AN INSIDER’S POINT OF VIEW. WHY SILICON VALLEY KIDS ARE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO SEVERE ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
November 17th, 2017 by Alison Dwight
It’s no secret….not anymore. Living in the Silicon Valley culture that can appear as Darwinian, intense competition, severely high expectation, and unnaturally obtainable productivity, has created a insidiously growing atmosphere of well covered panic.
Wow! That sounds really dark, but I know there is courageous truth there.
It is only by speaking the uncovered and raw truth that healing, change and re-evolution can begin!
True Story: I raised four kids from birth through high school, all a year and a half apart (#nuts) in Old Palo Alto, the birthplace (in my view..some may contest) and heart of the Silicon Valley. This Stanford University Suburb (“Berg”, as a well known fellow writer refers to it) is on the “light side” full of old growth trees, pristine clean and well lit sidewalks, a high level of security and safety, a very highly touted education system from the world renowned Stanford based private nursery school, through the well known public high schools. Beautiful old and rebuilt multi-million dollar homes that are usually inhabited by, a simplified one of three scenarios of, extra-ordinary people.
1. Older couples that bought their home decades ago and holding on to their property that they bought for a couple hundred of thousands and now worth several million (ps. probably far less than 10 percent of the population);
2. New families/New Wealth usually transplanted top level Employees from other parts of the country (usually East Coast and near the East Coast/Midwest, highly educated, mostly Ivy League or top tier colleges and Master degrees, very career successful and transferring for a very high paid tech based work; and
3. New families/New Wealth Entrepreneurs, that have gone the start-up/ipo/sold (will sell) ‘my’ company for millions route. Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs turned VC or other types of investors of Tech based work whether Products or Services.
*New Families that are “employees of ” yet not severely high paid or highly compensated/company owners usually live in Nearby towns that are close to their places of employment and more affordable (still extremely expensive) and both the mother and father work beyond full time. Ugh, the point is this….this place is a melting pot of extra-ordinary people that have ‘unnaturally’ succeeded at ‘the game’.
What does this mean? And how does it apply to raising Healthy kids or raising kids that are Highly Susceptible to Anxiety and Depression?
And, more importantly, is there a solution and hope?
Let’s start with “what does this mean regarding
Raising healthy, flourishing, well adjusted, emotionally well children?”
BUT FIRST…ANOTHER TRUE STORY.
Parenting, in my experienced view, is not only one of the most challenging life experiences you will ever experience; but, it is also (again in my humble opionion) the undeniably most profound vehicle for self awareness and personal growth.
My story, in some abbreviation, goes like this….
I HAD COMPLETELY KNOW IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING!!!
Yet, my very strong sense of capability in completing goals and my eternal optimistic point of view lead me to believe I was not only going to create a large family, but they were going to be exceptional and how I visualized that.
HAHAHAHAHA! Okay, yes, they are exceptional, but I promise you I did not “visualize” that they would actually have their own path and identities that didn’t look like my visualization!!!
Kids are going to be who THEY visualize themselves being, and if they alter themselves to be Your dream, this would Not be in the realm of “Conscious Parenting”. Each and every one of my kids has asserted themselves to do what they not only want, but more importantly “Need” to do in order to have their own growth experience, I can do my best to suggest, model and guide, but they need to make their own choices and have those experiences. That is the Hard Part folks.
It is hard to pick just One personal story about my own experiences with this…so I will pick one super juicy story…. Living in Old Palo Alto, my oldest son was relatively good friends with one of Silicon Valley’s most celebrated individual’s son; and another kid from a prominent family (that was not accepted into the Mainstream SV Club),
Anyway, “Tyler” my son, was an “artsy” type of kid. He was not a sporty boy, nor was he really that interested in being a scholar (although he was not only capable, he did very well…I have to say this for his sake), because some kids don’t Want to or are Not Capable of doing well in the school system and that is precisely the point of Consciously Parenting your precious children!! To not only love, accept and trust them, but to allow and observe their unfolding as individuals with no expectation of the outcome other than the desire for them to be Well physically and emotionally, to take care of themselves physically, emotionally and abundantly. For them to be fulfilled, to have deep and wonderful healthy relationships, to grow and to contribute. For us as parents to learn to allow and observe their experiences while guiding and modeling good choices, actions, and behavior. For us as parents to model Trust and Unconditional love for them and ourselves.
