Parent: “How was your day?”
Parent: “What did you learn in school?”
As parents, we shrug our shoulders, confused why our kids respond with the same vapid answers and refuse to “let us in.” But what if we’re just asking them the wrong questions?
We want our teens to share the trivial and significant goings-on in their lives. To confess their struggles, to see us as a safe port in the storm, to clutch onto us for comfort, and pick our brains for solutions.
Ok, so how do we make this happen?
This week, I welcome pediatrician, TEDx speaker, and specialist in adolescent medicine, Dr. Anisha Abraham, for a crash course on communicating with our adolescents.
A current faculty member for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Amsterdam, Dr. Abraham has worked with youth all over the world. Today, she reveals language and behavior tactics for parents to break through that invisible barrier, and get their teens sharing their feelings — cringy-free (we promise).
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. method
- Exploiting teachable moments
- Building on what your teen does well
- The 3 Cs for technology use
- Family meetings done right
Listen to the Full Episode:
Back in December, I picked “FRESH” to be my word for 2020. Although it feels like time’s trickling by in slow motion, you have more of this year left ahead of you than behind you. Stay tuned for my free, online challenge coming up, and get ready to hit the REFRESH button.
Featured on the Show:
- Thinking of joining the Expat Coach Coalition? Last chance to apply here
- Dr Anisha’s recent blog on pandemics and the future. She cites both Anuradthi Roy and Rosalind Wisemen in this piece:
- Anuradhi Roy: “The pandemic is a portal”
- Rosalind Wiseman: Is Your Family Experiencing Greater Conflict During a Time of Self-Quarantine?
- Channels to reach Dr Anisha Abraham
- Sundae’s Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Sundae’s Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 5:30 am in New York, 12:30 pm in Johannesburg and 5:30 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. And I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.Raising teens is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. This is the kind of thing that I read when I am looking for inspiration on raising teens. But it doesn’t help. Neither does the quote from beyondmamabear.com where she says, “Raising teenagers is like showing up to a five-alarm fire with a squirt gun.” This mama of a preteen doesn’t feel calm. And when I think about all the things I’m hearing from my clients who have teens I’m kind of bracing myself. So if you’re currently raising teens, I think you know what I’m talking about. So I have pulled in support for us today to have an expert help us learn about raising our teens. Especially in these special circumstances.
Sundae: It is my absolute pleasure to welcome Dr. Anisha Abraham. She is a pediatrician, she specializes in adolescent medicine, and she’s worked with teens around the world.
Dr. Anisha Abraham, welcome to Expat Happy Hour.
Anisha: Thank you Sunday.
Sundae: So I had the pleasure of watching Anisha live at the Families In Global Transition Conference in Bangkok myself. And this is a woman whose experience shines through when she’s on stage.
So let me just tell you a little bit more about her. Her career has included clinical care, teaching, public health research, and media. And she’s currently on the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Amsterdam. As a clinician she treats young people with high-risk health issues. And as a teen expert and educator, she conducts research, teaches Global Health, writes a monthly newsletter and has time somehow to be a TEDx speaker. I don’t know how you do it. And word on the street is she’s also in the middle of writing a book which will hear more about.
So thank you Anisha for making time for us Expat Happy Hour today.
Anisha: I’m looking forward to our conversation.
Sundae: I know I’ve probably missed some important credentials and work that you do. We will discover more as we go. I’ve brought you here today because I think raising teens, no matter where you are, if you were born and raised in the same town and you’re raising your teens there is hard enough. And now because of the audience at Expat Happy Hour, most people are raising teens who are third culture kids or have lived globally mobile lives. And then on top of that we have the extra layer of being in these special circumstances with COVID-19. So, help us understand what we need to realize when it comes to raising teens in this context?
Anisha: Well Sundae, I’ll just say there is so much going on. And I’ll start by saying that understanding teens to me as a physician is such an exciting time. There’s so many wonderful things that are occurring in terms of the changes in their bodies and what’s happening in their brains and how much they’re learning about the world around them.
But as you mentioned being a third culture kid, and I myself am a third culture kid, I grew up in the United States, but my parents are from India, and my husband is from Germany and I have lived in a few places to include Asia, but currently Europe with my kids. So I’ve had a lot of experiences myself. But it’s difficult when you’re going through adolescence and you’re also experiencing multiple levels of culture. And on top of that you throw in COVID where you’re then isolated from your friends, you’re not able to travel, you’re not able to connect with the people that you usually do. Can certainly add to the complexity. So much of what I’m spending my time doing now is really trying to help parents and young people to really figure out how they can make this a positive time? How can we navigate this challenge together? How can we learn from this experience?
