Got Your Oxygen Mask?
Every airplane ride begins with a very important plea- when the oxygen masks are released from above, place yours on first, before putting one on your child. The first time we flew as parents, the oxygen mask instructions took on a whole new meaning. How could we think of protecting ourselves before our beautiful children?
Years later, we have learned that our hearts pump blood to itself before other organs. We now better understand why we need to put on our oxygen masks first, if we want to genuinely support our kids in handling their stress and anxiety (as well as navigating life). When we first heard Kristen Race’s 2015 TEDx Talk, one of the lines hit hard and felt like a kick in the gut. “We have a generation of over-achieving, over-stimulated, over-connected parents raising the same types of kids.” Ouch!
“Millennials, who came of age after 1999, and Generation X, born between the early 1960s and early 1980s, are now being called Generation Stress. That’s because for the last three years, the American Psychological Association’s research on stress has found Millennials to be the most stressed demographic in America, with Generation X coming in a close second.”
This realization was not totally new, yet while parenting (often stressed or anxious) teens it took on new meaning again. How do we support our kids in navigating today’s unfamiliar waters, when we often feel like we are treading, floundering or holding on ourselves?! Do we try different strategies, buy a new board, or get out of the water?
Fortunately, Gina Biegel, entered our lives in the summer of 2016… Unfortunately, it was after losing Tomas.
“Don’t believe everything you think!”
Those were the words that called out to me from the bumper of an older red Toyota sedan. Stopped at a light, I inched my car closer to see the smaller words at the bottom- StressedTeens.com. “Don’t believe everything you think,” who doesn’t need to be reminded of that these days? I knew someone (aside from myself) who could benefit from a weekly, if not daily, reminder and new tools and strategies for managing unhealthy (and sometimes toxic) self-messaging. The person who needed it most was no longer with me. As soon as I got home, I Googled StressedTeens.com. I was overwhelmed with emotion. After years of struggle and attempts to understand the sources for or reasons behind my son’s negative thoughts and painful feelings, I had found resources that spoke to me- resources that I believed could have helped my teen and be a resource for many others. I reached out because I knew I had nothing to lose and only much to gain. (Ana, May, 2016)
Reaching out to Gina led us to taking a closer look at our own stress and stressors. In the process of learning about mindfulness, we realized we had new tools for parenting, healing from loss, and facing everyday and life challenges. For these reasons, we wanted to introduce our community to Gina’s work. We have linked some of our takeaways from her Parent Talk here.
Like Gina, Karen Young (psychologist and founder of the website, Hey Sigmund), talks about navigating anxiety “like a wave. Like any feeling, anxiety will come and then it will go. When our kids are on that wave, it can be scary – for them and for us – but we don’t need to lift them off. The wave won’t break them. When we believe this, they can start to believe it too.”
Karen assures us that, “One of the hardest parts of being a parent is watching our children struggle and not knowing how to help them. What you need to remember is that you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to – of course you will – but they are brave and strong and they have everything in them to do what they need to do. When you’re on board, letting the space around you be calm, safe and reachable, they’ll have it even more.”
Wishing you time this weekend to take in the good, practice self-care doing something you enjoy, work on letting go of the things you cannot change, reframe a challenge, mistake or negative thought into an opportunity for growth, a lesson learned or a positive thought, and most of all, enjoy being in the moment.
P.S. A new book, The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives, just came out this week. Though we have not read it, we have read compelling articles that have really piqued our interest and made us eager to chew on some of the big ideas... Stay tuned...
The Key To Raising A Happy Child (NPR, February 14, 2018)
"Compelling, revolutionary, and wise, The Self-Driven Child empowers parents with the courage, the tools, and the mindset to reduce toxic stress, and to foster our child's capacity for resilience. Its message is one every parent needs to hear." --Tina Payne Bryson, co-author of The Whole Brain Child
The Case for the “Self-Driven Child” (Scientific American, February 13, 2018)
Celebrating being perfectly imperfect,