Social Media: A Highlight Reel That is Destroying Our Kids

Social Media: A Highlight Reel That is Destroying Our Kids

 

By Mattie Barron

Social media is often referred to as a “highlight reel,” meaning everyone shares their best moments in life. Because of this, comparison is becoming a common negative feeling, especially in kids. “Such comparisons may occur frequently with [social media] use because users tend to disproportionately represent positive life developments, portray themselves to be happier than they actually are” (Hanna, 2017). According to a study done on about 1,500 teens and adults, Instagram was rated the “worst social media network for mental health and well being” (Macmillan, 2017).

What social media doesn’t show is how everyone’s life is just as imperfect as our own. It doesn’t show our arguments with family members, your neighbor losing her job, or the moment your teenager gives you the “I hate you” look. And it isn’t capable of showing us the loneliness and isolation that many people are feeling.

Occasionally you may come across a post of a mom with her child’s spit-up all over her or a so-called “Pinterest fail,” but how common is it to see things like this?

Posts like these exemplify reality! They showcase a non-picture-perfect life. They are wonderfully relatable rather than comparable. Since the majority of posts are highlights though, it’s hard not to compare our worst to others’ best.

I’m scrolling through Instagram right now, and out of the first 20 posts I see, not one is being vulnerable. Everyone is smiling, showcasing a great moment in their life or looking confident as ever. If I’m having a bad day and I scroll through social media, I often feel worse about my day because I see everyone enjoying their life with no stress or struggles.

It’s almost impossible to remember that everyone is struggling when all I see is “happiness.” Now, I’m not saying we should to post every bad moment in our life or that we even need to. I just want our kids to stop comparing their life through the flawed lens of social media.

How can we teach our kids not to get caught up in comparison?

Limit Screen Time

“Several findings indicate that greater time spent on [social media] is associated with more social comparison, which, in turn, is associated with more depressive symptoms” (Hanna, 2017). From personal experience, the more time I spend on social media, the worse I feel about myself. Every kid should feel like they have a valuable life. Rather than having your kids spend their free time on their screen, encourage them to indulge in a meaningful activity such as art, music, dance, sports, or a hobby! This will significantly increase their self-worth far more than any time spent on social media. Limiting screen time will help kids combat depressive feelings.

Discourage the “Discover” Page

On Instagram, there is a “discover” page that highlights posts you may like. I have spent mindless hours on this page, telling myself nothing but negative things. “Wow, she’s so pretty, why can’t I look like that?” or “I wish I had that outfit” or “My photos aren’t as cool as hers.”

I have a near and dear friend who has embraced Instagram this last year. She’s gone from 500 followers to 18k in months. She loves to pose, edit, and inspire! Since she’s taken on the title of a “cute famous Instagrammer,” I had to ask, how she does it. If I were her, I would feel stressed to post a new picture-perfect photo every day. And I was surprised to hear that it’s a love/hate relationship for her.

She expressed her enjoyment in photography, but also said, “It can be a lot to see so many images of people doing so many fun and different things, all with different styles and it can be easy to have yours lost and spiral down a hole of comparison.” Even my friend, who’s the cutest person alive, struggles with comparison.

Encourage Kids to Embrace THEIR life

Since I’ve stayed away from the discover page, I’ve embraced my photos and social media presence. Blurry ones, crystal clear ones, good lighting, bad lighting, etc. My Instagram page represents memories I cherish. It’s for me and my family, not to impress anyone else. Reminding our kids (many times) to keep this mindset will greatly help them not to compare.

I like to think of Instagram as a personal journal rather than a socializing network. Encourage your kids to be deliberate and authentic, but safe.

Help Kids Understand Reality  

We see beauty ads with women who have no pores or lines on their faces, yet everyone we see in person has pores. Ads aren’t showcasing reality. Just about every photo we see on social media is filtered and edited in some way. It’s important to teach our kids that media-even social media–is unrealistic. Our book, Petras Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, is a great resource for helping kids to better understand the reality of media illusions. It emphasizes how advertisements and social media is often littered with unhealthy messages.

If your kids can see a photo or video and understand that it has been edited to be unrealistically beautiful, this will help them not to play the comparison game.

Specifically, parents: take advantage of small teaching moments. If you’re driving in the car with your daughter and see beauty advertisements, let her know that the model is airbrushed, edited to be slimmer, and is showcased to be perfect, which just simply doesn’t exist. Teach her that it’s a false message being sent to her that she can look like that.

