All Posts Tagged With: "parenting"
Student Aubrey Ireland won a restraining order
Despite my needle phobia and uneasiness in hospitals, my grandma always insisted on bringing me up to be a doctor. The first book she gave me was on the human anatomy and I regularly took field trips to the medical centre where my grandpa worked— regardless of my protests.
Thankfully, my mom didn’t force medicine down my throat or tell me to avoid journalism. The reason? My grandparents had hovered over her, which she didn’t much enjoy, and that meant a hands-off parenting approach for me. Hallelujah.
Aubrey Ireland, a University of Cincinnati Student, wasn’t so lucky. After her parents followed her on campus and tracked everything she did with specialized software, the 21-year-old music theatre student got a restraining order that prevents her parents from coming within 150 metres.
Why parents shouldn’t pay the full tuition bill
Some students seem to have it all. Their parents send them off to school in gently-used sports cars, they find money deposited in their bank accounts each term and they’re always up for a party because they never have to work part-time.
But a new study in Journal of Adult Development suggests that less wealthy college students shouldn’t envy the rich kids. It turns out rich kids feel more immature, have less defined career plans, and engage in riskier behaviours like drugs.
The conclusion? “Parents who are in position to help should provide a level of support that facilitates progress toward graduation while enabling children to become invested in their own education by contributing to the cost of getting a degree,” co-author Larry Nelson told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The study by researchers from Brigham Young University involved in-depth surveys of 402 undergraduates and their parents at four schools in Maryland, the U.S. Midwest and California.
But perhaps not the way you’d expect
By 1991, women surpassed men to make up the majority of graduating classes in Canada. By 2006, they earned roughly 60 per cent of degrees, reported Statistics Canada.
The shift inspired questions (hand wringing, really) about whether educated women will choose careers over marriage, leading to the smaller families and the end of civilization as we know it.
Well, women can now relax—depending on where they live. Taken together, two new studies suggest that education is related to marriage rates, but differently than you may currently believe.
What’s difficult for parents to sort out is what is normal behaviour and what’s cause for real concern
Teenagers seem to be hard-wired to take risks. Scientists who study the adolescent brain are finding that experimentation is a natural part of these years, even though some risks can have serious consequences. Among those aged 10 to 24, three-quarters of all deaths are from preventable causes, like motor vehicle accidents and suicide, according to the most recent U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Survey. It can be hard for parents to recognize the difference between “normal adolescent behaviour,” like experimenting with drugs and sex, and what’s cause for real concern, says Dr. Blaise Aguirre, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Today’s teens are “stressed out,” Aguirre says, and it’s taking a toll. Over the last five years, there’s been a steady increase in the number of anti-depressants prescribed to Canadian teens, according to IMS Brogan, a health information and consulting company. “One in five teenagers, and one in four Ivy League students, are now self-injuring,” or cutting themselves, often in moments of emotional distress, Aguirre says. There’s evidence eating disorders are on the rise, too.
Aguirre is medical director of 3East at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, a specialized program for teens and young adults with borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by black-and-white thinking, fears of abandonment, chaotic relationships and impulsivity. Two of his colleagues, Dr. Esther Dechant, medical director of McLean’s Klarman Eating Disorders Center, and Michael Hollander, director of 3East’s day hospital and an expert in self-injury, will be in Toronto on April 7 to speak about their work as part of the Scienta Health Series.
Teens are naturally risk-takers. Last year, Stephanie Burnett of University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience published a study in which 86 boys and men (ages 9 to 35) played computer games, and she measured their response. Teenagers “chose risky options more,” she says, and got the biggest emotional charge when a risky choice produced a surprising win. The most risk-taking, she found, was among 14-year-olds. In another recent study, Temple University psychologists Jason Chein and Laurence Steinberg measured the brain activity of teens as they played a simulated driving game. When teens were with friends, they took more risks—and they were more sensitive to potential rewards of risks than when they were alone.
Teens are more driven by thrill-seeking and reward, it seems, because of how our brain changes as we age. In childhood, what Chein calls the brain’s “reward processing system” (which is involved in emotion) and its “cognitive control system” (which holds impulses in check, and allows for reasoned decisions) are immature. In early adolescence, the reward processing system undergoes rapid change—but the cognitive control system isn’t fully mature until our mid-twenties.
Teens are also vulnerable to information overload. Angelika Dimoka, director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, has looked at the impact of this on adult brains, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. As her subjects received more and more information to process, she found, activity jumped in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making. This area “reaches a plateau,” she says, “and then temporarily stops functioning.” Teens are plugged into any number of devices, often even more so than adults, and they’re “taxing a system that isn’t fully developed,” Aguirre says. “No wonder some are unable to handle it,” and find themselves overwhelmed.
Information overload isn’t the only source of stress. “There’s been a shift in what we think of as a beautiful body,” says Dechant, from curvy Marilyn Monroe to today’s models, who are “size zero or double zero.” Rates of bulimia seem to be increasing, and anorexia is spreading from what was traditionally “the upper middle class, to all walks of society,” she says. Alarmingly, more teens seem to be cutting themselves. “It looks like it’s starting earlier and earlier,” Hollander says. Cutting is rarely a suicidal act, he notes, but those who commit suicide often have a history of self-injury. Parents need to talk about it with their teens in a “neutral way, which isn’t easy,” he says, “and access some help.”
Aguirre uses mindfulness, derived from Buddhist meditation practice, as part of his treatment for patients. Studies have shown that mindfulness-based meditation can reduce anxiety, improve attention and reduce the emotional impact of pain. “It’s about slowing down the brain, and focusing on the here and now,” Aguirre says. A few slower moments each day sounds like something most teenagers, whose brains are programmed to take risks, could benefit from.
The Harvard team will speak in Toronto on April 7, as part of the Scienta Health lecture series:
A psychologist advises parents on what to say and what not to say
If your adult child is still hanging around the house jobless after graduating, you’re not alone in feeling frustrated. But here’s a tale of hope from psychologist Brad Sachs, taken from his new book Emptying the Nest: Launching Your Young Adult Child Toward Success. Years ago, Sachs treated a young man he calls Richie, who performed abysmally at school. “How he ultimately graduated, I will never know.” Richie’s only interests were video games and electric guitar. After high school, he lived with his parents, unemployed. “He started a rock band but couldn’t get it off the ground, possibly because the band members were smoking too much pot,” writes Sachs.
Richie was 20 when his parents contacted Sachs, who “helped Richie understand how his behaviour was actually eliciting the parental nagging he so detested, and helped the parents to see that many of their efforts to motivate him, despite being well-intentioned, were backfiring.” A few years back, Sachs heard from Richie, who emailed: “I wanted to happily let you know I am now a millionaire.” Turns out Richie found a way to harness his passion for video games and guitar. He went on to be one of the designers of the video game Guitar Hero.
“The point of this story is not that the ultimate goal of human development is to strike it rich, nor that everyone is destined to be rewarded abundantly for following their passion,” writes Sachs. “My point is simply that it’s unwise to give up on young adults no matter how maddeningly uneven their development trajectory may be, and that the more empathy, patience and understanding we are able to summon on their behalf, the greater the likelihood they will eventually find ways to forge ahead with their life in positive ways.”
Parents often ask Sachs: how do I motivate my child? “But the reality is you can’t motivate anyone to do anything,” he writes. Parents who plead with children, “ ‘Just do it for me’ where the ‘it’ could be anything from getting sober to finding a mate,” almost guarantee that the goal is not going to be achieved, he writes. His advice is to encourage autonomy. “Parents must ‘contract’ themselves, condense their presence so that their child has space in which to grow and think more independently.” For example, “You may believe that your 20-year-old daughter’s pot-smoking is keeping her stuck, but until she is able to contemplate this possibility, not only will her self-destructive behaviour continue, but you will become increasingly estranged from each other.” Parents must “stand to the side,” he writes. “Your dialogue with her needs to be designed not as an evangelical sermon designed to convert her to your way of thinking, but as a series of conversations structured to attract her curiosity about why she does what she does, so that changes take root.”
You can avoid ﬁghts by bringing in an “authority figure,” he suggests. Say your son wants to buy a truck. Instead of saying, “How do you think you’re going to be able to afford a truck loan?” try, “I’m not sure how easy it is to get truck loans these days but why don’t you head over to our bank and talk to someone over there to get the latest information and rates? If you’d like, I’ll go with you.”
Sachs also warns that too much praise can be un-motivating. He gives the example of the daughter who finally completes her college application forms. “Once you confer your own celebratory assessment of an accomplishment, it might take away from her own celebration, making it feel more like a feather in your own cap than hers, prompting her to take fewer steps, and even some steps backwards.” When she completes a task, say, “I’ve seen you working hard to get these applications completed by deadline. How’s it feel now that you’ve taken care of them?”
Finally, if your adult-child appears unmotivated to move out, Sachs hypothesizes you could be broadcasting mixed messages. “Many parents expend great efforts trying to appear young, hip, and fashionable. Surely, adolescents must observe this and wonder what the appeal of adulthood could possibly be if adults themselves are backing away from maturity and trying to look, sound and behave like their own children.”
Image: Getty Images/ iStock/ Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute