Therapy That Works...

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Sunday, December 26, 2010

As America’s teens are applying to college this fall, millions of parents are wondering if their children are ready for the transition to college.

So, do they have something to worry about?

Most neurophysiologists report now that the changes taking place in the teenage brain are profound. The teenage brain is like a house that’s in the process of being built—there is a steady building of neurological connections that create an often subtle but revolutionary refinement in self-control and judgment. There can be a stark difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. Their emotional maturity can literally take place in just a few weeks or months.

Here are a few things I would recommend for parents:

Remain Involved: The main issue is what kind of input parents will have at such a profound and intense time of maturity. Even though they’ve gone to college, you should still be involved. You’re still their parent, teacher, and advisor!

Consequences For Life: We know that kids are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. What the child experiences is encoded much more intensely in late adolescence, and parents need to be very mindful of what they allow their teenagers to do.

Caution Around Substance Abuse: Be very cautious teaching your child about drugs and alcohol. Realistically, they will encounter drugs and alcohol at college – they need to know what do. The teen years can be a devastating time for the brain to be exposed to drugs and alcohol since it is still developing. Be very careful, parents.

Now when parents in my practice ask me about their children going to college, I always ask them one question – “are they emotionally intelligent and mature?”

Emotional maturity is a central life-skill – it can literally make the difference between success and failure at college. Here are some areas of emotional intelligence that you should evaluate:

  • Risk Aversion and Impulse Control
  • The Ability to Self Sooth Appropriately (with exercise, conversation, or distractions like music or movies)
  • The Ability to Self-Correct and to Remain Self-Aware
  • Skills in Self-Regulation such as time management, organization and persistence in task completion.
  • The Capacity to Identify Emotions In Others Accurately
  • The Ability to Understand the Complexity of Emotions and Motivations

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, November 04, 2010

As America’s teens are applying to college this fall, millions of parents are wondering if their children are ready for the transition to college. Do they have something to worry about?

Most neurophysiologists report now that the changes taking place in the teenage brain are profound. The teenage brain is like a house that’s being built—there is a steady building of neurological connections that create an often subtle but abrupt refinement in self-control and judgment. There can be a stark difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. Their emotional maturity can consolidate and stabilize in just a few months.

Are parents putting too much pressure on kids when we ask them to commit to college, in some cases when they’re only sophomores and juniors in high school?

Without a doubt, we are putting a ton of pressure on kids when we ask them to make an adult commitment in the middle of adolescence. Again, we know that the emotional and cognitive development of the teenager is a complex and lengthy process. There are profound differences between fifteen and eighteen. Sophomores and juniors are being asked to make decisions that are literally, in adolescent development, life-changing.

Here are a few things I would recommend for parents:

Remain Involved: The main issue is what kind of input parents will have at such a profound and intense time of maturity.

Consequences For Life: We know that kids are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. What the child experiences is encoded much more intensely in late adolescence, and parents need to be very mindful of what they allow their teenagers to do.

Caution Around Substance Abuse: Be very cautious about what you enable your child to experience. For example, the teen years can be a devastating time for the brain to be exposed to drugs and alcohol since it is still developing. Parents, be very careful.

Parents, are you wondering if your child is ready for college?

Emotional maturity is a central factor in deciding college readiness for the child. You need to evaluate the following factors in your child:

  • Risk Aversion and Impulse Control
  • The Ability to Self Sooth Appropriately (with exercise, conversation, or distractions like music or movies)
  • The Ability to Self-Correct and to Remain Self-Aware
  • Skills in Self-Regulation such as time management, organization and persistence in task completion.
  • The Capacity to Identify Emotions In Others Accurately
  • The Ability to Understand the Complexity of Emotions and Motivations

How To Spot Teens Who Cut And Burn Video - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teens Who Murder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Teens Who Murder

CBS 11 News

by Dr. Sylvia Gearing

This summer has seen a rash of parents murdering their children. However, a new demographic is on the rise - children and teens who kill their parents.

But is this common?