Teach Your Kids to Be Kind to Themselves

If comparison is too harsh on your children, consider helping them look for the positive in themselves. Doing so will ultimately help them feel better about who they are.

This can be done through positive self-talk, which is taught in our book, 30 Days to A Stronger Child. Self-talk is inward and validates our minds. It’s saying phrases such as “You can do this!” or “I will be better next time,” instead of  saying “I failed again.” It’s about turning our negative thoughts into positive ones. Tell your kids to think of uplifting songs, quotes, or memories once negative self-talk begins. This will help train their mind to look for and stay focused on the positive in themselves.

Empower your children to use positive self-talk by committing to it and practicing it yourself. Be their example and teach accordingly! Along with this commitment, know that the power of limiting screen time, discouraging the discover page, and helping kids embrace their life and understand reality, are substantial steps to help a child combat a life of comparison. Your kids may not understand the benefits of you being involved now, but will certainly thank you for it later.

A great resource! Available in Kindle or paperback.

Available in Kindle or Paperback!

 

Mattie Barron is a current Senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Marriage and Family Studies. She is from Tri-cities, WA and has a passion to help create and ignite strong families. She hopes to work in the school system and aid in the support of children and families.

 

There are affiliate links in the blog post. When you use them to make purchases, we thank you for supporting Educate and Empower Kids!

Citations:

Hanna, E., Ward, L. M., Seabrook, R. C., Jerald, M., Reed, L., Giaccardi, S., & Lippman, J. R. (2017). Contributions of Social Comparison and Self-Objectification in Mediating Associations Between Facebook Use and Emergent Adults’ Psychological Well-Being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 20(3), 172-179.

Macmillan, A. (2017). Why instagram is the worst social media for mental health. Time Website. http://time.com/4793331/instagram-social-media-mental-health/. Accessed May 16, 2018.

 

Teach Your Kids to Be Different: 15 Great Halloween Candy Alternatives

Teach Your Kids to Be Different: 15 Great Halloween Candy Alternatives

By Amanda Kimball

It’s the time of year again when I find myself wandering down the candy isle. Hypnotized by the bright orange and black packaging, I wonder, “What am I going to give my trick-or-treaters this year?” Do I go with my favorites (everything chocolate), do I give out the big candy bars and become the house everyone wants to go to the following year, or do I save a few dollars and give out small, simple stuff? I am in a whirlwind of candy overload. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I always end up getting something for myself. But is what I want for myself healthy for trick-or-treaters? Probably not.

It seems that every Halloween, kids are bombarded with candy, and every day those same kids are being bombarded with messages from the media. They can never get a break from seeing media everywhere they go: on TV, at every store, and even at school. They are told how to dress, how they should do their hair, how they should look, talk, and act, and even what they should be eating. Naturally, it has become normalized for kids to eat huge amounts of candy and indulge in every kind of sweet treat during the holidays. And it all begins at Halloween.

This year, I’m going to do better. I’m teaching my kids to question the messages they are receiving through the media. Some of the questions I am going to ask them include, “When you see a sign that shows a kid eating a big candy bar with a large smile on their face, what is this sign really saying? Does this mean that kids are only really happy when they eat that specific type of candy bar?”

If our children are not taught how to decode the messages from  media they encounter on a daily basis, they may begin to feel what they see, read, or hear must be true. They may think, “If I want to be happy, then I need to have that candy bar. If I want to be popular, I need to have those clothes. If I want to be beautiful, I need to make my body look like the model’s body in the picture.” We need to teach our kids to be different and learn how to break down what the media is selling.

What can I do differently for my neighborhood trick-or-treaters this year?  

Here are 15 fun alternatives to candy we can give out this Halloween:

  1. Mini Play-Doh
  2. Bubbles
  3. Halloween stamps
  4. Glow Sticks (Big hit!)
  5. Punch balloons
  6. Fruit leather
  7. Fake mustaches
  8. Glider airplanes
  9. Healthy, organic snacks
  10. Erasers
  11. A handful of change
  12. Witches fingers
  13. Spider rings
  14. Stickers
  15. Pencils

 

The “candy” the media is feeding our kids is not healthy and can hold some serious dangers. As parents we have the power to help our children see past the messages and realize that beauty is not skin deep.  

