02 Sep Podcast: How To Raise Happy, Healthy, and Successful Kids
In today’s episode Nicholas Olesen is joined by Dr. Christine Carter, an author, speaker, and coach, to talk about her research and practical advice on raising teens today. Christine’s latest book The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction offered great advice even before the pandemic but now even more relevant and timely.
During the episode Nick and Christine discuss:
- How parents can help teens process their feelings
- Why anxiety and depression have increased substantially in teens over the years
- How to help teens gain self confidence and responsibility
- Tips for avoiding being the “nagger in chief”
- The structure and framework that helps reduce fights about screen time and social media
- Modeling behavior that we want our kids to exemplify
- Finding a happy balance of freedom and rules
To learn more about Christine’s coaching and books, visit: https://www.christinecarter.com/coaching/
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Below is the rough transcript of our conversation.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:00:19] Hi, thanks for tuning into A Wealth of Advice. My name is Nick Olesen, Director of Private Wealth at Kathmere Capital. Today, we have a really special guest on our podcast, Dr. Christine Carter. Christine is an author speaker and coach. In most years, the struggle of balancing family and work and raising kids, especially teenagers is an exhausting endeavor but in 2020 it feels like it’s become impossible. Thankfully, Dr. Carter has researched and written three great books that I think are relevant always, but especially today. In today’s episode, she and I are going to talk about her latest book, The New Adolescents, Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an age of distraction, anxiety, and distraction.
We’re going to cover it a lot as it offers a lot of practical tips on something that I think we all want, which is how to raise happy and successful teens, how to deal with them, how to help them to not become anxious and distracted in this ongoing, especially pandemic and work from home, you know, school from home life that we’re in right now.
Dr. Christine Carter is a sociologist and senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and draws on the latest scientific research, psychology, sociology, and neuroscience to help her clients lead their most meaningful, joyful and productive lives. She lives with her husband, four teens, and dog Buster in Marin County, California. So without further delay and without more conversation for me, here’s my conversation with Christine.
All right, Christine. Well, I really appreciate you coming on. We, here at a wealth of advice, we try and bring a lot of different topics in, and one of the things as we’re in the thick of it, so we’re recording this, it’s almost September of 2020, we’re in, you know, the pandemic state still.
and with everyone staying at home, I thought let’s talk through your new book because I think this is a focus time for us all to focus on our kids and teenagers. And so you wrote your latest book is the New Adolescents: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction and I think it’s just the perfect time to talk through it. So thank you for coming on. I really do appreciate that.
Christine Carter: [00:02:14] Oh, well, I’m really happy to be here. It’s fun for me.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:02:18] Good, good. No, we will. Hopefully we’ll have some fun for the next, however long we can we can keep you. So let’s talk through, I mean, one thing is, tell us more about you.
We’ve done the official intro and all that you’ve done, but tell us, you know, what’s going on at the Carter household right now. I know four teenagers, a dog, like tell us kind of where you are right now.
Christine Carter: [00:02:36] Yes. So, I have, two high school students too, and they’re both seniors in high school right now. And, so their schools planned to go back in person, but we live in Northern California and we’re, our County is on the watch list. So they won’t know for right now. So their schools are live online. yeah. So, and they’re applying to colleges they’ve never visited or seen. And, yeah, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s plenty of activity just with the two kids here.
We also have two college students. I’m a sophomore and a junior and I’m the junior goes to university of Vermont and she’s been there since, early June working and, school starts. On Thursday of this week. So the Vermont’s managed the coronavirus really well. And I’m hoping that she, she, she gives it another few weeks. Cause she’s watching the new first year students come on campus and not behave. Entirely responsibly that happens. So they might, they might be there for a little while, hopefully. And then my, I have a Colorado college student as well, and she, has been there for a few weeks and she’s contracted the Corona viruses is in quarantine, despite being very, very careful. And, but it’s like a third, well, actually now they’re just shutting down because every dorm is in quarantine. And I should say that we didn’t get a positive test from her because they don’t have enough tests in Colorado. Okay. And so none of them have been tested, but, her boyfriend’s roommate has, has symptoms. And so they’re assuming that she’s asymptomatic.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:04:23] Ok, well that is the world we are. It feels like everyone in anything, if you know somebody, you know, somebody it’s just, Oh, okay.
Christine Carter: [00:04:31] Yeah. I mean, and it’s like really, you know, here in Northern California, we’ve just been socked in with smoke. And fortunately, you know, our, h ome and neighborhood hasn’t been threatened by these wildfires, but we sure think about it almost every minute of every day. And, the protests, I mean, there’s just a lot happening right now. I think.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:04:51] Well, that’s exactly why I think what you do and your focus is so important. Cause I think that we have so many things to worry [00:05:00] about and therefore so many things, and that’s like us as adults, who can comprehend things and think through things and logically, but think about teenagers with all they go through. So before we kind of go way down that one, let let’s talk about this book. And, and why did you write it? What made you say, “Hey, you know what, I want to write this.” I mean, obviously your background. bringing some scientific research to this. Why this book in the way that you wrote?