He was not that interested in complying with what the Mainstream Silicon Valley deemed as acceptable or understandable. I was spiraling into a state of Fear and visualizing that if I did not do something drastic, he would not only fail, but be crushed, socially, and emotionally. Truthfully, it felt very life or death for me in that moment of time! He would become an “outsider” in a very hard to get into club of highly achieving world of Silicon Valley Mainstream ideals! Instead of allowing and observing His choices,
I took over and micro-managed his life. Forcing him into unrealistic levels of productivity, bolstered up with private lessons, private tutors, endless structured classes and play dates I thought he should have. I “helped” him on every level of his work, school work, and heck I probably would have played on the tennis team for him if I could have found a way.
Pretty ridiculous, yet, I suspect a great deal of parents have had or are having these kind of thoughts and actions! It “works” to a degree, but in actuality, it is short term and the side affects are far more costly than the short-term panacea. To make a long story short, I am in awe of my son who finally had the courage and wisdom to tell me on the eve of his college graduation; “I am going to live My life, and if you cannot accept that, then I will not be able to communicate with you that often or this openly.” “It is your choice Mom, I hope you make the ‘more preferable choice’.” By the way, I did respect his communication and am grateful for his courage and wisdom. And yes, he is doing His life and I am Very proud of him. More importantly, my New Found Trust and Respect (Using the Conscious Parenting techniques of ANRL and others) for his decisions has not only healed our relationship, but healed him and paradoxically has set him on a much more productive and healthy path to what His Dream is, not mine. This is “A Yay” as I call it.
His other friend that was thought of as an Outsider in the Mainstream SV Club (and was pretty much outcast back then as I recall it), became one of the world’s most prominent EDM creators with millions of followers and performances all around the world at pretty much All of the top Festival Music and Art venues. He does what he loves and what he is extraordinary at..his choice..his work (which started much to the fear and misunderstanding of the local community) around the end of Middle School. He is in a wonderful relationship, supports himself abundantly, has wonderful friends and is living His Dream!
Moving on to the Action You Can Take Now!
Here is the oversimplified breakdown of the “challenging side” of raising kids in the
Silicon Valley (an deep Insider’s point of view).
- The level of career success that is necessary to inhabit the Silicon Valley is Uber-Natural; which is what I meant about “un-natural”. This expectation and need to generate large amounts of money for living within the culture causes a great deal of anxiety and stress which is passed on to the children either directly or indirectly through the energetic climate of the home, school, and community.
- What is necessary to achieve this level of supernatural career success is the following: (a) a phenomenal level of education; usually at a top university; (b) this usually means you had to have a preternatural GPA in high school and college; which, I suggest, is inherently “un-natural” for developing children (Mind you…that doesn’t mean it is Bad per se…it just means that in my humble opinion kids would naturally play outside all day in nature if that was available possibly) *Okay eating cheetos and playing video games today, not the best of choices*; (c) then a preternatural focus and consistency to obtain a higher level specialized degree and/or a high level specialized career, either as an employee or employer.
- A result of this Uber-natural career success is that this creates a heavy waited focused on ‘the game’ of succeeding in the business world; yet a much lower level of development of personal growth, self awareness and heavily influencing our parenting ability; some of which is positive and some of which is harmful.
- As a result of these highly successful, supernaturally “successful” individuals now creating families from a place of innocence and a dream; what can happen is an unsuspected journey of a very challenging navigation of raising deeply loved individuals, when you have no idea really of what you are doing, (particularly in this highly charged, highly competitive, volatile culture and environment).
It is NOT your fault. We do the best we can with the skills, knowledge and ability we have in the moment. Which, in regards to the mega important realm of Consciously raising our children, is relatively little.
Please don’t despair. Be not alarmed. Practice non-resistance to the possibility.
PRACTICE being open and excited to learn, expand and grow.
Sometimes blatantly exposing the “truth” is Very uncomfortable and this can be met with resistance in the form of recusal, anger, denial, justification; the list in the “Fear Box” can go on and on.
Here is the Good News!!!
Initial Basic To Do List :
- Pre Birth. Start a journal (a simple notebook). Make two columns, one labeled “Victim and the other “Judge”. During your day make a list of your thoughts when they fall into one of these two categories. First step of “self awareness” is being aware of the thoughts you have and noticing them, observing them, allowing them to pass on when they are negative, because these do not serve you and lesson your energy level. After allowing them to pass, through the process I have outlined in my introductory video; which then uncovers the ‘truth’ which always feels positive and will have instruction on whether you need to do ‘something’ or nothing.