Check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure for a great story and more great talks on media, media illusions, social media, and more!

Also available: Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image for a great story and great discussions about media and other messages that affect our body image.

Engaging stories, great discussions!

Amanda Kimball will be earning her bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies this winter. She is a mother of three children and is married to a loving and devoted husband of 11 years. She loves taking family trips to the beach and can not wait to start decorating her house for Halloween!

 

Lesson: Integrity: Online and Everywhere

Lesson: Integrity: Online and Everywhere

 

The idea of integrity can sometimes seem hard to understand, especially for children. What does this word mean? Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. When we teach our children to have integrity, we give them courage to do what they know is right. This is an important skill to have, both in real life and online!

What is Integrity?

Integrity is often accompanied by choices. For instance, a child might choose to play with a particular friend, steal a toy, send a mean text, help a neighbor, or make the bed because someone is asking them to.

During childhood, each small choice is helping to lay the foundation for the kind of adults our children will become later in life. Integrity is a key factor in this process because it involves deliberately made choices in response to one’s belief system.

Download the Lesson Here!

 

Looking for an engaging story with great discussion questions and activities to help your kids understand integrity, assertiveness, gratitude, initiative, and more? Check out our amazing resource for parents and teachers, 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Not only will you and child connect on a deeper level, the lessons will strengthen your children and your whole family!

Available in Kindle or Paperback!

Tech Over-Use and Lazy Parenting: A Deadly Combination

Tech Over-Use and Lazy Parenting: A Deadly Combination

 

By Marina Spears

I’m sure we are all familiar with the following scene: A small child cries and whines in public, the parent pulls out a smartphone or tablet, connects to a game, the child calms down, and all is well. But is it really? Many teachers, administrators, and school mental health professionals are worried.

In a recent interview with Sarah McCarroll, MS, a Pennsylvania school psychologist of eighteen years, she voiced the concerns that she, her colleagues, and school officials are experiencing across the country. They are noticing the effects of “over using” technology with children and what she described as a “significant reduction in emotional intelligence.”

Emotional intelligence is “the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems” (Cambridge University Press, 2018). McCarroll explained that when technology replaces active parenting, such as taking the time to teach coping skills, children are skipping important steps in learning how to handle emotions in healthy ways. This kind of “lazy parenting” is detrimental in several ways:

  • It decreases the ability for a child to learn self-regulation. When a child plays video games or uses social media the brain releases dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure. When a parent uses this mechanism to help a child cope, the feelings of frustration were never truly dealt with–just covered up with a distraction that “felt good.”
  • It creates unhealthy patterns. Overuse of technology in moments of frustration will create a pattern of behavior that uses of technology as an escape from uncomfortable feelings.
  • It can lead to addiction. When technology is used this way, children may develop a sense that they need it to “cope,” which can lead to addiction.

On the other hand, when a parent takes the time to allow the child to feel the emotion, and teach coping skills, the child’s brain is working very hard, and making new connections which build the ability for the child to manage their emotions in future situations

McCarroll also explained that “we need to use technology wisely,” and far too often kids are spending more time interacting with an iPod than in face-to-face interactions with their parents. In 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics announced new media regulations for children’s media use. One of the lead authors of the recommendations, Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, stated the following: “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep.”

So, what can we do? Technology does work to calm down a child; it does work to have quiet time while we’re making dinner after a long day. It is important to remember that these are quick fixes. In the long run, we all want a strong connection with our children. We want to be able to impart what we know and provide them with all the tools they need to succeed. And that won’t come from becoming a champion on Subway Surfers.

Here are Four Suggestions to Help Us Find Balance With Technology:

 

1) Tech now, talk later. If you used a “tech quick fix” to avoid a disaster in the supermarket, make sure to discuss it later on with your child, find out why they were upset, talk about ways they can handle their feelings and how you can help them.

2) Take breaks. Create “tech-free times” with your family. These can be mealtimes, rides in the car, Sunday afternoons, or whatever works best. How you do it is not as important as just ensuring moments of face-to-face interaction.

3) Quality time. If possible, take time each day to spend one-on-one time with each of your children. Be sure to shut off the phones, iPods, and any other screens during that time.

 

4) Self-check. Because children follow our example, do a “self tech-check” every few days. Are we missing out on teaching moments with our kids because we just want to get to the next level on Candy Crush?

