Great Holiday Expectations

Great Holiday Expectations

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or at least it’s supposed to be. Trees are decorated, lights are strung, stockings are hung, lists are made, and parties are planned. Emotions can skyrocket to the highest highs and then crash all in one week.

Last year for Christmas, my 6-year old provided me her Christmas list. At the top was an iPhone. I initially just laughed it off, but as the season progressed, the iPhone quickly became the only thing on her list. So, about 2 ½ weeks before Christmas, I put on my Grinch face and told her that she wasn’t getting an iPhone for Christmas. She laughed and told me, “It’s okay.” I was shocked. She had been talking about it non-stop for weeks. Noticing my surprise, she added, “I asked Papa for an iPhone, and Papa always gets me what I ask for.”

Oh, expectations.

It’s a season full of expectations.

Expectations of ourselves. Expectations of others. Expectations in the form of gifts and Christmas lists. Expectations about family interactions. Expectations about memories to be made and thank-you’s to be given and received. Expectations about traditions.

Expectations can be overwhelming for children, youth, and adults alike during the Holidays. Often, they present themselves in the form of deregulated, unusual, or frustrating behaviors in our young people. Older children and youth often aren’t able to immediately convey how these expectations impact them, but if you take a step back then you can see.

You can see it in the teen who struggles with depression this time of year. Or the youth whose behavior spirals downward as they struggle to manage the anticipation of Christmas approaching. You see it in the young adult striving toward perfection this season in order to balance the pressures of extended family being around. Or in the child who struggles with the memories of happy Christmases with a person whose loss of relationship is still fresh. You can see it in the teen mom who is trying to balance her own wants with the desires of her child and for her child.

In addition to expectations we place on ourselves or have placed on us, there are all these other expectations around, often propelled through TV and social media. My holiday season doesn’t actually look like the commercials. Nor does it look like Instagram. There isn’t snow falling outside (thanks, Texas) as we all sit and laugh by the fireplace. There isn’t a long table filled with extended family members who are all using their manners and talking about non-controversial topics. There will be no new Lexus. My kids and their cousins aren’t wearing matching, Christmas coordinated outfits as they play kindly together with their new toys.

There’s an old proverb that says, “Expectations are just premeditated resentments.” At first, I wasn’t sure if I agreed. But the more I reflected on it, the more I realized how true it is, in normal everyday life, but especially during the holidays. Chasing expectations or trying to live up to others’ can be a holiday joy killer. For ourselves and for our families. For the students we work with. The gift might not be perfect. That family member might not come. There might be fighting when the willingness to play nice wears off. The money might not be enough, or the dread of impending debt can be crippling.

Flash back to the iPhone conversation. I quickly explained again to my daughter that I was not getting her a phone and neither was Papa. She was devastated. However, had the expectation of the phone continued to grow for 2 ½ more weeks, the devastation would have grown as well. With the expectations of an iPhone now put to rest, my daughter was able to enjoy the gifts she did receive without the disappointment on Christmas morning.

So, what can we do to help manage expectations this Christmas? Here are some simple questions for yourself and the youth you work with:

      1. For yourself: What expectations placed on you by others are weighing you down this year? Who do you need to let down gently? What personal expectations do you need to lower or adjust?
      2. For youth that might be struggling this holiday: What are their plans for the holidays? What are they anticipating about the holidays? What they are nervous about or dreading during Christmas?

Sometimes our youth seem hyper-expectant and overtly emotional, and other times they seem to blow off the holidays in apathy. My experience has been that all still feel the pressure of expectations. It has also been my experience that talking to them about their interpretation of expectations can be freeing for them and allows us to see what needs or struggles exist.

As you head into this season, start by checking your own expectations and then helping those around you understand their own expectations. You might just be surprised at how it changes Christmas.

 

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Manager. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.
Hey Mom, Put Down Your Phone!

Hey Mom, Put Down Your Phone!

I had an interesting conversation in my group the other day. We got to talking about the students’ relationship with their parents, and it quickly turned into a discussion on family time and phone distractions. For probably the first time in one of my Support Groups, every single group member was on the same page! Here are some of the things I heard around the table that day:

  • My mom makes us have “family time” and watch a movie but stares at her phone the whole time.
  • My parents are constantly on Facebook or playing Candy Crush when we are together.
  • Why do they say I’m always on my phone when they are even worse than I am?
  • My dad always sends emails at the dinner table, but I get in trouble if I look at my phone.
  • I tell my parents “family time” doesn’t count if they are on their phones but they say all that matters is that we’re in the same room.
  • Were your parents always on their phones too?

