Some folks are perfecting their sourdough, others are getting fit, but for Girls Leadership Co-CEO Takai Tyler, there was no choice, in this pandemic she was going to up her adolescent parenting game. Here are eight of her takeaways (so far), including when screen time is the solution for wellness.
“I was reading all these articles about people learning how to bake, or write a book, or try a new exercise routine during the pandemic. They were turning this challenging moment into an opportunity to learn. I thought, ‘what do I have to learn as a parent?”, says Takai Tyler, Girls Leadership Co-CEO.
Parenting is a journey that we’re all on, and we don’t have a roadmap and we certainly don’t have a guide for parenting through a pandemic. In this interview with Trainer/Consultant Nicole Lamb, Takai shares what parenting in this pandemic has taught her about shifting her focus from parenting from a place of fear to focusing on her child’s wellness.
“By primarily focusing on meeting and achieving academic milestones, I was missing the opportunity to look at what he was emotionally experiencing,” Takai says about her son. When she paused to reflect on what she really wanted for him in this moment in time, it was less about being successful in school and more about being emotionally resilient, healthy, and strong. She realized that if she didn’t attend to his wellness, then all of the other dreams she has for him wouldn’t matter.
Watch this interview to learn how Takai let wellness guide her parenting through the pandemic. Here are some of Takai’s top takeaways:
1. Notice when your reaction is coming from a place of fear about the future. This starts with just being able to acknowledge and name fears. The common ones are fear that my child won’t go to college, or become independent, or get a job that supports them. If we can name our fears, we can manage them, but if they go unrecognized, they manage us.
2. Instead of fear, focus on the emotional need that is surfacing right now. In Takai’s case, her son’s emotional need was loneliness. He needed connection to his peers. By listening to this underlying need she is able to discover some counter-intuitive responses, including more screen time to increase her son’s social time. If used strategically, technology can be leveraged to maintain connections and practice socialization.
3. Let go of grades as the number one priority and focus on wellness and wholeness. Performance can be the focus once emotions are stabilized. We asked a parent recently how her girl was doing, and she replied, “Her grades are down.” It is important to separate our kids’ grades from their wellbeing. While dropping grades can be a symptom of a larger problem, it is also true that a young person can be getting straight A’s and falling apart inside. When we talk to our kids about how they feel separate from the grade we send them an important message; the message is that you are not your achievements, your worth can not be distilled to a letter or a number. When we communicate to our kids that we care about them more than how they are performing we are letting them know that just their being is enough.
4. Remember you (the adult) were never supposed to be the center of their world right now. Developmentally they were supposed to be out in the world with their friends, socializing, making meaning, and learning through the trial and error of socialization how to be in the world. Many parents told us that teens initially reacted to their new situation by going into hibernation and self-isolating in their rooms. While it is important to not try to substitute for peers, Takai learned to look for little moments in time for connection. To try this yourself, check out her 27 questions to spark a conversation with your teen.
5. Connect this moment to your family values. What are the values that will get you through this? Are you a gritty and determined bunch, and/or are you joyous and playful? Is it your creativity? Your humor? You can’t tell your kids when they get to return to being with friends, but you have an incredible opportunity to name and celebrate the values you are practicing to get through this. That will be the well that they come back to in the countless unforeseeable challenges ahead.
6. Then zoom out from this moment to connect to the struggle and resiliency of previous generations. One of the most limiting thoughts we can think (and we all do it sometimes) is, “I am the only one who ______________.” Believing that you are alone in your suffering makes this so much harder than when you can connect to the common humanity of your struggle. Since people aren’t always ready on social media, another way to connect with common humanity is to talk about the struggles and challenges of previous generations. Share what your family survived before that got you ready to get through this challenge.
7. Consider the balance between being emotionally vulnerable with your child, while realizing you’re the container for their feelings and a sense of stability. Acknowledging your feelings helps reinforce what they’re feeling and models emotional intelligence. Your young person can’t share their feelings with you if they think they shouldn’t be feeling that way. Parents tell us they are currently feeling anxious, disappointed, and lonely. Then they tell us that girls are taught to feel happy, content, and calm. While being fully emotionally transparent with your teen may not be a good idea, letting them into some of your struggles is critical. This 1) reminds them that you are human, and 2) gives them permission to be human too.
8. Give yourself what you want for them. If you are centering wellness over achievement for them, do the same for yourself. Ask yourself what you want most for your child during this time, is it centering their mental wellness above performance? Is it taking care of others and focusing on the community? Whatever it is you want for them, see what it might look like to give that to yourself.
Learn how to pack an Emotional Emergency Kit, a set of emotional wellness tools to build emotional resilience and connection.
Join an upcoming family-based workshop where you and your girl(s) can learn together.
Sign your girl up for our LeadHERship club, where she can have fun, learn leadership skills, and connect with peers across the country to exercise the power of her voice.