Teens tend to kill other teens. Homicide is the leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 overall, and the leading cause of death for African American teens. Eighty five percent of murdered teens are male and most were involved in some sort of physical fight that led to murder. Males are 400% more likely to be murdered than females.

Homicides are highly predictable if we pay attention to what we are observing. Learning to predict violence is the cornerstone to learning to prevent violence.

Here are the warning signs in teens:

  • Lack of Conscience
  • Angry Outbursts
  • History of Oppositional Behaviors
  • Actual Threats—written, spoken
  • Past Acts of violence
  • Access to Weapons
  • Past Suicide Attempts
  • Family History of Violence or Bullying
  • Cruelty to animals

But what pushes a teen over the edge into homicide?

A person arrives at a tipping point and decides to act violently when four conditions are met:

  • They feel justified
  • They perceive few or no alternatives
  • They believe that the consequences will be favorable
  • They believe that they have the ability to succeed

Do peers have any influence on a child's decision to murder?

Sinister Looks:

The withdrawal, the surly attitude, the overreactions about normal issues, the dark and sinister looks are all indications that something is terribly wrong with the teen.

Generation Me:

The child who is grandiose, self centered, exhibitionistic, entitled, shameless, arrogant and defiant may also feel justified in turning to violence if it suits his purpose.

No Conscience:

The sociopathic child who delights in the pain and suffering of others, who has no moral compass, who is paranoid and fearful of others, who is vengeful if slighted is a prime candidate for becoming homicidal and for taking your child with him.

Parents, here's how to know if your child is in trouble:

The worst mistake parents make is to ignore what they are seeing right in front of them. Intuition is our warning system built into our brains specially developed to allow us to predict violence and to avoid it.

Here are the signs of intuition:

  • Nagging Feelings and Persistent Thoughts
  • Black Humor—Jokes such as “He’s just going to shoot us all!”
  • Hunches and Gut Feelings
  • Hesitation and Suspicion
  • Uncontrollable Fear

Stop Denying:

Many adults prefer to view violence as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please educate yourself about this pattern of trauma and train yourself to recognize it when you see it.

Bystanders Are Key:

Research now argues that the bystanders of potential violence are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem with teen violence. Speak up, speak out and get your teen the professional help to evaluate his potential for violence. You may save his life and the lives of those you love.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Source:

"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker (GET THIS BOOK!)

Backyard Fight Clubs - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backyard Fight Clubs: Suburban Violence

By Dr. Sylvia Gearing

Frisco Texas police are reporting ongoing fight clubs in local neighborhood back yards. Adolescent boys are engaging in competitive fighting against one another that is unmonitored and uncensored. Incredibly, some parents are actually approving of this practice and attend the events.

In my opinion, these fight clubs in Frisco and around the country are symptomatic of the ongoing crisis in American males. Most people do not know that violence is becoming a way of life for many of our boys. Here’s what the latest research shows:

  • Boys between the ages of twelve to nineteen commit One third of violent crimes.
  • Homicides are the second leading cause of death of this same age group.
  • Young males are 400% more likely to be murdered than are females.
  • The American Medical Association has determined that ten percent of adolescent males have has been kicked in the groin by age 16.
  • Twenty five percent of these kids develop symptoms of clinical depression in a year after the violent episode due to the overwhelming shame these events created.

Violence, even if it is somewhat “controlled” in a fight club, is symptomatic of a basic problem American men are experiencing. From early childhood, they are not socialized to “metabolize” their emotions and learn instead to express themselves primarily through their actions and achievements.

Over time, many men fail to develop the complex emotional intelligence necessary to manage themselves effectively. They can’t communicate, they can’t recover from failure and they sink into depression on a dime. They become disconnected from what they feel and use a limited number of emotions to navigate their relationships with their wives and girlfriends, often with disastrous results. Relationships fail, achievement is compromised and hearts are broken.

Ironically, anger is a socially approved emotion for young men because it is energizing and protects them from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience. Fight clubs are a ritualized outlet for boys and men to express their frustration and angst. The clubs are an effort for them to normalize and even to glorify the physical violence they exert against one another. They think that by pitting themselves against an adversary, they demonstrate their machismo, defend their honor, and show how tough they really are.

