Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Why is it so Hard to Say “No”?

Adolescents look to adults for security, safety, and to be positive examples; this also meanslatigo-fence they tend to push buttons and test boundaries – “No” is often low on the list of a teen’s favorite words.  As adults, we have to make a concerted effort to create firm boundaries for our kids that are not only respectful, but geared toward creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. This means we have to say “no” even if it’s not a popular answer, and it means we have to hold the boundary surrounding that answer, regardless of the outcome. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s perfectly okay to say it, own it, and honor it.

 

It’s easier to back out of a “No” than a “Yes.”

 

Imagine this scenario: Your teen is relentlessly asking you if they can hang out at a friend’s house; you are engrossed in a project or conversation. Out of frustration, you hastily give permission. However, a bit later, you realize you had said, “yes,” in error – you actually want your teen home for dinner, and being at a friend’s house means he or she won’t be home in time. So you change your mind. All of a sudden, you have an angry teen on your hands – you’re unfair, mean, et cetera. Speaking out of haste or frustration has a negative impact – it illustrates an unstable boundary and creates an environment where kids don’t know what to expect. In the scenario above, no one wins:  your teen is disappointed and angry at you, and you’re frustrated and angry at your teen.

 

Why is it so hard to say “No”? And better yet, why is it so hard for us to hear “No”?

 

“No” is a boundary. It is a way of advocating for ourselves and ensuring we are meeting our needs. It allows us to set boundaries so we can take care of ourselves and create healthy boundaries with others. “No” is not mean; it’s not spiteful. “No” is honest and it represents self-respect and self-awareness. It also cultivates emotional safety and stability.

 

Sometimes, saying “No” can feel like we are letting someone down, or maybe like we are letting ourselves down. Maybe we want to say, “Yes” when what we really need to say is “No.”  This is a hard skill to learn, for teens and adults.

 

If/when you are faced with a difficult situation where there might be pressure to say “Yes,” or where you are uncomfortable saying “No,” ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the outcome be helpful or harmful to yourself or others?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Is this “Yes” to please someone else or to honor myself?

 

Hearing “No” can be difficult because often times, the truth is, we aren’t really asking; we are making a veiled demand that is presented in the form of a question. The politeness we assumed in the asking then comes crashing down because the reality is, we weren’t asking in the first place. When things are in a stasis, this is a great conversation to have with your teen. And it’s a great perspective to be aware of for yourself. Are you really asking your teen to take out the trash, or you demanding that they do it? If they said, “No,” how would you respond?

 

Hearing “No” also can breed a sense of disappointment.  We may feel like we aren’t getting what we want. We may feel rejected. There is an unfortunate comfort in being polite and saying what we think others want to hear. When we are inauthentic and we omit our truth, we evoke a passive anger later on. Bringing some awareness into cultivates authentic and honest communication.

 

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a lifetime practice. Some boundaries are easier set than others. Practicing saying “No” is a good start. In fact, it’s an empowering start.

Categories
Adolescence Family Feelings Mental Health Parenting Prevention Recovery

Why Listening to Your Adolescent is Invaluable

Do you know the difference between hearing someone and listening to what they are saying to you?

 

Hearing refers to the reception and perception of sound, whereas listening is an action: Listening refers to actively paying attention to what is being said. It also requires the listener’s full attention to the speaker, demonstrated by eye contact, and positive body language. In other words, you can’t listen fully to someone if you are also on your phone, your computer, or watching television. This is an important piece to understand as we positively shift the way we interact with adolescents.

 

One thing I often hear from teens is that they don’t feel like the adults in their lives are listening. The polarizing statement, “You never LISTEN to ME!” punctuated by a slammed door is not an unusual experience for parents of teens. In order to listen to our kids, we have to set aside our reactions and our need to direct or advise. Sometimes, kids need to vent and our best response can be something like, “It sounds frustrating when…” or maybe, “I hear how frustrated you are.” We have to remember that adolescents feel things far more intensely than we do as adults. An issue that is banal to us can FEEL like the end of times.

 

Adolescents have reduced dopamine and serotonin levels, making them more prone to high-risk activities and addiction. A child who feels listened to and heard, has a higher chance of making a healthy decision than the kid who is perpetually dismissed, talked over or ignored. When a child is saying, “I hate you,” or “This sucks!” there’s probably something else there. They don’t really hate you, but they may not be able to communicate that beyond the natural reactivity of their developing brain. What would happen if we listened instead of reacted? A statement like:  “When you are ready, I am available to listen to you” can go a long way with a teenager.

 

Our children mimic our reactions, our problem-solving methods, and our behavioral examples. If we are always nervous, they may be nervous. If we are angry all the time, they may be angry all the time. If we are overcautious, they may be overcautious. The list goes on but the outcome is the same.

 

I am prone to sarcasm. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and have my whole life. This has come back to bite me in the bum with my son, who’s 13 and…sarcastic. Instead of punishing him about the trouble this sarcasm often breeds, we looked at this and processed as a family. Our conclusion: We will curb our sarcasm as a family in an effort to shift the negative perspective others may have. My son felt listened to, we felt listened to, and in the end, a dedicated period of reflective listening proved to be an effective and positive way of dealing with a burgeoning family issue.  We have conversations like this often and as a result, we have a teenager who is willing to share his frustrations and difficulties with us more transparently than most. Conversely, I have observed some of his classmates spinning down the spiral of negative and harmful reactions: eating or starving to process their feelings, cutting themselves as a means of processing their feelings, smoking to process their feelings, et cetera. There isn’t an easy fix, silver bullet, or magic potion. Creating an environment where listening is part of an everyday process takes work and dedication. And sometimes, we may have to drop our parental need to “fix” things so we can listen.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care

Parenting Teenagers and Maintaining Our Self-Regulation

Teenagers are changeable creatures. Their moods shift rapidly, their bodies change non- stop, and it’s sometimes difficult to notice if something is really wrong or if the persistent eye-rolling, parental irritation is par for the course. In addition to the eye-rolling, teenagers are also not known for their critical thinking skills or wise decision-making. This might mean they will intentionally like/not like a person or situation you dislike, or they may do something just because you don’t approve. It’s frustrating for parents, but it may also be a subtle sign for us pause and look at the larger picture.

 

Sometimes, your child may align themselves with a friend or their family whom you view as undesirable. Perhaps you know something your teenager doesn’t know, but you have to keep it to yourself. Or perhaps you are relying on your parental intuition. Unfortunately, to a teenager, you’re just being annoying and reactive. This reactivity will only push your teen away from you and into the arms of that which you fear.

 

Parents are wise to take some steps to curb reactivity. As we encourage our teenagers to self-regulate, we have to self-regulate too! We have to mirror the behaviors we want.

 

Our reactions are often fueled by our experiences and the stories from the past. These stories inform our present, particularly when we are dysregulated. Bearing witness to our children’s difficulties is not easy when we haven’t been able to grapple with our own.

 

Understanding how to self-regulate allows us to tap into our internal resources so we can be less reactive.  The process of self-regulation requires us to tap into our mind and body connection. When a person is dysregulated, they are disconnected. A fundamental tool in learning to self-regulate is learning to connect with our physical sensations and our bodies. When we are dysregulated, we are reactive rather than responsive. Likewise, when we are self-regulated, we are responsive rather than reactive.

 

A dysregulated parent is an ineffective parent. Perpetual negative reactions propel our teens to become dysregulated as well. This is where parents need to take their own time out and get to a quiet space so they can begin to self-regulate.

 

1: Walk away from the situation so you can check in with yourself.

2: Bring your attention to your feet, and your hands and notice your surroundings.

3: Bring your attention to your belly and your heart: are you angry? Why? Are you scared? Why? What’s present for you?

4: Take 5-10 minutes to allow your breath to settle. Count to 10 slowly, paying close attention to your inhales and exhales.

5: SHAKE IT OUT! Literally: stand up and shake your legs and arms.

 

When we are regulated, we can come to wiser, more succinct means of communication. Perhaps we can even find a way to persuade our teenagers from doing something we don’t like, or perhaps this is an opportunity to revisit the difficult situation at hand with compassion, kindness and a willingness to listen. One thing that I know for a fact is this: Teenagers all want to be seen, heard, and respected.

Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Prevention

The Dangers of DMT and Psychedelic Experimentation

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the tryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT.  This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain.  Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.

 

Adolescents are naturally curious creatures. They want to know about the world that they live in and they want to understand why it is the way it is. Developmentally this leads to a natural curiosity about the nature of the world and spiritual matters. During the 1960s, well-respected researchers looked into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, including depression. The ’60s generation took this as a cue to experiment with their minds. What we have learned since then is such experimentation is potentially dangerous and harmful, especially for those with a latent tendency toward depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness.

