Are you parenting teens, or will you be in a few years? Don't miss today's conversation with psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour, author of the book, "The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents."
In this episode, we cover:
American Psychological Association: Health advisory on social media use in adolescence
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Please pardon any errors, this is an automated transcript.
Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we will be talking about teenagers, specifically the emotional life of teenagers. We'll be talking with Dr. Lisa Damour. She co hosts the Ask Lisa podcast. She writes about adolescents for the New York Times, she appears as a regular contributor to CBS News. She works in collaboration with UNICEF, and maintains a clinical practice. She was recognized as the thought leader by the American Psychological Association. And she is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, untangled guiding teenage girls through the seven transitions into adulthood, under pressure, confronted the epidemic of stress and anxiety and girls, and her new book that we'll be discussing today, which is the emotional lives of teenagers raising, connected, capable and compassionate adolescents. Welcome Dr. Damour. Look forward to talking with you.
Unknown Speaker 1:04
Thank you so much for having me,
Dawn Davenport 1:05
I was going to say that you buried the lead, but in fact, you didn't bury the lead because it was in the introduction. I loved the section in the introduction talking about a fear of being unhappy. I thought that was profound. I really thought about it a lot afterwards that we have now reached that point where it makes such sense. So can you talk a little bit about that you suggested several reasons. But it would probably be good if you start with your premise of where we're at as far as our distaste for discomfort.
Speaker 2 1:38
Sure, sure. So you're referring to the introduction to my most recent book, the emotional lives of teenagers. And in that book, in the introduction, I lay out, you know, kind of where we are as a culture in terms of what we struggle with and why teenagers may be struggling. So and there are many reasons. But one that I put on the table is that we have become increasingly uncomfortable with emotional discomfort as a culture. And it's entirely impossible for me to say exactly why this is true. But one idea that I bring across in the introduction is that the wellness industry, which has many good qualities, I think also can sometimes leave people with the impression that it is possible to get to a place of feeling good or calm or relaxed and to stay there. And that, of course, is not a possibility. And I think one of the perhaps unintended consequences of the marketing of that potential outcome is that I think people can feel anxious about distress. And I think there's a lot that's actually contributed to that in terms of the discourse around us. So often equating being in distress with being psychologically unhealthy, when in fact, the way psychologists have always seen it is that psychological distress is just natural to being a human being. And it is not on its own grounds for concern about overall health or mental health.
Dawn Davenport 3:02
We can't always be happy that the just we would like that. But that's just not, that's not the sustainable state of humans. And yet studies do seem to suggest, or at least, the studies being published in the popular press and the current media, suggests that teens are unhappier now than in the past. First, do you think that is true? And if so, why?
Speaker 2 3:28
So we do have data showing that in terms of how psychologists measure mood, so it's it's, we're going to look at questions of rising rates of depression and anxiety, that these are very distinctly been on the rise, you know, certainly from about 2009 2010. And then, of course, the pandemic came along and did not help at all with how teens were feeling. And the why question is a huge one. And there's a lot of different potential causes. Some people point to the widespread use of digital technology, teenagers having access to phones and with phone social media. That may be an explanation other people point to data we have showing that compared to older people of any age group of older than adolescents, teenagers are more anxious and concerned about things like climate change, and gun violence and political polarization. We also have data showing that the demands on teenagers have gone up a huge amount that it's not just you know, for affluent kids, but across the board, there's a lot of pressure for achievement for kids.
Dawn Davenport 4:32
The pressure is for Let me interrupt the pressures for achievement, good grades. extracurriculars. Do you mean that type of pressure?
Speaker 2 4:39
Yes, you know, the demands on kids have grown quite a bit. And one thing that I think we don't talk about nearly enough is that teenagers sleep far less than they used to. And we know that that's very tightly aligned with mental health concerns. And so, for me, you know, one way to walk up to these questions is to ask how much a teenager is sleeping and teenagers does need about nine hours of sleep a night? And any teenager? Who's getting less than that? I think then the next question should be like why right? Is it that they have their phone in their room? And they're up all night? Is it they're studying for hours on end? Is it that they have, you know, two jobs and are trying to help support their family? And that gets in the way of sleep? So I think there's no simple answer, but I think there are ways to try to assess this question as it pertains to any given teenager.
Dawn Davenport 5:26
Yeah, that's an interesting point. Do you think that nutrition that we know that sleep is decreasing is access to healthy foods, something that is also a factor or not?
Speaker 2 5:38
It certainly can be, you know, there are a lot of kids living in what we call food deserts, right, where they actually don't have access to grocery stores. And so they are working with pretty limited options that are often highly processed foods. And we do know that eating you know, a diet that's very, very heavy and highly processed foods is hard on overall health. And I, you know, I don't think it's a big stretch to say if you don't feel good physically, it's very hard to feel good mentally. So I think nutrition can be a factor.
Dawn Davenport 6:07
Okay. Well, you start the book, the emotional lives of teenagers with three myths about adolescence. And these weren't the myths I would have necessarily selected. I think some of the myths that I think of is that, you know, living with teens is a horrible experience. They're highly emotional, they're difficult, they're explosive, things like that. I think a lot of parents dread the teen years, however, your myths were more about emotions, which I loved. So please, can you tell us what you think the three myths are? And why we have them?