Many kids see fighting as a futile attempt to bond with others and to express their individuality as a man. This ritual of “connection” gives them an illusion of being tough, invincible and undefeatable. I believe that such rituals, even in the backyard, are capable of desensitizing kids to violence and are likely to increase their use of violence, bullying and intimidation to get what they want.

These practices are indefensible and should be actively banned from our communities. Any parent who turns a blind eye to this kind of activity is ultimately sabotaging his son while teaching him that violence can be both an outlet and a solution.

Source:

Real Boys by William Pollack, Ph.D.

Suicide and Children - By Chris Gearing

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suicide and Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

January 22, 2010, TXA 21 News

Today’s story about the apparent suicide of a nine-year-old Colony boy has once again raised the issue of depression and suicide in children.

Why do children kill themselves?

Suicides of Children Are Increasing: Although childhood suicide is relatively rare, it is increasing. For children under age 15, about 1-2 kids out of 100,000 will commit suicide. For kids between 15-19, the rate jumps to 11 out of 100,000.

Fourth Leading Cause of Death: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for teenagers between 15-19.

Values Change: In general, our society is more narcissistic and more callous toward individual concerns. Troubled children are often overlooked in a society concerned with achievement, a struggling economy and overworked parents. The child in a family with busy, overworked parents is often marginalized and neglected. Depression flourishes in such situations and the child gives up all hope.

Here’s what makes a child more likely to commit suicide:

Depression is Epidemic: If a child has clinical depression, he is seven times more likely to try suicide. Depression is at epidemic levels now and strikes a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Severe depression recurs in about half of those who have had it once and since it strikes so early in life, there are higher rates of reoccurance.

Motivations for Suicide are Complex: The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex but the main motivations include a desire to escape depression and hopelessness, debilitating anxiety or a situation they regard as being hopeless such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the more likely it is that the suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

But do bullied kids have higher rates of depression?

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Bullied kids have a much higher rate of depression and the effects linger into adulthood. Bullying victims are much more likely to think about suicide. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. We know that 34% of elementary students are bullied and that bullying peaks in middle school. It is a group activity with a mob mentality that is crushing to kids who are victimized.

You may be wondering what happens to kids psychologically who are bullied or who bully others?

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety. However, research reveals that the act of bullying actually claims three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses. Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. We find that witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and allow it to happen without a second thought. The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

What happens to the parents who lose their children through suicide?

This kind of loss is emotionally “disfiguring.” They will most certainly experience a post traumatic stress disorder that will need to be treated. When a child dies, the trauma lingers for years and de-regulates the parents’ emotional and cognitive functioning. Traumatic bereavement includes guilt, devastating depression and a lingering sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Here’s what you can do about bullying:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence. This can lead to tragic consequences in the future.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential to stop bullies for good.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Educate yourself about the signs of depression:

  • Talking About Dying: Any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself or other types of self-harm
  • Recent Loss: The loss of someone through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self confidence, self esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.
  • Change in Personality—sad, withdrawn, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
  • Change in Behavior: Cannot concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
  • Change in Eating Habits: Loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
  • Fear of losing control: Acting erratically, harming self or others
  • Low self esteem: feelings of worthlessness, shame, overwhelming guilt , self hatred, “everyone would be better without me.”
  • No hope for the future: Believing that things will never get better, that nothing will ever change.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Psychological Association

The National Association of School Counselors

American Association of Suicidology

Electronics May Overtake Your Children - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Electronic Media Can Overtake Your Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

CBS 11 News, January 20, 2010

Are you worried about your child spending too much time on Facebook, playing video games, or texting? Well, you may have good reason.

On average, kids spend more than 53 hours a week on electronic media according to a new study of 2000 kids. Compared with peers a decade ago, young people spend 79 more minutes of free time each day:

  • Listening to Music
  • Watching TV and movies
  • Playing video games
  • Hanging out on line

Most kids multitask while doing all of these things (i.e., play video games while listening to music).

