As we are teens, we deal with the daily triumphs and struggles of technology every day. Whether it is using social media, watching videos, or just searching things on the internet, we all have to adapt to what’s new every time we go online. For example, just the other day, the social media app “Instagram” released a new update for their interface. Every user with the app just then had to change the way they used it. “The screen looks different; I don’t like it” says one of our close friends. Even though some did not like it, that is how quick reactions can be garnered using technology. How technology itself affects us can be fascinating.
When using social media, there is a sense of belonging. You can communicate with a wide perimeter of friends, who can range from any age, even below the required age to start using such applications. Another thing is, how quickly you can feel left out of something, just as if it is a real-life scenario. For example, you could be left out of a group chat to make plans for a certain day of the week. Just like real life that can feel as if you weren’t invited to the party or to the get-together. It’s much easier to feel alone on social media than it is to feel like you are with others.
Social Media won’t be going away for a long time and the need to use it won’t go away either. To stay socially relevant, kids and teens have to stay active as much as possible online. So, when parents threaten to take away their devices, they don’t always realize that they could be taking away a child’s social life online and in real life. This is a dilemma parents, kids, and teens face as the “taking away” of electronics seems to be more of an aggressive choice as it was just 5 years ago. This can also form another sense of missing out for the child. Stress and anxiety can be caused by taking away the child’s sense of being there.
New ideas go into technology, and now a very popular subject has joined, anonymous messaging. The ability to be anonymous on the internet has been prevalent for many years, but recently it has risen and taken off in popularity. Apps like Sarahah and the Snapchat sponsored Yolo have risen in popularity as of late. With the ability for “friends” to give feedback without the person on the receiving end knowing who said it. This can be very dangerous, especially within friend groups. Misleading and hurtful messages can be sent through the service.
Technology is evolving every day. If you think you can catch up with, you’d be wrong, nobody can. There is only so much information one person can receive at a time, and with technology it becomes so much more complex than one could imagine. Just be understanding with what kids and teens these days have been introduced to, if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Learning is key when it comes to understanding teens and technology.
Benjamin and Matthew Royer
How To Support Your Eating Disordered Child
"My daughter won't talk to me - she's wasting away." "My son gets angry every time I bring up my concerns that he's eating more than his body needs." "I hear her vomiting every time she leaves the dinner table." "She says that she's fine, but I know that she's not."
Do these scenarios sound familiar? How can it be that one can suddenly go from being a happy-go-lucky child to an anxious, withdrawn and sad individual who seemingly is angered by everything you say? Perhaps the eating disorder started after a breakup of a relationship, bullying at school, transitioning to high school or even an innocent attempt to drop a few pounds? Sometimes it seems as though obsession with weight loss, binging, purging or hating one's body comes out of nowhere. It feels like a stranger has literally taken over your child's mind and is pushing them further and further away from you. Ironically, parental instincts that once worked like a charm, are no longer effective. The eating disordered individual is emotionally fragile, easily angered, guarded and even seems paranoid at times. So how do you help? What do you say? What if they don't want help? These are important questions. Eating disorders are not something to be taken lightly. If left untreated, eating disorders can be life threatening. In fact, eating disorders have the highest death rate of all psychiatric illnesses!
FIND A TREATMENT TEAM!
It's tempting to believe that if you watch them like a hawk, monitor their meals and/or exercise and follow them to the restroom, the unhealthy behaviors will stop. Unfortunately, your child's behavior is serving a meaningful purpose in their life that has yet to be discovered Yes, your child's behaviors are helping them to cope. The behaviors might create the illusion of control or success. The behaviors can even be addictive or reduce anxiety. If your child feels micro-managed, they likely will intensify the behaviors, become more secretive or try new strategies that they feel will improve their appearance, comfort them or allow them to continue their weight loss mission. It's important to be aware that your child is terrified of recovery, weight gain, of losing their "best friend" (the eating disorder) and of not being sick enough to receive professional help.
Often, my clients are not excited to see me the first time. It can take years before an individual can see the negative impact that the eating disorder has had on their life. Sometimes, this realization does not come in time and the battle comes to a tragic end due to no intervention. It's a blessing when one's child wants help, but this certainly is not the norm. I suggest that parents find an eating disorder specialist that they trust and tell their child that they love them and want them to meet with someone who can assist them with the stress that might be impacting their self-image and eating habits. If the child insists, they do not wish to have help, the parent can indicate that this is not an option, but the child can meet two professionals and select the one they feel most comfortable with. Of course, if the child absolutely refuses, the parent reserves the option to suggest that the child could go to an inpatient facility instead. The parent’s dialogue with their child should be presented in a calm, loving and caring manner. A good clinician usually can ease a clients' fears and create a rapport quickly. Getting your child to treatment is the hardest part. I find that so often, the client who was reportedly going to give me a "run for my money," leaves their initial appointment feeling appreciative, understood and agrees that treatment is not such a bad idea!!!!!
