There is a stark divide between the world that now exists under the age of digital information and the world that existed before. Unprecedented shifts and ceaseless innovation have begun to shift the ways in which we act, think and communicate. Over the past few decades, as technology has pushed the boundaries, 21st century parenting has been forced to adapt. Chester Springs therapist and author of Parenting 2.0: Think in the Future, Act in the Now, Tricia Ferrara helps guide local parents, and now, parents across the nation, through her private practice and as a commentator on CNN’s segment “Parent Acts.”
This model of change not only challenges us, but also requires that we take control of such changes, constantly assessing and rethinking how we engage with the social structures in our lives. This is the foundation for Ferrara, a local, licensed professional counselor and parenting strategist, who challenges the status quo of parenting and offers new strategies for fostering healthy relationships.
In her appearances on CNN, which began airing recently, Ferrara discusses childhood development, education and tapping into the struggles for the common parent, and providing developmental expertise that parents can relate to.
We sat down with Ferrara, who offers three key points for modern parents.
MLT: What is it about modern relationships between parents and children that you think parents are missing or don’t quite understand?
TF: I think one of the most significant factors, with regard to the family in the 21st century, is that this age of information we live in has flattened the family hierarchy. A very common challenge for parents today is that, the way that they were raised does not work for kids today. That’s because, a generation back, parents were keepers of information; kids didn’t know a lot about the world and they really relied on adults—caregivers, teachers, any kind of educator—to be the source for that information. There was kind of a default of power and authority. Today with kids having as much, if not more, access to information, parents have to redefine who they are in the lives of kids, and a lot of that depends on relationship skill.
MLT: What are the biggest challenges towards building a healthy relationship with your child?
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TF: My question to parents is: are you doing things in the formative years that are going to later on define you as a resource or the enemy? When kids are in adolescence, they’re entering into that stage where they’re turning away from the parents, which is healthy. But kids still need access to resources that are in their best interest, and parents should be number one. More than likely, that decision will be made based on previous experiences with the parents, particularly during difficult moments. When I ask many of the kids or young adults who find themselves confused, overwhelmed, or maybe in trouble of some sort, why they didn’t reach out to their parents earlier in the process, I always get a variation on, ‘I would have been punished’ or ‘They wouldn’t understand because they never listen to me.’ Many adults want to be seen as resources, yet the behaviors and attitudes they bring to the table are completely counterproductive. Instead of providing stress relief, they add stress, and then young adults end up not having great mentorship in problem solving, and therefor some problems that should be hiccups end up being full-blown crises.
MLT: What are some of the best thing parents can do to a foster an open and comforting relationship?
TF: There are two things: number one, stress relief. It has to be part of “the three R’s”—reading, writing, arithmetic and stress relief. Second: the ability to ask for help. Most kids and young adults, have been trained to be wrapped up in the identity of achievement and they lose their capacity to be vulnerable and ask for help. They’re afraid that they won’t be seen as a winner anymore. What we know about resilient people and resilient kids is that when they are under stress or they find themselves in need of resources, they are very comfortable and familiar with reaching out for help. Parents and educators are the first line of defense to ensure that kids can thrive. Relationships that share power and provide perspective are critical. Emotional regulation and the ability to self-reflect will be life saving in 21st century life.
See Tricia’s most recent parenting segment on CNN, which aired on June 21 and catch future segments on Tuesdays throughout the summer.
For more information visit www.triciaferrara.com.