Let’s make sure that each day we are doing all we can to connect with our kids and use technology to help them not hinder them. In our books 30 Days to A Stronger Child and Noah’s New Phone, there are activities, lessons and conversations starters to empower our kids with the tools they need to succeed in this ever increasing digital world.

Feeling motivated to do something right now about digital use in your home?  Click on this link for a downloadable lesson to discuss this issue. With this lesson and about 15 minutes of your time you can discuss digital addictions and healthier coping mechanisms with your kids, right at the dinner table tonight!

Available in paperback or Kindle!

Marina Spears received her Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from BYU Idaho.  She runs the student guidance program at the Summit School of the Poconos, and facilitates a support group for families of addicts. She is also a contributing writer and editor at Educate and Empower Kids.  She is the mother of five children and loves to spend time with her family.

Sarah McCarroll, M.S., earned her degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has been a school psychologist for 18 years, working with students at the junior high and high school levels for much of her career. She is married to a high school teacher/coach and is the mother of 3 children, who are also at the junior high and high school levels. She believes in advocating for students with disabilities and their families through teamwork with wonderful educators. She is a co-founder of STARs, a program targeting at-risk girls, to reduce girl/girl violence by promoting positive sisterhood.

 

Citations:
Cambridge University Press. (2018). Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from Cambridge University Press: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/emotional-intelligence

Kent C. Berridge, K. C. (1998). What is the Role of Dopamine in Reward Hedonic Impact, Reward Learning or Incentive Salience? Brain Research Reviews, 309-369.

American Academy of Pediatric. (2015, October 21). American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx

Lesson: Talking To Kids About Gaming

Lesson:  Talking To Kids About Gaming

 

Gaming is a major part of our media culture and families need to understand the pros and cons of becoming consumers of this media. Children will be exposed to various forms of gaming from peers, family members as well as mainstream media. Parents need to understand and identify how they will address the issue.

Video games may have benefits such as creativity, problem solving, and cooperation in addition to negative effects such as addiction, hyperactivity, depression, and antisocial behaviors. Gaming can be a positive experience for families when everyone follows the rules that have been established.

It’s important for us to start talking before a child becomes too enthralled with particular games. This lesson is a great opportunity to educate yourself and your kids, as well as to have a great discussion about the positives and negatives of gaming.

Take the opportunity to listen to your kids! Understand why gaming is important to them.

Download the Lesson Here!

For Great discussions about using tech for good, understanding media and advertising, or improving your child’s body image, check out our children’s books. Available here.

Engaging stories, great discussions!

 

 

5 Ways Our Families Can Slow Down

5 Ways Our Families Can Slow Down

In Our Fast-Paced World, We Need to Be Intentional Online and in “Real Life”

 

By Dina Alexander, MS

In my parenting, I have a VERY hard time slowing down. I distractedly run from assignment to task to activity. As my kids get older, however, I am realizing that everything is moving way too fast. Time is slipping away through my fingers. In fact, my oldest child will be leaving for college in less than a year.  

Recently, I have implemented five important habits to help myself and my family slow down. In modeling these habits for my kids, it has been imperative to live what I teach. If we can be an example by being deliberate and intentional in our “real lives” and online behaviors, our kids can see it and follow suit.

5 Ways We Can Slow Down to Be Intentional:

Intentional: To be deliberate, purposeful, conscious of what you are doing.

 

Slow down when you start to hand your child a phone or tablet because they are bored or whining. This is also important to remember when you begin to install a new app for them or when you start to turn on a movie or video for them to watch. Ask yourself and your child, “Why do we want this app?

Why are we watching this movie?

Will this improve our family life?

Will this make my kids smarter, more creative, or more kind?”

We can start teaching our kids, from a very young age, that phones and computers are not just distractions and entertainment. They are amazing tools. Perhaps the most important tools ever created. Smartphones have changed human interactions and relationships more than anything ever invented.

*We all have those moments of exhaustion, desperation, or illness. In those moments, just do your best, and give yourself a break. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone.

 

Slow down in following trends or making purchases. It can be easy to get caught up in a trend or feel like you “should” buy a certain game, device, movie, or app for your child. Stop and consider the long-term effects to your family’s mental, financial, and intellectual health as you purchase various technology. If it will improve or enhance your child’s intelligence or creatively or contribute to the well-being of your family, go for it!