A team approach is critical. A dietitian, medical doctor, and possibly a psychiatrist, should all be introduced into the treatment as soon as possible. Your therapist can help you to slowly build the right team. By the way, groups can be a wonderful adjunct to therapy but should never be utilized instead of individualized treatment in the early phases of recovery.
FOCUS ON THEIR HEART VERSUS THEIR APPEARANCES
"She constantly asks me if I can see the bulge on her tummy." "He wants to know if his muscles look too small." "If I eat this, will it make me fat?" The list of questions and worries can be endless. Does it feel like no matter what you say, you upset them more? Perhaps you remind them that they look beautiful today. Their response: "You have to say that because you’re my mom". Perhaps you tell them they look "healthy" and "perfect". In their mind, you just called them "fat". Honestly, commenting on physical appearances can be a no-win situation. I encourage ALL parents to focus comments on your child's intrinsic value verses their looks. Even if your child does not suffer from an eating disorder, it is better to love oneself from the "inside out" versus the "outside in". Catch your child doing something kind and tell them you appreciate their loving heart. If they ask you questions about their appearances, let them decide for themselves. For example, you can say, "How do you feel in your dress?" View questions about their body as in indication that something else is troubling them. Usually one’s focus on their body has nothing to do with appearances but another struggle. You can say, "It sounds like you are being hard on yourself today, want to talk?"
BE A HEALTHY ROLE MODEL:
If you discuss your own weight or exercise program, they will follow suit. If you tell them that you wish you looked as great as they do, they might believe you are in competition with them and may be afraid to trust you. If you comment on the appearances of friends, family, or people in the media, they may fear that you will be critical about them as well.
Exercise in moderation doing things that you enjoy. Hiking, riding a bike and dancing all are ways to enjoy being in your body without the formality of a gym. Yes, these activities count as exercise!!!!! When the focus becomes the number of calories burned or to make up for the damage done the day before, we are stumbling into unhealthy territory. Adopt an attitude that all foods are acceptable in moderation. A piece of birthday cake to celebrate a new year is yummy and appropriate! Enjoy food! Eat three meals a day and at least two snacks. Your child notices when you miss meals or label foods as "taboo" or "bad".
LOOK FOR THE SHADES OF GRAY:
"I'm fat". "I'm stupid". "No one will ever fall in love with me." Sound familiar? Eating disordered individuals tend to subscribe to "all or nothing" thinking. Help your child to find the "shades of gray" For Example, "You are an appropriate weight for your height". "We all make mistakes - you are learning." "You have had love before and are capable of finding it again - We do not know what the future holds.” If you are not sure how to respond but you can recognize that they are talking in extremes, point out "that sounds like all or nothing thinking." You can them challenge them to find the exceptions to what they have just said. For instance: "If you were truly overweight, do you think that your peers and your doctors would all be telling you that they are concerned you are too thin?"
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE:
During recovery, structure in your child's daily routine is extremely important! Let's face it: when life feels "in control", we feel better. Routine helps the eating disordered individual to feel more in control. Having meals at predictable times, knowing plans and being in a familiar environment can all make your child feel safer and more relaxed. Even fun activities like going on vacation, trying a new restaurant or going on an all-day outing can leave your child feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed or simply sabotage their goals. Imagine what it must be like for someone to go to a hotel and eat all their meals at a restaurant when they are terrified to eat anything that has not been prepared at home by oneself. Or imagine how a binge eater might feel spending a day at a theme park that has mostly buffets and fast foods that they are terrified of being around. Of course, the long-term goal is to be able to be intuitive about one’s food intake and to experience new adventures. Doing this too soon can result in emotional upset for everyone involved. Discuss upcoming plans, schedule changes (summer vacation versus school) and travel with your treatment team so that these things can be discussed and prepared for in advance.
UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD:
Your child's self-esteem is fragile right now. They question their value and their worth. There is nothing more powerful than showing them that you love them because they are your precious child. It is so critical that guilt, punishments or bribes are not utilized to promote recovery. Eating disorders are an illness, not a choice. One did not choose to develop an eating disorder, but they can choose to get well. Say things such as "I love you and I want to help you to love yourself." It's imperative that we avoid saying things such as "If you love your family, you will stop this behavior." Similarly, it's important not to offer gifts for recovery or weight gain. If we tell them that we will purchase them a new car when they get to their goal weight, what happens when their weight fluctuates? Of course, statements such as "How could you waste all of that food?" only reinforces a sense of shame and disgust with oneself. The more they feel our love combined with our commitment to keeping them safe, the easier it will be for them to slowly learn to love and accept themselves.