First, let me just admit that I am not yet a parent, but I struggle with this as well. When I sit down to watch a show with my husband, it is easy to mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Facebook out of habit. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m on my phone until he points it out! Second, it is never fun to get called out by teenagers, but my group issued a challenge that I feel obligated to pass on!

Also on a side note, I laughed out loud when they asked about my parents and their phone use when I was a teenager. When I was in high school, we didn’t have internet on our phones, and we certainly didn’t have fun games like Candy Crush (RIP Snake Game). This is fairly new territory for parents!

Technology isn’t going anywhere, phones aren’t going to phase out, and social media will probably always be king of the internet. So how can we better model how to balance family, work, and fun? We have to be the example in this area; otherwise, our kids will never learn acceptable boundaries and healthy practices.

Before I offer some suggestions, there are a few things I would like to point out about their statements and questions.

1. They watch you and notice.

You know the phrase, “Do as I say and not as I do”? That doesn’t fly with teenagers. They watch you. They see what you do and will push back if what you do is different than what you say. Telling teens to put down their phones while yours is still in front of your face sends a clear message that you probably aren’t intending to communicate.

2. They don’t see a difference between work and social media use of phones.

They don’t care if you are on your phone for work – if they see your phone out, it is a distraction no matter what it’s purpose. Sending email, making calls, checking your Facebook, it is all the same to them. If you are on your phone when you should be spending time with them, your excuses don’t matter – just so you know 🙂

3. They think you have a technology problem.

This absolutely cracks me up! As adults, we read books, listen to podcast, and attend seminars on helping our teenagers manage social media and their phones. We talk about this generation and their problems with connection, but they think adults are the ones with the problem! I am not saying that teens have technology under control or use it appropriately all the time, but until we prove them wrong, I do believe we are the ones with the problem.

4. They actually care about “family time.”

When they were having this discussion, they weren’t upset that they had to be present for family time. They were mad that their parents were violating the time that they set aside. One student even said that he enjoys hanging out with his mom when she isn’t distracted by her phone.

I really don’t want you to miss this point, so I will say it again in case you’re still in shock…teenagers actually care about “family time”! Even when they act like spending time as a family is the worst inconvenience, the stories they tell when you aren’t around would say otherwise.

 


 

As I said above, this is a newer problem for parents. Just like we are trying to figure out how to help our teenagers have boundaries, we are walking the same blurry line. I want you to have a good relationship with your teenager. I want you to be able to take advantage of family time – if they are willing to set aside their phones, don’t ruin it by being on yours!

While I could write several blogs on this topic, let me start with two tips that I believe could make a huge difference in your home!

Do what you ask of your kids.

This seems simple and like a no-brainer, but the more I talk to teens, the more I realize that we are failing at this. While their are perks to being an adult and setting the rules, when they are around and watching you, follow your own rules! If you ask them to put away their phones for a specific time or activity, do the same. Do they have a time limit on how much they can be on their phones? Try to stick to a similar schedule!

They are watching you, and you set the example of how to interact with your phone. This is especially true for when you drive. Ouch…but if you don’t want your teenager to text (or tweet) and drive, put your phone away in the car. Don’t text, don’t have phone conversations that can wait until you get to your destination, don’t be catching up on your Facebook comments while you are driving your kids. Show them how to be responsible and safe!

 

Make “family time” sacred.

Find small ways to make the time you spend as a family special. While it may be unrealistic to expect your teenager to put their phone away anytime they are are with a family member, you can set aside specific times that are phone-free. Some examples could be dinner time, the first 15 minutes after they get home from school, special family activities, or when you watch tv or a movie as a family. Once you ask them to make the activity you decide on phone-free, follow the rule above and put yours up as well!

This might mean that you put your phone on “do not disturb” to keep you from reading texts, checking email, or answering phone calls. Unless it is an emergency, anything on your phone can wait until that sacred time is over. You communicate the importance of family time by your actions. Distractions and phones can kill a family moment – don’t let your teenager down by not giving them your full attention!

So, what do you think? How have you set boundaries in your home? How have you made family time sacred and special? Share with us – we always love new ideas!
Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Give in to the Resistance

Give in to the Resistance

I just watched a Today Show piece on limiting your technology intake, but it seemed extreme even to me. The person featured was taking a completely disconnected approach. She deleted her social media (Jenna Hoda deleted her social media too, but they had another lady on that took it further) from her phone and left her phone at home when she went out. In other words she reverted to the days when she had only a home phone.

Here is the problem. That isn’t going to last. I am guilty too. I have talked in the past about staying away from new forms of connecting, but the problem is they aren’t going away.

