Are we asking too much from our teens?

Under pressure: Are we asking too much from our teens?

I hear the word “pressure” often in my counseling sessions with teens and young adults.  They express feeling pressure related to academics, sports, and life direction.  What is causing this pressure? Are we asking too much?

Adolescence has always been a time of change and transitions. There’s a lot to figure out.  It’s a time of rapid discovery about self, sexuality, and growth – social, emotional, and physical. Getting comfortable with those changes can be hard. The teenage years have historically been met with the stress of dealing with friendships and the related peer pressure of sex, drugs, and alcohol. School, learning disabilities, and bullying have always been common obstacles. Navigating relationships with their parents and step parents leads to confusion and at times contention. That’s the baseline stress of adolescence.

Now, though, life seems much more stressful for teens. The change has been gradual, increasing with each passing year. If we really think about where we have ended up compared to even five years ago, it’s a major difference and our kids are feeling it. Standards for success in school, sports, and just about everything else seem to be reaching higher and higher levels. Teens and young adults feel pushed to do more. They feel overwhelmed by the demands they face and have little understanding of “how to deal.”  Most tell me they think it is just them who don’t know how to deal with all that is thrown at them. They talk of seeing others (primarily through social media) who seem to handle everything with ease. These comparisons can cause them to feel worse about not knowing how to handle it all themselves.

What happens as we ask them to perform at new levels in sports?

Let’s start by looking at sports performance and expectations. Sports were once extracurricular activities, meant to help kids experience something fun, exercise, join a team, feel a sense of belonging, and learn to work with others. Sports may still be all that, but the intention beyond participation is much more intense now.

Children are encouraged to specialize in specific sports very early on. They are encouraged to make that their main or only focus into high school. Practicing five times plus a week for 2-4 hours, sweating it out at additional conditioning practices, and showing up to perform at  multiple games per week is the average dedication required. Further, it’s not just a seasonal endeavor but a year-round commitment.

If teens ever need to take time off to study and miss a practice, they may get benched for a game – because they aren’t making their team a priority. Even tournaments are now scheduled on holidays as opposed to allowing for breaks to spend time with family and friends.

Parent conversations on the sidelines go something like this:  

“Are you getting your kid extra one-on-one training? Do they have a nutritionist? Do they have a conditioning program? What sports camps are they going to? Is your kid going to play in college? What colleges have you visited?”

These conversations escalate expectations of what “should be done.”

What about academics?

When it comes to academics, the early focus is on getting into a good college. They must get “good grades,” and that term’s meaning has changed. When just comparing what was considered a good GPA in the past, a 4.0, to now 4.5, it’s a big difference. I am hearing that a 4.0 will close the door to some opportunities.

Homework means at-home assignments in approximately 8 classes per day. Assuming 10 minutes (which is a low estimate) per class, that’s up to 2 hours a night or more. Some research suggests that homework increases engagement, yet can actually negatively affect students’ overall health.

“… students who did more hours of homework experienced greater behavioral engagement in school but also more academic stress, physical health problems, and lack of balance in their lives. And that’s in affluent districts. … It seems antithetical, but some research suggests that homework can actually hinder achievement and, in some cases, students’ overall health.” SOURCE:

Imagine going to work all day and getting home after a lengthy workout or league game… then having to do 2-3 more hours of work. Every day. Further, they have less control over their schedule and environment than adults do. A typical day begins around 6:30 am, taking classes all day, dealing with many people who they wouldn’t necessarily choose to be around, in loud, crowded hallways, followed by sports or extracurricular practices, then studying till past 10 pm, sometimes midnight. Sounds stressful, doesn’t it?

Teens are told they need to take advanced courses and college level courses (AP or IB) in order to stand out. Piling on to the stress, they must test well on standardized tests, then fill out lengthy digital college applications and write numerous college essays. They may have tutors and college placement advisors, too.

Further, today’s teens are well aware of the high cost of any college, let alone a top-tier school. The premium price tags AND knowing the high cost of college simply adds more pressure. They’re often applying for scholarships and funding alongside admissions applications. Their first big decision comes along with a huge price tag. They must decide where to spend an average of $37,650 per year for four years – totaling $150,600.00. That’s approaching the price of a small home in middle America. Have we been teaching them to make decisions along the way?