Christine Carter: [00:05:24] Well, I decided to write this book. I have always thought that I was going to write a book about teenagers. I’ve always just been really interested in adolescents in general and understanding the differences in brain development. So when I’m talking about adolescents, it’s really, you know, nine or 10 year old girls. Through 26 or 27 year old boys, right? Like there’s a big range. Adolescents is not just teenagers.
It’s three years before they hit puberty. And then the brain starts it’s changing, and continuing changing really, really rapidly and dramatically all the way through mid twenties for, From for most kids. And so, anyway, I always knew that I would write a book about teenagers, because of my interest in adolescents, but I thought that I would wait until my kids, but then I thought, Oh my God, if that’s not sort of like a, a problem with my ego, like hitching my own success to the success of my kids and frankly, like I needed it, you know, I’m sure.
I’m a coach and, I coach a lot of families and I just really like, there’s a lot of new research, that was pointing to how incredibly different this generation of adolescents is. And, of course it’s different, right? Everything has changed. I mean, even before the pandemic, right. Everything had changed, for, for these kids.
And so, You know, I just, the way I work is I do, I read all the research. Right. And then I try and translate it into like practical terms. Like, what does this mean for me? I actually will write out scripts for myself and for my husband to like, to use on our own Guinea pigs here and whatever. Right. And, and then I, and then I get, I give those things to my.
Clients. And, and so by the time, the, the time that coronavirus, right, I’ve been coaching for over a year to families with, adolescents. And I mean, I’ve been coaching for a lot longer than that, but it it’s interesting because I just feel really grateful that I had done all this research and have all these things in my back pocket because, all the trends that we were seeing of course have been amplified and, You know, it’s, this is a, this is a difficult time.
Can you might have noticed it’s a little bit, just a little
Nicholas Olesen: [00:07:50] bit. Yeah. So, I mean, we’re fortunate, you know, we have three wonderful kids, but we are, we have younger, so ours are seven, five and four. And so part of in reading, it was. And, and looking at all your books and all you kind of came through and then talking to our clients and their kids is I can see where this just anxiety and stress and both on a parent and on the kid front come from.
And then you then, yeah, I mean, I think you said it perfect, like you amplify that so much when you’re stuck together 24 seven. It’s like, I mean, that of itself, no matter who you are, if you’re stuck with somebody that long it’s, it can be problems, but you then with, you know, your book kicked off with one of the ports points that you put in there, which we we’ve experienced.
Unfortunately, I think everyone we talked to is experience that. I think it was, and I’m quoting it here almost 40% of 9th to 12th grade girls felt sad or hopeless when they stopped doing their usual activities and nearly one quarter consider suicide. That stat just scares me beyond belief as, as a father of two girls, seven and five, but also you see that in the day to day with your families that you’re helping.
Christine Carter: [00:09:01] Yeah
Nicholas Olesen: [00:09:03] Shed some light on that, of what has changed so much. I mean, we we’ve experienced that obviously in our day to day, the world has changed. We’re faster. We’re social media. Like what, what do you pinpoint to why that is such a greater. Number than what I think it used to be.
Christine Carter: [00:09:16] Yeah. Oh, it’s, it’s, you know, the, the, rise and in anxiety, clinical levels of anxiety and depression before the pandemic have really skyrocketed.
And a lot of it has, I mean, there are a lot of different factors going into it. It’s not all social media,
Nicholas Olesen: [00:09:35] Good disclaimer there.
Christine Carter: [00:09:37] is a big part of it. For sure. particularly because it interacts with other factors, like bigger than that is sleep disruption. The, these kids are just not getting as much sleep as they used to. They don’t see their friends in person. I mean, this is before the pandemic, right. They weren’t seeing their friends in person just hanging out, early, as much as previous generations.
[00:10:00] And, and it’s that social interaction and being. Connected that, seems to, you know, and when you, when you have a kid who’s already feeling a little disconnected and then they’re split a lot of time on social media and noticing, and that makes sense feel less and less connected. Ironically, even if they have a tons of friends, they start to compare themselves.
And, they’re much more likely to feel left out. For example, they’re much more likely to feel like they’re losing social status, which is really important to kids, particularly teenagers. And it’s a very stressful state for the nervous system. So you could have, you know, a quarter, a million followers on tick-tock we’d rather these kids have, and still feel like you’re losing social status every time one of your new posts doesn’t do as well as your best post. Right? So, the, you know, there’s a lot, there’s a lot going on for these kids. and that will all keep them up at night and this sort of chronic sleep deprivation, you know, when you look at the data and again, before the pandemic, all of the increase in, depression and anxiety could be explained when you control for sleep deprivation.
So it’s obviously sleep. Isn’t the only thing, but it’s so dramatic and that’s really good news actually, because that’s completely, as parents, within the, our range of dramatic influence. So there is a lot of good news in this book, a lot of practical strategies for like how we can counteract these trends.
I think that, that, I think it’s important to talk about like post pandemic. This is really important, too. Like, why is this so hard for teenagers? It’s so much harder for families that have adolescents, and, even kids in their early 20s under their roof right now that weren’t expecting to be there.
There is, there’s sort of this interaction effect, right? So. First of all teenagers experience their emotions, much more intensely than adults do. We know this. It’s not all it’s appropriate. It’s thought to be evolutionary and it’s really distressing to it’s like when you have, cause they’re, they’re experiencing sort of a lot of uncertainty, we all are, but sort of disappointment after disappointing, right? Like that, that the mild end of things, prom canceled or graduation canceled or school, you know, those things that’s like the norm, right. That’s not even the grief that comes from losing a family member to coronavirus or something along those lines.
So, when they’re they are experiencing something that to us is a disappointment, but not a catastrophe, but then they’re expressing it in such a way that it feels like castrophe the whole household can come hot glue pretty fast. Yeah. So, I mean, the other thing that’s pretty universal to teenagers is their drive for autonomy and freedom independence, you know?
And so the kids really weren’t, teenagers in particular, really weren’t hardwired to be locked down at home under their parents’ thumb. Right. They, they lost their privacy that they had at school and the freedom that they had. To be someplace else without us watching them. And that lack, that loss of autonomy during adolescents is psychologically, critical in the sense that it’s like their number one developmental job is to individuate from us and it’s being forwarded, by being with us. .
Nicholas Olesen: [00:13:51] So Christine, when you think about that then is that when I think about teenagers and, and I think about like my niece and nephew that are teenagers, you know, 16 and 14 and, and they, the sleep side of it. I can give you a 9 million stories about that. Cause it’s, you know, they, their hours of wakefulness are very different from what I thought was normal or what should be, and that I can see, but you, you touched on there is, is it because not having the freedom to go do and kind of build their own self confidence?
Is that right? What can we do to help during this time? And then post, I think, I mean, everyone is so focused right now on the here and now, but I want to help our listeners to understand, okay, here’s what we can do today while we’re in the middle of all this, but let’s also talk about after. Right now in the here and now to give them that freedom, like what do we, you phrased a couple of different types of parents and three different types in there, but what do you see as. You know, tangible things. Cause there were tons of the book, but I’d love to hear them now to do, to give them that, to build up their [00:15:00] own self confidence, their own, kind of responsibility to grow up.
Christine Carter: [00:15:04] Yeah. I think that it’s really important to let them set their own schedule, sleep schedule, but, but to sort of set parameters. For them, like the quantity and quality are really, really important or adolescents, teenagers who have just a slightly less deep sleep. So their sleep quality is compromised just a tiny little bit. And it’s enough, like, just because if you were just on a screen right before you went to bed, for example, like the changes, the biochemistry, right. They, they tend to wake up feeling lonelier. It effects their overall sense of sadness, depression, isolation, loneliness.
It’s so strange, but we have really good research coming out of UC Berkeley on this, that, that, that we do well to heat and to really tell our kids about it, right. Like to say, okay, there’s two things you need to pay attention to during this quarantine. You can get more sleep, right? Like, cause you’re not out as much and, school starts much later for our, our kids anyway. so even the ones that have stuff live, right? Like it doesn’t start until nine o’clock and they just can roll out of bed.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:14] I was going to say, there’s no transportation
Christine Carter: [00:16:15] Oh, there’s no teeth brushing, even happening.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:20] That’s a good point.
Christine Carter: [00:16:21] But just to be clear, no, I’m just kidding.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:24] He’s like “come on, mom.”
Christine Carter: [00:16:26] I mean nothing, nothing needs to happen. Although one of my kids, so I have, my seniors are a boy and a girl and my, my girl like get dressed and like, she’s so cute. Like she said, she’s she like always looks so good and not just from the top up. And I’m like, nobody’s going to see those cute shoes. And she’s like, “but I know I’m wearing them”
Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:52] She feels it.
Christine Carter: [00:16:54] Anyway. Okay. So yeah, no, that’s not actually happening with the boy.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:58] Yeah. Oh no. Sweats and maybe a t-shirt that he wore three days in a row, I don’t know.
Christine Carter: [00:17:03] Right. Good point. Good point.
Yeah. Right. So I think it’s, it’s, it’s important to let them, so the important things are the schedule itself, like the biological clock. So picking a time frame that works for you now, a lot of kids are staying up much later because they can sleep in and they get some privacy that way. Right? Like, cause cause. You know, at least I go to bed early way earlier than my kids. I get up way earlier.
Right. Like, so we, I get a little privacy in the morning and they get a lot of privacy at night and that’s fine. They are both managing it pretty well, but it’s because we set out the parameters of all right. So they each know about how much they need. Adolescents it’s like in, there’s a pretty broad range between 8 1/2 to almost 10 hours of sleep, depending on a lot of factors.
And they each need different amounts of sleep. We’ve experimented with that. They can really tell they’re, they’re really being honest with themselves about it because they know that I’m going to let them choose and they they’ve learned, they want to feel better. Right. They want to feel good.
So we go, we do the math of the quantity piece of things and I swear for all four of my children I’ve all, every year, I have to prompt them to do the math. Because if I say, well, “what’s going to be your bedtime? You get to set it. You’re old enough now to set it”. Once they were like about 15 or 16, they sort of, you know, get it’s works much better if they set it for themselves.