 

Slow down in your actions. When you start to post an angry rant, verbally tear someone down, or negate someone else’s opinions behind a screen, slow down #thinkbeforeyoupost. Then, teach your kids the same ethics to act, not react

 

Slow down to be real. Are you the same person online and in “real life,” or have you created a certain, filtered persona on social media? All of us, our kids included, can often be influenced by friends or what we think others expect of us. Teach your kids to stop, think, and be authentic in “real life” and online.

Initiate a discussion about the importance of being yourself and being honest with the world. Talk about the freedom of being the same person in “real life” as online, whether you think someone is watching or not.

 

Slow down and take inventory. Do you find you and your family are running in all directions and then continually reaching for your phones when you are bored, tired, or lonely? Are you and your family members distracted and growing more disconnected? If so, then slowing down and taking a good, hard look at where you spend your time will benefit you! Being intentional and deliberate with technology use (spending a predetermined amount of time, in designated locations, and with a purpose) is rewarding and provides a healthier, happier home life.

Let’s #bethechange and teach our kids through our words and actions to slow down and be positive and intentional in “real life” and online.

Need help with these discussions? For a great story, including discussions and activities, for kids ages 6-11, check out Noah’s New Phone: A Story about Using Technology for Good.  For older kids, try our Using Technology for Good on our Lessons Page.

Available in paperback or Kindle!

Dina Alexander is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She is an amazing mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in Texas.

 

Holding Family Meetings: A Necessity for Our Busy Families

Holding Family Meetings: A Necessity for Our Busy Families

By Kami Loyd

Growing up I was one of six children, and each of us had different schedules. From soccer team practice to piano lessons, every day of the week was filled. It often made us kids, and especially our parents, feel that sometimes we lived more in the car than in our own house. On top of the crazy schedules, my parents also dealt with sibling rivalries, children’s misbehavior, job changes, and all the other stresses of life.

One of the most important things my parents did each week to help them prepare and to reconnect us together was to have a family meeting. Our family meetings advanced over the years from simple scheduling sessions and settling sibling squabbles into deeper discussions about individual’s and the family’s needs.

As my husband and I created our own family, we have discovered that we too need these weekly, and sometimes more frequent,family meetings to help everyone stay on the same page. These frequent meetings almost always include the needs of our four small children and using our technology to schedule our fast-paced lives. Our family meetings do not currently have much input from our children, but as they grow, they will understand the pattern and organization that we have already established, allowing them to fully participate.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith from Psychology Today has said, “In my years of practice, [a family meeting] has proven to be one of the most effective and bonding things families can do to create greater harmony and experience more depth and connection with those they love.” I can’t think of anything most families want more than these exact things.

Some of the benefits The Center for Parenting Education has found coming from family meetings include helping children cope with problems effectively in other situations, increasing family cohesion, teaching children to see things from other perspectives, solving problems in a fair way,  and many others.

What steps can you take to hold an effective family meeting?

Russell Ballard’s book Counseling with Our Councils encourages families to have family meetings and to use a specific pattern. My husband and I have used these ideas as a template in our own family as we have created the pattern we use in holding our family meetings. Some ideas include::

  1. Planning before the family meeting – Parents should meet together and decide what points they will be discussing at the family meeting. This may be a good time to decide whether the issues the family are facing are only to be discussed as a family, or if they can be decided on as a family too. There are some issues like consequences for actions, family relocations for jobs, family house rules, curfews, etc. that parents must make decisions on. Although they can discuss these with children, they are not up for debate. Some topics that could be covered in your family meeting could include children’s grades, use of technology, healthy relationships, friendship and respect, drugs and alcohol, pornography, gratitude, and family vacations just to name a few. The more meetings you have, the more you’ll be able to customize each to your families needs.
  2. Turn off distractions and tune into each other – When you are starting your family meeting, one of the worst things that can happen is to get distracted by your son’s cell phone ringing, a text from the local pizza place with a 25% off coupon, or a television program from which your kids can’t seem to look away. Keeping distractions at a distance by turning them off, or at least silencing them, will allow you and your family to get more out of your family meeting and tune into each other as well as the issues you are discussing.
  3. Start your meeting by sharing your love for one another – Although your family shouldn’t hear “I love you” only at these meetings, beginning by telling family members how you feel can reduce animosity and help everyone to better listen to each other.
  4. Decision Making – Each person should be able to speak their mind concerning the matter without interruption from other family members. When a family decision needs to be made, after everyone has said what they feel is important to the discussion, take a vote. Although not every vote may carry the same amount of weight in decision-making, allowing children to feel their voice is heard and their opinion matters can reduce arguments and resentment when things do not turn out their way. Also, allowing children to make their case as to why their decision is the best option can help them think through the consequences of their choice before they vote.
  5. Remember that some decisions or family difficulties take time – Parents and children often want to know what is going to happen right now. Unfortunately, some of the reasons you may be having a family meeting will take thought, time, and effort before there is a clear decision or conclusion. These issues may need to be brought up in multiple family meetings, so remember you may not have to have an answer right now. Having patience during these times is essential!
  6. End with family time – After any meeting, it is a great idea to have a treat, whether you all get in the car to get ice cream, play a family game together, or have a snowball fight, etc. Having the release of time as a family and being able to express your love for one another again will help your family meetings to be happy memories instead of becoming dreaded time family members have to put up with.