Teens are expected to be “well rounded.”  This means they need to show other parts of their lives align with the high-pressure trajectory, too. In addition to sports, they are encouraged to become active members of clubs and to do volunteer work in their spare time. Basically, they’re building a high-stakes resume from a very early age.

Where is the pressure coming from?

The pressure can come from numerous places. 

Some parents’ are the driving force of the pressure to excel. They may mean well, believing the pressure will help their kids on their way to “success.” In practice, though, good grades seem to mean parents are happy while bad grades translate into unhappy parents, relationship strife, and even punishment.

Sometimes teens perceive the pressure from their parents or simply want to make them proud. If expectations are not clearly discussed, it leaves teens to make assumptions about their parents’ expectations. It seems logical to them that a harder class and better grades would bring more praise and make their parents proud. Kids also work hard believing it will lead to college scholarships to help alleviate financial stress.

Teens can feel external pressure from peers and others (of any age) on social media. Their own competitive nature can lead to perfectionism and self induced pressure.

How are they connecting with family to cultivate stability and belonging?

Time spent doing academics and team sports leaves little time for connecting with the family.

Kids get home from practices late and then head to their rooms to do homework until midnight.  When they do connect with their parents, it is largely about keeping them on track with academics, sports training, scheduling, and logistics.

There is no space for quality time together – relaxing, de-stressing, and cultivating that feeling of connectedness that is invaluable to the mental and physical wellbeing of us all. Teens  often spend more with coaches than with family.

Any down time is left to video games or mindless scrolling on social media, which provides a temporary dopamine hit and seems like a relaxing outlet – but time spent on social media can often lead to distress. Social media bombards teens with information and images that shake their uncertainty. Adolescence is already filled with change and transitions, and no one likes the feeling of uncertainty. It feels like there is no floor to stand on.

Social media also chips away at their time and attention. If they try to avoid it, they may worry about keeping up with their friendships. They develop FOMO – fear of missing out on something important.

Are their brains ready for the demand of this high standard?

We are asking teens to manage a lot at a young age. It feels like by the time they are Freshmen in high school we are requiring them to perform at the level of a college student. Recognizing that their brains and executive functioning skills are still developing,  we might be asking them to do more than they can do.

Somewhere it has gotten a little fuzzy of what they are capable of during adolescents.  And we keep piling on. Maybe we have lost sight of the developmental course for our kids. It is easy to see the developmental milestones and their capabilities when our kids are younger.  They smile, roll over at a certain age, eat solids, walk, have language abilities, and read at specific age ranges.  We know this and our pediatricians tell us if our kids are on target for these milestones. By the teenage years, we tend to lose sight of developmental milestones.

Maybe some teens are ready for the demands they face. There are guidelines for the course of development, but not everyone develops at exactly the same pace. Others start to feel like a failure at every turn. If they feel they just “can’t make the cut” or aren’t doing “enough,” they get down on themselves. Some continue to push themselves. Others give up, becoming unmotivated – resigning themselves because the bar is so high in every endeavor that  they just don’t see a way to get it all done. Their own achievements seem to lose value because there is always someone who is doing it better. Either way, their mental health suffers.

Are they equipped to Problem Solve their way out of the stress?

When the challenge is so great or the reach is too far, that’s when stress spills over into toxic unmanageable places, causing psychological distress.

The frontal lobes of teenage brains that house the executive functioning are still developing, as mentioned above.  Teens are being asked to organize, stay on task, plan, juggle multiple tasks, problem solve, and tolerate stress.  Yet executive  functioning of the brain isn’t completely developed until their early to mid twenties.  That’s like asking a young child to take over the carpool before they can even see over the dashboard, much less be of age to get a driving permit.

Stress to an adult feels very different than stress to an adolescent. They have more impulsive behaviors and greater susceptibility to stress than adults. This is because the brain’s region for reasoning matures later than the part that reacts to fear and anxiety. The amygdala operates in overdrive, with less input from the rational, problem-solving frontal lobe.

So, are we asking too much of our teens?

