Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Book Nook: Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety

Dr. Duffy, a nationally recognized expert in parenting for nearly twenty-five years, seeks to be a guide for parents raising children who are growing up quickly and, as a result, dealing with unresolved adolescent issues that can lead to anxiety and depression. 

Kids are growing up with nearly unlimited access to social media and the world wide web. Starting as early as eight years old, children are exposed to information, thought, and emotion that they are developmentally unprepared to process. As a result, saving the typical “teen parenting” tactics for thirteen-year-olds is now years too late.

Understand the unprecedented psychological suffering in our young people and why it is occurring: A shift has taken place in how and when children develop. Because of the exposure they face, kids are emotionally overwhelmed at a young age, and therefore, are often continuing to search for a sense of self well into their twenties. However, Dr. Duffy also expresses the good that comes with these challenges, such as the sense of justice instilled in teenagers starting at a young age.

I had a chance to interview Dr. Duffy to learn more.

Why did you decide to write this book?
First, I decided to write this book because, working with young people for the past twenty-five years or so, I have witnessed some changes in young people, and the circumstances they are confronted with, that have arrived in their worlds rather alarmingly. these include the onset of social media and the ubiquity of cell phones, along with increasing academic, social and familial pressures. 
There are some unpredictable outcomes to all of this stress. A marked increase in anxiety, depression, attention issues, and even suicidal ideation is among them. But also, kids are confronted with "teen issues" at ever-earlier ages today, sometime s as young as eight or nine-years-old. And because of an onslaught of "identity traffic" through the teen years, adolescence can feel as if it is prolonged well into the early twenties. All of this is to say, if you are having your "teen parenting" for ages 13-19, you are working from a dangerously outdated playbook. This book brings you up to speed. 
I realize that very few of us (perhaps some therapists, some teachers perhaps) are aware of the enormity of these changes, and the impact they can have on the day-to-day lives, as well as the development, of young people today. So, I want parents to be as aware and equipped as they can possibly be to serve as the allies, guides and consultants our kids so desperately need, right now. I feel a powerful sense of urgency in the mission of this book.

What contributes to "the age of anxiety?"
So, the age of anxiety is a combination of the stressors discussed above. Kids are bombarded with information and data from social media and their time in front of screens of all kinds. Because they have "in-person" identities, as well as online identities to tend to virtually all the time, their minds are never calm. They never feel as if it is okay to be "off the grid". Combine that with increased pressure to do well academically and a narrow definition of success, and the collective anxiety level rises even higher. The availability of marijuana and nicotine (with their various delivery methods, new and otherwise), as well as  alcohol and so many other drugs, can drive a far more toxic situation for our kids. 

How can parents reduce kids' anxiety?
Parents can be so instrumental in helping kids manage their rising levels of anxiety. The most important thing they can do is to be fully available to their kids, from very early ages, free of their own fear and judgment and ego. They need to listen, and to learn about their child's world. Unlike previous generations of parents, we cannot presume to understand the worlds of our children. There is far too much that is new, so we have to listen and learn an awful lot from them.

What are some amazing advantages adolescents of today have?
And finally, the amazing advantages - I'm SO glad you asked about this part. Because they know so much about the world, and each other, at such early ages, kids develop a worldview, a point-of-view, and a strong sense of empathy and justice early on as well. The young people that make up this generation are good people, kind people. We need them, now more than ever. So, it is incumbent upon us to clear the way for them as best we can. This book provides a parental guide for just that.

Dr. Duffy is a highly sought-after clinical psychologist, best-selling author, podcaster, certified life coach, and parenting and relationship expert. He has been working in his clinical practice with individuals, couples, teens, and families for nearly twenty-five years. Along with his clinical work, Dr. Duffy is the author of the number-one best-selling The Available Parent. He is a frequent national media presence. He has been the regular parenting and relationship expert on Steve Harvey (with more than 75 appearances), and appears several times a month on WGN radio. He also appears frequently on other national and local television and radio outlets, and is cited regularly in national print and online publications. These include the Today show, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Fox Good Day Chicago, The Jam, WGN-TV, the Morning Blend, NPR, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Redbook, Time, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, Chicago Parent, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Wired, Parenting, Your Teen, Parents, Family Circle, Chicago Sun-Times, and Real Simple magazine, among many others. As noted, he is a contributor to the Pear app and co-host of the podcast with Giuliana and Bill Rancic, consults on two films on teen anxiety, and co-host of a popular podcast, better, with his wife Julie. He is also a frequent guest on other parenting and self-help podcasts. As also noted above, Dr. Duffy is a nationally-recognized expert in parenting, self-awareness, and relationships. Dr. Duffy lives outside Chicago with his wife Julie and son George.

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