Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 11th, 2018, 0 Comments

Talking to Your Teen about Suicide

After a tragedy such as the celebrity suicides that have been in the news recently, it can be a struggle for us parents to figure out what to say to our kids and what not to say. Some of us may worry that talking about suicide may put ideas in our teen’s head. But the research is clear that talking about suicide does not make someone suicidal. Plus your teen has almost certainly heard the news and not talking about it with them can send the message that you’re not open to discussing it with them.

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Below are some ideas for talking with your teen about these tragedies in a way that can increase their safety and resiliency.

Start by being curious about what your teen already knows or thinks they know. Ask what they’ve heard. Most teens will have heard something and some teens may respond with, “I already know all about it.” But asking them to share with you what they know can be very enlightening. After listening to their response, calmly correct any misinformation if you can.

Ask what questions they have. Teens are likely to have questions and can often benefit from added information. So share any additional information you have, avoiding graphic details and speculation. Of course, teens have access to detailed information and rumors online, so it’s best to be aware of what’s out there and talk with them about what they might see or hear.

Put the news in context. Broaden the discussion from tragic news items to a larger conversation about how people cope with stress, disappointment, and other hardships. It can also be helpful to talk about the complicated factors that can contribute to someone committing suicide, including mental health issues.

Make sure they know who they can turn to if they’re in distress. One of the most valuable messages you can communicate to your teen is that if they have thoughts about harming themself, you and others who care about them will listen. Emphasize that no matter how hopeless or terrible a situation might feel, there are always options. Assure them that even if there is no quick solution to the problem, working together you can come up with options and figure out a plan.

Our teens are sometimes reluctant to confide in us, so it’s wise to make sure your teen knows there are other people they can talk with. Help your teen identify a few other caring adults, including relatives, family friends, or medical professionals, they can trust.

Finally, talk with them about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Let them know that they can call this number any time of the day or night to talk with a skilled person who will listen to them, understand how they are being affected by the problem, and provide support. The service is available to anyone for free, and all calls are confidential.

Bottom Line
We need to talk with our teens about suicide. Talking about it can help reduce the risk.

Selected Sources and Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Parenting Teenagers: How to talk to your teen about suicide

What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide: A parent’s guide to helping a child in distress

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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on January 8th, 2018, 0 Comments

A Better Way to Think About Competition

Some experts argue that competition encourages excellence and builds character. Others claim that we’ve gotten too carried away with striving to be number one and that there is no such thing as healthy competition. So who’s right?

Researchers recently set out to answer that question. But after analyzing hundreds of studies on competition they concluded that there was no clear answer. Sometimes competing enhanced kids’ learning and performance, but just as often it did not. Digging deeper, however, researchers found that competing often beats working solo when kids get a chance to experience camaraderie and mastery as part of the process.

Many kids say they prefer to compete as part of a group (like on math teams and in chess clubs and science fairs) because they like being with their friends while learning. There’s still pressure – including the additional pressure of not wanting to let the team down. But the stress is buffered by the camaraderie of having teammates.

How kids think about the competitive process can also affect learning and performance. The best competitors view winning as succeeding at problem solving. And they don’t just compare themselves to others. They focus at least as much on learning something and beating their own personal best.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind when you think about competition.

It’s okay if kids want to win. Most of us long to be the best at something. And it’s much more fun for them (and us) if they win. But it’s much more important that kids learn to work hard even when they compare themselves to the best around them and determine they’re not a star. This is essential for succeeding in a competitive world. We can encourage this by expanding our definition of what it means to succeed – so that the motive becomes not just to win but to learn or master something as well.

Kids don’t need to always win. If kids always win, even when they’re not turning up the effort, they’ll come to think that just showing up entitles them to a win.
Plus not winning can help give kids an accurate world view – letting them see that they’re not the best at everything and that losing is not the end of the world.

Kids do need to learn how to fail forward. To be successful over the long haul, kids have to be taught how to bounce back, reset goals, and keep on growing. We can encourage this by helping them see competition as a problem-solving task – with losing viewed as falling short of their goals, not falling short as a person.

Pressure should have an end point. Pressure itself is not a bad thing. In fact, the right amount of pressure can help kids focus on the task at hand. But endless pressure can be harmful. So there should be some ebb and flow in the pressure kids face, giving them time to rest and recuperate.

Encourage group and team activities. These emphasize cooperation and camaraderie that can teach kids how to work with and cheer for others.

Be aware of your messages. Our model is powerful. If we’re too quick to quit when things get tough or blame external forces when things don’t go as we hope, our kids will pick up on this regardless of what we say.

Bottom Line
We aren’t going to eliminate competition. If we did, we’d have to let everybody do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. And that can’t be done. But we can reframe the way we think about competition. After all, winning is exhilarating and motivating. And although it’s almost always more fun to win, losing can teach valuable lessons too.

Selected Sources and References:
Bronson, P., and A. Merryman. 2014. Top dog: the science of winning and losing. Hachette Book Group. New York.
Richtel, M. 2012. The competing views on competition in New York Times.
Rimm, S. 2010. Teaching healthy competition.

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