Right. And they are bought into the idea that the biological clock matters. You get them to buy into that by asking them a lot of questions about how they feel right. When they short themselves on sleep. When they mess up their schedule. The whole jet lag phenomenon. Kids who’ve had the privilege of travel, understand how jet lag can feel and using that experience, just like with what they’re doing to themselves on the weekends is important, right to sort of point out like, Oh, this is a little bit like, you know, you just spent the weekend in New York and you came back like you’re off.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:19:19] That’s really smart. So, you use this a lot, and this is one of the, what I think is one of the best tools that you’re giving families is your kind of coaching them into their own answer by asking questions. You know, I think one of the questions that you asked throughout the book, and I love it and we’ve started using even with our seven year old now is like, “what’s your plan?”
Christine Carter: [00:19:45] Yes. I like that.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:19:47] That, like, why didn’t we, why did I not think about that? But that is an amazing use of like all of your research to come into that simple question. Puts that ownership back on them and you’re not dictating to them, but you’re [00:20:00] asking and then they have to use their own skills to figure it out.
Christine Carter: [00:20:03] So just to remember that, because kids, you know, their executive function isn’t fully developed, even if you have a kid, that is very, has very strong executive function, they’re good planners. Oftentimes it’s, it’s still never not as developed as an adult. And so they just don’t make plans for mundane things like homework or bedtimes or whatever in the way that we, as adults learn to do, like we just learned through experience. It goes better. So even if you just say, what’s your plan, like most often they haven’t made a plan.
They don’t have it, but if you ask them, they can make it. Right. They can make a plan for pretty much anything. And so that takes us as parents out of the role as naggers and chief, like, okay. I really think that you should get started on your homework because we’re going to, so, you know what I mean?
Like we like, yeah. You’re not going to have time after it. Like we’re already, like our brains have seen four hours into the future. Theirs has not, necessarily. So instead of being like, you should do this now, in which case, the part of them that wants to be autonomous and independent and adult like, will be like off my back lady, like right.
You know, like I’m not gonna make a, you know, like I like, I I’m, I’m not going to do my homework now just because you just said, you just, you should do that. And that feels like force. It feels like I’m a little kid, whatever, but. If you just say, Hey, what’s your plan for getting your homework done tonight?
Then they can be like, Hmm, maybe I should make a plan. Okay.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:21:31] If I make a plan, then mom won’t ask me, then I’ll figure it out.
Christine Carter: [00:21:33] Right. Like at all. And, and a lot of times, you know, yeah, a lot of times I, you know, one of my kids will be like, Hmm, I’m going to get back to you on that. And I’ll be like, yeah, that’s a nice delay tactic. What time? What’s your plan for getting me back? Getting back to me.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:21:49] Exactly. Just keep with that question. It’s such a good one. I know. I love it.
Christine Carter: [00:21:54] The other thing that I think is really helpful along these lines is to say, “it’s your call”. Like, this is your call. You are going to get to make the decision on this, like to just give it to them, so that they can relax and not, I have to fight for their autonomy.
Right? Cause if this is like in an instance in which you want to be influential, I have found, and there’s a research behind this, the best thing is to say, “I’m going to let you make this decision. And. It needs to be an informed decision.” So now my kids will actually complete my sentences for me. Like, “I’ll say, it’s your call. You’re going to get to this decision.” Cause I mean, we’ve been making some big decisions about going back to school and all those kinds of things where you’re going to live. Oh.
So it’s like, “alright, it’s your call. I’m going to let you make this decision. Of course, I trust you to make an informed decision and the information that I would like you to have right now is… Right. I need it to be an informed decision.” And then the kids will be like, and “what information would you like me to have?” Right. And then they’re listen. Cause they know that I’m getting it. They might not agree with me. In fact, they rarely do, but they, I need to hear them reflect back what I’ve given them.
You know, and then they often have, I actually think they make really good decisions.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:23:24] And that’s what I think is the common thread through the book was what you just said there, which I love, which is you’re giving them these tools that are then making them into a, you know, you’re giving them the adult ownership so they feel like they’re in charge. Right. But you’re also giving them the tools to know what you, as the adult are thinking about to then make them or not, not make them, but help them make a really good decision.
Christine Carter: [00:23:48] Right. Right. And I mean, part of what kids want and an existing motivation for them, and it starting with their motivations, is always much more effective is to like, not have us the hovering and anxious, not, they want to please us.
They don’t want to constantly be disappointing us. They also need to be, to have some freedom and some autonomy and to feel like they’re growing up and not, yeah. Well, you know, being controlled by us. So to say like, actually all I need is for you to hear these concerns and to reflect them back to me, it’s like, okay, I can be successful in that.
I can, I can listen. and then I know that you’ll be happy. The other thing is, is that starting with their, their motivations rather than our motivations. Right. I think that that was a mistake that I made a lot early on and I, I think it’s a normal mistake for parents to make. Like we can want them to get more sleep, for example, because we want them to be physically healthy and, And so we can try and convince them of all the reasons [00:25:00] why there’ll be physically healthier if they sleep more.
