The vast majority of our kids stress symptoms are emotionally based. They feel anger (40%), anxiety (36%), and sadness (30%). My sense is the actual numbers are even higher, as some kids don’t associate behaviors such as lying awake at night (another symptom indicated), as a sign that they are also anxious.
The areas of blame, as to why our tweens and teens are so stressed, continue to grow and are no longer limited to bullying, pressure to succeed, or measuring one’s likability through Instagram or other social media sites. So while we as a society try to change these stressors of our kids’ current reality, our society as a whole has neglected to give our kids empowering tools regarding how to address their negative feelings that lies within their stress.
Emotions have become our societal blind spot. Seven in ten adults struggle with stress, and 67% of their stress is emotionally based. How adults tend to handle their stress often doesn’t model how to address our emotions in an empowered manner. Instead, the emotions underneath the stress one experiences tends to be drowned out by watching television, internet surfing, overeating, and drinking alcohol.
It’s not by coincidence then that we have the following statics for our teens and tweens regarding how they handle stress:
- 46% Play video games
- 43% Surf the net
- 36% Smoke marijuana
- 36% Watch TV
- 26% Drink alcohol
(All statistics provided by APA. Other studies have shown use in marijuana usage almost double).
Besides the statistics, what is troublesome, is the manner in which kids are crying out for help with their feelings. Today’s teens and tweens appear to be trying to wake-up adults through more dramatic behaviors to recognize that the old way of dealing with emotions (aka denial and escape) aren’t working. These kids will continue to scream out in more violent ways until we are willing to address emotions head on and in a way that gives understanding to why we feel the way we do.
We struggle to recognize why we feel the way we do because we aren’t taught to understand feelings. Even as a doctorate student in clinical psychology, the purpose of our feelings wasn’t presented. The focus was on how to rid ourselves of problematic emotional states and dysfunction. Through my own personal experience, as well as working with others all over the world, negative emotions serve a great purpose - IF we can understand our feelings from an empowered perspective.
Until I learned an empowered approach to my negative feelings, my emotions seemed to come out of nowhere, like a cloud that would swoop in and rain on my parade. Emotions felt like stones on my path of life that were there just to trip me up and take me off course. Through years of internal struggle, what I ultimately discovered was just the opposite. Our emotions are there to alert us when our thinking, beliefs, and behaviors are off course.
Think in terms of a plane on auto-pilot. 99% of the time a plane is on auto-pilot, the plane is OFF COURSE. If your plane is off course, don’t you want to be sensitive to the signal telling you how to get back on course?
What we have is an opportunity to grow as a society to learn our emotions serve to keep us on course as well. Rather than judge our negative emotions as weak, wrong, or a nuisance, we learn to be grateful for the guidance our feelings are providing to help us course correct.
While this perspective can be a bit mind-blowing for adults, kids eat up this empowered perspective. To them, it’s like finally someone has given them the key to unlock their understanding as to why they feel they way they do. Rather than judgment towards who they are and how they feel, they recognize what they need to do in order to turn around their challenges and be resilient in the face of adversities that we all face as human beings.
In my upcoming articles, I am going to go through our emotions one by one, to help parents understand emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness, jealousy, guilt and other feelings, all from an empowered perspective. Each emotion has unique guidance as to how to get back on course to living an empowered life and I’ll share with you how to apply this to your teen and tweens lives.
As the parent of three tweens, I can share with you that our household is filled with emotion! We want to make our homes a place where it is safe for our kids to emote and learn the difference between a disempowered and empowered perspective of their feelings. The truth is even after learning this new empowered technique, you and your kids will still choose the disempowered version from time to time. That is part of being human. The difference will be that you or your children won’t remain in a disempowered state for long. Elongated pain is suffering and that is when our negative emotions turn into psychological disorders. Through this empowered approached, I have served those who have struggled with depression, suicidal ideation, anger, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks, when therapy and medication didn’t work. Now my hope and vision for the future is that emotional resiliency becomes the new norm to handling the emotion underneath our stress.
Please stay tuned for more upcoming articles and if you have a particularly emotionally charged situation happening with your teen, tween, or child, please email me at [email protected] with details of your challenge and I will try to integrate it (anonymously) in an upcoming article.