Speaker 2 6:39
So yes, these are the myths that prevail about emotions. And I would say they prevail actually about emotions, and people of all ages. But I think there's a lot that given the very intense emotionality of teenagers sort of centers than well on adolescence. So the first myth I bring across is the idea that emotion is the enemy of reason that either you're thinking logically, or your thinking is poorly informed by your emotions. And there are exceptions to every myth I bring across. And I will talk about those. But for the most part, psychologists appreciate that emotions help us with decision making, they help us make good choices, they can contribute to sound reasoning. And I share in the book, a metaphor from my colleague, Terry, who cited in the back of the book, who's another psychologist in my community, and she has this great metaphor of emotions being like a board member at our personal board of directors, and that we all have a personal board of directors that helps us like make life decisions. So you know, at that board, our you know, our obligations, our constraints, our financial considerations are logistical considerations, you know, our ethics, our interests, and also our feelings, and that those all come together to help us make choices going forward about how we want to live our lives. And what Terry says when she talks about it. And I love this so much, as she said, you know, emotions have a seat at the board, but they don't share the board. And they almost never have the deciding vote. And I think that's how we want to think about emotions that can be informative to our reasoning, but they shouldn't dominate our reasoning. Now, with teenagers, the one exception here about where emotions and reason don't get along so well, is that teenagers uniquely have a different way of thinking about things when they're in very, very socially and emotionally charged situations. And they tend not to reason as well. So when they are in relaxed situations, or just talking with their folks, they often can reason quite well. But if they get to a party, they don't reason as well. So we need to account for that. So that's the first myth. The second myth, and I think this one does prevail is the idea that emotions can be harmful
Dawn Davenport 8:48
to kids, especially strong emotions,
Speaker 2 8:51
very powerful ones. And I understand why people can worry about this, because emotions are so potent in teenagers that it can look scary at times, especially to the parents. Yeah. And what we know is that most of the time, emotions, even negative and unwanted ones are growth giving, that it's going through difficult circumstances that causes young people too mature to understand their depths, to understand the depth of other people well, and that we don't want to actually prevent emotional distress because it's how kids learn and navigate the world. And don't make the same mistake twice. I mean, there's huge value in it. The only time we worry, I always want to note the exceptions to my net, you know, the myth is we avoid trauma. Trauma is a situation that overwhelms an individual, you know, that is so powerful, so awful, that it really kind of outmatches their coping, trauma can be harmful. It's an emotional experience that can be harmful that it can rewire the nervous system and a
Dawn Davenport 9:50
lot of the kids in our demographic, adoptive Foster and kin have certainly experienced that.
Speaker 2 9:56
Yeah. And so that's a real example of Where emotion like an extraordinarily intense and horrible emotional experience, you know, can lead to lasting harm. But most of the time, emotions are growth giving, orienting and educational and should not be avoided even if they're negative. And then the last myth is that, you know, with their amped up emotions, teenagers are psychologically fragile, you know, and I think it's very easy to equate emotionality with psychological fragility, well, and all
Dawn Davenport 10:28
that we're hearing now about the increase. I know a lot of parents are feeling like that their teens are fragile, because we're hearing so much about increased rates of suicide, increased rates of depression. And it leads us to the belief that our kids are fragile.
Speaker 2 10:45
I know, right. And it's terrifying, right. And I, I have so much empathy, as the mother of two teenagers, myself, you know, for a parent who is looking at those headlines that you describe, they're all around us hearing about an adolescent mental health crisis all the time. And then they have a 13 year old who walks in the door and has a total meltdown, as 13 year olds do, and always have fun. And I think it really does make me very empathic to the parent who looks at that and is thinking, okay, is this my kid just having a meltdown? Or is this an adolescent mental health crisis unfolding in my kitchen, right. And so it's important for us to know that the baseline for adolescent emotions is intense that they have very powerful feelings that tend to be all over the map. And I really work in the book to lay out when to worry, because I think it's hard to know as the parent of a teenager when you're supposed to worry about your kid's emotional life. And what I get at is that we expect mood to go up and down. That's typical to adolescence, but we don't expect it to go to a dark or worrisome place and stay there. That's not what we would want to see. And the other thing that we also want to watch out for is what I call costly coping, when young people or actually person of any age is managing in your young person is managing a painful emotion, but they're doing it in a way that's going to actually do harm over time. You know, they're abusing substances, or they're being horrible to other people, or they're taking it out on themselves. So we want to be alert to when to be concerned. But I think it's especially important with teenagers that we know that because, you know, a typical Wednesday with a teenager can be a pretty spicy ride, you know, so it's not always easy to know.