 

Psychedelic drugs have a distinct effect on brain chemistry. Some of them have chemical structures similar to natural neurotransmitters and almost all of them are classified as alkaloid. Historically, psychedelic drugs have been used by ancient cultures for spiritual practice and ceremony. And science has used psychedelic drugs for research.

 

However, psychedelics are significantly abused.

 

One of the most dangerous components of psychedelic drugs is the potential negative effect on people already vulnerable to mental illness. The user is, in effect, playing with his or her brain chemistry without direct knowledge of any short- or long-term effects these drugs may have. And someone who has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness can adversely affect his or her mental health with the use of psychedelic drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Drugs like DMT, though old, are no different. DMT works fast, it has an intense effect that lasts for 15 minutes but purportedly feels like several hours. This can be an overwhelming experience, especially in cases of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness.

 

The bottom like is this: Experimenting with your mind is dangerous. Curious or not, this type of psychological misadventure is not worth the risk and the potential fallout.

 

Categories
Adolescence Parenting Recovery School

Teens Are Going Back to School

School is back in session! This means that the unstructured schedule of summer has ended and the wild teen energy requires a shift toward focus and effort.

 

It’s tough because you go from a veritable free-for-all (Summer) to a highly focused environment where there are higher expectations, firmer schedules, and of course, the dreaded homework. Kids who spent the summer in camp may have had some structure, but the truth is, it’s nowhere near as rigid as school. Bedtime has been later and waking up took on a leisurely state. School starting is a definite shift.

 

The positives about returning to school, according to one anonymous teen are, “You get to see your friends again and you get to learn.” In middle school and high school, friends hold a lot of power over each other. Often more important than classroom connection is the forming of social groups outside of class: in the halls, on the yard, et cetera. This is where the real influence, be it negative or positive occurs, and for kids more akin to following than leading, this can represent a shift toward bad decision making. Conversely, a child who is processing a lot of personal conflict (eg, family) may be drawn to kids who are acting out or whose behavior is outside of the norm. On the contrary, some kids are extremely skilled at creating the equivalent of work/life balance, both in maintaining good grades and in having a healthy social life.

 

Socialization can be tough, especially in adolescence. I often refer to teens as messy, and I say that because their emotional and physical terrain is rapidly changing and unpredictable. Even a kid with little to no conflict is still going to experience the messiness of adolescence. I find that one of the biggest things these kids need is validation: a confirmation that what they are going through is normal. I keenly remember how rough adolescence was. It was downright confusing and miserable at times. And at others, it was pure, unadulterated excitement! I remember thinking some kids “had it made” because they had all of the “stuff” I thought I needed, but later finding out they were suffering as much as I was.

 

Some teens can’t stop the summer fun, though. They want to carry on with late-night shenanigans far into September and October. It’s true: we do see an increase in clients during that time. Don’t wait until the first bad report card to do something; pay attention from day one to the way in which your teen is acclimating. Are they struggling? Is getting back to the “grind” harder than usual? Maintain an open, transparent place to have discussions with your teen.

 

  • Listen: Sometimes teens (and kids in general) just want to vent without receiving advice. “I hear how frustrating that is” or “That sounds difficult” can go a long way. Kids are actually skilled at coming to a healthy solution on their own if we allow them the opportunity.

 

  • Be present: Create a technology free period where you are together as a family and be willing to participate in each other’s lives.

 

  • Don’t take it personally:  Teens love to push buttons. If you can let the small stuff roll off your back, do. An eye roll can be ignored. Choose your battles.

 

 

Lastly, encourage your teen to avoid and/or ignore the kids whose choices are questionable, and to choose friends who are dedicated to their education and making positive choices.  Our teens look to us as parents to be their guide. We are their first teachers. If our attitudes about school and learning are positive and healthy, they will inadvertently adopt them (most of the time). If our attitudes about learning and school are mercurial, then guess what, our kids will adopt that same, fickle attitude toward learning.

 

 

 

“If you want your children to improve, then let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” Dr. Haim Ginott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Recovery

Strengthening our Adolescent Friendships

Adolescence is the time when long-standing friendships are developed and refined. Friendships can also take a real beating in adolescence as a result of several mitigating factors, which can include:

 

  • Different stages of maturation
  • Bullying
  • Perception of popularity or lack thereof
  • Emotional and physical changes
  • Mood swings

 

Friendships require a commitment from both people involved to be active participants in the relationship, and they require reciprocation in order to be successful. In other words, they need to be a two-way street. Reciprocation requires active listening and compassion. It means showing up for each other even when things are difficult.