Your kids have become big business in the land of advertising.

In 1983, advertisers spent an average of $100 million in marketing to kids. Now they spend $17 billion- an increase of 170%. Kids between ages of 8-12 years old spend $30 billion a year on video games.

And that’s great – children have a market share and are more empowered now than they ever have been. But there is a downside:

Your Brain Needs to be Stimulated: These activities take the place of face time activities. Electronic media does not replace the medicine of direct social interaction. The brain needs to be stimulated with conversation, social nuances and laughter. The continuous flow of conversation and shared activities activate numerous beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters.

Choosing Isolation: In a world of electronics, teenagers and people over age eighty are the loneliest people on earth. Teenagers choose to seclude themselves in their phones and computers, shutting out their family and maybe even friends. In extreme cases, games and other media (such as the extremely popular “World of Warcraft”) have been show to ruin lives and tear families apart.

Friends Are Like Medicine: They buffer the effects of stress. The stress of socially active people is buffered up to seven times. Having and interacting with friends can literally predict someone’s amount of brain activity and cognitive function.

Our world is more connected than ever – thanks to smart phones, Wi-Fi, and social media.

Although these can be an excellent tool, too much of anything is never good. Make sure to watch your dependence levels and try taking a break every once in a while. Who knows? You may like the world outside your door.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia Gearing, please visit www.gearingup.com.

Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Parental Alienation During The Holidays

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 17, 2009

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when a parent engages in parental alienation--a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and alienate the child?

Parental alienation is becoming a major problem for American children.

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. It is not gender related or age related. One parent is determined to alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worse at the holidays as parents have increased access to their children.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless accusations to careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of their parent.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse of the child. As one expert said “Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.” (Richard Warshak, Ph.D.)

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of dissent and conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent party.

Parents engage in parental alienation because of the following reasons:

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason. People receive secondary gain from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for revenge.

Child is Perceived as a Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. They child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the best parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child and the other parent.

Children suffer from parental alienation in the following ways:

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can occur even in the most tender and loving relationships. Tragically, such division can last for years.

Contempt, Rejection and Disrespect: They show contempt, rejection, and disrespect for the targeted parent. These comments are often irrational, insulting and traumatizing to the targeted parent.

Rehearsed Answers: They have been taught to orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of their parent to justify their rejection. Their comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

Parents can protect themselves and their children by taking the following steps:

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents (see below).

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Resources:

"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution," by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bullying: The Devastating Effects on Children and Teens

September 3, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in bullying as either the bully, the victim or bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can be deadly with 2/3 of school shooters report being chronically bullied in school.

Here are the specific characteristics of bullying:

  • Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.
  • Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of elementary school students reported being frequently bullied at school.
  • Middle School Peaks: Bullying increases during transition periods such as moving from elementary to middle school. This behavior peaks in middle school.
  • Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

You may wonder why a child would bully their peers. Here’s what the newest research tell us:

Self-Centeredness: They are often victims of bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control. However, lots of kids have difficult parents and don’t go out in the world hurting others. Bullies are choosing their heinous behavior out of their own self-centeredness and pain. These kids are in deep psychological trouble.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about these kids suggests that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, steal and cheat to avoid punishment and are sneaky around others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

Websites like “Juicy Campus” and TV shows such as “Gossip Girl” have begun to shed light on a terrible new trend in bullying – cyber bullying.

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

Bullying can have terrible, long-term effects on children that can last a lifetime.

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty. Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety while bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others. The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Parents — if you are concerned, here’s what you can do:

  • Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.
  • Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.
  • Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups, Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003.

Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D. Napolitano,S. Bullying: Prevention and Intervention, 2009

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R.A., Reddy, M., Borum, R and Modzeleski, W (2002) The final report and findings of the safe school initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, D.C: U.S. Secret Services and U.S. Department of Education.