Dawn Davenport 12:27
Yeah, Amen. Let me pause here to talk to those of you who might be considering starting a support group for foster adoptive and kin families, or are running a support group or are doing training meetings for this demographic, we have a great resource to tell you about it is our interactive training support curriculum for foster adoptive and kin families. It is a turnkey meaning it's an all in one resource, each curriculum, and we have 25 of them. Each curriculum comes with a video, a facilitator guide, the handout, and an additional resource sheet. And if you need certificates of attendance, we provide those as well. We cover topics that are directly relevant to either train your families, or to provide ample opportunity for discussion. It is a participatory training is not one that's done alone, I encourage you to check it out by going to the website, which is parent support groups.org. Or you can find it on our website, creating a family.org. Hover over training and click on Support Group curriculum. And as long as we're talking, let me tell you that we would really appreciate it if you would let your friends and family know about this podcast. People find out about podcasts from their friends, and we would love for them to find out about this podcast from you. Thanks. Okay, I want to talk about an issue that is you raised in the book and I was so glad to see that you raised it. That is of particular interest to many in our audience, and that is the adult suffocation of black teens and adult suffocation as it sounds, means that black teens are perceived as older than they are. I'd like for you to read just a paragraph and a half from that section of the book starting on page 49. Sure,
Speaker 2 14:26
compared to their white counterparts of the same age, black girls are generally viewed as being less in need of protection, nurturing, comfort or support, and black boys are generally viewed as being less endowed with childlike innocence and more deserving of blame. With adult suffocation comes a racist amplification of gendered stereotypes. Numerous studies show that compared to white peers, black girls are widely perceived as more sexual, and black boys are widely perceived as more dangerous
Dawn Davenport 14:57
and that simply breaks my heart If it is so true, why do you think it is true? And then of course, since you're talking to parents, what can we do about it? So,
Speaker 2 15:10
in terms of the why we see this as true, the roots are very deep, and the roots are, you know, racist through and through. But this is probably one of the most heavily notated sections of my book, because I really wanted to include as much research about how extensive These findings are, and also the accounting for them. But I will say, by way of one explanation, and this does not do justice, is to view black girls as more sexualized and to view black boys as more dangerous is one route by way of allowing their mistreatment, right. There's an extensive literature on the horrendous treatment of black women, you know, under slave conditions and beyond, that has been justified and rationalized by treating them in this objectified, dehumanizing, and overly sexualized way. And then the same thing, you know, is true, you know, in parallel for black boys, that you can justify violence against them, if you cultivate the belief that they are dangerous. And so it's deeply deeply sewn into racism to cast black people, and then in this situation, black youth as somehow bad. And then use that to justify their mistreatment.
Dawn Davenport 16:40
It's a way of blaming the victim isn't absolutely, yeah, we're blaming, oftentimes the victim. And yeah, I suppose the why doesn't matter. But so what can parents do about it? If we're raising a black teen?
Speaker 2 16:55
Yeah. So you know, this section, I'm white. And I wrote this section very humbly, you know, in an effort to bring across with the data show, and to try to share the experience of black families or black teenagers in families. And what I feel like, in terms of what to do, I sort of work with the assumption that this section of my book is not telling black families, anything they don't know, and anything they have not lived, you know, my aim in bringing this content into my work is truly for adults who aren't black, to be reminded, or, you know, hopefully not, but perhaps taught about what it means to be a black teenager, about the extraordinary burden that our society places on black teenagers. And that the people who can do something about this are certainly the ones who are most beholden to doing something about this are not the black families or the black teenagers. It's the rest of us. And we need to work with that understanding.
Dawn Davenport 18:01
And for us, parents, black and white, who are raising black teens, to not buy into it ourselves. Just because our team may be maturing early, or maybe not, but simply not to buy into it,
Speaker 2 18:15
not to buy into it. And I think, you know, you said a heartbreaking I think about this part of my book. And I think it's important for me, but felt important in terms of really trying to ground myself in it as much as I can as a person who has not lived it is I think it's easy to sort of dismiss the idea that like, oh, yeah, no, we don't want to see black girls more sexual. And we don't want to see black boys as more violent like that can be, I think, quite an intellectual exercise. But I was very deliberate in writing the way the research really finds this, which is it's not just that it's that we see them as less deserving of protection. Less endowed with innocence.
Dawn Davenport 18:54
The part that broke my heart was That was my own.
Speaker 2 18:57
Yeah, that was my aim. And the way I wrote this, because I think, when it's just an intellectual exercise, which it can be if you don't live it, I think we can say yeah, yeah, no, we don't mean to do that. And then we can kind of carry on with our day. But I think, you know, change happens. And this is where, you know, I write as a psychologist, I want to change behavior. Change happens when we break people's hearts with what this means for those kids.
Dawn Davenport 19:25
Yeah, I interviewed a black man, Watson, he spoke. I'll just be paraphrasing him. He said I remember. He was a transracial adoptee he was being raised in a white family. He said I remember very clearly when I was eight years old when all of a sudden I became not the cute little boy on the block. But the big kid on the block to be feared. Yeah. And eight. Yeah, eight. He was still losing teeth for goodness sakes, you know? Yeah.