Sundae: Okay, so I’m gonna be really honest. As a parent. I am on board completely. But all I’ve heard and what I see, even with my preteen there’s not the same sort of enthusiasm from the teen side. So, how do you get your teens on board to make this a positive experience when they feel like it’s the worst thing that ever happened to them?
Anisha: Well, I think the short answer is that you really need to first validate what their feelings are. And it is a very difficult time for many young people. Certainly what I’ve heard from teenagers is that they’re really frustrated that their exams have been canceled, graduation perhaps has been canceled or kind of changed. They’re not able to go for performances or sporting events. And again, they’re not able to see their friends in the same way. It’s really challenging for them. And so I think first and foremost, it’s important for parents to just validate those feelings. That young people are going through grief as you might go through grief and loss in other ways. And knowing that there are going to be stages in terms of feeling very acutely. That over time slowly coming to terms with some of the things that are going on. I think one part of that. I think that there’s a lot that we can do and hope we can keep talking about how to create some type of a framework in terms of how to support our kids. But I think again the very very first step is being able just to connect with our kids or teenagers at home and just validate the fact that this is a really challenging time for them.
Sundae: So let’s get really concrete here. Validating language. How do we? Because anything I try to say it’s cringy, “Mom, it’s cringy.” I didn’t even know cringy was a thing. So what’s a non cringy-way to validate our teens?
Anisha: I think a lot of kids are going to say things like “This is so unfair. I can’t believe this is happening to me. My life is horrible.” And I think coming back and saying, “You’re right. This is not what we expected. This is not what you thought was going to happen in your senior year or last year university. We completely agree. This is really tough and not only is it tough for you but it’s also tough for adults. We’re all experiencing this.” And I think that’s the other piece of it. “Not only are you experiencing it but a lot of your peers and friends around the world are also experiencing this. So how do we get through this together? What can we do to make sure we can take some control back and really make this something that we can do better together?”
Sundae: I love that you said, “You’re right.” And then, “We agree.” Those are two very simple ways to validate.
Anisha: Absolutely. So coming back to that and hopefully that just gives one a sense of how we need to really validate those feelings. But you can also ask open-ended questions like, “How does this make you feel? What are you feeling right now? How are you experiencing this? And what can we do to kind of help with that and allow you to feel like you have a little bit more control about what’s going on?”
Sundae: “How does it make you feel?” Yes, this is where I struggle a little bit because I work with adults. Because I’m a coach, asking questions is a way that I help people access information for themselves. It helps me build. And sometimes I struggle because that doesn’t work with younger kids. Like I said with my preteen right before it before this interview. We were having lunch together and I asked my preteen. I’m like, “Hey, I am interviewing a world renowned expert on teens who are TCK’s. I could ask her anything. What would you like to know about this experience you’re going to have?” And he goes, “I don’t want to ask anything, I just want to experience it.” I’m like, “Okay, that is not a question.” You ask a preteen, like I have to access this a different way.
Anisha: Right. And sometimes our preteens in particular but certainly teenagers don’t know how to express it and how to put words to what they’re actually experiencing. But they can still feel that profound sense of loss and sometimes you’ll find them crying, they’re frustrated, they’re angry, they’re lashing out, they’re slamming doors. All these other kind of non verbal behaviors that happen when again they can happen in normal puberty. And of course are accentuated right now. So I think being aware of that. Checking in. One of the things that I always tell parents that’s really useful as they don’t want to talk about themselves. Ask them what their friends are experiencing. Because so much of what their friends are experiencing is what they’re experiencing. So, “How is your closest friend dealing with all of this and how is she feeling?” Because chances are a lot about very much the same.
Sundae: I love that. That’s like a sneaky way.
Anisha: But it works, it really does. And then if you want to talk about more difficult things, they always tell parents that this is a great time to get in those more difficult conversations that we don’t want to put time into. Like talking about vaping or talking about the fact that they may be online and perhaps seeing pornography. Also ask them what their friends are doing.
Sundae: Yep. That is so good. I remember in an interview I did with Dr. Laura Anderson about the use of technology. She talked about, ask your friends. Because it’s such a scary thing for both the adult and for the child to feel that vulnerable. That’s a great way to do it. So ask what their friends are experiencing. Wonderful. So that’s a very concrete way to validate. It’s a concrete way to learn more. What else should we be doing? You talked about a framework?
