This month, parents can do something about their students’ well-being and future success as the new school year looms just around the corner. The suggestion may sound so simple, we can miss it. After thousands of surveys taken in multiple countries, there was one action on the part of an adult that had the power to move the needle for our kid’s emotional health.
Are you ready for this?
“Spending time just talking,” the students said.
Hold on. Are you serious?
Yes, I am. A substantial amount of young people in industrialized nations around the world, repo
rt that they feel “alone” as they face the pressure of exams, relational
conflicts, bullying and other sources of angst. But ARE they alone? Most of us would swear they’re not alone, as we watch them spend the same number of hours online with peers as a full-time job would require. Yet, perception is reality.
Screens do not accomplish the same goals as face-to-face conversations.
In fact, screens do the opposite. Students who spent more than six hours online on weekdays outside of school hours were more likely to report that they were not satisfied with their life or that they felt lonely at school.
WHAT ARE THEY WORRIED ABOUT?
The biggest sources of stress for students are likely predictable, but worthy of our notice:
- Academic pressure (make the grades so I’ll be accepted at the right college/university)
- Social angst (FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out; friends doing things without me)
- Lost opportunities (FOLO – Fear of Living Offline; missed information)
- Family problems (conflict with parents or siblings)
What a BBC report suggests (and what our data confirms) is that students actually do want to talk about these sources of anxiety, but don’t know how. Adults often make things “cheesy” or “corny” or they begin “lecturing me on what to do.” In short, the dialogue turns into a monologue. The adult becomes “prescriptive” with their words, rather than sharing ownership of the topic with their student.
But, check these realities out from the BBC report, for parents: “Spending time just talking” is the parental activity most frequently and most strongly associated with students’ life satisfaction. For instance, “girls whose parents encouraged them to be confident in their abilities were 21% less likely to report feeling tense about schoolwork.”
SOME SIMPLE STEPS WE CAN TAKE
1) Make sure you eat together regularly.
While this is fast becoming obsolete in our hectic world, meals together spark not only trust, but satisfaction. Food somehow brings people together. While occupied with eating something, we feel safer and tend to open up and become more transparent. Meals together set you up to go deeper later.
2) Ask questions on meaningful topics they’re interested in.
Be a student of your teenager. What do they like? What do they watch or listen to? Take an interest in what they are interested in. This shows you care and builds trust. With little effort, these talks led to great outcomes.
3) Plan experiences that will spark dialogue.
We all know that trips, events, encounters and experiences lead to natural conversation. We like to talk about interesting things that happen to us. So why not create some? Plan experiences this month that are engaging and will lead to discussions.
4) Tell them what you see.
At the right time and in a safe place, communicate the potential you see in them, not just the reality they see in themselves today. Cast vision for the strengths you find evident and be specific in your description. Don’t tell them what they should do with it, but let them know they’re capable of more than they may currently imagine.
I will never forget my son’s facial expression when, at age 12, I first told him in a serious tone, “Jonathan, you have what it takes to be a man.” He stared at me for a moment with big eyes, pondering what I’d said. Then, he smiled. My words weren’t magic, but I felt they were necessary as I watched him second-guessing his choices. We all need someone we respect to relay words of empathy and direction.
The good news is, according to the BBC report, “Students with high levels of life satisfaction were significantly more likely to have parents who regularly spent time talking to them. Parents who sat around the table to eat their main meal with their children and talked about how they were doing made a difference.”
These highly satisfied students also “tend to have greater resilience and are more tenacious in the face of life and academic challenges.”
Let’s start the conversation.
Journeying With You,
The BYN Staff