- Birth to 3 years old. This is the primary developmental age for the brain’s wiring. The Most important thing is “Secure Attachment” to the primary caregiver(s). Be there. Spend uninterrupted time connecting with your child. Spend consistent, loving, nurturing time. Make sure the environment is energetically safe and loving; which includes, but not limited to, your energetic interaction with your spouse, others in the child’s environment, your voice and tone of voice when speaking to or about anyone or anything (including phone conversations). Be immediately present and nurturing when the child cries; this is his or her only form of communication. Don’t judge it for crying, understand, translate and honor it responsively, non negatively, non fear emotionally and lovingly.
- Toddler to pre-pubescent. Physical and Emotional care and modeling. Loving Limit Setting/boundaries techniques set out in previous and future articles. Allowing choice with natural and set loving consequences and natural rewards.
- Pre-pubescent to young adulthood. Transitioning from loving authoritarian teaching to guide. Allowing choice and the experiences that come with choice. Teaching self care, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Practicing and modeling Self Care, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Building Trust, Self Trust, Self Worth, Resilience, Work Ethic, and most importantly allowing and encouraging the Authentic Self to develop through your elevated self awareness and consciousness. Development of your unconditional love and the child’s unconditional love of self.
These are very Simplified and Broad Strokes of the core bases of Conscious Parenting. This in actuality can be a very deep and complicated skill set, processes and journey, yet it is attainable with an conscious parenting, educated daily work, and a consistent daily practice.
Here are some more necessary “Pragmatic” Core Items for Conscious Parenting healthy kids in the Silicon Valley.
- Take charge of your Own physiological state, including but not limited to, Conscious Nutrition, vigorous Early day exercise, careful and non toxic external surroundings of people, places, and sensory sources such as all forms of media, the daily, consistent incorporation of joyful activities (every day, all day). Sounds implausible and extreme…..it is NOT.
- Be deeply and consistently aware of your energetic state. Notice when you are losing Energy. When it is. Why it is. Food? Exercise? A negative source (people, place, or thing). Notice the Feeling you have. Identify the negative Feeling; i.e., “I feel anxious, stressed, worried, angry, etc. Notice where this feeling might be residing within your physical body; i.e., tight throat, headache, lifted shoulders, forward shoulders, fisted hands, stomach ache, back pain, etc. Then use the Awareness technique of identifying, allowing, observing and then flowing the negative thought through relaxing the body and taking deep, conscious breathes and visualizing the “thought” energy to move on (until you get to the space of ‘truth’ which always feels good and powerful. If there is something that needs to be done, you make plans to do it and it is possible. If it appears as Not possible; then you are not in the state of “truth”. Also, sometimes there is nothing that needs to be done; i.e. it may be another person’s work. This will also feel unemotional if it is in the state of “truth”.
- The above two Items are precursors to your energetic and physical interactions with others; Specifically your partner, and your children.
- (After practicing #1 an #2), Be Conscious of your interactions with your children. Is your energetic state one of physical and emotional balance and a positive emotional state? If no; see #1 and #2 and repeat!
- Be Conscious of whether or not you are in a state of Victim or Judge when you interact with your partner, children, and all others for that matter.
- Model Self Worth, Self Care and Self Love. Using your thoughts, words, feelings, emotions, actions, behaviors as Positive Modeling. Daily Practice this and be Compassionate for your less than preferable states and actions which is modeling self-love and unconditional love for self and others; i.e. your children. Side Note: Self Worth and Self Care is not a state of False Self, your made up self, your egoic false self, but from your Authentic, kind, loving, non-external affirmation oriented true self. Your Original state before your experiences lead you to create your false self. The Authentic Self still inhabits the space of personal power, strength, creativity,contribution, knowledge and skills developed along with the Egoic self.
- Ask yourself, “Who is this kid Really”? and give that kid specifically what that kid needs. All kids should Not be societally externally successful. All kids strive to be accepted, loved, understood and honored for who they are on the “Path” to be, which is an unconditionally loved, sentient being despite what the external world, culture, parents want or need them to be (based on what is most likely developed from states of fear and judgment).