 

Friendships are relationships where reciprocal interactions are valuable, necessary, and vital. When a friendship takes on a one-way-street status, it becomes lopsided and will inevitably fracture into facets that include resentment, anger, judgment, complacency, and even anger.

 

Here are two examples of a classic one-way relationship:

  • You’re always there for your friend when they need support, but when you ask for it, or need it, there’s little to no response.
  • You only call your friend when you need something or your friend only calls you when they need something.

 

Neither of these scenarios is indicative of reciprocal behavior. They both tend to leave both parties feeling out of sorts and dissatisfied with the friendship as a whole because neither person’s needs are being met.

 

The following actions support healthy relationships: 

  • Both parties are supportive of one another;
  • Both parties are encouraging;
  • Both are willing to compromise;
  • Both have healthy boundaries;
  • Mutual respect for each other;
  • Be open and willing to talk about disagreements;
  • Willingness to say “I’m sorry.”

 

Employing all of these actions is not only wise, but a keen way to maintain our beloved friendships. At the same time, these tools will also provide us with ways in which to let go when that’s the healthiest thing to do.

 

Adolescent friendships can be tough, because they are rife with drama and quixotic change. The hormonal changes alone can set off a string of unfortunate events. Cultivating healthy friendships in adolescence is very important. It teaches teens positive and healthy communication skills; it teaches the value of connection and community; it shows teens through viable examples that they can work through difficulties, set healthy boundaries, and take care of themselves in healthy friendships.  Being a good friend doesn’t mean you are a doormat or a pushover. It means you have your own sense of self that is honored and respected by those you have in your life.

 

As parents and educators, it’s important to mirror healthy relationships, and we can start this by cultivating a healthy relationship with our kids. Reflective listening and mutual respect are vital. Speaking from a place of “I feel” instead of using the accusatory and defensive tone implied with “You always” can positively shift the course of a disagreement. Adolescents want to be seen, heard, and respected. It’s not uncommon for adults to gloss over what teens are saying, but the truth is, an adolescent’s voice worth of the same respect we give our adult counterparts.

 

Categories
Mental Health Parenting Prevention

Stability and Presence In Adolescence

Much of adolescence is change: physical change, emotional change, and academic change. The body changes right before our eyes. Our moods swing like swing-sets caught in a hurricane. Bodies begin to resemble adults, but the mind hasn’t caught up. The brain of an adolescent is, in essence, a developmental playground. This is the period when the Prefrontal Cortex is still developing. What is that prefrontal cortex responsible for? Oh, you know, it regulates decision-making, rationalization, problem solving, consciousness, and emotions. For adolescents, that roller coaster ride is very real.

 

Even though your kids may be experiencing mood swings, and mild irrational thought processes, parents have to become aware of when those things go awry. We have to essentially be our kids’ prefrontal lobe and help them make good decisions, and that may just mean we don the titles “meanest mom/dad in the world,” “unfair,” et cetera. I’m okay with that if it means my kid is safe.

 

Signs of trouble can manifest in many ways. For some kids, the mood swings become more exaggerated to the point of unmanageability. Parents need to look for cues. You know your child better than anyone; trust that. If you suspect trouble, investigate it. Some other indications of concern include:

 

  • Behavioral changes: If your child suddenly becomes a complete stranger, get curious  and scrutinize the situation further. This could indicate trouble.
  • Negative consequences at school or socially may indicate mental illness or substance abuse.
  • Physical symptoms: Changes in eating habits, excessive sleeping, excessive wakefulness, frequent health issues like headaches and stomachaches are some things to look for. They can be signs of stress, overwhelm, or depression and they need to be addressed.

 

Conversely, a child who has experienced trauma may act out in more extreme ways. For example, a child who has experienced sexual trauma may act out sexually. They may be exceedingly flirtatious, they may have loose boundaries or no boundaries at all, and some may seek inappropriate attention without realizing the negative consequences. Decision-making skills aren’t completely online at this time, and the addition of trauma can make for a more dire situation. In cases like this, it’s imperative for the family and child to be in active treatment.

 

Not all kids are the same. Some will have a relatively unaffected time in adolescence, while others may have a more difficult time of it. The most important thing we can do as parents is remember that it’s temporary, we were teens once, and we are not alone. Some days, you may need to make that a mantra: This is temporary; I was a teen once; I am not alone.

 

I love this age. I love the messiness of it, the curiosity, the courage, the vulnerability, and the openness. I occasionally teach yoga to this age group, and there is something truly wonderful about working with them during this time. Some days, kids come to class solemn and quiet; others, they show up wild and wily, almost mercurial in nature. My job (and I believe all of our jobs as the adults in their lives) is to remain consistent. We have to meet our adolescents’ unpredictability with compassion, kindness, and stability. Despite the natural resistance in adolescence, teens look to the adults in their lives for guidance. If we can mirror consistency and stability, the roller coaster of adolescence may not be as bumpy.

Categories
Adolescence Family Feelings Parenting Prevention Recovery

How Do You and Your Teen Deal with Conflict?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conflict comes up frequently in the adolescent years,

almost as though drama and discord are part of the growing-up process. But how our kids learn to deal with conflict is often a result of watching the way the adults around them deal with it. Parents, teachers, mentors, influential adults: all are their mirrors.

 

Where conflict becomes problematic is in the unskillful ways in which it’s managed. Teens need to develop self-regulation skills so they can A: recognize what has triggered their anger, and B: respond to it skillfully.

 

Try any of these 5 suggestions to help manage conflict:

 

1: Take a time out: In other words, walk away from the conflict fueled situation to collect your thoughts and calm down. You can take a walk or take some deep breaths.

2:  Use “I” phrases when you communicate. “I feel” instead of “You’re being so lame” is a wiser method of communication. It shows the ability to take responsibility for one’s feelings and actions and eliminates the blame and shame game.

3: Mirroring: By mirroring, we “reflect” what the other person says. “I hear that you feel frustrated” is much more helpful than “You are so frustrating,” or “Why are you so ANGRY?” By mirroring, we recognize what the other person is saying, and as a result, we let them know that we “see” and “hear” them. When someone feels seen and heard, it validates their feelings and allows them to be present for someone else’s process. It’s powerful.

4: Own up to it. Take responsibility for your own actions without pointing fingers at the person you’re angry at. If you lied, own it. If you cheated, own it. If you were mean, own it. You will be more respected and revered if you are honest. In the language of the 12 steps: Keep your side of the street clean.

5: Respect. If you are respectful of others, they are more apt to be respectful toward you. If someone treats you disrespectfully, try the counterintutive practice of being respectful toward them anyway.

 

Remember this: adolescents aren’t born equipped with problem solving skills or tools for conflict resolution. They have to learn these things. They learn them from watching their parents, teachers, and mentors. If a teen’s adult representatives are poor communicators, or if they handle frustration with anger or discord, then teens will learn to communicate via anger and discord.

 

Parents, when conflicts within the family arise, how do you handle them? Do you yell? Do you slam doors? Do you get into a shouting match with your teen?

 

If negative reactions to conflict are your go-to, then conflict will continue to flourish. Yelling won’t solve any problems. It will create more problems. Here’s a common scenario: your teenager arrives home 15 minutes past their curfew. You’re angry, frustrated, and worried. Your reaction to your teen when he or she walks in is to start yelling at them. All of your fears and frustrations come to a head. What if, instead of yelling, you calmly asked, “What time is your curfew?” “What time is it now?” and finally, “Can you tell me what the punishment is for being late?” Several things happen in this scenario. Your teen is given an opportunity to take responsibility, and they can even begin to recognize that the punishment isn’t that egregious.

 

Parents and teens alike need to know how to self-regulate. Try to integrate some of these into your life:

  • Take a time out.
  • Count to 10 before you respond.
  • Be fair: allow both parties the opportunity to express their views and experiences.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Have empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the feelings of another human being. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes. Doing this may allow you to have compassion for the person you are angry at.

 

Resolving conflict requires a cool head and an open heart. Adolescence is a messy time—rather, it’s emotionally messy. Hormones are raging, moods are swinging, in truth, it’s a party you don’t want to go to but one that is a regular part of life. We were all teenagers once. If we can remember that piece, we can develop empathy. If we can remember what it felt like to go through this rapid-fire change, we will hopefully ourselves to be kinder and more loving to each other.

Categories
Adolescence Parenting

The Rocky Ride of Adolescence

Entering adolescence is serious business; it evokes rapid change and confusion for parents and teens alike. From a parenting perspective, sometimes it seems your child is suddenly unrecognizable. From the teen perspective, the sudden physiological and emotional changes are confusing and perhaps even frightening at times. There can be an internalization of, “What is happening to me” but sharing that would be significantly “uncool,” or so it seems.

 

We know that adolescence is a time of great transformation. Teens are individuating, their hormones are raging, and things are moving faster than even they can grasp. Try and remember what it was like when YOU were a teenager. Do you remember how you felt?

 

This generation of teens is faced with even higher pressure. I have seen parents pressuring their elementary kids to perform better for the sake of college, or the perception of prestige. I have had a 13-year-old tell me they she was having an existential crisis – that she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life – all because of parental pressure to look toward college. Between parental pressures and the sheer nature of adolescent metamorphosis, the teen years can be intense.

 

But does adolescence have to be as disruptive?

 

Can we as parents take things less personally and develop a healthy way to show up for our teens? Yes, I believe we can. It requires that we educate ourselves in the ways of adolescence, and it also involves remembering and holding space for our own adolescent experience, without projecting it onto our teens.  This may mean getting involved in a support group, or seeing a therapist and beginning the transformative process of unraveling any traumatized roots within oneself. Allow your teen to have their own adolescent experience rather than interpreting it as your own. You are not your teen’s experience; you are a guide and a representative of safety and security.

 

If you find yourself in a situation where your adolescent is perpetuating harmful behavior via drugs and alcohol, or if they are displaying significant emotional dysregulatory behavior, it’s important that you seek help.  There’s adolescent angst and then there’s addiction and mental health issues. There’s help if you need it.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Communication Recovery

Worried About Smartphone Overuse? There’s an App for That!

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you worried you might be addicted to your smartphone?

Well, researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have created an app called “Menthal” to track your smartphone usage and help you determine how much time you’re spending checking messages, email, or playing Candy Crush.

 

It’s an interesting study, to say the least. Using an app on your smartphone to determine if you are overusing your smartphone is ironic. But the hope of these researchers is that people will become aware of their excessive smartphone use and back off.

The study was small—only 50 participants—but researchers discovered smartphones were accessed every 12 minutes. That’s 5 times in an hour, and frankly, that’s too much. Not surprisingly, they also found that people felt like they were missing something if their phone was missing. We have become significantly attached to our technology and this idea that we have to always be connected. I’ve noted this before: in this attachment to staying connected, we have inadvertently become disconnected.  Ask yourself, do you really have over 700 friends?

Teens and tweens are often chided for not having the “right” smartphone or for not having a smartphone at all. Those who do have smartphones tend to flaunt them like high commodities, bragging about their Instagram accounts and how many followers they have. Note, Facebook is becoming an outdated space for teens. Sites like Instagram and Snapchat are of higher interest now, and part of that is because they are easier for teens and tweens to navigate without being under the watchful eye of their parents as a result of privacy settings. I hear kids talk about how frequently they block people whom they don’t want to follow them.

 

Smartphone overuse hasn’t been deemed an actual addiction, but if addictive behavior is present, it needs to be addressed. In our residential treatment facilities, cell phones are not allowed. And in our day school and outpatient facilities, cell phones are stored during class time and only permitted to those who have earned the privilege.  Cyber addiction is a real issue, and the reality is, having dedicated times that are unplugged are invaluable.

 

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who has a phone glued to his or her hand? Eye contact isn’t even plausible let alone a cohesive conversation. I often find myself around gaggles of teens and tweens and I have to say, the ones who are unplugged are far more engaged. The ones neck deep in their smartphones think they’re engaged but they are in fact, detached from the present moment.

 

Try any of all of these suggestions:

  • Have dedicated smartphone-free zones: mealtimes or (gasp) the car
  • Turn off your phone when you go to bed.
  • When you are out with friends, keep your phone in your purse or pocket.
  • Unplug for 24 hours – call it a retreat – go outside, read a book, play an instrument, meditate, do yoga, go for a run or a hike, take a walk with a loved one and enjoy your environment.
  • Volunteer at the Los Angeles Food Bank or at an Animal Shelter.

 

Will this app work? Who knows, but it offers an opportunity to continue this conversation about the overuse of technology and our disconnection from each other. A hug, a genuine laugh, eye contact: all of those things trump the latest meme or sunset on Instagram.