

Be aware of warning signs of technology addiction

Technology addiction is a growing concern for teens, particularly on social media. Addiction can be defined as someone engaging in a behavior that is repetitive, and that person has lost control over that repetitive behavior, says Ken DeBlock, Shelterwood’s Director of Substance Abuse and Recovery. Social media is marketed and designed to engage teens for a long period of time.

“It is a fundamental principle that people need connection,” Ken says. “Yet these devices provide a very different type of connection. Connection to other people is not through personal experiences but through this online resource. This makes it easier for teens to project who they want to be and how they want to feel. There are many more opportunities to be inauthentic. These platforms center on a controlled environment that is easier to dictate than actual life.” Read more about how to help your teen with their screen time, and how to tell if your teen may have an unhealthy relationship with technology here.

Utilize these three tips to support your teen’s healthy social media usage. If you’re concerned about your teen’s technology usage, consider Shelterwood. At Shelterwood, we offer real hope, real heart change and real restoration for struggling teens. We are committed to bringing heart change to teenagers and restoration to families. Connect with admissions today: 866.585.8939.

I Hate Boundaries

Screen Shot 2014 12 11 at 11.15.36 AM 300x199 I Hate BoundariesAm I the only person that hates limits, expectations and boundaries? I know they are important, but if I was honest with myself, I hate it when others want to place limits on how I believe, think or behave. Sure, it sounds good when counselors tell you to apply boundaries to your kids. After all, you are the boss and applying boundaries to someone else seems appropriate and fair. I sure don’t mind telling those that work for me what I expect and I am quick to stand up for myself when I feel miss understood by my spouse. But it can be hard to embrace boundaries imposed by others. I hate it when bosses reprimand me for being late or highlight poorly done work, or if my spouse expects me to be home and clean when I would rather be out golfing with friends. Very few of us are thankful for these guardrails on our own behavior.

Boundaries are limits, borders or guardrails that are placed around our behaviors. We can place them ourselves or they can be placed by others. When they need to be placed by others, it is often a sign that we are living a risky lifestyle. As adults we often recognize our need to mitigate risk by putting up guardrails. Married guys try not to go out for drinks alone with single women. We try to watch what we eat to avoid future health issues. Boundaries are completely necessary and help us function in society in a healthy way. Teens, however, don’t have the necessary experience to put guardrails up for themselves. They believe that they are capable of handling complete freedom.

If we chafe against boundaries being placed on us as adults and look for ways to negotiate our way through them, we can’t expect our kids to react much differently. After all, we find ways to play golf or be late to work for appropriate reasons in exchange for working harder or staying later on other days. Well, our kids are no different and actually want to find ways to live with the boundaries that we set. Note that I didn’t say ‘within’ the boundaries. They want to live with, or survive, the boundaries that they are experiencing within the home, which means that teens don’t often want to give in too much and are usually only interested in expanding the boundary. But you’ve gotta love them for trying.

So Mom and Dad, recognize the completely normal battle that occurs over maintaining this line. Smile as your teens try to expand their freedoms. Try not to take it personally when they violate your boundaries, but also don’t ignore it and give way. Boundaries provide structure, support and safety in our lives. Evaluate the lines that you have established in the home. As your child gets older, some of these boundaries can and should be expanded while others need to be firmly maintained. Talk with your teen, negotiate, and remember boundaries are there to bump against. Guardrails keep us from careening over the cliff. Don’t remove them in your life or in the lives of your teens.

Sometimes Social Media is not very Social

The Lonely Side of Social Media

As a parent of older teens, I do my best to stay current with today’s social media sites and apps. The best I can manage these days is Twitter and Facebook, which is now, according to my teens, a site for “old people.”   I guess I can’t argue with them when I see my mom posting things to their pages and signing off with, “Love, Grandma.” To be sure, it’s the modern day equivalent to pinching their cheeks in public. Grandmas can somehow get away with it…parents, on the other hand, cannot.

parents at computer 300x169 Sometimes Social Media is not very Social
Sometimes social media is not very social