I am not sure many parents see how different the world is for teens today than when they were growing up. I think of stress in layers. Teens already have a baseline of stress, just by being a teenager. Each new stressor is added on top: highly competitive sports, high-stakes academics, increased school shootings, new technology (and social media, which brings increases in bullying incidents, lack of belonging, comparison pool of false perfection), changes in home life (often including divorce or contentious divorce), and social life (increasing disconnection at home or with peers).

Do we really need to add more stress at their age they can’t handle? We are pushing the limits of a developing brain. Asking them to deal with pressure in numerous areas of their lives when they don’t have the capacity or skills to deal and the emotional regulation abilities to deal with the level of stress the work brings.

The old adage, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” means nothing to them, and frankly it doesn’t apply any longer. When kids hear this, it leads them to not feel understood. It indicates that they are alone, unsupported – it must be “just them” who doesn’t know how to get it all done. We need to spend more time teaching our kids how to manage the long list of To Do’s and the accompanying stress of life, rather than piling on more work and pressure.

To reduce the stress, we can focus on teaching them coping skills and offering unconditional support in their times of need. The following question sets can help prompt an assessment of their situation. ASK!


  • Quantity of work: Are they overwhelmed with their load of classes and homework?
  • Challenge of work: Is it a healthy challenge or a stretch too far? Are they feeling pressured to take certain classes? Where is the pressure coming from? What would it look like if they didn’t feel so much pressure? Would they reduce their academic load or reduce the level of challenge?


  • Pleasurable activities: What is their expectation of their extracurricular activities? Are they finding joy in their extracurricular activities?
  • Manageable schedule: Do they feel overscheduled? Are extracurriculars interfering with academics, family time, or sleep?
  • Time to rest: Are they tired? Teens need an average of 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night.


  • Coping skills: Do they know how to cope with pressures of achieving both with academics and extracurriculars?
  • Outside factors: Are there other environmental factors that are contributing to their stress (news, social media, home life, relationships)?
  • Available support: Ask, “How can I support you?” Simply listen to the answer without giving advice. Reassure them that you care and want to give support.
  • Mental health check-ins: Discussing mental health at home is one of the most important things you can do for your teen. These open and real conversations in itself can reduce stress. Teens knowing you understand how they feel, that you are there to listen and support them is comforting and reassuring.
  • Verified expectations: What do they think your expectations are of them? What expectations do they have of themselves?  Are the expectations healthy? Parents and teens alike may have internal narratives about what parents’ expectations are, but little communication to verify parents’ actual expectations. So be sure to ask.

When parents ask questions and model healthy behaviors themselves around managing stress, it helps kids learn to deal with life’s stressors before they leave home. Stress management is a critical life skill today.

True, a moderate amount of stress can actually be helpful. A healthy level of stress can keep us alert, heighten our memory, and motivate us to achieve higher levels of performance. But too much stress can lead to poor mental health. So talk to them about what may be impacting their stress levels. Teach them balance. Share ways to cope and “dial down” stress. Simply being there to listen is the best support parents can provide for their kids.

take a break fro social media

Social Media Part 7: Wrap up: What Can We Do?

During the pandemic, we have all realized the need for face to face connection and how a lack of can take a toll on our mental health. Connection has shown to be the color in our lives. We need it!

Our phones have turned into our companions. A constant in our lives we reach for when we are lonely, bored, seek entertainment, and even as a way to avoid engaging with others. As with any friend, we need to evaluate whether they are good for us. So when it comes to social media use, take inventory.

Take inventory of what you expose yourself to on social media and how you think it impacts you. Ask yourself; Do I spend more time living in someone else’s world instead of my own? Who am I caught up following and why? Is my time spent comparing myself to others? Is my need for belonging being satisfied or taking a hit? Is my curiosity running my use causing me to spend endless hours surfing? What is the voice inside my head saying after use? AND how does it leave me feeling?

For parents:

It is harder than ever to be a teen and young adult. The world is full of chaos and noise right now. It is difficult to maneuver through the noise and just be a teen.

The bar is set so high in all aspects of their life. Making it feel like they have to compete at such a high level. It’s not a 4.0 anymore, it’s a 4.4. It’s not just being a good student, it’s, are you well rounded? Do you have internships and volunteer positions? Are you doing it all? The pressure is insurmountable. The bar is somewhere in clouds never able to really know where it is and when you’ve reached it. We think social media is a way to unwind or have down time. But it’s just another place where they see they aren’t measuring up, not reaching the bar.

If you are a parent, talk with your young adult about pressures and tendencies to compare themselves to others. Let them know they don’t have to partake in the race to the unknown finish line.

Talk with them about increases of anxiety, depression, and loneliness that can come from social media use. And that when we are down, we tend to isolate and social media use tends to increase. This upturn in use during difficult times can cause one to feel worse. A downward spiral that can be hard to recover from.

Help them instead of punishing them.

Help them filter their feed, finding positive things to look at instead of things that make them feel bad.

Don’t minimize their need to connect with their friends but help them find ways they can connect in person. Talk with them about using it to build upon their relationships not be the only avenue for their relationships.

Weekly I will ask my clients to take a break from social media for a day or two. Just to see how they feel. Without fail they tell me they feel better, more free, less anxious, less down, and engaged in more pleasurable activities. They report feeling better about themselves. Talk with your young adult about taking a day away from social media.

Actually, we should all give it a try!

Please read the other blogs in this series:


Social Media Part 6: Bullying

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

This is the biggest BS I’ve ever heard. For some reason, we should only hurt when someone has physically injured us, not when someone says something painful about us or to us.

Teasing, taunting, and bullying have been around forever. And unfortunately, it’s not surprising that bullying happens over social media. According to the I-Safe Foundation, “Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.” And, “about half that are bullied, don’t tell their parents what’s going on.”

Why is cyberbullying rampant?

Social media is an environment where tearing someone else down is so much easier than in person. There are less inhibitions to say and do things that hurt other people because it’s not a face-to-face interaction. It’s a place where the vulnerable are more accessible.

Cyberbullying is possible with just a few clicks. Posting an embarrassing photo or saying hurtful things can be done with ease. We can fall prey to it and not give it a second thought when the person isn’t in front of us.

Why is bullying more harmful online? It can feel like there’s no escape when someone is bullying you online. Before when you were bullied, you could escape the person, walk away, or the school day ended. Now the bully can persist even after you walk away. It can go on 24/7.

Before social media when a bullying event happened, others may have seen it. But now, hurtful words, rumors, and embarrassing photos can be posted. They can remain for days before taken down or even permanently posted. The embarrassment and shame can linger.

What is the psychology behind someone bullying?

We know that bullies can be insecure individuals that are also hurting in some way themselves. They can have something going on in their own lives they’re having trouble dealing with. Problems at home, being bullied by someone else, low self-esteem, or a need to exert control or power because they feel powerless in some way. They prey on individuals that most likely won’t fight back and are less secure with themselves. This enables the bully to feel superior and feeds their need for control.

Bullies may not seem like sensitive individuals, but they are. We’re all sensitive. Accessing and expressing our feelings and sensitivity can be learned. A safe environment is necessary and is something a bully may not have.

I see individuals with tough exteriors. My curiosity helps me connect with my clients. The safe place I establish allows them to let their guard down. And then the floodgates open. It never fails… even those who bully. Anger is a defense mechanism. Bullying others is a way to push off something that is wrong inside of them and push it onto someone else.

Not all bullies intend to bully. Some just go along even though it wasn’t their idea or intention to bully someone else. They may feel they will be rejected by their current group of friends if they don’t partake in the kindless act. They fear if they speak up and don’t join in they may be excluded from the group. OR they may be next in line. Either way their belonging becomes at risk.

For those who intend to bully, belonging can be a catalyst. It can be a way to exert power in an effort to be known in a particular group and be popular.

Some are compelled to comment when no comment was asked. They feel others must know their opinion when it wasn’t solicited. If the comment or opinion is positive or supportive, then great. How nice to put something out there in cyber space and get back some kudos. But when the tone of the comment is negative, it can cause the same result as bullying behavior, the feeling of ‘I don’t belong.’

Whether it is bullying or a few unkind words said in cyberspace, it can be painful for the person on the receiving end. It can have a lasting negative impact. When interacting with others on social media, always ask yourself before posting: is this necessary, kind, or helpful?

