Teens, Parents, Mental Health and a Game-changing Book

If you have a teen in your household, surely you are aware of the mental health crisis that has been rippling through this generation since the COVID-19 pandemic. In every group of teenage friends, there are surely some who are dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges. The American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health.1 In fact, new research came out this week thanks to Making Caring Common at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. That research shows some interesting findings not only about teens and mental health but also about the interaction between teens and their caregivers. In two nationally representative U.S. surveys, they found:2 

  • 18% of teens reported suffering from anxiety while 20% of mothers and 15% of fathers reported anxiety. 
  • 15% of teens reported depression, 16% of mothers and 10% of fathers reported depression too.
  • Over 1/3 of teens reported one parent/caregiver dealing with anxiety or depression.
  • Almost 40% of teens reported being “somewhat worried” about the mental health of at least one of their parents.

Making Caring Common not only published this research but also offered substantive guidance on what we can do about it. Though they offered numerous important strategies you can check out here, one of those strategies was to engage teens in acting on their sense of purpose to serve others and give them a sense of hope. In other words, teen’s well-being is promoted and mental health challenges prevented when they have opportunities to contribute meaningfully to others’ lives through service. I cannot imagine a better example of this than Adam Avin. 

Adam’s family experienced the tragic loss of their grandfather, a loving wise soul who was very involved in the Avin’s family life. The compassion that he showed Adam was something Adam became committed to sharing with other children and teens. He became a yoga instructor, learned about mindfulness and began Wuf Shanti, a nonprofit educational organization offering videos and books to children to promote health and wellness. He was nine years old.

None of this would have been possible without the loving support and guidance of his family, particularly his humble Mom Marni Becker-Avin who shepherded him through each step of the way. So the Confident Parents’ conclusion is this…

If parents who struggle with anxiety raise children who struggle with anxiety, so too parents who work at their wellness and serve others’ well-being raise children who are deeply committed to wellness and serving others’ well-being.

There’s so much more to their powerful story but I believe the most powerful words come from the author himself, now a college sophomore, whose book just released. This is a book that has a million different simple and practical and research-backed strategies for teens in being mindful to contribute to their health and wellness – written by a teen for teens.3

Here’s Adam Avin’s words on his new book,

Stress Less; Mindfulness for Teens:

My book is finally out. Wow. It’s been like 3.5 years in the making. I remember starting it during covid, when we were stuck at home with nothing to do. And I thought, let’s take all of the interviews I’ve done with industry experts and compile it all into a book. Sometimes, I didn’t understand what they were trying to say, so I wanted to make it simpler for teens, and add a bunch of different practices and journal prompts for them to try. I was watching the news and saw all the violence and suicide stats, and I wanted to help somehow, so I thought maybe teens can try these things and they’ll find at least one thing that they like that can help them learn to cope with stress and emotions, and mental health.

At the time, I was also doing a lot of public speaking, travelling to schools, speaking at summits, anywhere that I was invited. I wanted to get mental health curriculum into schools. I still do. I still believe it’s so important to have a class about resolving disputes in a healthy way. Communication is just as important to learn as calculus and chemistry. I’m actually kind of shocked, to tell you the truth, that these kind of classes haven’t become mandatory yet in our education system in this country. Anyway, once I couldn’t go around speaking anymore, I had to find another way to get the information out. And that’s when I started the book.

I’ll tell you right now that I couldn’t have done it without my mom. She helped a lot. I mean like the best organizer, sounding board, and editor EVER on the planet.

We had to learn about the publishing world, because up until then, we had self-published all of the Wuf Shanti books for the younger kids. This was our first time going through the traditional publishing route. I think we sent the book into 6-8 publishers, and each one said no. We didn’t give up though, and thankfully, Welbeck and TriggerHub, which focuses on mental health content, said yes.

That was a good day. And then we asked a few well-known athletes or celebrities to write the foreword and were turned down or ignored, LOL, but again we didn’t give up. It only takes one. And thankfully, the OMazing UD, from my home town and favorite team, said yes, because he truly cares about youth mental health. Another good day.

Mom and I, Wellbeck, TriggerHub, and UD’s team all worked so hard on the book for so long, and now the day is here.

I wish some of my relatives could still be here to witness it. I’m not sure how I’m feeling. Maybe happy, accomplished, yet relieved that we’re finally at this point, maybe kind of sad that it’s over, maybe nervous about if people will read it or like it, definitely hopeful that it helps someone. A lot of emotions happening all at once. Is this the end of something old or the beginning of something new? What will be my next big project? What will I do now?

There are some things we can do when feeling strong emotions:
1. Express them. Laugh or Cry (we are allowed to feel what we feel). I guess today I’m expressing through writing.
2. Practice Gratitude (science has proven gratitude helps us be happier).
3. Pause (breathe and focus on the present moment, not the sadness of yesterday or the anxiety of tomorrow).

Whatever I do next, I am grateful for all the experiences and all the people that have brought me to this moment and want to send a shout out to all of you. Thank you.

To learn more about the book, read the Press Release Here.

The book, Stress Less: Mindfulness for Teens, is on sale now. You can get it on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Target, or anywhere that they sell books.

Adam – I’m so grateful you included my work in your book! May it impact far and wide – Jennifer Miller

References:

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). AAP-AACAP-CHA Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
  2. Making Caring Common. (2023). Caring for the Caregivers; The Critical Link between Parent and Teen Mental Health. Boston, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  3. Avin, Adam. (2023). My Book is Out! Wuf Shanti.

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