Speaker 2 19:58
And I some of the reasons genocide in this section actually looked at 10 year olds and looked at videos that were done with black boys and white boys. But I mean, 10 like little kids, and the boys were instructed to engage in the exact same behavior, you know, so there'll be a video of a white boy like running through a classroom and accidentally stepping or stepping on a kid's papers, and then a video of a black boy doing the exact same thing, or walking away with a kids game or something, right. And then research subjects who were overwhelmingly white, were asked to make attributions about the behavior. And overwhelmingly they describe that white boys behavior is accidental. And the black boys behavior as deliberate and hostile. And then a little kids,
Dawn Davenport 20:42
right, exactly. And, and they were behaving in identical ways, or as close as they could be in this study. Ya know, they
Unknown Speaker 20:49
they tried to match him straight on. Yeah, right.
Dawn Davenport 20:51
Exactly. All right. Well, to lighten things up, I loved your chapter titled Why are teens hate the way we too? I read that and burst out laughing because that, in fact, clearing my throat was the one that really annoyed the ever loving apparently, out of my child, one of my children, I must say, I have raised four teens, and I do love the teen years. We'll talk about that at the end. But yes, clearing my thought, which had nothing to do with her wasn't even involved with her really, really annoyed her. So when I saw that teen hates the way you chew, it made me mad. I burst out laughing. So why do we seem to inadvertently at least in my case, it truly was inadvertently annoy our kids so much.
Speaker 2 21:36
So yeah, so this is a section in my chapter about the seismic shift that is adolescence, this chapter three in the book. And I will tell you, you know, this is one of those things where it's one thing to learn about development in graduate school, it's another thing to raise your own teenagers and watch it play out in your
Dawn Davenport 21:55
Yep. Been there done that. So surprised, because I really thought I was both cool. And just, you know, somebody who would never get my feelings hurt by my own child is pretty powerful stuff, right? Yeah, sure. So I
Speaker 2 22:08
learned in graduate school about separation individuation where kids wanted to build a separate identity and become individuals from that, you know, different from their families. But it really was in living it as a parent that I was like, holy moly, there is a lot going on here. And the way I describe it, in the book aims to actually make more vivid and I think more, hopefully, like sticky, you know, what is actually happening. And the term I use is the idea that, you know, it's right around 13, usually, the kids decide they want to build their own brand, you know, whatever their new identity is going to be. And so as they're working on their brand, if we do anything that is like the brand that they see themselves developing, right, so if there's, you know, maybe like, you know, we like Beyonce, and then our kid suddenly likes Beyonce, it's very annoying to them that we have this in common because they're trying to have sort of this brand, you know, that's
Dawn Davenport 23:00
their own, that they're looking for uniqueness at this point, not a copy. Right,
Speaker 2 23:04
exactly. Also, though, if we do things that do not fit with their emerging brand, it is also annoying, because we're still so intertwined. So you know, you think about the negotiation, some parents will have on the, what they're going to wear to eighth grade orientation, right? That the teenagers can be made very uncomfortable by parents outfit choices for eighth grade orientation, because it will reflect on their brand. And so you know, the sum total of this is anything we do that is like the emerging brand, the teenager feels themselves to have is annoying. And anything we do that is unlike the emerging brand that the teenager sees themselves. Having is annoying. So you add it all up, everything we do
Dawn Davenport 23:45
is annoying. Talk about rock hard place right there. Yeah, you can't Yes, no, you cannot
Speaker 2 23:50
win. And so I think the way you win is you realize this is not personal. It may feel personal. It's not. This is about a young person trying to figure out what they're about and who they are. And we are annoyingly present in that process. And the really nice thing is that, usually by ninth or 10th grade kids actually do have a sense of feeling separate and distinct from us. And often that's because high school allows them to, you know, deepen interests or develop skills. And so this tends to soften, as soon as kids feel like they've got their thing. And that thing is different enough and also developed enough that the parent can step on the brand. But until it does, I think it's often helpful to not take it personally. And then I also the advice I gave in the book, which I gave to a family I was caring for is you know, you can say to a kid who's in this, you know, look, you have three choices for how you can interact with me, like, you can be friendly, that's my favorite. You can be merely polite, or you can tell me you need some space, but you can't be a jerk to me.
Dawn Davenport 24:55
You're not suggesting that we just put up with poor behavior. No, no No. Yeah, I definitely can see that and can see how it would be, I think back to my own teenage years, and I do not think that my parents, especially my mother, was in any way put out, I don't think she cared whether I found her annoy. And I wonder if now it is different because we are so invested are so many parents are invested with, you know, the intense type of parenting where they have, in some ways been more friends and with their kids and parents are so involved with their kids lives far more than I think, parents in my generation, we're involved in their kids life, does that make it harder for parents to accept that all of a sudden, the child doesn't want to be totally associated with us doesn't want to do things with us?
Speaker 2 25:49
I think it can. I think I know what you mean about the boundaries between kids and parents being different. Now I think about it a lot in terms of how often I hear about social overlap, that the parents are friends with the parents of their kids friends. And, you know, certainly when I was growing up, like, my mom was not friends with my friend's parents, right? Like, I mean, she kind of knew who they were if she ran into them in the grocery store, but like, their social life was separate from mine. And I hear about a lot more overlap. And with it a lot of complexity, you know, that comes with those overlapping circles. But I do think it can feel harder if you've really committed yourself to the idea of being very, very close to your kid with the hopes that that's going to last, uninterrupted or undisrupted, through adolescence, like it won't. And it shouldn't
Dawn Davenport 26:39
it it should that's
Speaker 2 26:42
you know, and kids come back, and are lovely and fun and wonderful. But it's you know, 13 is not usually the height of that.
