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"DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK"
Those were the words that called out to me from the bumper of an older red Toyota sedan. Stopped at a light, I inched my car closer to see the smaller words at the bottom StressedTeens.com. “Don’t believe everything you think,” who doesn’t need to be reminded of that these days? I knew someone (aside from myself) who could benefit from a weekly, if not daily, reminder and new tools and strategies for managing unhealthy and sometimes toxic self-messaging. The person who needed it most was no longer with me.
As soon as I got home, I Googled StressedTeens.com. I was overwhelmed with emotion. After years of struggle and attempts to understand the sources for or reasons behind my son’s dark thoughts and painful feelings, I had found resources that spoke to me- resources that I believed could have helped my teen, me, and many others. I reached out because I knew I had nothing to lose and much to gain.
I write to you as a mother, educator, former researcher, avid reader and lifelong learner who has recently come across your work. As a working mother of three, I always struggled to find balance, handle my own stress and parent in the ways my children needed me. After a major family move (from central IL to San Luis Obispo, CA), I left my career in academia and began to think about the kind of work that I wanted to do with my fresh start. Being at home, I soon realized that there was a lot more to parenting teens and tweens in today's world than I was equipped to handle....
During his freshman year of high school, my eldest, Tomas, began to show many of the signs of "the acting out teen" and he began treatment for depression and anxiety. As our work with counselors, therapists and a psychiatrist began, my efforts to better understand his struggles became a driving force and reading about teen stress, anxiety and depression, the teenage brain, mindfulness and mindsight became a focus and source of comfort.
On February 28th of this year, the weekend before finals, Tomas (a H.S. junior) decided to end his pain and struggles by ending his life. I believe that his struggles with mental illness made it challenging for him to be open to applying the ideas behind your work. However, I know that if his circumstances were different, he would have and they could have made his stress manageable and the quality of his life better…. We have been talking with his high school counselor and many others about what our students need and ways that my husband and I can help…. I believe there is a great need to share your approach and resources with students and parents. As concerned parents, college professors, and caring community members, we look forward to continuing to follow your work and learning more about what we can do to help others, especially students like Tomas.
Reaching out to Gina Biegel was a big first step. Connecting with Gina along with Kerri around Kerri’s kitchen island and sharing stories, interests and goals was a big positive step in collaborating. Virtual conversations led Kerri and I to taking Gina’s 10-week class on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens (MBST-T). Preparing for and attending our weekly class sparked many ideas, important conversations, and further research and learning. Kerri and I traveled north to work with Gina and attend her presentation to high school parents. Gina came down to get a taste of our worlds, meet our families and kids’ peers, and work collaboratively. We continue to learn with and from each other and our lived experiences. In coming together, our lives have been forever changed.