As I browse through my news feed, I see my friends with younger children post pictures of cute shenanigans or share amusing things their kids say or do. I am not allowed to do that….EVER! Every time I take a picture of my teens, the first words they say are, “You’d better not post that to Facebook!” So, I am left to experience all of the joys, triumphs and failures of raising teens alone. My kids are doing some really cool things, saying things that make me laugh out loud and daily impressing me with their ability to navigate tough waters. But I cannot share this and I am coming to see why. They are people who have rights to their own lives. Of course, it was nice when they were little and we could choose their clothes, their food and sometimes even their friends. Not so anymore, and that’s a good place to be. But, it’s a lonely place to be. So, Moms and Dads, take heart in knowing that there is a huge population of us parents of older teens out there who feel the same way. You are not alone! I encourage you to treasure these days as much as you did when they were little by keeping a private ‘Facebook’ in a journal that you can give them someday when they need to be celebrated.

Let’s all just take a break

Screen Shot 2015 09 17 at 12.17.20 PM 300x204 Lets all just take a breakWho doesn’t have a busy schedule these days?  There has certainly been an increase in the pace of the American family! If family life used to cruise at 50 mph, it is now traveling at 100 mph. Certainly fueled by the acceleration of electronics, what was fast 20 years ago is not acceptable today. 120 years ago, if someone missed the stagecoach, they unpacked their bags and planned to catch another coach the next month. Today, if the plane is delayed a few minutes, the crowd freaks out.

Certainly, cell phones and computers have increased organization and productivity, but in the family, they have also increased the stress level. Today’s teenagers live at a frantic pace so different from my teenage years of the 70’s. I recall afternoons coming home from school, grabbing a snack from the kitchen and watching Gilligan’s Island on TV. I played sports and during those seasons, we had practices every afternoon, but only during the seasons. Summers were spent at camp and just “hanging out” with my family and friends.

Today, year-round sports mean the domination of athletics 365 days a year. A friend told me the other day that his son’s football coach was reluctantly giving his players a week off in the summer. Crazy. Year-round schooling and academic pressures demand that teens spend more time than ever in the books. The increase in “electronics” means that text messages, email, and phone calls are accessible all the time.

As parents, we need to help dictate the pace of the family. I’m not suggesting we live like the Jews of old who wouldn’t even walk more than 8 steps on the Sabbath. We don’t need to pull our kids out of sports or take away their cell phones. But I am suggesting that parents prayerfully step into the pace of the family. Kids and teenagers (and adults) all need down time. And the “down” is different for all of us. Today, as I was praying with Jeanie, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for a restful day.” Jeanie asked me later “was today really restful? You mowed the yard and cleaned out gutters.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was restful because I chose what I wanted to do.” Stress ensues when our schedules are dictated for us. Sure, ultimately our time is God’s time and we yield to His will, but we make loving choices everyday to make wise choices in setting our schedules.

Parents, step up and in and help your teenager set boundaries. Help them establish “gaps” in their busy schedule and find a little down time. Every hour doesn’t have to be filled with an activity. Don’t dictate to them but teach them. Of course, it’s easier to teach what we practice, so take inventory of your own pace first. We all need down time to just chill and read, exercise, watch TV, mow grass and most importantly, spend time with family and with God.

Make down time a priority for your family. Unplug the electronics and enjoy the time of Sabbath.

Should men support feminism?

How are the women in your life affected by sexism? That can be a fairly typical question in regards to feminism. Women have traditionally been the ones at the center and spotlight of feminism discussions.

This weekend Emma Watson, famed Harry Potter actress, challenged us to ask another question.

How are the men in our lives affected by sexism?

Watson, the United Nation’s Good Will Ambassador, spoke at the UN’s summit to discuss the new initiative, HeForShe. In doing so, she urged men to take a stand for feminism.

You can access her speech here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTG1zcEJmxY

Watson speaks against the traditional view of feminism as “man-hating”. She turns the tables and says that men are hurt just as much by sexism. She points to her own father’s role in the family being valued less by society. She points to the extreme pressure for me to be “successful” adds to high suicide rates for men.