But if they don’t care about their physical health or they don’t care about it, as much as they care about having some privacy at night or being able to like. Can I like boys right now are really connecting with each other through video games and stuff. Girls, some girls are too, but like it there, they’re never going to care about their physical health.
Well, I shouldn’t say never, but most teams aren’t going to care about their physical health as much as we care about it. And they’re certainly not going to care about it as much as the other things that they prioritize. So always leading with what they care about instead of trying to convince them to care about the things that we care about.
They just aren’t going to do that.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:25:42] That’s such a good point. Cause I think that that is where I, I hear a lot from friends and clients whose kids, and they just say, I just don’t get it. You know, I want them to be out and active. And I did that when I was a teenager. So why are they not? But I think part of it is in the society we’re in right now, you know, one of the things that we all need is connection.
Even outside of the pandemic, we were seeing a huge trend towards this online connection. And, and I hear from so many parents that say yes, but I want them to get out. I don’t want them to be on them all the time. Like yeah. Where, where do we help to give them that connection and, and give them that time, like you just said so that they get the rest and then they can have a better connection.
Like how do we balance all of that? Cause that’s just an ongoing struggle.
Christine Carter: [00:26:27] I know. I know. And every parent I’ve ever worked with has, is like, all right, we need some, I need some guidance around screen time. Right? Like what do, what is it that we do? And I think it’s a little different in a pandemic for sure.
I’m sure. So I’m just going to answer the Screentime question first. And that is TRY NOT TO WORRY ABOUT IT. Just like block off time during the day for things that have no screens. Right. Like make sure there is time, like focus on the positive rather than the restrict restrictions. So focus on meal times, but have times and places in your home in which there are no screens.
So none at the dinner table ever, please that’s like, you know, an easy one most kids will, concede pretty easily. I, the only person I’ve had a hard time with that. And this is before the pandemic was with my mother who always wanted to take pictures. I’m like moms don’t allow phones at the dinner table, even to take a picture.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:27:37] So, Christina, I think that’s so key what you just said there, because like, you’re, you’re doing this both as kids. But also as a parent, like every tip you’re giving to me comes from us mimicking and showing them. So therefore they then also understand how important it is.
Christine Carter: [00:27:54] Yes. Yeah. Right. So that is an inquiry. It’s a really important point to be a little more explicit about like the most important thing we can do with these screens is to model healthy usage ourselves and healthy usage means that we aren’t checking compulsively. Right. We don’t like ha we, we can like sit through a stoplight without checking our phones. Yeah. As adults. Yeah, we have times and places in which we don’t like while we’re eating is always a good idea. I know it feels boring to just not look at a screen while you’re eating, but it’s really important to not be looking all day long and especially for these kids now that they’re online so much more, if they’re doing school online. And it’s the only way that they can connect with a lot of their friends is. Through FaceTime and things like that. So the watch for the big categories that they need to accomplish, right. I’m not saying don’t worry about screen time at all. I’m saying, don’t worry about it if they are getting their classes, classes done, they’re doing fine in school, they’re getting enough sleep. They’re not depressed and like withdrawn. and you know what I mean? Like they’re, if they’re, if they seem to be doing okay, I think it’s really completely okay to exhale and not be like, you know what? You you’ve already had three hours of Netflix today. Like I just think that they can manage themselves so long as they don’t aren’t compulsive like they are have, it’s not in their bedroom at night. That is a place where I would say that’s a time and a place that there should be no access to technology, even for older kids. A lot of parents will push back on me. They’ll say, you know, I can’t, I can’t tell my son, you know, he’s 17 years old that he can’t charge his phone in, his bedroom.
And yes, you can actually, you bought the phone right. You pay for the data. It’s your household. Like you wouldn’t let him drive in [00:30:00] ways that were dangerous. Probably you wouldn’t let him take drugs that are dangerous to him. Like you get to have rules. And what we know is that when the devices are in their bedrooms, they tend to not, It’s they’re really addictive and it’s really hard to control.
So most kids will be pretty relieved. I would let them sort of set their own time schedule, with it, but there, there need to be times and places in which they don’t, they don’t have that. I think that was a tangent and forget what the question was.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:30:33] No, no, it was perfect. Just, I mean, well, that’s kind of the joy of this is this is just an open conversation to get tips and I think that’s, that’s one that I found really beneficial. We, you know, again, we have a seven year old is our oldest, so we don’t have this issue right now. We, you know, we, she doesn’t have a phone, we don’t have that, but so many people I talk to and hear from. The phones is the big one. And that’s, that’s how they watch things. That’s how they interact with people.
So I loved your idea. And again, this comes back to what is your plan? Tell them what you want them to do, tell them where you want them to be. But what’s your plan. If I tell you you’re not going to have your phone in your room, where do you charge it? What do you do with it? What are the rules and kind of guidelines around it? I liked, I liked the way that you did that. There.
Christine Carter: [00:31:10] Yeah, I mean, it’s good. Oh, I think the, you were also asking about connection with kids and it is important. And this is where I think like harm reduction is kind of an important concept for us because the, they aren’t really connecting through social media in a meaningful way. So yes, talking on the phone is good. It’s, you know, not as good as being in person and using FaceTime, they will use FaceTime and all the apps, you know, zoom type apps to, to have video calls with each other. And that’s awesome. And it does count as connection.
