Sleep is super important, especially for growing minds. It is as vital to your health as the food you eat and the water you drink. Yet so many of us, especially our children and teens, are not getting enough good quality zzzzs.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that teens need between 8 and 10 hours of high quality sleep each night to function at their best, yet only 15 % report getting that much on school nights. Even if you know your child is going to bed at a certain time and waking up at a certain time each day, it is the quality of sleep that matters more than the quantity. Many teens and adults suffer from treatable sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea but many don’t know it. By tracking your child’s sleep using a Fitbit, Apple watch or another device, you can get a better idea of how your child is really sleeping.
Lack of sleep makes it hard to focus, contributing to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and solve problems. Tired kids and adults have a hard time learning and absorbing information. It can also contribute to aggressive behaviors, unhealthy eating and weight gain, acne, and increased use of substances like alcohol and nicotine.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help to treat insomnia and give your teen the tools he/she/they need to fall asleep and stay asleep. Other conditions like sleep apnea may require more medical attention. If your child is displaying unhealthy sleep patterns it is recommended that you seek advice from a licensed medical professional.
Sleep needs to be a priority in your teen’s life. Limiting screen time, caffeinated drinks/pills, and stressful behaviors before bed along with setting a strict bedtime can help to establish a regular schedule and ensure your teen is getting the rest they need to function at their best. Keeping the same nighttime routine can make sleep easier.
Someone once told me they didn’t want to go after their dream because they were afraid of a self-imposed expectation. They didn’t want to create the assumption that they should be making a change. They didn’t want to face that kind of intense pressure from themselves or others.
What this person really wants is a life aligned with personal value. It is not an expectation. There is a difference between personal value and expectation. An expectation is metric, it is performance driven, whereas personal value is what is important to us. Personal values are the things near and dear to our hearts.
They are part of who we are. For example, say you knew someone battling with breast cancer and breast cancer awareness has become an important issue for you. It has become part of your personal values. You can participate in a breast cancer fundraiser, and even set a goal to raise a certain amount. You don’t need to set this as an expectation and kick yourself if you don’t meet the goal. You are not expected to cure breast cancer. You value the cause. It is an important and deeply personal part of your life.
Everyone has a personal value and aligning your life with that value helps you to feel “alive” and to motivate you to do certain things. Maybe your personal value is physical fitness. You value your health and well being so you decide to walk to the store, you are not setting the expectation that you will run a marathon.
What are some of your personal values?
As a parent, I understand that “I know what my child needs” feeling. We are, after all, the ones who have been with them since they were born. We have changed their diapers, kissed their boo-boos, and held their hand every step of the way. So, when the time comes where you find out your teen might not always need you the way you think, it can be hard.
I had a parent of a teen say to me once, “my teen told me she talked about XYZ during therapy. I have never heard about those things. That’s not even the issue, her issues are ABC. I know, because I am her mom!” I told the parent how great it was that her teen was confiding in her and opening up to her about what she had talked about in therapy. Then I asked how the parent approached the conversation. She said, “I told her that she should have talked about ABC.”
Ask what is important to them?
Sometimes as parents we are looking too much at the big picture and we miss the fundamental details. We think we are helping but we are actually not. We forget to look at what matters to our child, our teenager. We fail to ask what is important to them?
I asked the parent how she felt that the teen was opening up to her about what she was talking about in therapy, and expressing what was important to her? The parent stopped for a minute, stunned. She admitted that she had never thought of things that way. She was spending too much time hovering that she missed the opportunity her teen was giving her to connect. You don’t need to hover, you don’t need to be the “cool” parent, sometimes you just need to be a “still” parent. Take it in, be the ears your teen needs instead of inserting what you think you know they need.
I frequently hear from women that they deny their emotions, they want to hide emotion to not be seen as “sensitive” or “emotional.” They tell me it hinders them at work, and it causes them to have an image of being “weak.” That stereotype is wrong. The pre-conceived idea that we shouldn’t be letting our emotions play a role is fundamentally not true, and research proves it.
“Without emotion, people are unable to make good decisions”
Neuroscience professor Antonio Damasio has found in his research that without emotion people are unable to make good decisions. He studied patients with brain lesions whose ability to feel emotion was impaired but their reason was otherwise unaffected and found those people could not make good decisions. He found that the “extended” self-conception of humans emerges from emotions and feelings.
In his research, Damasio determined there is an “action program” in the body that starts with an emotion. When we feel fear, for example, our body takes the feeling and uses it to develop a proper mental reaction that will ultimately lead to an action. Our emotions are what help to guide us in decision-making. They help us determine the next step. Emotion is so critical to us as humans and the way we function that we wouldn’t have music, art, religion, science, technology, economics, politics, justice, or moral philosophy without the existence of strong feelings.
So next time you think about denying your feelings, think again. You are feeling the way you are for a reason and the mere presence of that emotion is important. It is essential to your daily life and function. It is helping to guide you to make good decisions. Emotion is not a sign of weakness. If anything it is a sign of strength. Your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. You are human.
Read more on Damasio’s research here: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/528151/the-importance-of-feelings/