Anisha: Yes. One of the things I’ve been talking about is, how do we support our kids? And I created a little mnemonic. It’s kind of simple. It’s like the old Aretha Franklin song, I want a little respect and it actually is respect. So it stands for ‘R’ is for routines, ‘E’ is for expectations, ‘S’ is for strength, ‘P’ is for positive behaviors, ‘E’ is for engagement, ‘C’ is for cheers and praise and ‘T’ is technology.
So I’ll just walk you through it for a second. But it’s just some of the ways that I’ve been helping parents to think about how to support young people in general, but certainly at this time where there are just so many more complexities. One thing that really helps young people and of course all of us as adults is having a routine and sticking to that routine. It creates structure and right now that may include, because teenagers don’t always want everything kind of written down and kind of detailed to the last minute. But it does include some ideas of when they should be perhaps going to sleep and having some non-digital time to go out and exercise. Because otherwise they end up sometimes on their computers all day long. And so making sure that families have routines and can stick to those routines knowing when mealtimes are going to occur. It’s one piece of creating some stability because kids crave that stability and that structure,
Sundae: But I have a hunch they’re going to rebel against it even though they really crave it.
Anisha: Well, that’s part of what we as parents need to do. Is to create some boundaries and kind of allow them to work within that. So I’m not telling you that you need to schedule every last moment of their day. Teens don’t like that. And they need some autonomy in terms of how they work. But I do think that having some sense of, “We’re going to get up at around this time. We’re going to have meals around these times.” We still expect that. “Bedtime is at this time and that we are unplugging for some period of time.” As well would be one of the recommendations. In addition to maybe just helping them to kind of break down larger tasks that they have into smaller tasks. And checking in with them from time to time just to help them with some of that organization. So that would be one thought in terms of how we support kids.
The other one I would mention is expectations. And the question I get asked a lot by parents is, “How much do we push right now in terms of homework?” It’s just really tough. It’s really hard to do. And some kids love the online learning experience. Others really can’t handle it all and really have a tough time with it. And my short answer back is, this is really a time for us to decrease our expectations. And I know that sounds a little counterintuitive, but we need to decrease our expectations in terms of what our kids may be doing right now academically. But also to create our expectations as adults on how much we’re going to get done and how productive we’re going to be.
Sundae: You’re blowing me away right now. So give me a real life example in a family.
Anisha: I think we want to make sure we have perfect meals and our house is you know spic and span and on top of that our kids are doing everything and practicing their piano and doing all the chores. And I have to just say that’s really, and on top of that we’re getting all our work done at the same level that we used to do. And the short answer is it’s just not going to happen. And we need to really minimize our expectations. But focus on the well-being of ourselves, but also of our teens. Because at the end of this time they’re going to really think about how they felt not so much about how they did in each of their classes.
Sundae: So what I’m hearing you say is actually counter-intuitively we’ve elevated our expectations of ourselves. When really we need to, it’s almost like when I talk to my clients, where they’re mad at themselves because they didn’t get as much done, momentum wasn’t as fast. And I am like “Whoa, you’re like talking about October 2019 conditions right now.” Okay. So what you’re saying is give yourself a break. And then what I’m hearing from you is get clear on what is important. And it’s how you feel. It’s your well-being and it’s around getting those basic routines met with sleep and meals and exercise and non-digital time.
Anisha: Right, go back to the basics. And again just really check in in terms of how they’re feeling and understanding what it is that they do like to do. Which I think goes to my next point which has to do with strength. And so much of what I talked about as a pediatrician is what is it that your teenager does well in? And how can we continue to build on those things in terms of building resilience? Which is so important at this time. And every teenager has something that they really are passionate or excited about or they do well in. Whether it’s the arts or technology or music.
And this is a wonderful time to go back to those things. Because they may be really uptight about everything else that’s happening. And say “How can we kind of go back to the things that make you excited and spend some time exploring that?” I have one child that loves technology. So he’s now creating his own YouTube channel and putting all kinds of neat videos of do-it-yourself things that he’s made. And it’s a great way for him to explore his strength and creativity.
Sundae: Okay, that’s good. So if someone loves soccer then you make sure that they’re getting that time in the backyard to practice certain things. Or what if he is on tech that it’s looking at soccer drills. Whatever it is that they love doing. Support that that happens more is what I’m hearing from you.
