CLAYTON: 89.9 Light FM,We’re glad and taking you through this morning and my guest on one-one-one from teentalkinternational.com and author of the “Teen Talk” books, Sharon Witt is in the studio with me. How are you Sharon?
SHARON WITT: Great, thank you. Good morning Clayton.
CLAYTON: It’s good to have you. And we talked about your “Teen Talk” books, oh, it must be years ago. Yeah, three maybe, four years ago?
SHARON WITT: Yes, about three years ago.
CLAYTON: Yeah, there you go. And it just got on from strength to strength, been publishing over the UK most recently as well.
SHARON WITT: Yes.
CLAYTON: Huge, huge impact into the lives of teens, so you just understand where they’re going in life and the best way to step forward. And I know that, hopefully, in the next little while in the book can help parents as well the works. You’ve got an incredible heart for teens, don’t you?
SHARON WITT: Yeah, I do Clayton. Yeah, I just, I love working with teenagers and also helping to, I guess, prepare parents as well and help them with their journey in raising adolescents.
CLAYTON: You’re a teacher by trade, you’re at these books as well, and today, we’re gonna start straight into, what are the three issues specifically that teens are dealing with in today’s society? Things that they’re going through, so every parent of a teen, every grandparents, and teens themselves can be listening in and getting some ideas. You want to start out by talking about self-esteem and self-esteem issues in teens.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, look, I think one of the biggest issues that I say as an educator and someone who works with teenagers everyday is, so many of them are struggling with self-esteem and self-image. And particularly at the earlier stages of adolescent, children are grappling with “who am I?”, you know, “where do I fit in?”, and “who are my friends?” and there’s so many influences from society, you know, from, you know, all the media. Portrayal of body image, and you know, what’s gorgeous, what’s beautiful and you know what does a man look like, and you know, all these images and it’s really hard for adolescents to live up to these images because they’re just not real. And, so a lot of them are struggling with, you know, with their self-image and where they fit in. And you know, it is a bit of a scary world at the moment, and that can be quite confronting for teenagers as well. So.
CLAYTON: The important part to actually combat that is that, would a strong family structure, is that with talking to themselves about the fact that “hey, these are just an image, it’s not real life. “ And these are the things that we need to do.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, look, there’s a combination of things. As parents, one of the things we can do is really focus on loving our kids and providing, you know, a stronger framework as we can. And, you know, a happy home as much as we can. And also, ensuring that there are positive role models in their lives and mentors, people that can get alongside encourage teens. You know, our teenagers thrive on being affirmed and encouragement and when they get that you just see them glow. And there’s no limit to what they can achieve, but so many of our teenagers just don’t have people in their lives to affirm them. So, if we can do those sorts of things, then providing opportunities such as sporting and being involved in charity work and volunteer work, just all those sorts of things that can help give kids a reason to shine.
CLAYTON: Yeah, absolutely. The second that we’re gonna talk about with teens are struggling but using a lot of social networking. Maybe, let’s not necessarily consider this struggle or something they’re gonna work with, but there’s a lot of things that happens on social networking which affect our teenagers.
SHARON WITT: It’s huge Clayton. I mean, we grew up when we didn’t even have access to a computer. And now, our kids, our teenagers are what is known a “digital natives”. They have basically, just, you know, woken up into, brought into this world that has computers and is open 24/7, you know, the internet is available to them and there are lot of issues, you know. They can, you know, go into places, that you know, are quite scary and quite real. Yet, there’s also lots of issues to do with cyber safety and bullying that occurs online. I mean, there’s a lot in the media about that yet it is, it is quite a worry, it’s a concern, but it’s just a new way of socializing. And so, we need to as parents be quite proactive in understanding social media and also be aware of what our kids are doing online. I think just the barrier in head saying I don’t understand computers, I don’t understand social networking is really a shame. We really need to be proactive and see what they are doing.
CLAYTON: Yeah, work together with our teens rather than us versus you, or you versus us. It’s actually working together to form a bond.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, and it doesn’t mean you need to be, you know, watching your child 24/7 actually looking over their shoulder and seeing what they’re doing online. But actually having conversations with them and having a family contract and ensuring that the computer is not locked away somewhere where the parents can’t have access to what they are doing, but just to make it a two way conversation and really have those conversations with the kids.
CLAYTON: Fantastic advice. We’re gonna talk also about that the mental health side that so often our teens are struggling more and more with mental health issues. On to our next, Sharon Witt from teentalkinternational.com is the author of the “Teen Talk” book series as well. My guest on one-one-one this morning here on Light FM.