The Quarter-Life Crisis - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dealing With The 'Quarter' Life Crisis

August 13, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

The twenties have traditionally been a time of establishing careers, marriages and financial independence. But in the current economic climate, psychologists are now reporting that today’s 20’somethings are struggling with epidemic levels of anxiety and depression. You may be wondering why it is so difficult for twenty-somethings in today’s economy.

There are several reasons why it is so much more difficult.

  • Affected by Economy: Young people in their twenties are experiencing brutal disappointment as they encounter a job market that is challenging for even the veteran employee. The economy is denying them access to entry- level jobs filled by more senior workers. Credit card debt, low pay, college loans and lack of opportunity are all common challenges. Such a collision of expectation with reality can lead to depression and disappointment.
  • Treading Water: Ambitious 20’somethings expected that their education would count for something. Those doors to greater opportunity are now remaining shut. Their twenties are becoming a series of disappointments rather than achievements or enlightening experiences. They move from job to job hoping for something better.
  • Longer Dependence on Parents: Today’s young person experiences a much lengthier transition from college to full financial and logistical emancipation due to education and financial hurdles. College typically lasts more than four years and may extend into six to seven years with graduate education.
  • Lack of Success Leads to Hopelessness: Such experiences build a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and even irresponsibility that can severely affect both their sense of effectiveness and their ability to activate in the present to achieve.

Parents often ask me if their 20’somethings have entered the working world with unrealistic expectations of success and why has it occurred? Here’s my usual response:

They absolutely have grown up with loftier expectations for themselves and the current economic logjam is an unwelcome challenge. Here are the core values of many members of this generation:

  • Mandated Happiness: Reared in a culture that taught them to feel good about themselves regardless of effort, fault or outcome, 20’somethings do not deal well with emotional discomfort. As a result, they tend to vacillate between two extremes – blaming everyone else and blaming themselves unfairly. Neither extreme is an accurate reflection of reality. Worst of all, such thinking does not allow them to improve. They remain stuck and indecisive.
  • Focus on Individuality: Individuality at any cost is a core value. Tattoos, piercings, and flattering pictures of themselves on social networking sites constantly update their fascinating lives.
  • Focus on Self Admiration: 20’somethings love to admire themselves. Eighty percent of recent college students scored higher in self-esteem than the average 1960s student. Worst of all, narcissism has risen as much as obesity and both are now epidemic. According to research, 10% of 20’somethings have already experienced symptoms of extreme self-centeredness. This trend is especially true for girls.

Those same parents then ask me if they had anything to do with why their children turned out this way.

Boomers definitely overshot the mark in their attempts to rear high self-esteem kids. “Over-parenting” and “helicopter parenting” are pervasive and this new generation has been cultivated, protected and praised too much. Suffering the consequences of your own bad decisions teaches you to be disciplined and to work harder. When kids are not taught the value of failure, sacrifice and altruism, they can develop unrealistic views of what life has to offer them. When they encounter a tough economy or even lose a job, they lack the psychological resources to deal with the setbacks. No one taught them the art of self-recovery and resilience. They become depressed, anxious and angry.

If you’re a parent of a twenty-something, here are some things you can do to help them in their time of need:

  • Cultural Overload: Realize that your child is “swimming” upstream against a culture that emphasizes instant gratification, connection and celebrity! Body image, body hugging clothes and achievement without earning it are values of our culture. Have some compassion for your struggling child but emphasize the lack of reality in our narcissistic culture.
  • Lessons of Failure: Emphasize in your own life and in your conversations with your 20’something your values of perseverance, self-discipline and the lessons of failure. Don’t lecture but build a bridge of disclosure and mentoring. Most of all stop rescuing and let them learn consequence.
  • Hardship is Temporary: Remind your 20’something that setbacks are rarely permanent and always manageable. The worst outcomes occur when people descend into negativity or simply stop trying. The choice to move forward against adversity is ever present and life determining.

Sources:

The Washington Post

“Emerging Adulthood” by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

“The Narcissism Epidemic” by Dr. Jean Twenge, Ph. D. and Dr. W. Keith Campbell, Ph. D.

“Generation Me” by Dr. Jean Twenge, Ph. D.


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