Some days we will feel like we are getting our happy-go-lucky child back, the next day they will spiral downward into a pit of angst and despair! Gently explore what triggers their eating disorder. You can say things such as "You seem more preoccupied with your weight today. What is happening in your life that might be causing you to feel more stressed?" Remember, eating disorders are a coping mechanism. Try not to focus on your child's weight with them. Don't assume that someone or something is to blame for the eating disorder. Eating disorders are not caused by parents, the media or vanity. Eating disorders can show up after starting a simple diet. As stated previously, eating disorders are an illness. Certainly, many things can trigger the onset of the eating disorder but, realistically, the eating disorder was likely going to show up regardless of the stress in one's life. If you can assist your child in recognizing that they restrict, binge, purge, etc. when they are stressed about school, having social struggles, upset with their boss, or other matters that are occurring in their life, then they can be encouraged to address these situations directly. Caution: Don't tell your child what you believe is stressing them out that led to them being triggered. Ask them questions so that they can discover the trigger themselves. If they don't want to talk, honor their request and remind them that you are there for them should they change their mind. Sometimes just spending time with them watching a movie, walking the dog or hanging out will help them to decompress and move away from their eating disordered thoughts or behaviors.
Encourage healthy coping! Journaling, drawing, knitting and prayer are just a few examples of healthy behaviors that can provide an outlet for emotional distress and provide a sense of accomplishment or feeling of being more in control. Unfortunately, suggestions to exercise, read a magazine, work in a clothing store or search the web, can all intensify the eating disorder. For example, if we say, "Go to the gym, you will feel better," your loved one might hear this as an indirect message that they need to lose weight. Never assume that exercise will restore an anorexic's "lost hunger". I have had a few clients suggest that their anorexic child exercise for this purpose. It is not safe or appropriate to suggest that someone underweight go to the gym to cope or to work up an appetite. Reading a magazine might trigger one to become more agitated as they see diet suggestions and emaciated models. I have had one to many clients tearfully tell me that their size was mistakenly overestimated by a customer who wanted to purchase a gift for a friend or family member in the store in which they worked. The goal is to focus on activities that have nothing to do with food, exercise, fashion, appearances or weight!!!!!!!
RECOVERY IS FOR REAL:
Yes, I do see clients recovering from eating disorders every day!!!!! Having been blessed to do this work for over 20 years, I've had the opportunity to see clients grow up and have beautiful lives loving themselves, getting married, excelling in careers and creating families. Family support and love is a gift you can give your child. With a good team and a commitment to treatment, miraculous changes and growth can occur.
By: Michelle Gross, MA, LMFT: Eating Disorder Specialist in Westlake Village, CA
How to Confront FOMO...
Fear of missing out. This is something that all high school students face at one time or another. We’ve all been in a situation where we had to cancel plans because our workload became too overwhelming, or we were unable to go hang out with friends due to a prior commitment. While social media, in some cases, can be a connector or social facilitator, it also gives us access to see a stream of posts from events to which we are not invited. This can be pretty upsetting. Here are a couple of quick ways to help minimize FOMO.
Clear your social media feeds. We feel like there is an unspoken rule that we must follow or add any person to which we have a small connection. For example, if you stumble across the profile of someone who goes to the same school as you, regardless of whether or not you have spoken a single word to that person, you may feel as though you have to hit the “follow” button. Once you have access to their posts, you can go scrolling, and will find a feed full of them and their friends. Seeing this posts does nothing to provide you with a sense of fulfillment, so why do we scroll through their profiles? The reality is, if you don’t follow that person, it doesn’t matter. It’s a single follower- they probably won’t even give it a second thought. Recently, I went through the people I follow on my instagram, and unfollowed 200 people who were simply clogging my feed. If you really cannot bring yourself to unfollow the people who don’t add substance to your life, there are ways to mute their posts.
Changing your mindset does wonders too. As teenagers, we feel as though we are constantly competing for everything- the highest grades in class, college acceptances etc., social ranking feels no different. A lot of us think of it as a hierarchy: losers on the bottom, popular people on the top. Some people fear that if we are unable to attend some group plans, soon enough we will be forgotten, the invitations will stop coming, and we’ll start to tumble down the social pyramid. This simply is not true. Even if you can’t attend certain events, there will be others to attend, and, if anything your friends will miss you, for each individual brings different characteristics to the group dynamic. Something we often fail to understand is that our friend’s connection with another person does not nullify our own friendship- they are simply two different connections, which formed and are being sustained in different ways- no two friendships are exactly the same. It is important to recognize that we are not alone in our experiences with FOMO, and that your value stems from your own unique qualities- not from number of party invitations.