Anisha: Absolutely. This is the time if anything else to go back to those things that really make them excited and allow them to explore those things as much as they can.
Sundae: Okay, that’s good. Wonderful. I got to ask how this all comes together in the end. But let’s keep going. We have got ‘R, E, & S’ I want the “P, E, C, T. What’s next?
Anisha: Well the ‘P’ is for positive behaviors and that’s just the fact that this is a wonderful time for us to model how we handle challenges and stress. Because our kids are looking at us as to how we handle these things in terms of what they’re going to do? So this is the time to go back to things like eating well for immunity, making sure that we’re staying connected with loved ones, whether it’s those Zoom family calls or reaching out to neighbors. This is a time where hopefully you’re incorporating a little bit of mindfulness or yoga or breathing or exercise into your life so that you yourself are doing as an adult. But your kids are also starting to build that in and figure out how to handle stress and figure out how to be caring and kind of give back to the community around them. So that would be I think the ‘P’ for positive behaviours.
Sundae: That’s great. I’m feeling pretty proud of that one right now. What are you doing?
Anisha: What are you doing in your home on that one?
Sundae: So we take a break between our work day, in our work or school day. And then the family time is five o’clock sharp. We leave the house and I go for a run. I drop them off at the playground or the soccer field and make a few loops. Then we might shoot some baskets before we go back. So we make an hour for physical activity and time to connect on the walk, fresh air and meals, my husband’s amazing cook. So healthy meals are non-negotiable, even though we’ve had to make them a little bit more simple than normal. So I think we’re doing pretty well on that
Anisha: Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job and I think not everyone’s going to do at the same level, but I think everyone’s trying to build in a little piece of that. And our kids are looking at us as to what we’re doing in terms of how they’re handling things as well.
Sundae: Yeah, it’s good.
All right what’s the ‘E’ for.
Anisha: For engagement and there’s so much that I think we can do in terms of continuing to engage our teens and our kids in terms of community health. And I know this is a very interesting time as some of the schools are starting to open again. They are starting to decrease some of the restrictions in terms of social distancing here in the Netherlands. Primary schools have just opened and kids under the age of 12 for example are allowed to go back to sporting activities. And so there’s going to be a sense that we’re kind of going back in some ways to normalcy. But I think the short answer is we don’t really have all the answers yet. And it’s still an important time for all of us to be very vigilant in terms of hand-washing, making sure that we’re still being mindful to people that are older or vulnerable. Knowing that teens can still very much get COVID. The kids can also be asymptomatic and to give it to other people. So this is not a time to completely let down our guard, it’s still a time that I think we have to be engaging in thinking about community health.
Sundae: So community health is important here. And in non-COVID times, how do we connect to engage?
Anisha: Well, I think it’s continuing to empower kids in terms of how they can stay healthy. And of course keep people around them healthy. So that I think goes back to other conversations in terms of smoking or drinking or any of those other behaviors that teens are doing. And as I mentioned this is such a great time to sit down and to have conversations about it. I talk a lot about using teachable moments. You’re watching a Netflix movie with your preteen or a teen and you see something. It’s a great time to bring it up in conversation and start talking about just a little bit more.
Sundae: This is what I love about this time. I know I can’t say that out loud with people not getting mad at me. I’m an optimist and I like to see both sides. The hard parts and the positive parts. So I think when the positive parts are because this is different. We should do things differently. Having these powerful conversations are these new conversations. We get away with it better now because it’s already different. So it’s a great time to practice.
Anisha: I think some parents are terrified of having these conversations so they don’t know how to start. But now you really have those moments where you can really have those connections and you can really build on them. So these are great times to start having those conversations. And it doesn’t just have to be about health it can also be about things like identity and belonging which are so crucial when we talk about cross-cultural or third culture kids. But there are so many beautiful conversations that we can start on and build on. It’s really just about planting seeds and starting these conversations and continuing to keep building on these conversations.
Sundae: Very good. The next one is probably one of my favorites. I’m a fan of celebrating people’s successes. So cheers is your next one. Say more.