 

I have even heard that people didn’t want to believe cars would be something that lasted either. In the 80’s, people wrote about the dangers of the home telephone. Each step made in technology has been met with initial resistance, sometimes even resulting in people reverting back to something old.

 

So what should we do instead? The reality is the people doing the tech piece on Today Show were mostly over 40. I believe that says something about the legitimacy of the perspective.

 

I’m offering a new point of view, let’s embrace the change. Carefully, thoughtfully, but embracing and engaging it. Using social media will get us to a much more effective end than resisting and missing opportunities to learn new ways of engaging the world around us.

 

There are so many good things that technology and social media can allow us to do, and if we don’t embrace that change, we will never discover what those things are. Someone might, but you may be forfeiting an opportunity.

 

Let’s embrace change.

 

I am all for safety and digital awareness that factors in time spent online and filtering that is literally healthy for our mind and soul. However, we are far past the point of return where we can believe that deleting social media apps or not having online access is a possibility in the future (baring an apocalyptic loss of electricity or the whole internet).

 

So here are 5 tips to embrace the change and still keep our sanity. On the positive high side, it could even mean doing something good for yourself or others.

 

  1. Be in charge. Technology is a tool, not a toy or a distraction. It can be, but you need do drastic things to use it for what you intend it for. For example, I decided over a year ago that I would delete all but kids games (which I’m not tempted to play) off of my phone. So if I am sitting at the oil change station, I’m not tempted to waste time playing. I can either work or leave my phone in my pocket.
  2. Use the settings to your benefit. Automate as much as possible. If you find that during the day you’re particularly distracted at a certain time, set a “Do not disturbed” to activate during that time. Or better yet, just turn on Do Not Disturb at key times like when driving, for an hour of reading in the morning, while dedicating 50 minutes to a task. Trust me, people can wait that long for a response. Why? Because they’re too busy being distracted to remember they called you anyway!
  3. Find the apps that are most useful and put them on your home screen. The first screen you see each time you open should prompt your mind to think of what you should focus on. Ideally this would have no folders. If you do, you probably have too many things fighting for your attention. Rearrange your apps to create a virtual focal point on the apps that lead to your most productive tasks.
  4. Share, share, share! Since I got my first iPhone in 2011, I have not stopped learning new things. From podcast to TED talks, from YouTube DIY channels to online blogs, audio books (you totally need the Overdrive public library app) to Airdrop, all of it makes sharing things that make my life better and easier. You can choose to focus on the negative things available to all of us but this has been a choice since the beginning of time. So stop spreading the fear and start sharing the things that make your life and mine better.
  5. Breaks have always been good. Taking a break has always been a way for people to recharge. This has little to do with technology and a lot to do with the way we as humans are wired. Choose the way that is right for you and then stick to it. Use that time to refocus and come back better than ever to engage the world (quite literally) again, bringing your most promising contribution to anyone ready to listen.

 

So now what? What do you do with a blog that promotes more technology use in a world that is saying to slow down and back off. Well, that’s up to you. But I would suggest you evaluate and move forward. If you get stuck not knowing what to do or are paralyzed by fear that something bad is going to happen, you will miss an amazing opportunity that literally never existed before.

What about you? What ways have you found to embrace the change and give in to the resistance?

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.
How to Set Up Your Kid’s New iPhone

How to Set Up Your Kid’s New iPhone

If you are a parent, you will no doubt get a request from a child this holiday season for a new iPhone (or iPod, iPad, etc.). When this happens there is always the thought, as a parent, of what to do about safety and monitoring. Now, if you have a 13-year-old or older, you will definitely want to involve them in the process I’m outlining here so they know that they have a say in how boundaries are set up. For those of us that have younger kids, we need to use this as an opportunity to begin creating good technology-related boundaries.

For this post, I’m going to specifically discuss settings and tools related to iOS 10 (the software on Apple products). That being true, the principles will apply to other operating systems such as the  Windows Phone and Android, but the process will look different.

The goal here is to set up and use settings and built-in options that help keep kids safe and monitor their use. This monitoring is not to look over their shoulder, but so that you can have helpful conversations about how to use technology as a tool rather than it becoming a distraction that keeps us from accomplishing the important things in life. The truth is technology has contributed to some amazing things being discovered or accomplished, but it has also contributed to some negative effects on people that could have a lasting impact.

With that as the background, let’s walk through some things you want to be aware of and others you need to set up when you first get a new iDevice so that you are setting your child up for success!