Watson says, “It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves”

Our girls are not the only ones affected, but so are our boys. Media can have a huge impact on teens and the pressure they feel to conform to certain standards and have certain roles. There can be a lot of peer pressure to fit a certain image. Opening up conversations with your teen about what sexism means can be an excellent avenue to discuss the specific pressures your teen is dealing with. Pressure to conform to expectations within those roles can add pressure and stress to your teen. Opening up discussions about sexism and gender equality can help them to feel seen and heard as they navigate adolescence and make their way into young adulthood.

Reestablish Integrity in your Home

Integrity is something that we want others to have, but struggle to find it within ourselves.  Society is built on the ‘handshake’ principle of integrity.  Your word is supposed to be your bond.  Corporate missions declare it and pastors are assumed to have it.  But what is integrity and how do we develop it?

Look up integrity online and you find a multitude of pithy sayings, but they all seem to center on the idea that integrity is shown when our behavior, private and public, lives up to our beliefs and words.

We encourage you to embrace three critical practices in your life to reestablish integrity

1.  Plant some guardrails in your life

Screen Shot 2014 12 11 at 11.15.36 AM 300x199 Reestablish Integrity in your HomeWe put up literal guardrails for our kids early in life so they won’t fall out of bed.  We follow building codes and erect railings so that we don’t walk off of our deck or drive off the road.  Our lives are full of guardrails to protect us from physical miss-steps.   

But there are also unseen guardrails that you erect for yourself.   Personal boundaries that act as acceptable limits to your behavior.

Your standard of behavior is a conscious choice.  You set the line; you set where the rail is.  We all do this whether there are laws in place or not.  We decide what is appropriate to read or watch.   We decide what is acceptable regarding lying and cheating.   

We even set standards around what is an appropriate diet and how frequently we will exercise.  And when we drive through a barrier and over indulge, we typically feel bad and recommit to behaving in accordance with our beliefs.

Where have you set up our guardrail when it comes to completing your taxes?  Billing for jobs you have completed?  Telling stories about your sporting exploits?  Once a guardrail is up in a certain location it rarely moves.  Is your guardrail in a place of safety or are you living in such a way that if you hit your guardrail it will be too late? Has it been planted so far into the danger zone that it is not much good to you?

Are you taking risks in your sexual life, at your job, or with your physical health and no longer living the life that you intended?  If your behavior is no longer lining up with your words or beliefs, it might be time to reset the guardrails in your life.

2.  Becoming Aware of Our Choices

Guardrails should be set up in an area of safety to protect us from danger.  So that when we make a mistake in life and hit the guardrail we are able to carry on.  While hitting the boundary might be frustrating or painful it should not cost us our marriage, our job, or other meaningful relationships with friends, parents, or kids.

Life has a way of sneaking up on us and pretty soon we are middle aged living a life that we never intended.  It is easy to rationalize our behavior, “Every one cheats on their taxes” “Pornography is everywhere it is no big deal”.  We tend to make excuses for our behavior and simply mimic the behavior of what we believe others are doing. Don’t use today’s test for honesty and integrity and believe that, “It’s okay as long as you don’t get caught.”

By spending some time reflecting and becoming conscious of your choices you will be better able to fight the integrity slip and slide.   

3.  Accountability

The final and most critical daily practice for maintaining integrity is through the use of accountability.  Having people in your life that will notice when you are driving dangerously and might add a guardrail or two in your life themselves.  They should be able to ask the tough questions and be insightful enough to redirect your thinking so that you reconsider your choices.

It’s easy to lose focus and get distracted when we are driving down the highway of life.  But it is so much better to have someone asking you the tough questions regularly than to have a guardrail be added too late:  the spouse that needs to check your Internet search history because you have been distant and unavailable in your marital relationship: the boss that needs to do a surprise job evaluation because your work has become sloppy.  These sudden guardrails can be painful as we slam up against them, but they are intended to protect us from getting even further off track.  Having accountability in your life enables and encourages these guardrails.

We benefit from having someone who is looking out for our best interests, one who  will remind us when we are in the rough gravel on the side of the road and heading for the edge.