And in fact, like I, we used to have a rule, like no double screening in our house and, but then we realized. Is that like, they’re really, there’ll be like watching a movie on a laptop and then FaceTiming with a friend that they’re watching the movie with on a second screen, or of course with video games, the kids all the time. Right. Yeah. And so now we actually encourage that. You know, if you can’t watch a movie, you know, with somebody then watching it with them on time is, is, is a way of expense. You’re dancing something together. So all that I think is okay. I’m okay.
I just didn’t want to be really clear that like having, spending a lot of time on Instagram or tick-tock or whatever, that’s not actually the type of connection that the human nervous system needs. And, there needs to be some way of connecting. We cannot be in isolation. It’s much harder for adolescents than it is for adults because of a trifecta of brain changes, which makes adolescence much more attuned to their peer group.
And, and, and so, you know, any hints to have exclusion is, is much harder for them, much more stressful. So that’s where I, I think it’s actually important to, assess your family’s risk. And, we are, we definitely are now letting our, teenagers, they all have, other families that they’re allowed to go inside.
And, you know, the two kids that are now living with us, each have two other families and it gets to be a lot of exposure. It’s definitely too big of a bubble in terms of like, if we were going to cut our risk to zero, you know, and we are, we’re managing it. We’re like keeping everybody away from the grandparents.
Yeah. Do you know what I mean? Because they need to have. Something. So they’re not allowed to go to parties.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:33:45] That’s a good line there.
Christine Carter: [00:33:45] And that’s like high risk stuff, right? Yeah. That they are allowed to like have close friendships and where they spend a lot of in-person time, even if it means like, I mean, when we told our youngest that who’s 17, that she could have a sleep over, she started to cry she was so happy. Right? Like she just, ran out and hugged her friend who she’s joined bubbles with, who happens to be a neighbor. I mean, both of them like clung on to each other and were like sopping, you know, so they’re desperate.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:34:29] No, I know. I know we’re, we’re, we’re on the little extreme side, even amongst our friends, on that. So that, that has been a hard one. And that’s one that I, I noticed more and more as we think about it that. You know, the connection side of it. There’s only so much that a masks talk conversation and FaceTime can really do. And, and one that like, you know, you talk about, you know, books and things like the seven love languages, like touch is one like, and to get that taken away, you know, I think is, is so bad and so, and so [00:35:00] hard and you touch on it. It was one of the things that like we, as parents can do, And so I like, I want to talk about that of, of what, again, outside of just the pandemic. Cause those are really key decisions that we have to make on where are we in, in the health of our kids, but what is the real life connection?
Cause I think, you know, my, my wife says it perfectly. When we talk about social media, she’s like, It’s everyone’s highlight reel. It’s not real life. Like it’s a, it’s the highlight reel of what they have going on. It’s not a real picture of what they are actually doing.
And so how do, how do we transition to say, okay, but then allow them to do it, which, which you said, and I, I love that. What did we do as parents? What are the things that we can do to help our kids?
Christine Carter: [00:35:41] Yeah. So I think, for younger, adolescents and kids who I, I think as parents we’re, we are high monitoring. Right? Like they, so, so that they’re learning about social media and their, and, and we allow them to make mistakes.
Right. Like, so that we’re not so harsh, we don’t just like completely take it away, but we’re watching enough. Spot checking enough, that we know if they do make a mistake and then we can work with them to address the mistake. so I see so many parents who are so overwhelmed by it all, and they don’t know how to use social media in the ways that their kids do that.
They just sort of look away. And let me tell you that is a giant mistake, especially if you’ve got middle schoolers, right. Middle schoolers are a disaster on social media. Most of them, most of them, I mean, like even the best, most conscientious ones with really good judgment make atrocious mistakes and they have it because it’s a largely unmonitored arena.
And, and you know, they, they say and do things that they would know that they would never do if they’re, if they thought an adult was going to see it or if they were in person. And so, so it’s really important to just be in the arena when they’re younger and then as they learn, really you can back off. I don’t, I’m not suggesting that it becomes a realm of like privacy for kids and they should earn it. It’s a little bit like getting a driver’s license like you practice first and you’re, you got somebody along with you and then you can kind of be on your own. But I, but I think that it’s important to realize that even older kids are still gonna make mistakes.
And so it’s really good to have, other adults in your community that are like following your kids on Instagram and that you sort of have open, thing, like there, one of my kids posted something that she really shouldn’t have. And it was in a small group of like a small Instagram thing of, there are only 10 or 15 people, and one of the kids went to their parents and said, I know Christine would want to see this.
That is really helpful. Right. So, you should create that climate to talk to your kids about how that. It’s like, you want to know when you’re making a mistake. Cause these mistakes can be really consequential. It’s not that we’re going to take it away forever. It’s that we want to help you correct it because these things can be so permanent and so damaging.
So, and I think kids are really realizing that now. Cancel culture thing is, I think that they’re starting to see, like, even though we adults have been saying, “Oh, the internet is permanent” for their entire childhoods. And now they’re like, Oh my God, the, that, so, and so’s admission, you know, to Cornell was rescinded because of a post from eighth grade.