 

Silencing the distractions
In iOS 10 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, it is easy to mute the device using the “do not disturb” button. This is enabled by simply swiping up from the bottom of the screen and selecting the button with the half-moon on it. I think this is the most under-used setting in iOS. You don’t have to only use it during funerals, you can also use it during dinner or homework so the phone doesn’t even go off. It is great for keeping those annoying alerts from interrupting chore time or story time in the evenings. Trust me, the fact that there is a new coin or they have almost reached the level that unlocks the greatest player ever is not worth how hard it will be to recover their attention when it dings. Use it anytime you don’t want the device making noise. The advantage to using this rather then the airplane mode is that it still allows notifications to get through, it just won’t alert you. In case you are not familiar with this feature, watch this YouTube video to learn more.

 

Enable Keyboard Clicks
I personally do not like the clicking noise that the digital keyboard makes by default. Because of this, I turn it off anytime I get a new device. However, if you have a device just for the kids, like we do at our house, I recommend keeping keyboard clicks on. The benefit here is that I can hear if my kids are typing something. It’s an audible alert that they don’t think about but can prompt me to go over and see what they are up to. It is a great way to be curious and talk to them about how they are using the iPad but not come across as, “What in the world are you doing now?”

 

Set the password yourself
I don’t know where the idea came from that kids need privacy and space, but it is mostly wrong. Yes, hopefully they gain more responsibility as they get older, but privacy is only a way for them to hide things that you as a parent probably need to be talking to them about. They can have privacy when they move out and you have invested 18 years teaching them how to make the good choices and they are now in complete control of choosing on their own (and I am overstating this for emphasis, obviously there are times when appropriate privacy is okay, but that’s not the point here). So setting a password, or better yet a finger print, is a must. I would recommend changing the password occasionally, too. Just to keep them honest. This serves two purposes, #1: That they do not have unrestricted access to the device and just use it whenever they want and #2: That they do not have unrestricted access to the device. Okay, so those two are really one, but I hope you get the point. Unrestricted access for anyone that doesn’t have a monthly income and pay their own rent or mortgage is not okay because they are still learning the life lessons they need to have that unrestricted access.

 

Turn on Automatic Downloads
One of the settings you definitely want turned on as a parent is automatic downloads. Inevitably, your kids will download something without you knowing. No, it is not certain that they will need your password (or that they won’t somehow find it out). So if you enable auto download on your device, you’ll know everything that’s downloaded on any device connected to your account. This is a simple and easy way to keep tabs on what apps kids are using. You should never have to say, “I don’t really know what app they use with their friends,” because if you have this enabled, you can ask them about it when it gets downloaded. Once you have had the conversation with them, you can simply delete it from your device. Unless of course you want to play the game too!

 

Set Restrictions
Turning on restrictions is a good plan for you and your kids. Of course as an adult, I can download whatever I want and visit any site I feel like but there may be a time where it’s good for me to pause and consider whether the content on that app or site is really worth my time. This is a great lesson for kids to learn. It may mean a little bit of a headache (sometimes it does for me) if the restriction is too restrictive. But the benefit of forcing a conversation with your child that you should be having anyway is worth the few extra minutes each week or month it will take you to punch in an extra password to allow things that didn’t need to be restricted.

 

If you are unfamiliar with how to get to any of the settings I talked about in this post, do what I do. Search on YouTube and find a video that walks you through the process step by step.

I hope these settings and features help you and you kids have some healthy conversations around technology use. In addition, I hope they help set up needed boundaries for you and your kids so that the technology is not in control but still available as a tool and a little fun now and then too.

So, what do you think? How have you set boundaries for your students and how have they responded? How have you failed at this and done better? Let us know!

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.
Don’t Panic about Snapchat

Don’t Panic about Snapchat

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Snapchat is an app that has caused great anxiety for adults and especially the parents of teenagers. In this episode, Chris and Karlie discuss the phenomenon of Snapchat, the pros and cons of the app, and how to have beneficial conversations with teenagers about Snapchat. Don’t panic about Snapchat, we’ve done our research and are here to help!

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • The historical context of Snapchat.
  • Snapchat 101 – a brief guide if you’ve never used the app.
  • Why Snapchat is so popular among teenagers.
  • The pros and cons of the app.
  • How to talk to teenagers about Snapchat.

Ask yourself…

  • Have I researched Snapchat or tried it myself?
  • Am I willing to have a conversation with my teen before panicking about Snapchat?

Go ask a teen…

  • What about Snapchat makes it better than other apps?
  • How does Snapchat work? Can you show me?

About Us:

Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Lifeline, Inc. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!

Karlie Duke started working as Teen Lifeline’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!

Have a question?

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