Last month, Bishop Guertin High School hosted a community forum on mental health that was recorded on their YouTube channel. We were honored to partner with Bishop Guertin and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health on this project. Read more
Finding Common Ground:
Partnering with Parents, Educators, & Students
to Reduce Anxiety & Stress in the Public Schools
March 4, 5-7pm, Puritan Backroom, Manchester, New Hampshire
Sponsored by The Reconnection Project/Jeff Levin Coaching
School administrators are invited to enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a relaxing, solution-focused forum with your colleagues on the new challenges caused by the epidemic of increased stress and anxiety. The discussion will include:
- The increasing number of parents seemingly at cross-purposes with school staff.
- Breaking down the seeming vastness of the anxiety issue into manageable, conquerable steps.
5-5:30: Registration and Introductions
Remarks by Stephen Sierpina, Windham H.S. principal
Jeff Levin, Reconnection Project Founder
5:30-6: Discussion of the issues: How pervasive is the stress/anxiety in your school community?
6-7: Solutions: How can we work over time with parents, our staffs, and, of course, the students to reconnect the school community and reduce student stress, anxiety, and all of the negative behaviors they engender?
Preregistration would be appreciated, but drop-ins are also welcome: Contact Jeff Levin at (603) 496-0305 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“Our own life has to be our message.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, terrible tragedy that it was, also ended up bringing to the fore something positive that is sorely lacking in many of today’s young people: a mission. Although I wish it weren’t mass shootings that were the reason, the way students around the world rallied around the cause of “no more school shootings” couldn’t have been a better demonstration of how kids are brought to life around a mission. Read more
I am offering a new assembly this year for high school students. Appropriate for both public and private school settings, my Curriculum of Confidence program empowers students to take control of their own futures.
It sounds ambitious, but really the premise is simple: It’s about Voice and Choice. Read more
I spoke to a father of three teenage boys recently, a very reasonable, bright man. He expressed concern about the fact that opiates are out there, and we talked about striking that parenting balance around drugs and alcohol, about finding that sweet spot where you don’t issue blanket prohibitions that are impossible to enforce, nor do you become overly permissive.
This brought up some things I’ve been mulling over:
- Why are so many teenagers sniffing and shooting opiates, boys and girls who, a generation ago, wouldn’t have even entertained a thought of using them?
- What are the more complex dynamics in middle- and upper-class schools and families that are causing kids to use opiates?
Actually, I would argue that “good” kids are taking risks with many aspects of their lives, not just opiates. In fact, many of their choices can be seen through the lens of addictive behavior, whether it’s sex, working out, drinking, video games, even schoolwork. Read more
Next month I am teaming up with Division I head coaches and strength and conditioning coaches to offer one-day workshops in football and hockey that teach rising high school juniors, seniors, and post-grads to learn more about the mental and emotional skills needed to take their game to the next level, as well as how to assess and improve their strength and conditioning specifically for their sport.
On Sunday, June 12, I team up with Holy Cross’s head coach Tom Gilmore and strength and conditioning director Jeff Oliver for a football retreat.
On Sunday, June 26, I will be working with head coaches Norm Bazin (UMass Lowell) and Rick Bennett (Union College) and Union College’s head strength and conditioning coach Dan Gabelman to offer a hockey retreat.
Both retreats will be held at The Farm in Waltham, Massachusetts.
More information and registration information can be found here:
Space is limited, so please sign up early to avoid disappointment.
For more information:
I will be facilitating a panel of experts for a program at the Concord (N.H.) High School Auditorium on Tuesday, May 17, from 6-8pm. Sponsored by the Concord Hospital Center for Health Promotion, the program is free, and all are welcome.
The program will be covering a lot of the material that appeared in my latest blog post.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and I hope to see you there.
One thing I am called upon to do often is decode kids. A great thing about being a life coach who does home visits is I get to meet the entire family and see how they relate to each other. Not surprisingly, many parents struggle to communicate with their teenagers and 20-somethings, and I get called in to decode. Often the parents are surprised, or even shocked, to hear how their kids are really feeling.
Although many kids may seem OK or even to be doing well to their parents, they really aren’t OK. They’re digitized, anxious, addicted to gizmos, aren’t resilient, and don’t know how to push themselves outside of school and sports. They are supremely focused on goals and ambitions to the exclusion of their dreams and simple joy. They achieve, yet they often feel completely powerless. They appear to be successful, yet so many are sad.
I am not the only person who is reporting this: most of the professionals with whom I talk—pediatricians, teachers, coaches, school administrators, and some worried parents—are all seeing the same things.
Why is this happening? Part of this is cultural. We, the Analog Generation, knew that if we worked reasonably hard in school and stayed out of major trouble, we’d be fine. The messages we received, both consciously and unconsciously, from the adults in our lives went along these lines:
“The world’s a good, fun safe place.”
“You can trust most adults.”
“The people in Washington probably know what they’re doing.”
“The earth will last forever.”
“Your parents have some issues, but basically they’re there for you.”
“You can and should respect your teachers and coaches, and they’re really looking out for you.”
The Digital Kids don’t enjoy that kind of reassurance. We all know the messages that are swirling around them at all times: ISIS, global warming. A “media” that reports the news sensationally in great detail 24/7 and promulgates fear. There’s a fractured political system that has forgotten about respect and compromise and seems oblivious to the people it’s supposed to serve. It’s everyone being on their smartphones all of the time (making Einstein, who said, “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.” very prescient, indeed), trying to use communication devices as connection devices, which doesn’t work.
A noted psychiatrist, D.W. Winnicott, coined the term holding environment for that positive, safe, predictable environment parents create in their home for a baby. Well, the cultural holding environment, in a scant generation, has begun to radically tear.
And because of all of this, many parents are afraid—so afraid—in their efforts to protect their children from all of these awful things, they have neglected to prepare them for adulthood. They haven’t allowed their kids to be kids. Many of these children might have every material gadget possible, but they rarely get to play outside. They are hardly, if ever, allowed to go out on their own, get into trouble, get out of trouble, find out who they are as individuals. They have not been allowed to fail or face consequences. To take risks. To have fun with their friends in unstructured, unsupervised play. And the result is stressed-out, anxious, sad kids.
These kids hold a secret kept even from themselves: They do not feel in control of their lives, do not enjoy contentment, and do not experience excitement about the whole of living.
Most of their parents aren’t in on this secret and, in fact, don’t have a clue how their children really feel. We’re raising a generation of kids who are using devices, Snapchat, sex, work, working out, stress, drugs, alcohol, and achievement to feel alive. Kids who don’t know how to truly connect.
There are a lot of things parents can do to improve this situation, and that is a big part of my work with kids and families. But it isn’t easy, as it means bucking some trends. It means making a conscious decision to NOT keep up with the Joneses. It means changing things up with your kids, and, as you know, change is not easy or immediate, and you will be met with resistance. But when you see that big grin on your child’s face when she or he realizes that life is about the journey as much, if not more, than the destination, and you are sharing their joy, maybe for the first time in ages, it will feel great.
In addition to my direct work with families, I have a program on this subject for both large and small groups of parents. It’s appropriate for PTAs, libraries, religious organizations, businesses (I do a lunchtime program), or even just a group of friends who are interested in these issues. Please contact me for details.
Sigmund Freud said, “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.”
Boldness is the ability, the willingness, the love of taking risks. The risks don’t have to include sky diving or free climbing El Capitan, but boldness is an important component to happiness, because it means that you are living without fear.
I know what you’re thinking: you love your kids, so you should be all set, right?
Not exactly. Read more
I recently ran a Leadership Academy for Pittsfield, Massachusetts, high school students, which was covered by the Berkshire Eagle. You can read the article HERE.