And it’s like, yeah, that actually happened. That’s not a myth. Right. Like, and so I think they’re taking that more, more, seriously. Now, I mean, the other thing is that always give your kids the option of them taking it away from themselves. And by that, I mean, introduced the idea that like, constantly ask, “how do you feel after you’ve been on social media for a long time?” You can see, they get so screened stone, like the dopamine and all like the anxiety.
Yeah. So helping them, instead of saying, “Instagram makes you feel like crap, you put that thing down, you should turn it off. You should delete it.” Instead of telling them what to do, just asking them, just being curious about their experience because kids aren’t, most kids, aren’t naturally curious about their own experience in that way.
Right? Like they, they’re curious about other aspects of their experience. So, so asking, like how does it make you, you feel, how are you feeling right now? Just tell me how you’re feeling. Like not going to judge you. I’m not going to tell you what to do. I just am curious, like I’m going to accept however it is that you’re feeling because once you start to help them connect the dots [00:40:00] between like, they actually feel like crap after they’ve spent a lot of time on social media feeling judged and judging other people. They often will, will tone it back themselves.
And so, three of my four kids regularly does a detox and one of them just has decided, at this point that she can’t go back on certain social media platforms because it’s too cold, she’s too sensitive and she’s too compulsive about it. She just gets sucked in. She’s learned that it’s become more socially acceptable. She just, and then the other two, Well, the fourth isn’t even really, doesn’t spend that much time on social media, but the other two get sucked in. And certainly while they were stuck at home, they would get stuck in. And then sometimes they would be like, okay, mom, here’s my phone. I’m gonna, I’m gonna delete Instagram for a little while. I really need a break. Can you change the password for me? Don’t tell me what it is. Right. Yeah. I’ve always said I will be supportive of you. It’s hard to do yourself.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:41:09] That’s such a great thing. So in prep for this, I asked our fellow team and and some individuals for questions. And one of the was one of them said, you know, we had to take away because of, you know, not appropriate or the best decisions on social media, we took it away and you would have thought that we had taken the person’s right arm, like it was the worst experience ever. So what questions, I mean, you, I asked a couple of questions in there. What things would you recommend parents do as, as your adolescents are starting to go into that world? Cause this is a younger adolescent that, you know, is being opened to that door. What questions? What should you be doing to make sure that you’re encouraging them to think about it the way that you just described?
Christine Carter: [00:41:57] Well, so there is some preventative. Thanks. So there’s two answers to this question. And the first is if it’s not, if it’s, if you still have time, like if it’s not urgent, prepare them for the fact that you will be taking it away. So, right. Like that to say like, okay, this is a privilege. We expect you to be able to go without it sometimes. Right? Like we can’t always have everything we want all the time. and they’re going to be like, when we go on vacation, we’re not going to have it when we have, we’re going to have big stretches of time in which we’re not on it cause that’s healthy. And if you’ve abused the privilege, then we’ll take it away for a little while, just so that you can recalibrate. You need to prove to yourself that you can do this responsibly. Like there is a, there’s a risk, there’s a responsible way to yeah. Social media and that is not all the time.
It is not what, you know what I mean? So it’s not, it’s, you’re not entitled to it. It’s an, it’s not an entitlement, it’s a privilege. So that kind of preparation and then getting buy in into the times and places and how, you know, to sort of say. Like in our family, we don’t allow it in the car. And that was like, that got a lot of pushback.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:43:11] Oh
Christine Carter: [00:43:11] Yeah. Yeah. So…
Nicholas Olesen: [00:43:15] Walk me through that. Like how did that work? Give me the kind of play by play. How did that work with the family?
Christine Carter: [00:43:21] Well, we said, you know, so we started before the oldest had her driver’s license and we said, you know, we’ve noticed that our family car trips are like, when we’re just going from one place to the other, they’re just like, not that fun anymore because you’re all on your screens.
And so we’re going to, unless it’s a special occasion and we establish it upfront, we’re just going to put all the all the phones in the trunk, except for the person who’s controlling the music. And, and then we take turns on that and it has to be on airplane mode and blah, blah, blah. Like we just sort of said, this is the way it’s going to go.
And here are the benefits for you. It’s going to make you a better driver. Once you start driving you’re, you’re going to need to be aware of what the outside of the car you’re going to need. So right now we need you to start practicing. We need you to know where you are at all times. As though you were driving, like you have to look out the window and, and be courteous to the people who are driving, right. Like have a conversation, this is time for us together.
So actually they, were like, Oh, alright. You know, like this is not my first parenting book. Right. So they’re kind of used to all this stuff. And so, but then like they just test you on it. So that’s the second part to this answer is like, if you go in and they’re like, it’s their job to see whether you’re going to hold your ground, they need you to be the parent. They feel much more secure when you are the parent. And they also feel really powerful if they can push you around. Right. Like it’s, they know on some level that it’s not what they need and that it’s a false power, but it is their job to be like, No.
And some kids get very, very [00:45:00] anxious when you take social media away. That’s the place to absolutely stand your ground because it’s just such, it snowballs into all kinds of other things. Here’s the place where it’s very uncomfortable for them to be without social media. You can be really compassionate. You can really understand and you can empathize. You can reflect their feelings back to them.
And it’s really uncomfortable for you too, with all the tantruming and obnoxious things that they’re doing to try and get it back. You can handle that discomfort and modeling that you can handle the discomfort like you don’t. You don’t need them to like, be happy all the time. That’s not your job. Right?
Like they, you feel that they can handle the discomfort of no social media and you can handle them being mad at you. You really can. Right? Like it’s like, I think teenagers today and parents today forget, or kids don’t know, but I think our generation of parents forget like, we were mad at our parents all the time.
Right? You don’t have to be best friends all the time. And in fact, they do better when they feel like they have parents who are gonna like, hold the ground, hold the line in terms of what’s good for them. And what’s safe for them.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:46:23] Yeah, that’s such a good point. Cause I think that, the kind of helicopter mom and helicopter dad that I feel like was really in the press and everything 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago, somewhere around there. I feel like we still do that, but in different ways where it’s, it’s helicoptering to make sure they don’t get hurt or to make sure they’re not sad. So one thing, when I look at it, I, I just want to know, like, when you think about that and when you look at those things, like what are things we can do, to kind of help us gauge how to give them that, that, okay. We’re okay with you guys getting a little bit hurt. But I also want to make sure that I’m setting you up for success, if you will, and not. Not being that helicopter, but being okay with your pain, if you will.
Christine Carter: [00:47:08] Yeah. I mean, I think you’ve actually just said it. Like to say to them, I am okay with your pain. Like that life is difficult no matter who you are, right. Like nobody is entitled to a life free from pain. It doesn’t come. Right. Like it just, yeah. That’s, that’s not a thing. And so what I want you to know is that you’re going to feel pain. It’s gonna, it’s gonna really hurt and you can handle it. And by the way, I can handle it.
It’s going to hurt me too. What hurts you hurts me, you know?
Nicholas Olesen: [00:47:43] Yeah.
Christine Carter: [00:47:44] Yeah. Yeah. So, and I can handle it like you don’t, you’re not responsible for my emotions. Don’t worry about me. I’m not responsible for your emotions. So I’m not going to always be trying to shield you from pain. I do think it’s important with, with kids and teenagers in particular to really be clear that like, Life can be really difficult. And we have an emotional response to that, but you know, sadness is an appropriate response to loss and disappointment and things. That’s different than imagining the worst case scenario and, and reacting emotionally to that, right? Like, That didn’t happen yet. Like, we don’t need to grieve about something we haven’t lost yet.
So we, as parents can help kids understand the difference there it’s, it’s, it’s enormously helpful for them. And we need to understand that, like when we’re freaking out, usually it’s because of an imagined future, not because of their actual pain from the present.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:48:46] Well, then I will leave it with a teaser for people to go get your book, because one of the things that you said that I, I had down that I would love to talk about, but you’ve been so gracious with your time. We’re going to end it in a second here, but you said to have them write about their best possible future self. And I’m going to leave. We’re not going to talk about it. I’m going to tell everyone to go get your book, because it’s just fantastic, especially in this time.
But for the last minute here, I just want you to to tell people how they can reach out to you for coaching and services. You do so many different things that we didn’t touch on. So let’s talk about, you know, what, you know, our clients are, are business owners and executives with families. So I know you do all of that. Tell everybody. And I don’t like, like, I feel like I could, I could pick your brain on each one of those individually, but tell everybody just so that when they say, yup, this was fantastic. I want you in my life. Like tell me about it.
Christine Carter: [00:49:40] Ok! So I, yeah, for the last 20 years I’ve been a coach as well. So I have a PhD in sociology and have studied the sociology of wellbeing and habits and all those kinds of things. And I apply it always to my coaching.
I do have a pretty robust executive coaching, practice and, my [00:50:00] favorite, People in business to work with are parents, working parents. Yeah. And I feel like I’ve been in training my whole life for this pandemic because everybody’s now working from home and I’ve been writing a book before the one on teenagers was about, was called the Sweet Spot: how to accomplish more by doing less. And it basically was like how to set your life up for this chaos that we’re in right now.
Nicholas Olesen: [00:50:23] Yeah. And you did that with like how to get yourself in flow time and like all those things that I think so many of us want right now. Yeah. So, I mean, you were, you were like to say your resources is such a, such a small amount of what you really are.
So I just want to really thank you Christine, for your time.
Christine Carter: [00:50:40] Aww, thank you!
Nicholas Olesen: [00:50:40] This was absolutely fantastic. I know that we’re going to have a bunch of people reaching out to you. For those of you that don’t know, through our email program the first 50 people that reach out, we’re sending you a book. So please let us know.
And we’ll be sending Christine’s newest book to you, or any of them. She’s got three of them that are all great. All what you want your kids to be. You want your kids happy and successful teenagers. You want to accomplish more with less. And you want to raise happiness. So let’s be honest. We all want that.
So, Christine, thank you. This was wonderful.
Christine Carter: [00:51:07] Oh, it was really fun. Thanks for having me.