89.9 Light FM with Clayton taking you through this morning. And on one-on-one from teentalkinternational.com and the author of the “Teen Talk” book series, Sharon Witt is my guest in the studio with me. Sharonwe’re going through the issues that teens are dealing with at the moment in their lives and we’re already covered a couple of them, self-esteem and social networking. We’ll talk about mental health and where they find themselves there seems to be more depression in our teens and more self harm,these sorts of things as well. Is that a fair assessment of what is actually happening?
SHARON WITT: Look, I feel it is. Over, you know, the last two decades that I’ve been teaching young people and working with teenagers, I feel, that it really has been on the rise. You know, as an educator we deal so much more with students that have so much of a range of issues, but mental health and depression seems to be one of those things that’s on the rise. You know, some of the figures are there 160,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 living with depression each year. Now that’s huge. We know depression is on the rise in society, but we need to be proactive in stepping in and helping in our young people dealing with depression and anxiety which is also another form of mental illness that, yeah, that young people are grappling with. You know, there’s a pressure of sometimes home life and dealing with school and all the pressures of academic life and of course social networking as well, and yeah, all those sorts of things can contribute.
CLAYTON: And even battling, eventually the all three link together things what we talked about, you know, the self esteem of who am I exactly, do I look good enough, whatever. That can all then play into this mental health issues as well.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, absolutely. One of the other things that we are saying is the rising self-harm now. When I was growing up as a teenager, I think that was, you know, very infrequent. But we’re finding that teens are, they’re looking for escape, their looking for a way to deal with their anxiety, whether it be self medicating through alcohol and drug use or it’ll be through self harm through cutting themselves. And that’s really just a cry for help and we need to give our teenagers other avenues, and other ways of being able to deal with this. We need strong strategies and strong support networks.
CLAYTON: So, what are some of those things to actually? How do we form a stronger structure around them? Maybe a teen’s going “I don’t want to sit down and talk with mom and dad” or “I don’t want anything to do with them.” How do we actually support them?
SHARON WITT: Yeah, look I think if you’ve got a young person you think is grappling with low self esteem, mental health issues or certainly issues of self harm and using alcohol, I think it’s really important that they, you seek help for them. And point out they actually know why they are experiencing what they are experiencing and why they’re going through tough anxiety times. And so, I think it’s important that you find a councilor that you can take them to even if it starts with your own local GP and yes your teenager will probably kick and scream and say “I’m not going to the GP”, but you are the parent and it’s really important that they get help in these early stages of when, their sorts of anxieties are rearing in their ugly heads. It’s also, you know, there are workers, people that are working in school community, our chaplains who can be a first support of call as well and also maybe connecting them with their youth leader if you’re involved in the church. There are youth leaders getting them connected with other young people and other people that can be role models as well.
CLAYTON: Yeah, I think is that it’s really encouragement to be out for parents too that they might find themselves in the situation where children, I mean, talk to me about at least, but I can’t go and do those things, take them to the GP, hook them with other people and act as a parent at the moment. Just keep loving, keep loving until they get through this and they dealt with some of those things and they gonna go say thanks so much for loving me.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, and that’s right. And also, it’s really important that parents gets the support themselves as well because it is a difficult journey when you’ve got a young person dealing with a mental illness or dealing with depression. You need to get the support yourself as well. So, it’s really important that parents don’t do it alone but they actually. You know there’s some great websites out there, there’s one called reachingout.com that I’ve spent a lot of time researching and it’s fantastic. It just gives a lot of information and ports of call for parents and I think that’s what it’s all about, resourcing yourself.
CLAYTON: Yeah. Final thing, you’ve done incredibly well in terms of getting your books published as well. This is a bit of a different topic, but you’re actually running a one day publishing event coming up, in think the 30 of July. You’re gonna be running that too.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, that’s right.
CLAYTON: This must be exciting and being able for you to go on this journey of “how did I get my books published and now actually help other people”.
SHARON WITT: Yeah, absolutely. One of my passions is just to help other people who might have a story to share and maybe like me who, you know, four, five years ago thought “Look I’ve got this, you know, passion to wanna help young people and to equip them and provide resources for them “. But I have no idea where to start, I just have this in-built passion that I know God wants me to do with this. So, I’m really happy to share my journey and able to help equip other people. I’m gonna guide them through the process from idea right through to having their book published and whether you self publish or go with the major publishers . So, I’m really excited to be able to share that with other people.
SHARON WITT: Thanks Clayton.
CLAYTON: We got all the various issues that we’ve covered up on. We’re gonna put on the podcast up on line at lightfm.com.au and you can go listen to this again. We talked about self-esteemin teens, social networking impact that has and some of the mental health issues that they’re dealing with as well. That’ll be out in 60 seconds time, you’d be able to listen to that for free once again, lightfm.com.au