Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Be Brave – with what you want to say July 31, 2013

Filed under: Adolescence,Identity — billmacphee @ 11:51 am
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This is my favorite song of the summer for several reasons:

  • Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can maim and kill.
  • Bullies intimidate thoughtful people into silence.
  • Open dialogue is the pathway to understanding.
  • Fear is paralyzing but can be overcome.
  • I need to hear what you have to say.
  • Sara recruited regular people to dance in her video; there is hope for me.

I am one of those people who needs more than a moment to construct my thoughts so that my words offer wisdom instead of nonsense. The fear of saying the “wrong” thing sometimes causes me to stay silent when what I am forming in my mind is actually kind of helpful. It is frustrating missing the moment and then feeling poorly because I withheld a valuable word. I just need to be brave [in the moment], and also risk coming off less prepared, and even a little foolish. “My history of silence” won’t do me any good, and actually I don’t mind if others think I “took the wrong pill.”

I wonder how many young people around me want to say something but fear judgment, disapproval, or laughter. I’m going to be brave and listen in a way that invites others to say what they want to say.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply–and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23


In Defense of Helicopter Parenting December 31, 2009

Dr. Sarah Ravin is a trained scientist-practitioner in clinical psychology specializing in the treatment of adolescents and their families with various eating disorders. Her recent blog responding to last month’s Time Magazine article warning of the downside of over-involved, enmeshed, controlling parents gives a short defense as to when helicopter parents actually help their teenagers get well.

In Defense of Helicopter Parenting « eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and psychotherapy.

Dr. Ravin does acknowledge the potential and real harm done by helicopter parents, citing the work of Eric Erickson, who taught that “the primary developmental task of middle adulthood (ages 30-50) is seeking satisfaction through productivity in career, family, and civic interests.” This desire clashes with the needs of their children, who according to Dr. Ravin, are right in the middle of their primary adolescent developmental task: identity formation.

“Children need to play, explore, relax, and interact with their surroundings in creative, imaginative ways. Adolescents need to loaf, “hang out,” date, experience “teen angst,” spend quality time with family and friends, develop their social skills, make their own choices (within reason), make mistakes, and learn from them.”

In her practice, and I believe this will be verified by other therapists with an adolescent focus, Dr. Ravin sees middle adolescents and emerging adults woefully lacking in the kind of development that is required to step into adult roles and responsibilities (“solid self-identity, resilience, confidence, good problem-solving skills, and the ability to tolerate discomfort and failure”). Is it possible that helicopter parents stunt necessary growth? I think the answer is yes. In the research of those of us involved with ParenTeen, we’ve found that over-controlling parenting styles are another form of the all-pervasive systemic abandonment of adolescents stunting their maturity. According to Dr. Ravin:

“Their lives have been geared entirely towards achievement in academics, arts, and athletics, often not for the love of science or music or soccer, but because their parents pushed them and/or because they believed it would improve their chances of gaining admission to a prestigious college. Quite often, they don’t know how to structure their time, study properly, deal with disappointment, or make decisions independently. Sadly, many of them do not know who they are or what they enjoy.”

The pendulum can swing to parenting extremes: uninvolved, disinterested, lenient, absent, and self-absorbed, or controlling, hovering, over-protective, and enmeshed. Both styles fail to provide the kind of positive nurture, boundarying, and coming alongside, that adolescent’s need and want. Many parents simply leave their kids alone way too much. But others hurt through their driving presence.

“Helicopter parenting has the potential to be quite harmful to children by increasing their stress and anxiety and preventing them from developing self-confidence, resourcefulness, problem-solving skills, distress tolerance skills, emotion regulation skills, and creativity. Children and adolescents are over-scheduled, over-worked, and pushed to succeed, often at the expense of their emotional health. There is not enough unstructured time for kids to play, explore, or create. There is little room for adolescent identity formation in between AP classes, Princeton Review SAT prep courses, college applications, three varsity sports, band practice, clubs, and mandatory community service hours.”

Dr. Ravin gives the caveat that as she works with adolescent’s seeking control and recovery of an eating disorder, the helicopter parents do step up to the plate in a positive and proactive way. She would rather have the involvement and support of a super-involved parent rather than one who from a distance wants her to “fix” their child.

More important than our parenting style at a given point is how we as parents and a community are present for our kids. They need loving, present, positive, boundary-making, flexible, parents who understand the length and complexity of the adolescent journey.


Leonard Kleinrock: Mr. Internet — latimes.com October 24, 2009

Filed under: Adolescence,Technology — billmacphee @ 11:30 am
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Leonard Kleinrock: Mr. Internet — latimes.com.

One of the “true” fathers of the Internet makes an insightful observation about the downside of the Internet:

Kids have retreated out of the physical world into the cyber world. It gives them a larger reach, [but] they’re not getting out in the sun, playing with other kids and looking in their eyes and watching their body language as much as they used to, which I think is a shame and can create a kind of indifference in the way in which you deal with your peers. Excesses include things like notifying your significant other [by computer] that you’re no longer significant to them.

I resonate with his lament that we [not just kids] look into one another’s eyes and observe body language less carefully and intentionally. Communicating through texting is revolutionary, efficient, and to be used. But take time to do some non-judgmental yet careful observation of yourself and others as you pay attention to the tiny screen in your hands. Do our conversations with those physically present often or regularly get interrupted by the diversion of our eyes to the email, text, or call? Mine do, and I’m trying to be more present and aware.