- Let your kids be kids, maybe messy, imperfect, lazy or unmotivated, bored, dumb or disinterested. Love them unconditional to what you Want them to be. Then from This state of unconditional love, acceptance, understanding and honoring, and Most Importantly without fear or expectation for the outcome, teach, guide and model the higher level of choice! Guide them to Choose for themselves the more preferable, higher level of action. You don’t choose for them, They choose. True, we may usually no the best choice for them, but if we don’t allow them to choose, have the experience, and then grow and learn from their own choices and chosen experiences; one of two things happen. 1. They are forced to lie. 2. They do what you say, yet they resent it and are not fully willing or able to fulfill the choice, then the only lesson they learn is to get the result someone else desires for fear of abandonment or punishment. Both are less than preferable and potentially harmful.
- Teach your kids to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. Learn and teach about conscious nutrition. Learn and teach physical movement/exercise. Learn and teach Self Worth, Self Compassion, Honesty, Trustworthiness, Self Awareness, and honoring Individuality.
- Do Not interact with your kids or partner from a “dissociated state”. What does this mean? We All have wounding that influences or feelings and actions, that is a fact. The self awareness piece is about noticing our thoughts and feelings and taking care of ourselves Before we Act on these thoughts and feelings. No one else is Responsible to make you feel better. Remove yourself and ask yourself about what you are feeling and why. Have compassion for yourself. Do the processes and checklist from #1 and #2 above until you get to a true state of equanimity. If you cannot get to that state, shelter (self care) yourself as much as possible in that moment from causing further harm to yourself and others. “Resist” the urge (challenge the habitual impulse) to act out on these feelings with justification and the desire to relieve yourself by passing the energy on to others. This is Your work. After you get to a calm state (may take hours or even possibly days) from a loving state of real “truth” use the Active Non Reactive Listening Technique to Listen and hold space for the other in your “drama”. If it is a child, do this and then Share your thoughts that are carefully and consciously thought out from a place of Love and Not Fear (manipulation, force, anger, control, etc). Do not have a dialogue. This is unconditional listening. The Goal is to hold space and allow Others to have their own thoughts and feelings no matter how painful this may be. This is the space of creating Security, Trust, Unconditional Love. This is the space of letting a child individuate and have self worth! Do not rob them of these essential growth experiences by Forcing them. TRUST that with your love and guidance that They will, by their own choice and on their own time, arrive at the higher level more preferable choice you so dearly want for them to make. Btw, Side Note. This is true for not only your children, but your partner as well (which your relationship to your partner will deeply influence your children) No, you cannot control your spouse or anyone quite frankly, but you Can “Control” your actions and reactions, which is the Only and most essential thing to growing Healthy Children that are more strongly fortified to not only navigate, but creatively flourish in all realms; self care, self worth, self compassion, relationships, relationship with Self, creative work, contribution.
- Let Creativity Flow and honor it. Whatever form it may come in. Allow it. Don’t force your kid to be an Engineer if he or she doesn’t truly desire that. “How will they afford to live and take care of themselves?!” you say from a state of Fear masked to be a state of “reality” and “caring”. Remember fear is not caring. Find the truth. What if they want to be an artist? Discuss this with them in depth by asking questions and let them solve problems. How will you feed yourself? Where will you live? How will you live? What does that look like? Does that look like something that will truly make you flourish and thrive? Remember, “mistakes” are inherent in living a full life. These are valuable lessons and only the meaning (adjectives) we apply to them is what determines how we experience them. Learning and the Process Is the Goal, not the expectation of the result. I Know I Know!!! Hard to do…BUT truly Loving your kid means consistently showing love and honor, not forcing them into your ideal vision for them.
- Lastly, just because I think it is time to Conclude here. JOY. Not only Incorporate, but schedule and consistently act out Joyful Activities Every single day as much of the day that is possible! Our highly educated, highly productive, highly achieved culture tells us JOY is a waste of time. What a paradox. JOY is the motivator. Joy is the access to the Flow State. Joy is the catalyst for true Success. Joy is the chemistry for self love. Joy is found in compassion and self worth…it may not be ecstatic joy in some cases…but nonetheless it is Joy. JOY is a state of Grace. Joy is the place where the truly extraordinary being resides…not the extra ordinary forced self. Joy is the place of Love. Joy is the place of Power. Honor Joy.
Please people…..if you only take one mustard seed of truth here…take it and share it. Your kids are looking to you for True Love. GIVE IT TO THEM. NOW.
*Please see my future Book:
Conscious Parenting in the Silicon Valley
The Essential Guide.
January Publication Date.
A Post Holiday Read.