Families have strengths and struggles as they grow and develop, but having family meeting can allow parents and children to address issues before they become overwhelming problems. Your first attempts may be awkward for you and your children, but with time these meetings will become easier.

Some great resources for family meeting topics are included in 30 Days to a Stronger Child, which are presented in a family meeting style, and a Lesson: How to Hold A Family Council. This resource has great family meeting topics and even a lesson for parents on how to hold a family meeting. As you use family meetings, they may become the treasured memories of weekly rich discussions between you and your children that draw you together even as life tries to pull you apart.

Need Help with Tough Topics? We got you covered!

 

Kami Loyd received her bachelors of Marriage and Family from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She and her husband have been married for four years, and she is the proud mother of four children. Her interests include reading, board games, and most of all her family. She is passionate about helping her children and others find joy in family life.

 

There are affiliate links in the blog post. When you use them to make purchases, we thank you for supporting Educate and Empower Kids!

Citations:

Ballard, M. R. (2012). Counseling with our councils: learning to minister together in the church and in the family. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book.

Goldsmith, B. (2012, September 05). 10 Tips for Holding a Family Meeting. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201209/10-tips-holding-family-meeting

Holding Family Meetings. (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2017, from http://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/healthy-communication/holding-family-meetings/

Self-Harm: A Major Concern for Parents in the Digital Age

Self-Harm: A Major Concern for Parents in the Digital Age

 

By Marina Spears

It had been a very long day. As I stood by the sink, I closed my eyes and relaxed a bit with my hands in the warm soapy water for a few moments. I suddenly heard my daughter urgently call me.  I ran upstairs to find her in the bathroom, blood dripping from her arms, blood all over the floor and sink. She was sobbing, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“What happened? What happened?  How did you get so hurt? Did you cut yourself?  Did you just cut yourself?”  My body went on automatic-pilot-mom. I began speaking softly and did my best to comfort her; I cleaned and bandaged her cut up arms.  As my hands were working and my voice was speaking, my mind was spinning in a thousand different directions and my heart felt seized by fear and pain.

A few hours later, my daughter was asleep in bed, and my mind continued to race. I sat at the computer and googled “what does it mean when you child purposely cuts themselves?” I was astounded by the amount of information on “self-harming or “self-injuring” (SI) and how prevalent it is among the youth of today.

Self-harming or Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI) is defined by the American Psychological Society as “deliberate self-inflicted harm that isn’t intended to be suicidal. People who self-harm may carve or cut their skin, burn themselves, bang or punch objects or themselves, embed objects under their skin, or engage in myriad other behaviors that are intended to cause themselves pain but not end their lives” (APA, 2015).

The information online was a revelation; up until that point I knew very little about self-injuring and I was very grateful for the vast array of resources available to parents. There are so many resources because cutting has become an epidemic. USA Today recently reported on a study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which tracked a recent increase in emergency room visits for cutting, the largest among young girls ages 10 to 14.  In a span of 15 years cutting increased in this group by 166% and for girls 15 to 19 years old it increased by 62% (Diller, 2018).  

My daughter also turned to the internet during this time, but she was not looking at the same websites as I was.  What I soon discovered was a huge online subculture for those who self-harm, some of which is very encouraging and positive and a great support, while some is very dark and disturbing. She used both.

Websites can provide information on how to cut yourself (there are even YouTube videos), and some sites even glorify self-harming.  Instagram and Tumblr have some very intense blog posts from teens who cut, filled with graphic images. The images often depict cutting as a “better way” to deal with emotional pain, and some of the blogs present it as an artistic outlet for coping that most people just “don’t get.”  These websites can create a false sense of unity among those who cut, and encourage it as an viable option for dealing with deep emotional wounds.

At first, I was horrified that my daughter was looking at these pictures, but for her it was a step toward recovery. She found that looking at the pictures was enough to not cut herself.  What is important to understand about this example is not whether my daughter looked at Tumblr, but what the effect was and our open communication about it. She felt comfortable enough to be honest and share what she was looking at, and for her it was a positive thing. As a parent it gave me insight and understanding into her mindset and how she was coping.  

It is important to note that both she and I were going to a professional therapist to help us both navigate through this difficult time, and we employed many outlets to help my daughter channel her painful feelings and provide healthier coping methods.

The internet can provide information, support, and many other helpful resources, but it can also be detrimental and give access to images and ideas you do not want your child to see.  The balance beam we must walk through the pros and cons of the internet is our relationship with our child. It gives us as parents the perspective to make the best decisions for them and it gives our children a sense of protection and stability, even through the most tumultuous of times.

Suggestions For Helping a Child Who is Self-Harming

  • Keep your relationship with your child the priority and focus. Do not let the “issue” overshadow the bond between the two of you.
  • Get professional help for your child. Self-harming is an unhealthy coping mechanism for deeper issues. Those who use self-harm to cope often struggle with depression, lack of self-worth, distorted body image and could be experiencing bullying.
  • Find a support system for yourself. Have a person, perhaps a therapist, who you can turn to, so you can regulate your own feelings.
  • Be patient and positive. It will take time, but your child will get through this.  Most teens who self-injure do not continue into adulthood.
  • As a mom who has gone through this, I know it is not easy, but don’t “freak out” when your child self-injures; remain as calm as you can. It is important to create a safe place for your child, so they know they can come to you.
  • Above all else, love your child!  Remember they are in pain and they are handling things the only way they know how. Your love (as my daughter once told me) is a lifeline for your child; don’t underestimate its power.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. In time my daughter found healthier ways to cope. Be patient; things will get better.  For ideas to help your child find positive ways to cope with difficult times, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, a fantastic resource in maintaining deep connections with your child and helping them to build resiliency.

Available in Kindle or Paperback.

 

Marina Spears is a single mother of five and is completing her degree in Marriage and Family Studies at BYU- Idaho. She loves to read and spend time with her family.

 

There are affiliate links in the blog post. When you use them to make purchases, we thank you for supporting Educate and Empower Kids!

Citations

DeAngelis, T. (2015, July/August). Who Self Injures? Retrieved from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/07-08/who-self-injures.aspx

Diller, L. (2018, February 28). Why are so many of my teen patients cutting themselves? We need to fix this now. Retrieved from USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/28/social-media-one-reason-my-teen-patients-cutting-themselves-lawrence-diller-column/376741002/

 

Lesson: Teaching our Kids Smart Clothing Choices and Modesty

Lesson: Teaching our Kids Smart Clothing Choices and Modesty

 

Dignity refers to the quality of being worthy for honor and respect. It’s also about our appearance, our intentions, our personal responsibility, and ultimately the extent to which we respect and represent ourselves. In regard to this lesson, we’re going to focus on clothing choices that help us have self-respect and feel comfortable and confident.

In the old days people called this “modesty” but we feel this term does not apply to kids now. It implies that a kid’s voice and clothing choices should be quiet and subdued. Instead, we want to focus on making smart, context-appropriate clothing choices that will empower them through a combination of self-respect and self-confidence.

Many families have different perspectives of what dignity is and isn’t. Some look at short-shorts and think “My child is never going to wear that!”, while other parents are just fine with the trend. The purpose of this lesson is to make sure your child understands how to make clothing choices that are appropriate for different occasions and to help them learn to respect their body and protect it.

Download the Lesson Here! 

 

Check out our book, Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story, A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image. Also, for boys, Messages About Me: Wade’s Story, A Boy’s Quest for Healthy Body Image. Both of these books discuss the messages kids get from media, friends, and other sources that can often affect body image. They also help kids recognize where we can find true self-worth and to see their bodies for the amazing instruments that they are.  

Messages About Me: