If you feel parenting teens in this complicated time is overwhelming and harder than you imagined, you are not alone and sociologically, you are 100% right! It is incredibly hard!!

Families are dealing with things in the digital age that they have never faced before, during any time in history. And there is much less social support than ever before. The things that culture and institutions used to provide (primarily backing up parenting messages) are no longer provided.

Screens and Social Media

The research results are beginning to come in, but its only one “photo in time,” meaning we don’t have yet the longitudinal studies to know the impact. BUT psychologist and social biologists say that Smartphones are hijacking the teen brain in an ever-escalating pursuit of dopamine hits – facilitating screen addiction.

Then there’s the reality that preteens and teens are given access to the world through their phone without the skills to regulate what to let in and what to keep out.

Nevertheless, screens are a fact of modern, and teens need to learn how to regulate and govern their screens before they launch as young adults. What can we do to help our teens?

Social Ties

As sociologists, we have known for more than 120 years that quality relationships and access to entire social networks for a sense of identify and support keep adults connected to each other and prevent mental health breakdowns, including suicide.

The modern solution to the current teen mental health crisis is to send teens to therapy for depression and anxiety. While mental illness exists and therapy can be helpful, it does not necessarily help teens build the quality relationships and support networks they need to inoculate them against risky behavior and navigate a positive future.

What will help them connect in the ways that translate to the social support they so desperately need?  

 Lack of Support for Parents

Never before has so much pressure been on the nuclear family to raise kids. We don’t live near extended family for the most part. That means no grandparents, no fun cousin sleepovers for fun and few aunts and uncles for mentors.

We used to rely on the social institutions of church and school to help support the values we hold dear for our kids. But fewer of us are congregating and schools struggle to teach the academics with teacher shortages, much less facilitate social emotional learning. (I know some families have spiritual support and I know there are good schools with good teachers. I’m simply saying we can’t count on those institutions for the support parents have had in the past.)

We can literally access the world today. Despite social media forums, many parents report in surveys that they feel more isolated than ever before.

How can parents actively co-create the “village” we need to raise well-round teens? How do we help teens find mentors that help them process the world they are experiencing?

Before you despair, there is hope!

Your authentic, intentional relationship with your teen can be the very thing that mitigates the dangerous signposts of social media, screen addiction, risky behavior and isolation. The way we communicate in our relationship with our teens can make a difference in the way they hear us and accept our love and guidance.

In the Back on Track Parent and Teen Communication Program, I have mapped out a heart-based AND evidenced-based, communication framework that shifts your communication to build a positive future together. Visit https://LauraLReagan.com/services to learn more.