Sara Goldstein is a high school junior in the San Fernando Valley. In her free time, she loves spending time with her friends, engaging in social activism, reading, writing, and dancing.
Unspoken Communication, The Silent Definer
Most of the time when we think about communication with our kids/teens, it’s in the words that we’re using or the body language that we’re presenting. I’d like to talk about the other ways that we’re communicating. One in particular… as it has been at the top of all the headline news recently.
When we pay for our children to pass tests, or purposefully break the law with them to get them into college, we are communicating loud and clear the unspoken message that says, “You are not capable, I don’t believe in you, you can’t do this on your own power, I have to protect you from the world so you don’t get hurt, you have to be as good as me or better, you have to represent the family in a certain light, etc.”
Unfortunately, parents don’t understand how debilitating this is to a child, or they would never go to the crazy extents to generate great things happening, or overly protect them from life. I would say that 100% of the people that I’ve worked with in rehab or my private practice had a message from a parent/caregiver that in some way conveyed that impression of their identity.
Some of the clients who have had the most challenges are the ones who feel entitled. They have never had to clean their room, there were maids for that. They never had to work for a living, money was given without earning. They were bailed out of bad situations with no consequence. Many learned that they use their family status to promote their self-interest rather than their own personal value. For most they never had to go through the hard moments of life that help us define and own our strength.
To be clear, children aren’t born dysfunctional, this “messaging or programing” goes back to the period of 0 to 8 years in a child’s life. At that stage they are taking on their identity, what they believe about themselves and how they are to act in the world. On a quick side note, just to make this a little easier to deal with, I’ll say that we all took on the programs of our minds. So, don’t blame your parents too much, they took on the thinking and beliefs from their parents, your grandparents, who learned from their parents and so on further down the genealogical line.
There was an incident that happened when my first daughter was growing up that really shows what I mean by unspoken communication in action. We had a playdate with a mother and her son. He was about 5 years old at the time, and quite a wonderful kid. We were getting ready to leave, and she got down on the floor and put on his shoes for him. I was a bit surprised, and I asked her why she did it. She said that it just takes too long. We weren’t in a hurry, and I could see a look of embarrassment on his face as he looked at my daughter when she said it. Seemed like quite the jab to his self-confidence. Life is about learning the little things and moving forward one achievement at a time, if a child is able to dress themselves, let them. You’re the parent, budget into your time for those precious moments for them to learn and feel proud of their accomplishments. Be patient, they will get quicker as they gain confidence.
The same thing goes for homework. The teachers know when the parent has done the assignment or project. When you take it over because of your ideas on how it should look, you are telling them that they’re not good enough, clever enough… capable. I really had to learn this one myself, my daughters can attest to the amount of perfectionism I’ve had to let go of!
Another example is when they are teens and going to take the driver’s test. If they are able to drive a car, they are quite capable to set it all up. They can call the DMV, set up driving appointments and testing time. If they want it bad enough, they will get it done, and be proud of themselves in the process.
Basically, if you know that they can accomplish the task, have them do it.
They can build confidence and skills by being a part of the family community and doing chores. When this is carried out, they learn the ability of how to take care of their own home when they become an adult. In the process you can teach them to meditate while doing the unconscious act of cleaning, folding clothes, etc. Or, you can make it a fun time, put the music up loud and dance in the process. Get creative. Believe it or not, this can be a great time for family bonding.
To put it all in a nutshell, I always go back to my idea that if we were all talked to and taught like we were the Dalai Lama then the world would be a much different place. At a very young age he became, “The Chosen One”. They let him know that he is special and gifted. They treated him with kindness and showed him a path of enlightenment as his life’s practice. He was encouraged with love. Then, he became the man that could be an amazing compassionate and conscious leader who shares such a valuable message of love.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~Dalai Lama
“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.” ~Dalai Lama
“I find hope in the darkest of days and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” ~Dalai Lama
In in closing, communicate with intention.
Remember that your every action is communication to your kids.
Trust in their ability to own their intelligence, power and confidence.
Teach them the life skills that they will need to maintain their own life when they leave the safety of your nest.
Remember, they are in the back seat and watching more of what you do than what you say. Keep adjusting your behavior to be the example you would have liked to have learned from.
Treat them as you would have wanted to be treated, and if you’re not sure, treat them like they were the chosen one and love them silly.
If you’ve had a moment of communicating badly, have compassion for yourself and the ones involved, learn from it and move on. We’re all just doing the best we can in any given moment. Let go and be the better version of you and set the example for them to follow.
Audrey Newmont, Hypnotherapist, Spiritual Practitioner and Author
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