Dawn Davenport 26:47
Well, I can just say for sure, at least in my experience of my N A four it was not, although I did find that could just be my children, but 13 was certainly that for girls, but for boys, I found it didn't hit into 14 or 15.
Speaker 2 27:02
I think that's right. I think it's very driven by the onset of puberty. And I think it's a little later for boys.
Dawn Davenport 27:08
Yeah. All right can be for sure. You talk in the book that the goal of parents is not to avoid conflict with our teams. Rather, it should be to learn how to have constructive conflict. And I wonder if this goes back to the myths that you've talked about in chapter one to that we don't have to fear conflict. In fact, it can be a good model, conflict is a part of life. But anyway, we could talk some about not needing to avoid conflict, but to focus on having constructive conflict.
Speaker 2 27:39
Sure, no, and I think that's exactly right. I mean, conflict is a done deal. Like, no, we're not going to get along with people and people are going to bother us, and we're going to bother them. And I think it does go back to the beginning of the book, where I think we've got this general discomfort with friction, or emotional displeasure. And given the frictions happening, emotional discomfort is happening, like, it doesn't help us to feel unduly anxious about it, we are going to get into friction with our kids with our teenagers. And I actually, in other work I've done, I articulate that it's actually concerning to me, if a teenager isn't actually pushing away, or pushing back on or disagreeing with parents, that's very unusual and and can sometimes be a flag, that something's not quite right. The goal in getting into conflict with your teenager or having a conflict find you with your teenager, is to try to do it in a dignified way that really models how we want our teenager to handle themselves in all relationships, and in all conflicts. And one thing I recommend in this book that can work really well, when a teenager and a parent have come to an impasse is it can be very helpful for each to try to articulate the author's position. And usually, for this to work, the parent has to go first. And they have to do a really good job. So you know, say that you've got a teenager and a parent and the teenager wants to go hang out at a house that the parent does not even feel good about, right? Like they know what goes on over there. And they're saying no, and the teenager is really frustrated because the teenager feels they can handle themselves well and should be trusted to go and they don't want to feel left out. Nope, of course they don't. Exactly. And so you know, this is like a great example of something that could easily come to an impasse, the teenager wants to go the parent doesn't want him to go. And one thing that can help and it doesn't magically solve the situation is for the parent to say, let me see if I can articulate this from how you see it. I'm gonna do my best and then you're gonna tell me what I'm missing. And that the parent really do it that they say okay, maybe the way you see it is that you have been handling yourself really well and you're a very responsible person and you know, you know that going over to this house like comes with certain risks, but you thought them through and you really feel like you're not going to get yourself into a spot and you know what to do if you are you know, like The parent really tries in an earnest and full hearted way,
Dawn Davenport 30:04
giving full faith and credit to their position. Oh, absolutely.
Speaker 2 30:07
And then say, What did I miss? Like, what did I, you know, and like the teenager might say, I'll call you if it's a problem, like, or, you know, I will, or I'll leave if it's bad, or something like really giving the kid a chance to flesh it out. And then the parent can say, Okay, do that for me. Like, do that for me? Like, what is it? That's making me so anxious? Can you say it? And then hopefully, and teenagers are amazing, right? You love them, I love them. If you've done your job, like, as an adult, like, if you've really given it, everything you got, don't be surprised if a teenager says, you know, I get it, like, You're not wrong. You know, maybe what you're thinking is like you are hearing the stories and the stories, you know, to be true. And you care about my safety, and you know that things happen fast, and they get out of control quickly. And my good intentions may not be enough to keep me safe. Like, you know, don't be shocked if a teenager says that. Or, you know, you can say to teenager, okay, can I finish it out, and then you can try to you know, add what they missed, there is something about having to say the words out of your own mouth of what the other person sees or feels that in my experience tends to create an opening that wasn't there before.
Dawn Davenport 31:11
And if nothing else, it creates the opportunity for collaborative problem solving. And sometimes there is no collaborative problem solving, you just can't go to the house, you know that that is okay for parents to take that position. But there may be opportunities to work together so that your parental concerns are taken care of. And the team's concerns are taken care of.
Speaker 2 31:33
Exactly right. So if you sort of treat it as a team effort, and everybody on the team has to understand where everybody else on the team is coming from, you can get somewhere I think
Dawn Davenport 31:42
it may take some getting on both sides.
Speaker 2 31:44
Ya know, parenting is, especially with teenagers is often about tough negotiations.
Dawn Davenport 31:49
Yeah, it very much is. And also, I always thought of it is holding reins, you still have to have the reins held. But you really have to hold them loosely. Because the tighter you hold the reins, the harder the pull is going to be.
Unknown Speaker 32:03
I think that's right. I think that's right.
Dawn Davenport 32:06
Yeah. Let me stop for just a moment to tell you about one of our partners. It is the National Council for adoption. For the latest in adoption research, visit adoption council.org/research, where you'll find reports on recent nationwide surveys of adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees, as well as the latest statistics and data about adoptions in the US. It is truly the place I go when I am looking for that data. So check it out and adoption council.org/research. Okay, I want to change directions a bit and talk about what is probably the number one concern of parents of teens right now. And it has to do with the internet, the online world, social media, all of it, partly because it didn't exist for when most of us were teens ourselves. It could be because some parents have not kept up others even when they have kept up. It just makes them more afraid. So let's talk about you say in the book that spending time online can be both good and bad for teens. I think most parents would say how in the world? Could it be good. So let's talk about let's start with the bad since that's we're playing to the audience, and the media says we usually talk about it bad, then I want you to talk about how online time can also be good. So let's start with the bad.
Speaker 2 33:33
So you know, we're still trying to get a handle on this from the research perspective. And the reality is, it's hard for us to study because we can get a lot of correlational results. But we don't always know what's driving what so we'll get a finding that heavy social media use is associated with increased depression, or anxiety. But we don't know if it's that the heavy social media use caused the depression and anxiety or if a kid who becomes very depressed and anxious starts to use social media more, right? So we have to be really responsible in our analysis of the data. But I think there are things we can start to say, you know, so first of all, digital technology, and often it social media shouldn't get in the way of other things that are essential for healthy development. And if it does, it's going to be a problem. So kids need to be sleeping, they need to be having in person interactions, they need to be physically active, they need to study with focus, they need to make contributions to their community or their families, right. So to the degree that technology is getting in the way of that are displacing that it's a problem. So there's that. We also know that kids can end up in toxic online environments, the algorithms that drive social media platforms will figure out what kids are interested in or show them a variety of things to figure out what they're interested in. And then they'll flood their feed with that. So one thing we saw in the pandemic that I'm gonna get ahead of the data and just go ahead and make a causal inference. You know, we saw a lot of kids who had a lot of time on their hands, obviously, and who some of them decided that they'd use it to, like, get fit. So they started searching online for, you know, fitness, diet and weight loss, all of those things. And their feeds were flooded with that content, and then images of ultra thin and images of ultra fit people. And then what do we see, we saw this huge explosion of eating disorders. So that to me is very worrisome. And I'm willing to just say, I think there was a causal connection there, even though it's hard to prove, I feel like clinically, I'd never seen anything like it. And so that was very worrisome. So that is a problem. I think that's how I size up the worries. People talk about worries about online conflict with peers online, cyberbullying, that is real. But what we know is that what happens in a digital space tends to extend what's happening in real life, for better and for worse. So kids who have solid friendships get along well handle conflict effectively, tend to actually have that all be enhanced online, you know that they just extend and enjoy their peer relationships through digital means. Whereas kids who are either struggling to make or maintain friends are finding themselves in a lot of conflict, or on the receiving end of in real life bullying, that also tends to carry over to an online environment, and just amplifies and exacerbate something that's already bad. So those are the things we can say, with some confidence. But then we also have a lot of data showing the kids tell us that like, often being connected online is essential for their social enjoyment, or their peer relationships, those feel like valuable and powerful connections that they make or maintain. For Kids in marginalized communities. For kids who are gender or sexual minorities, finding online communities can be literally life saving for them,
Dawn Davenport 36:54
yeah, the square pegs of the world can. And not that sexual orientation is a square peg, but there are other just kids who don't find their niche in their environment. They don't find their clique that they don't find their people. Being online is a great way. And some of those communities can be uplifting and enriching.
Speaker 2 37:13
Absolutely. And you know, what, I think also thought about, like, what if the pandemic had happened when we were teenagers, and we had no way to be in touch with our peers that we were isolated in our homes and fighting for the one landline, you know, try to talk to people like that would have been horrible, right. So as bad as social media can be, I'm so grateful that teenagers had a way to stay connected to one another, when they couldn't see anybody, right? I mean, that that's a big deal. We also know a lot of it comes down to how kids are using digital technology. So kids who are engaged in discourse, commenting, liking, interacting with their peers tend to have a better and more positive experience, compared to kids who are just scrolling and scrolling and looking and looking. But that tends not to be as healthy. And I will tell you something else that doesn't usually rise to the level of the discourse, which is teenagers tell me, it's where they learn how to argue in very subtle and important ways. I have a very funny, 12 year old daughter, and she was talking, she was complaining to me, and she's actually not even online. Interestingly, she just has picked this up from the world. But he complained to me about an assembly she'd had at school that was terribly heteronormative. I just was like cracking off your neck sounds like, there's no part of me in sick when I was in sixth grade,
Dawn Davenport 38:35
I wouldn't have known with the word, I wouldn't have even been able to say the word most likely.
Speaker 2 38:42
Too many syllables. And so, you know, we do see in teenagers, like this extraordinarily sophisticated capacity for discourse, and a very, very advanced understanding of social justice questions, way beyond anything I was doing when I was a teenager. And I thought I was sort of, you know, paying attention to the world around me. And so I think we have to also credit, the fact that they are in on long line conversations are watching argumentation unfold. They're watching a post and a response to the post and a response to the response to the response. It's developing a skill set around interrogating questions, analysis and argumentation that doesn't I think, often get credited as it should be.
Dawn Davenport 39:24
Another thing I was a dad to that is that the internet is here to stay online. Content is here to stay. Yeah, I mean, it's something to say for what age we expose, and we'll come to that in just a minute. But putting our head in the sand and denying use of it all. Simply, it's just postponing the inevitable. Let's talk a little bit about porn. What should parents know about porn? The kids
Speaker 2 39:49
that are looking at it, they should definitely know that. And they're looking at it younger than you think. You know, there's some data showing that a lot of kids were first exposed to it around age 11 huge percentage have seen it by 13 Boys and girls, boys and girls, though we have pretty good reason to think boys are more likely to go looking for it. But that doesn't mean girls aren't exposed to it or to go looking for it. And you know, how kids get exposed, you know, often it's some kid they know gets a phone, and then you know, they're riding on the back of the bus and, you know, sticking it in their face. So it's not necessarily you don't know how it's gonna come to your child. But certainly by late adolescence, upwards of 75% of kids have seen porn, at least. And so, you know, I think we have to be very realistic about this as a thing that is very much prevalent in the lives of young people, as soon as they have access to, you know, a device with a browser,
Dawn Davenport 40:39
or their friend has access exact device with a browser. Right, which is really
Speaker 2 40:43
frustrating. I think, for a lot of families. Yes, yes. I also think if people are not themselves looking at pornography as adults, which that's above my paygrade, not my department, but if you're not aware of what's out there, it is rough, right. I mean, this is not, you know, soft focus erotica, that is what pops up when kids are looking. I mean, when they type in Pornhub, I mean, what comes up is, I'm not a prude, by any measure, it is very disturbing. It is very violent, it is very graphic, it is quite overwhelming,
Dawn Davenport 41:14
and quite unrealistic,
Speaker 2 41:16
unrealistic and truly, like violent and degrading, and very much centered on themes of degradation of women. And confusing, right, because you have images of you know, what looks really like a violent rape, but she seems to be squealing in delight, right? So I mean, it's very bizarre and hard to integrate, I think for adults often to make sense of, and then you know, me to imagine 11 or 12 year old having this be their introduction to what sex is about, right, it's very hard to think through. So I think there's some things adults can do unit number one, I don't think it should have funds in their rooms, like as a general rule ever, nor should we have phones in our rooms, bedrooms, as a general rule ever. It doesn't help asleep. And I tell the story in the book about a priest, actually, I was talking to who was telling me that he had gotten a confession, a whole lot of high school boys saying that they couldn't stop looking at porn on their phones all night. And they were feeling horrible about it. So if you needed a reason to not have a phone in your kid's room, there's one. But it also just messes with sleep. I think the other is that parents want to get out in front of this, kids are not going to bring this up with us, we have to bring it up with them. And so when my older daughter got a browser, which is separate from getting a phone, and we will come back to that, because people often just give the kid a phone with a browser, which you do not have to do. When she got a browser. I said to her that my number one worry is that one way or another, she would come across porn, you know, either deliberately or accidentally. And I said, it's gonna freak you out. And I need you to know that, and I need you to know that it does not depict the kind of loving sexuality that I you know, hope she enjoys in her life, when the time comes, and that also she's free to ask me any questions she has, if and when she encounters it, and she does not need to be ashamed. And I'm there to help. So I think we need to acknowledge and account for that too.
Dawn Davenport 43:08
How carefully should parents supervise what their teens are seeing online? And let's be realistic, not only how carefully should they but can they supervise what their teens are saying online?
Speaker 2 43:19
So actually, the American Psychological Association just put out a truly fantastic advisory on this topic,
Dawn Davenport 43:26
I thought it was excellent to Yeah, I really pleased I'll link to it in the written material,
Speaker 2 43:31
really pleased. And one of the things I really liked about it is that it acknowledged very much a developmental perspective, right, that you're going to different rules for different kids of different ages. And and that is true. So the first thing I would say is go very slow. And you know, on your home router, you can put controls on that make it the browser's can't go to Pornographic sites. And you should do that, I think, then the question is, what about your kid is out and about with a browser. So let's just for now, focus on the kids on technology, I feel really strongly that if you're gonna give your kid a smartphone, which, you know, that's fine for families to do, if they want to, you should start with a smartphone that does not have a browser and does not have any social media apps. And the kid has to have your permission to add anything to it. And you can set it up technologically this way. So they have a texting machine. And for a lot of kids that will get them a long way in terms of being able to maintain their friendships, stay connected, know what's going on
Dawn Davenport 44:26
play and not look like a dork. And although we'd have a phone, they can whip it out. Nobody has to, they don't lose standing.
Speaker 2 44:32
Exactly. And it's not a flip phone, which a lot of kids would rather carry smoke signals and a flip phone so like they're not going to do that. So you can give your kid an iPhone if you're gonna give your kid an iPhone, but you don't have to give them a fully loaded machine and then see how they do. And see for me the inflection point I'm always looking at is at what point do they start to have a hard time staying connected to their peer group? Because they do not have social media, right? That's that's the inflection point. You because social media is hard on kids, but social isolation is also hard on kids. And so what you were mentioning, like it's coming eventually like, but the goal is in my book to push it as late into development as possible, like how long can your kid ride on texting and still be plugged in with their friends, and ride that train as long as you can. And also, if your kid ends up in the meanest texts thread ever, like, don't give them social media, right? Like, you can watch and go slowly. And you mentioned rains, right? So let out the rain slowly, you know, start with texting, see how that goes. If your kid then comes to you one day and says, I cannot know what's happening on the weekends, unless I have snap, people are inviting people to things I want to go to. And it's with kids, you know, and like, you know that snap, that maybe you think about it, right, and then you figure it out, but you're moving very slowly into that space, and seeing how it goes. And if if it doesn't go, Well, you can walk it back. But again, if then the phone is not in their room, if the phone has some pretty clear parameters about where it doesn't doesn't go, you've got some guardrails in place. And and I think that's really critical. And there's a huge difference between a 17 1819 year old being on social media and a 12 1314 year old social media. I think about that a lot.
Dawn Davenport 46:18
Yeah, I would agree with everything you're saying. And it is, I do think that one of the problems and this is not for you to solve is that parents feel intimidated with how to do all of that. Although you have mentioned that there are websites available, we've interviewed experts who give some sites that you can access that will help you figure out how to set this up, how you can put restraints and limits on your router and things like that, that really there there are people out there to help so don't let the technology itself or figuring that you don't know how to do it stop you, I guess would be the way to say it.
Speaker 2 46:55
Absolutely. And even when you know, if you go to a store to get your kid an iPhone, they can help you there. Good point, you know, and attach it to your account and show you how to have controls on your account that make it so that your kid can't add add a browser without you knowing it,
Dawn Davenport 47:09
make an appointment with the Genius Bar. If you're buying an apple, yeah, go to the wherever you're buying your Android and have an appointment so that you can feel very comfortable taking up a lot of their time. Exactly. The last thing I wanted to touch on was something that I absolutely love the section of your book, when you talk about the importance of small pleasures. I just I love that. So I want you to talk about it's a great way to end.
Speaker 2 47:33
Sure. So, you know, we started talking about the intensity of adolescent emotion. And that is true. And usually in my clinical life, what we're focusing on is the negative emotions and how intense they can be for teenagers. But it's also true that the positive emotions are actually more intense for teenagers too. And we want to remember that because it doesn't sometimes take much to help a teenager feel better. And the things that will help them feel better may not actually seem like much to us, but will be effective. So, you know, think about if a teenager has had a horrible, horrible day, right? Maybe you gotten very disappointing news about getting cut from a team or something. I don't think it's a bad idea for parents to start with something like, oh, man, do you want to take out from your favorite place? Something like that? Because for a lot of teenagers, they'll be like, yes, thank you. And it will actually give them quite a bit of relief and pleasure, far more than it would do for an adult. And so I think that one of the really lovely things we can do as people who are raising teenagers is to be attentive to what suits and comforts them or delights them. And be prepared to offer those when they may need them. I tell the story in the book about a really smart mom, who was picking her kid up from basketball, knowing that there was a very high likelihood that he had been cut from the team. And she put the dog in the car.
Dawn Davenport 48:55
Yeah, I read that I thought smart mom smart,
Speaker 2 48:57
so smart, right? And, and I think that really what it gets at is trying to see things from teenagers perspective and honoring their way of being in the world and what they like and what works for them may be different from what we like and what works for us. But I think we're at our best as the adults who's around teenagers when we're trying to tune in to how things work well for them.
Dawn Davenport 49:19
And as an adjunct to that, I would say, find a way that you can still enjoy your child. You know, we paint teenagers in such a negative light our society does, but it is such an interesting and enjoyable time in human development. It's not always pleasurable, but very often it's interesting. And I think we stop it you know, we stop having, seeking ways to make sure that we can be having fun with our kids when they reach that age. And I think that's a mistake. You know, having family game night or family movie night or whatever, you know, baking cookies you know for you know whatever occasion doing it together, looking for opportunities that your teen likes. And that is why I think that parents have to be the ones who give in and say, Okay, what is it? My kids are learning how to play. The games that they like to play, be the video are bored, but to enjoy them. Yeah, I agree. I agree. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Lisa demore, for being on today to talk about your book, the emotional lives of teenagers raising connected, capable and compassionate adolescents. I loved it. And I recommend it.
Unknown Speaker 50:33
Thank you so much. And thank you for having me.
Dawn Davenport 50:37
I really enjoyed that conversation. And I hope you did too, with Dr. demore. I've raised fourteens and have lived to tell the tale. So what can I say? I want to take this opportunity to tell you about 12 free courses we have Thank you Jackie Big Family Foundation for providing the support for these courses. They are directly on topics that address questions that you have on raising your kid. You can find them at Bitly slash J B F support that's bi T dot L y slash J P F support. Check it out.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai