I just watched the PBS Frontline Generation Like. It was eye-opening in terms of how teens’ “liking” is becoming big business–how what teens call empowerment is really part of a giant corporate marketing strategy. But what I came away thinking about is just how much teens liking is about a desire for self-definition, and to be liked themselves.
Adults are certainly not immune to this. We all want to be liked. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping this post would garner likes, retweets, etc. But my self-esteem, my identity, and my social world aren’t on the line if that doesn’t happen. For teens, though, it can be. And that’s where the danger lies.
So what’s a parent to do?
Over the course of a lifetime, it can be rewarding and motivating to dream big. But day to day, it might be better to expect little and be pleasantly surprised. Here are some ideas of how to scale back expectations in order to increase happiness.
But for some, the new year is about regretting what came before–all the missed opportunities and mistakes of the previous year can flood back, sometimes becoming debilitating. Here are some ideas of how to cope, if you tend to be among the regretful.
1) Start with an honest and searching inventory of the previous year, and of yourself.
When people are feeling more depressed, that tends to show in their perspective. They might screen out the good and be overly focused on the negative, in themselves and others. So if you are depressed, it might be better to have a trusted friend or a therapist try this with you. They can bring more balance.
Taking inventory means thinking about what you did this year, as well as what was done to you. Assess how you treat others, and consider how that affects the way you feel about yourself.
It’s also time to think about the people you allow into your life and how they’re impacting you.
2) Look to the future, rather than the past. Be compassionate toward yourself.
It’s very hard to change if you’re beating yourself up for your previous mistakes. You’re likely to become more depressed and paralyzed.
Instead, recognize that it’s normal and human to fail, to make mistakes, and even to behave unkindly. If you want to become a better person, it starts with self-compassion.
3) Focus on things that are most open to change.
What I mean is, some traits are more resistant to change. That doesn’t mean they can’t be worked on, but it makes sense to work on other things first. Small successes can be very meaningful.
So make a list of what you want to have happen this year, and then break it down into achievable objectives. Start with the easiest things on the list, and work your way up. Each success builds on the last, and that can increase self-esteem.
4) Give yourself credit.
Even if you don’t like a lot of things in your life, …
…do you start to get that feeling that something has to go wrong? Why do we tend to sabotage our own happiness by fearing the worst?
I think of this as something of a companion post to one from a week ago. Hopefully, taken together, they can help you get closer to your teenager.
Parenting in general is anxiety-provoking. But there’s a particularly intense anxiety to parenting a teenager. And I’ve noticed in my practice that one of the things parents often do in response to that anxiety is try to seize more control over their teenagers’ behavior. Here’s why that strategy doesn’t tend to work out so well, and an alternate way to respond.
So Anthony Weiner–he’s a bad joke, right? He should obviously drop out of the NY mayoral race, right?
As a mental health professional, I just want to say: Not so fast.
Now, am I saying that he SHOULD stay in the race? That he WOULD make a good leader? Not so fast there either.
But allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment…
In a bizarre twist this past week, George Zimmerman rescued a family from an overturned SUV. The reason I call it “bizarre” is that so many (myself included) have been presuming Zimmerman’s villainy, given the killing of Trayvon Martin.
And in light of an obvious act of heroism (yes, I know, many will call it too coincidental, or staged to rehab his image, but that seems rather unlikely), I had to recognize that I had diminished his humanity in my mind. It wasn’t something I did consciously, but something that as a therapist, I should have caught sooner.
I should know better. And here’s why it’s important for everyone to be aware of that kind of reductionist tendency.
Everyone’s talking about the verdict in the George Zimmerman case; everyone’s got an opinion. I’m no legal expert, so I’ll just talk about what I see in terms of the psychology when it comes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, and how I believe that contributes to the tragedy that day.
I just saw the movie “Before Midnight”, the third installment of the trilogy that began with “Before Sunrise” (when the 20-something Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were two strangers on a train who went on to share a magical night) and continued with “Before Sunset” (when they finally met again, ten years later and much more jaded) and now they’re 40ish with twin daughters.
Since I’m close in age to the two leads, each movie seemed to parallel where I was in my own life, in terms of romanticism versus cynicism, dreams versus reality, etc. So I’ve decided to do a trio of posts about each stage of life and relationships.
Starting with the early twenties…
As a kid, the start of summer wasn’t based on the calendar; it really started after the last day of school. It meant freedom and play and relaxation.
And even now, for a lot of us, when we get deeper into June, there’s a certain exhilaration, a sense that now the good stuff is about to happen. There are vacations to plan and anticipate, warm weather to take advantage of with outdoor activities…there’s a sense of possibility.
But with that possibility, comes the possibility for disappointment. Then there’s the reality that life isn’t like when we were kids. We don’t really shuck off responsibilities for a couple of months. And therein lies the potential for depression.