If you’re a parent, talk to your kids about bullying even if you don’t suspect it’s happening. Give them examples of what bullying can look like and let them know you are there to listen and help. And if they are being bullied or dealing with unkindness over the internet, don’t minimize the impact it can have on their mental wellbeing.

Please read the other blogs in this series:


Social Media Part 5: Curiosity

Social media feeds into our human natural tendency to be curious. We need curiosity; it helps us learn new things and serves as a vehicle for growth. But curiosity with regard to social media can be like falling into a large black hole we can’t get out of. The ease and immediacy lures us in and it’s so hard to turn off.

We then rely on something else to squash our natural sense of curiosity to get out of the hole: willpower. Willpower to withstand the immediacy of our curiosity and the reward of our addiction. But the thing we’re addicted to is in our pocket or handbag all day, every day! Can you imagine trying to quit smoking while carrying a pack of cigarettes in your pocket?

Let’s look at breakups. You have to work so hard to move past a breakup nowadays. Breakups no longer mean you just stop talking to the person. Now, you have to delete them from every form of your social media. You have to make sure you can’t see them from someone else’s social media feed. You need a tremendous amount of willpower. And if your curiosity is in play, which it always is, you may NOT delete them from your social media which means you end up watching them not be sad about the breakup–or so it may seem. You see them out and about, laughing, having fun, and hanging out with a new potential girlfriend / boyfriend. I use the word potential because every person you see them with is someone they are interested in in your mind. It is a minefield for your thoughts.

Break ups used to be hard, but now can be tortuous. You used to still see your ex at school or a party or social gathering. You would see them talking to someone else, checking to see facial expressions and body language, gathering clues to decipher if they were interested in them. Now you can see them 24/7. Trying to crack the code of what is going on for them; do they miss me? Are they happy we broke up? Are they interested in someone else? Are they sad without me? It leaves our mind to roam endlessly.

Think about whether it’s in your best interest to delete your ex from your social media. Not to be spiteful, but to save yourself from mental anguish.

Break ups are just one example where our curiosity is at play, making it difficult to manage our social media use which can negatively impact our mental wellbeing. Ask yourself, where else is my curiosity showing up that isn’t so helpful? Is my curiosity taking over, causing me to spend hours on social media? Could that time be spent pursuing something else I‘m curious about that would fulfill me in a better way?

Please read the other blogs in this series:

compare dispair

Social Media Part 4: Compare Despair

When I was growing up my mother would buy magazines. I remember looking at the images and wishing I looked like the women in the photos. Of course I didn’t realize how much it affected me at the time. It wasn’t until later I truly understood how those images contributed to how I felt about myself. They dictated how I should look and even told me how to get there with all the latest diet craze. It took a toll on how I viewed myself. It really impacted my eating, exercising regime, and dictated the voice in my head that continued to push for something I was not. It wreaked havoc on my self esteem and exploded my insecurities. I promised myself that if I had a daughter I would never buy magazines. I never wanted my daughter to think she had to look like someone else. I didn’t want her to think she had to be something other than herself. AND then the internet happened. It’s one big magazine plus so much more.

Now it’s not just an image or two that we are comparing ourselves to. It’s an endless stream of images. A door that is always open for you to see someone that doesn’t look like you.

And it’s not just an image, it’s more. Social media allows us to peer into other people’s lives. We aren’t just comparing how we look. We now compare our whole lives to someone else’s–in fact, lots of other people! Or so we think it is their whole life. It can leave us with feeling like our life is deficient in some way, that we are deficient… not good enough. The lens we use when we scroll through social media is that of “what I am not”. I don’t look like that, I don’t have that, I am not doing that, I am not doing enough. Questioning every part of ourselves, leaving us feeling we are doing life wrong.

Social media creates an illusion that everyone is living a perfect life: successful, seems to have it all together, has no struggles, and is an expert at life. This leaves the surfer feeling that something must be wrong with them. Not only do they not look the right way, but now it’s, ‘I don’t seem to know how to live life the right way. I must have it all wrong.’ And if we’ve got it all wrong, if our life isn’t following some sort of trajectory that social media dictates, we can feel we aren’t enough in some way. It’s a trap.

It’s hard to see that it isn’t reality. We are seeing a snapshot of someone. How do we know someone’s life from a series of photos? We don’t but for some reason we still believe we know them and how they are living life. And of course it must be better than how we are doing life. Perfect, of course.

I want to call Wikipedia and ask them to change the definition of perfect. Here is what I propose: Perfect: for humans, an impossibility, an unachievable state. An illusion some feel others have achieved. Trying to achieve it or holding belief that it is possible will cause pain and likely create another issue or multiple issues. The remedy: transparency by all to distill the illusion and squash the feelings of vulnerability in disclosing non perfectiness.

If there are other areas in your life where you feel you are being compared to others, it can compound these ideals making it difficult to withstand the comparison trap.

Comparison robs us of our joy, taking us to a place where we feel less than. I know comparing is hard not to do. One thing to keep in mind that might be helpful: isn’t a person’s character what’s fundamentally important? And how do we know someone’s character from a series of photos? We don’t. So when you’re scrolling, remember you really don’t know their life. No one is posting the difficult moments they experience. No one is posting the mistakes they make.

A good mantra to remember is: I have enough, I do enough, I am enough. Remembering this while scrolling through social media is a good way to keep yourself grounded and less likely to compare yourself to others.

Please read the other blogs in this series:

need for belonging

Social Media Part 3: Need for Belonging

Along with connection, we have an innate need to belong. It’s a basic human need and is, infact, necessary for our well being. The Belong Theory, according to Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, states “humans have a fundamental motivation to be accepted into relationships with others and to be a part of social groups. The fact that belongingness is a need means that human beings must establish and maintain a minimum quantity of enduring relationships.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the commercials from the beginning of the pandemic: “We’re all in this together.” No one wants to feel they are going through life alone. The feeling of belonging can be translated to: am I accepted? Do I matter? Am I not alone in this world?

How does this need relate to social media?

Social media is a place we go to feel like we belong and feel we are important to others. It’s where we share news, stories, funny memes, or Tik Toks. It’s where we cultivate friendships. It’s our community.

This all sounds good! So, what’s the problem?

Social media can help us feel like we belong but it also shows us when we don’t belong. And we can’t escape seeing it.

When we weren’t invited to a party before social media, it felt bad. We would sit home, knowing they were having fun without us. We’d know we weren’t included. Maybe we’d even hear about the event the next day. It was painful.

But now, we not only aren’t included, we see first hand that we aren’t included. We can watch the fun going on without us. It’s like a mirror showing us we don’t belong and the fun is happening without us.

Social media makes it obvious to others too, when we don’t belong–causing embarrassment and sometimes shame for us. I see I don’t belong but now everyone else sees it too.

Social media opens the door to show when we aren’t included and threatens our feelings of belonging which leaves us feeling rejected. It stirs the pot of our insecurities. UGH! It can be so painful!

We hear a lot about FOMO (fear of missing out). But, it’s not just FOMO. It’s fear of not belonging. When we aren’t accepted by our peers, it can feel like we don’t matter.

It’s really important to name what we feel. Understanding the thoughts and feelings that come up with social media can help. We can all tend to scroll mindlessly and not realize how what we see impacts how we feel. Ask yourself if your sense of belonging is taking a hit when engaging with social media. If the answer is yes, make a conscious effort to change your use. If you know you weren’t invited to an event then don’t watch it happening. I know this can be soooo hard. But would you rather satisfy your curiosity or save your mental wellbeing?

Please read the other blogs in this series:

need for connection

Social Media Part 2: Need for Connection

Humans have a biological need to connect with others. In fact, it’s a large part of our survival. Social media feeds this basic need to connect with others. And it let’s us do it with ease and immediacy. We can find someone to chat with in an instant. We can see what’s going on with our friends in seconds. When we get good news or bad news, someone is always there to share it with. In fact, there are great things about social media.

So, what’s the problem?

Our drive to connect with others drives our use. And when we reach out and don’t get a connection, it can leave our mind to jump to conclusions and cause painful feelings.

For instance, how about when we send something that goes ‘unread’ or ‘read’ but with no response. Oh, the pain and anguish over this! We’ve all been there. We send a text or a snap and there’s no response on the other end. It can leave us wondering. Are you going to connect with me or not? Why did you read my note and then not respond? Is it something I said? Are you mad at me? Am I not important to you? Is our friendship/relationship in trouble? What should I do?

You may think this is an overreaction for just being unread or not responded to, but this happens. Teens (and really, anyone!) can get into these head spaces. It’s a minefield of anxiety and pain for some. We tend to read into the meaning behind someone not paying attention to us. We reach out and they aren’t there. What does that mean about me and our relationship? It can be like quicksand… a sinking feeling. And one that can last for a while if they don’t respond. WHY AM I BEING REJECTED?

Then we are left with: should I or shouldn’t I take another stab at reaching out again? Would that be a good thing or will I seem too needy? Will they be annoyed with me? How long should I wait to try again? How long before I know I’ve been ghosted? So many questions are left swirling around in our heads.

What seemed like a simple outreach to another for connection, just got stressful. And life is already stressful! This can just add another layer on top sending us to a dark place. It leaves us feeling unsure about ourselves. It leaves us feeling anxiety and sadness about the possibilities of our friendships being in jeopardy.

I know it’s hard to avoid the ‘question game’ with yourself. BUT the questioning only elevates your anxious feelings. Think about how much weight you are giving a text or Snapchat response. Ask yourself: Am I really just afraid that my friendship is in jeopardy? Is my worry warranted? Is my relationship really in danger of ending just because they haven’t responded yet?

Please read the other blogs in this series:

social media and teens

Social Media Part 1: Social Media and Our Mental Wellbeing


Social media is such a hot topic, one that’s part of my daily conversations in sessions with teens and young adults. I see firsthand the impact social media has on their lives and their mental well being. It can become their best friend and their worst enemy–all at the same time.  The friend that is always there for them but isn’t always kind. The friend that gives us all the good feels, yet at times leaves us with feelings of despair. The friend that can cause our minds to play tricks on us.

Social media can become an addiction we can’t seem to put down because it’s in our pocket all day long. Our phones have become a necessity nowadays. It can almost feel like there is no escape, like we’re chained to them.

With social media, there is never down time. It never stops. There is always SOMETHING happening which can make people feel like there’s no time to relax.  Checking and rechecking to make sure we are still in good with our peers–or that we’re not missing anything.

With this endless cycle, it can feel like there’s constant noise and chaos. No true quiet time. But most don’t even realize it’s happening. And for teens and young adults, it’s all they’ve ever known. It just seems normal because it’s always been a constant in their lives.

Why is social media so powerful that we can’t put it down? It taps into some of our most basic needs, like connection and belonging. Social media feeds these two needs… or so we think. In this six part series, I will shed light on how social media satisfies our need for connection and belonging but also, how it can turn on us quickly causing major disruption for our mental wellbeing. I’ll also discuss how our natural tendency to be curious can create an additive pattern, increasing our levels of anxiety and depression.

Please read the other blogs in this series:

comforting your teen

Comforting Part 5: Comforting Your Teen Series Conclusion

Comforting your teen series Part 5

I promise: your teens want to talk to you. They want to share their emotions, feelings, and talk about their deeper thoughts with you. It may not always seem that way, and maybe they are unsure of doing it too. But I see it firsthand over and over again: once barriers are broken down, teens find a sense of relief in opening up to their parents.

We all remember the times when we finally talked about something that’s been troubling us and felt better afterwards. Parents are the closest person to their child. The parent/child bond is a special one, whether biological or not.

So how do we get to a place where our teen is openly sharing and we can be there to comfort them? Comforting your kid means connecting with them. Connection and comfort go hand in hand. 

Ideally, this is something we foster over the years with quality time spent together. One great way to cultivate closeness and connection is through rituals and traditions. It’s a shared experience for you and your kids–something you all can count on. A time that feels secure and consistent. Finding times to laugh, dance, and partake in fun activities together. Showing interest in their interests. And of course, showing your love for them through affection.

