By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
In writing this blog series as well as in my daily work with parents, teens, and families in general, I reflect often on what is going on in our world that has led us to where we are. Stressed. Overwhelmed. Feeling not good enough. Worried about our futures. And I mean that parents and teens often feel all of those things pretty much daily. A common theme that I come up with in my reflections is that we have so much information.
As a child of the 80’s, the level of information and resources that our children have access to on a daily basis just amazes me. I truly think it is a wonderful thing to have the internet and have such a breadth of information and ability to learn from others at our fingertips. While I might be a little nostalgic for those fond memories I have of looking through encyclopedias, I do recognize the improvement and progress in our world. Unfortunately, I also see that the development of technology is leaving all of us (not just teens) inundated with a constant stream of information.
Instead of feeling comforted by the vast array of knowledge at our fingertips, it seems to only make us feel more anxious about our lives and futures as well as more aware of how we are not either living up to expectations or what others’ lives are like. We now have access to witness other people’s daily lives through YouTube, social media, reality TV, etc. We also have access to the immediate thoughts of almost anyone on the planet (hello Twitter and blogs and curated news feeds and advertisements on whatever social media platform we like). On a daily basis, there is not just a feeling of access to information, but information overload and overwhelm. I believe this leaves us feeling more stressed and uncertain in our own lives and choices.
Consider what it is like to be a high school student who is feeling uncertain about their future and their college decision. Since so many of our choices are so well thought out and researched in our world, I think it makes choices where there is little certainty even more difficult. With the endless information, reviews, articles, opinions available to us, many of us do not take many chances in our decision making anymore. We research movies before taking the time to see them, we read reviews before we eat anything or go anywhere, and we definitely do research before purchasing something. While this is AMAZING and such a benefit, particularly for people with anxiety; it is dangerous to get so comfortable with relatively certain choices and less luck in our lives. I believe that there is so much in our lives that is actually up to chance and uncertain and that we can’t always control what happens.
Making a decision about college is one of those things. While we can think we might know what we want (big or small school, city or more college centric area, east coast or west coast), we can’t possibly actually predict how we will experience any specific college. There are just too many elements to control – who your roommate is, what dorm you are in, how your first year professors are, if you even like your major, if you actually like the weather or area you anticipated liking when you spend 24-48 hours there one time. This choice is important and our teens feel it is the absolute most important decision they will make in their lives. It is also, not an outcome completely in our control. And if we don’t have experience making decisions and rolling with some level of uncertainty about how something will work out, it might be more difficult to cope and surrender if this important life decision feels not ideal once we get there.
I think it is important for parents in our world to help model how to surrender to life’s chances and how to roll with unpleasant and unanticipated outcomes. Even just modeling for them that it is okay when everything does not go as planned (on a vacation, a day out, a class, a test, etc.) can help. If parents can model this and parent more form a place of grounded faith in their and their child’s ability to cope with whatever happens in this world, I believe it also helps them feel less uncertain and anxious about their own parenting choices and their child’s futures. The best part is that the more parents feel confident in their children, the more the kids feel confident too. And this actually helps them cope better when life does not go their way. This is definitely a win-win in my book!
If you would like to talk more about parenting your teen with a Thrive therapist, contact us today! We love talking about how to reduce feelings of fear and anxiety around parenting.
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As always, thanks for reading and comments are always welcome regarding any issues around child or teen psychotherapy services in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
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Blogs from the Thrive Family!
Musings from Erica, Jennifer, Maria, Kim, Andrea, Molly, Abbey, and Ying-Ying