Anisha: Yes. Well, it’s really about cheers and praise. And I think as a parent of two kids myself, one preteen and one teen. I can say sometimes we’re really quick to say what they’re doing wrong. “You didn’t put the dishes away.” “You didn’t pick up your dirty laundry.” And we forget to actually uphold them when they’re doing something right. And so it’s really about how do we continue to remember when they did do something? “You wrote that little poem.” Or “You did that wonderful thing for Mother’s Day.” Or “Thank you so much for helping your brother out this morning.” So giving them the cheers and praise and reminding them. And it’s not just for the kids by the way. It’s for our spouses and the other people around us in our lives. But praising them when they do something right.
Sundae: I do that all the time and my son’s like “Mom you’re so cringy.” And I’m like, “I don’t care, that is my job.”
Anisha: This is good cringy. And they really love it.
Sundae: And then what’s the last one ‘T’?
Anisha: ‘T’ is for technology. And is one of the big questions I get asked a lot by parents right now is, “How much screen time is too much time?” And I think this comes up. And we do know that our teens are on screens quite a bit, probably more so than we were as kids ourselves. But particularly since there’s online school. There just seems to be this kind of endless opportunity to be connected. And I think the answer, and I say this is also coming out of Asia where they’ve been doing this for a bit longer than we have, is that technology right now is so helpful in staying connected.
And using devices has been really helpful for teenagers in terms of not feeling anxious or isolated and able to talk to their friends. So when it comes to encouraging kids to stay connected and talk to their peer group. This is a really important time for them to use technology. So all those Google chats and whatsapp calls are really important. But I would also say even doing video games if they’re connecting with friends. This is a time to probably decrease our rules in terms of how much time. And at the end of the day, it’s not about how much screen time our kids are using. It’s much more about what I call the three C’s. Which is ‘C’ for the content. What they actually are doing. The ‘C’ for context. So, how are they engaging in this. And finally the last ‘C’ is about your child. Is your child someone that can easily disengage. And if you tell them that they have an hour and a half to be on something. Will they be able to come off of it? Or is it a child who always has a hard time getting off? In which case they need more firm rules in terms of when they need to stop. And that needs to be something that’s built in.
Sundae: I love that because that’s another thing that I’ve learned through interviewing other experts. That the quality of what they’re doing online really matters. It’s not just minute for minute it is the quality. So what I’m hearing you say is that if you have boundaries around screen time with your teens, make sure that the time for them to connect with their friends is there because it’s high quality screen time.
Anisha: Absolutely. So yes, I think in general we should decrease our kind of rules in terms of how much time they’re on it. But again reflecting back on, what is that content in that quality? I do also think that teens need to still charge their devices out of their bedrooms. And there still needs to be rules in terms of having some non-digital time. And that they’re looking to us. So we as parents need to do the same. And if we feel that we’re getting anxious. I sometimes get anxious watching the TV when it comes to coverage of COVID or reading too much about it. So we feel anxious. We also need to realize that we need to kind of unplug and step back a bit.
Sundae: That’s good. So, you know before this call you and I talked about the opportunity for families to have family meetings. And I know this is important. You read it in all the parent literature. And yet There are so many families that don’t do it. What do you think is stopping people from doing it? And what is a way that you can have a family meeting without it being a family meeting? Do they mean like how can you achieve the same thing without saying “Okay kids, now it’s time for a family meeting.”
Anisha: I think family meetings are important because it’s an important time to reflect on what has gone well in that last week or in the last several weeks and what perhaps are challenges and things that they need to work on. And I can just say even in our own family the first couple of weeks of online schooling are really tough. We had one child that loved it. The other one that couldn’t stand it. And there was lots of drama in terms of, how do we negotiate space and online computer time? And how do we do chores?
And so we actually started having Sunday family meetings where we gave everyone a clear time as to when we would have the meeting. We made sure that everyone knew that it was not going to be longer than a half an hour and that each person when they were talking would have our undivided attention. The exchange ended up being a very kind of successful way for us to bring up otherwise tough issues that come up during the week. But also celebrate the wonderful things that are happening and the things that we want to see more.
And for some families this is not an easy time. There can be a lot of conflict. There could have been pre-existing conflicts that are just accentuated by people coming together. It isn’t perhaps as harmonious as others have experienced. And Rosalind Wiseman who is an author and does a lot of wonderful work on parenting has a wonderful New York Times article that outlined some great tips for perhaps some of your listeners. If you are having a tough time with your family and how to have a successful family meeting.
Sundae: I would love that. I’ll have to get that link from you and then we’ll put it in the show notes so people can reference. Appreciate that. So I guess we do this kind of a trojan horse effect is when we do dinner. We’ll sit together and we’ll say, “Hey, what was your highlights and lowlights?” Like, “What was the highlight of the day?” “What was a low light?” And we try to check in. And we do try, not consistently, but we do try it once a week to say “Did this go well this week?” And “What didn’t go well?”
Because we’re also, we’re not in South Africa. We got displaced to Switzerland for the time being. So we’re in a temporary situation. And we’ve got family near so we’re checking in with the family that’s near us to say, “Are we okay? Are we getting on your nerves? What has to change this week?” Because what worked in week one might not work in week 4. So that’s important.
So I guess what I’m taking from that is, I love this idea of limiting it to 30 minutes or less. I love the undivided attention aspect. So each person has a chance to speak. And then some dedicated time for it. Whether that happens in a meeting format or in a meal format or whatever works for your family. I think that’s fantastic for people to try that out.
So these are some of the things that are hard. We’ve got some strategies and ways to think about it. But at the same time this is also an opportunity to do things really different. Say more about this opportunity how this is actually a really unique chance for families to change dynamics.
Anisha: One of them that I’ve received is, “How do we transition back?” And “How do we hold on to the things that we have?” “Perhaps gain from this experience as we start to go back into activities and school and pick up and all of the things that were really busy and stressful in our lives before?” And I like to refer to a wonderful article by another author on death. Leroy who is Indian and is the author of this beautiful book called ‘Goddess of Small Things.’ And she recently wrote in the financial times a piece on the pandemic as being a portal for the future. And in essence what she was talking about is, how do we use this time that has been really tough and very difficult to perhaps create a gateway for a better tomorrow? Now she was talking about politics and India, but I think we can use that same concept.
And think how do we use this time or you know things have been locked down shut down. We’ve all kind of had to really slow down our ways of thinking and being. And use that to prepare us to transform ourselves into better people, our families and to perhaps be more efficient units. And how do we even improve the community around us? There’s less global warming or decrease pollution. All these other things that have been wonderful byproducts. How do we do that?
And a few thoughts along those lines one, of course is coming back to family meetings. Because it’s a great way to really figure out what does work and how you want to keep that going. And another thing that I think is really fabulous. But of course, I’m sure you as a coach are also doing, is go back to journaling and the idea of writing down our feelings right now and how we’re kind of experiencing this. And also encouraging our teens and our kids to do the same, certainly thinking about what are the new rituals that we have and how do we create new milestones? I think would be another piece of that.
And for a lot of teens in particular this is the time where they again are feeling really frustrated and perhaps very vulnerable and feel like they don’t have a lot of control. And so I encourage families to think about creating some goal-setting opportunities. Really thinking about what it is that they can use from this to perhaps goal set in terms of how they want things to be a little bit differently. And how again, they can help their teens or you know their spouses to be accountable when it comes to that goal setting.
Sundae: So how do we do that? Like what’s the language that we can use specifically? You gave us great language before about how you’re right. And we agree on those sorts of things. What kind of language can you give us when we sit down in front of our teen and the objective is goal setting?
Anisha: I think that one of the perhaps best ways to do that is just, what are some of the things that you want to see differently going forward? What are some of the things that you feel that your goals are for the next three months or six months? And how can we help you to make sure that that happens? And you can even break that down further as, is there something that you want to see specifically when it comes to academics or those strengths and those things that you’re kind of building on that are creative? Are there other things you want to see differently when it comes to your family or your community? And if there is, how can we now start to make some short goals for the next couple of weeks, the next couple of months and even kind of longer out.
And it’s amazing how many, and I’m sure you know examples as well, how many beautiful things teens have done right now in terms of perhaps doing peer tutoring for younger kids. Or creating videos for other kids to think about how to handle challenges. Or creating other forums right now. And using this time in a very positive way.
Sundae: I love that you broke it down to a time frame that they could wrap their heads around. Because we don’t know how long things will go. And I think this works anytime. Because I think time is so relative when you’re a teen. You think you’re going to live forever, you’re invincible. So really narrowing it down to like the next three months or this month, next month. That they can put something out there.
And I liked how you got even more specific where it started out general and then you got even more specific around that strength that they have something family related or community related. So I think that helps them dig inside of themselves to get to those answers.
Like I was saying before at lunch. The question that I asked my son was just way too big and he had nothing for me. If I had broken that down that could be different. The other thing it came to mind. This is my guess is that it is even more powerful when you watch another teen do something. So if you can find examples on YouTube of other teens and say, “Oh my God, look what I found this guy doing. How cool is that? Could you do that?” That would be inspiring for others. Do you know what I mean? Like somehow start a conversation based on what other teens are doing.
Anisha: Absolutely. I think you have to be careful not to let that backfire. Because they’re like, “Oh that’s great, all these kids are doing all of these things.” But I do think that there’s always a nice way to present that. Say, “Look someone’s doing X or you are really interested in this and look what somebody else is doing. How can we support you if you have this idea.” And making sure it goes a little bit further.
Sundae: I am still a little bit nervous about having teens, I gotta be honest.
All right, so I know that our time is limited. You just have so much that you could be talking about because you understand the biology that’s going on. What’s happening hormonally. You understand from an identity perspective. Then of course on the third culture kids layer.
Is there something that’s important that we should be thinking about that we haven’t yet touched on today?
Anisha: Well, I think that the premise of my book which is called ‘Raising Global Teens Parenting the 21st Century.’ Is very much about the fact that we are in an interconnected globalized world. Although travel is not happening in the ways that used to, it certainly will come back to travel in the future. But we do know that more and more young people are either people that have been raised in one country and then moved to another, have moved within the same country from place to place, have parents like myself that came from another country and were immigrants or also have parents like my husband and I that are from different backgrounds and are now trying to raise our kids in a kind of cross-cultural multicultural way.
And with that I will just say that adolescence is a beautiful time where they’re learning and changing and developing. But it’s a time where identity is really being formed. One’s understanding of how they are physically, but also how they are in terms of their gender identity. So they’re exploring their identity so many ways. And when then on top of that you throw in culture, it can become really confusing. And it’s so important to ensure that kids have a clear sense of their cultural identity and belonging. Particularly when they’re exposed to so many different levels of culture.
Sundae: Right, and that begins at home.
Anisha: Absolutely. I think that it’s really important for parents to be aware of this. Sometimes we are in, sometimes we aren’t. I was raised again as an indian-American and I grew up in a small town state in the US. And when I grew up I was the only Indian American in my high school. And I didn’t see many other people like me. And it wasn’t till much later at university that I could again meet other folks that were just like me. So that sense of what we talked about in terms of mirrors and knowing other people that look just like us and having those kind of anchors or that sense of stability can be really tough for kids that have these cross-cultural experiences.
And the flip side, of course is that there’s wonderful things that come out of it whether it’s tolerance or language or adaptability. But I think it really comes down to making sure that we have conversations about how young people are feeling when it comes to. “Who is your tribe?” “Where are your roots?” “How do you feel about these experiences and do you feel secure in those experiences?” Because when they don’t and they’re going through all the teen stuff, it can be really confusing.
Sundae: That’s great. So we can’t wait till your book comes out. Do you have an idea when it will go live?
Anisha: It will be coming out this fall. And I will be sure to let all of your listeners know more. But it will be available on Amazon and certainly a number of bookstores around the world.
Sundae: Okay. So be on the lookout for “Raising Global Teens. Parenting in the 21st Century.” You can also find Dr. Anisha at dranishaabraham.com.
Any other places that people can find you beside your website that we should know about?
Sundae: Okay. Wonderful. Thank you so much for being here today. It’s such a pleasure. I think I just want to say one of the things I’ve caught myself doing during our interview is I’ve caught myself having a mindset that raising teens is a formidable experience. And I don’t mean it like French, I mean it’s like a fearful experience. And you have at least twice used the words that it’s a beautiful time. So what I’m taking away from our time together is to dig in with that curiosity and to to learn more about exactly what is going on in the mind, the body, the hormones, the synapses, the identity stuff. To see that instead of just the fearful side of raising teens. So thank you so much for that mindset shift.
Anisha: Absolutely. I’m just thinking of a quote that Chris O’Shaughnessy, who’s another author said. And he just said that “Cross-cultural kids are a beacon of hope in a world of desperate need of it.” And I would just say this also relates to teenagers. And there’s just so much that they’re doing that I know is opening my eyes to what’s out there and what’s wonderful and beautiful. And they’re creating so many new ways of thinking. And I really hope that people realize adolescence is a very positive and exciting period of transformation.
Sundae: I love it. Thank you so much. I’ve got chills up my arms now from Anisha. So thank you.
So you’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening. I will leave you with an anonymous quote that goes on the little bit more positive side than how we started. “If parenthood came with a GPS it would mostly just say recalculating.”
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