As our kids get older, they have more responsibilities. We can get stuck in the “to-do’s” of life, both theirs and ours. Life gets busy. We find ourselves tending to more of what needs to get done and less time connecting. One of our jobs as parents is to keep our teens on task, helping them get done all they need to get done, and making sure they are successful. In fact, when I ask teens what percentage of interaction with their parents is positive, most say around 30%. When I ask them what makes up the negative 70%, it’s the “to-do’s” of life.  “Did you do this?” “Why didn’t you complete that?” “You need to…”

The fun and the connection can get lost. We end up being a parent more than a mom or dad. Let me explain.

Being a parent is hard!  We are constantly straddling what I call the mom/ dad role and the parent role. I know I love being a mom and at times dread being a parent. I think connection is easy when it’s the mom role. But the parent role is like walking a tightrope. I find myself asking, how can I parent and stay connected to them? It’s difficult!  When I think of parenting, I think of keeping them on track, homework, consequences, and lecturing.  I want to run the other way. And I’m pretty sure my kids want to run too–either isolate in their rooms or at least turn their ears off.

Being truly conscious of when we are in these roles is key. In a perfect world, we could be in the mom/dad role most of the time and less in the parent role. That would make connection and openness so much easier, wouldn’t it?

How do we make sure we are cultivating more mom/dad time than parent time?  It has to be a conscious effort. Find ways you can make space for those moments every day. And I mean every day.

When I look back at the years spent with my older kids, those are the times of connection. That is when they could relax, open up, and they felt my love the most. Those are the times that built the foundation for the close relationship I have with them today. The times when I had to move into the parent role often lead us to disconnection.

If you’ve never had that open relationship with your kid and talked about feelings and emotions, it is never too late to cultivate a closer relationship. One where you can comfort them in their difficult moments. And, oh how meaningful that relationship can be for both of you!

Let them know this is something you want in your relationship with them.  Figure it out together. You never know, maybe they have been thinking the same thing. (They probably have!)

Talk about the fears you have in trying to change your relationship with them. Don’t let your fear get in the way of connecting with your kids. When we carry fear, it can look like many things to the other person.  Fear can translate into avoidance, anger, and can be misinterpreted by the other person as not caring.  Examine your own fears and ask them about theirs. You might be surprised how talking openly can increase closeness, connection, and the ability to be there to comfort your teens.

Remember what you did when they scraped their knee. It will always apply no matter how old they are. Listen, comfort, reassure.

Please read the other blogs this series on Comforting your Teen:


communicating with teens

Comforting Part 4: Trust Me, Your Kids WANT to Talk About Mental Health

Comforting your teen series Part 4

Families talk about a lot of things, but mental health usually isn’t one of them. Historically, mental health has been a taboo, uncomfortable topic in many families. Whether generational, cultural, racial, or gender-based, many messages we have historically received about mental health tell us we shouldn’t share.  People have always struggled with their mental health; it’s just largely been done in silence.

Millennials and the GenZ generation are more aware and open about their mental health as compared to previous generations. This is obviously a good thing and shows we are making progress.  But because Millennials and GenZ’s are more open to talk while their parents may not be (through no fault of their own) it can create an uncomfortable situation and another obstacle stopping teens from opening up. I see this often in my office. While they’re open to talking, teens sense their parent’s hesitancy, discomfort, and in some cases, fear.  We all know that feeling when we perceive someone is uncomfortable–we tend to go the other direction.  Teens do the same thing, pulling back from sharing with their parents.  This can create more fear for a teen.  They want the security of connection with their parents, they need it. Without it, teens have to maneuver through their difficulty alone.  Without the reassurance from their parents that they are ok, they may second guess themselves and wonder if there is something wrong with them because they are struggling. This can often times lead them to feeling shame for struggling, causing them to be more secretive and hide that they aren’t doing well.  Teens are then left to deal on their own.  Many times, a crisis has to occur before parents are aware of what’s going on.

Conversations about mental health need to be ongoing in our homes.  When it’s ongoing, there isn’t as much discomfort talking about difficult topics, struggles, and how we feel about things. It becomes a natural topic of discussion.  It’s hard enough for teens to deal with everything; we don’t want them to do it alone. And we definitely don’t want them to feel shame for struggling.

Keeping mental health a regular part of the conversation means they can be transparent with you and reach out  for help because they’ll know they can. The safety of connection is present making it easier to face life’s challenges.

Please read the other blogs this series on Comforting your Teen: