What Compassion Accomplishes

2. Time to Talk to Your Teen!

April 20, 2021 WCA_Boise Season 1 Episode 2
What Compassion Accomplishes
2. Time to Talk to Your Teen!
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode of What Compassion Accomplishes, Chris and Cory talk with Tracy, Prevention Program Manager at the WCA, about the importance of talking to your teenager! Learn all about the relationship spectrum, how to start conversations with your kid and the TEACH tips!

If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or one of the WCA's 24-hour hotlines at 208-343-7025 or 208-345-7273.

Follow us on social media!
@wca_boise

For more information and resources, check out these websites!
wcaboise.org
lovisrespect.org

Want to hear a specific topic? Contact us at outreach@wcaboise.org!


Videos discussed in the episode:
Because I love you...
Consent it's as simple as TEA

Intro:

Welcome to what compassion accomplishes a podcast dedicated to sharing information, ideas and resources about domestic abuse and sexual assault. The topics discussed in this podcast, including survivor stories, supportive services, and domestic abuse or sexual violence can be difficult. And we urge you to listen with care. Our hosts are not licensed counselors or mental health professionals. If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic dating, or sexual violence, please call the WCA 24 hour hotline at 208-343-7025 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. You can also find more resources in the description of this podcast.

Cory Mikhals:

Hi this is Cory Mikhals with Auction Frogs along with Chris Davis, WCA Communication Manager. Today we are joined by one of my favorite people, Tracy DeMarcus, WCA Prevention Programs Manager. And we're talking this time around about teens, and specifically, domestic abuse, to consent to all these tools and things that that our teens need to be aware of. But it's a tough conversation.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

It is a tough conversation. And if you're anything like me, or my parents, that was not something that we talked about, or really wanted to have conversations around. And so I think that's a really hard barrier to go over. It's that kind of discomfort r that fear of like awkwardness r whatever the case might be, bu , but ultimately, it's it's wor h it to have that conversation a d to, to have that young pers n know that you're, you're the e for them and that you'll suppo t them and, and having healt y relationships.

Cory Mikhals:

and unfortunately, it happens to to our kids, our friends kids, it's way to rampant.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Yeah, I think it's I think it's more it's happening more often than then people want to acknowledge and that probably parents want to acknowledge as well. And so in addition to that 1.5 million number, Chris, it's a pretty decent estimate. They say one in three teens will experience some sort of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a dating partner. And in the same study, they also asked about behaviors and one in three teens about also acknowledge that they would have committed violence against a date, and maybe they didn't realize it at the time. But when they're asking about these specific behaviors, and students are replying that they have done those things, but not necessarily recognizing even that those are unhealthy or controlling behaviors. So I think that just really shows that like this conversation needs to be had and and parents are in one of, parents or caregivers or trusting adults are in one of the best positions to have that conversation with those young people.

Cory Mikhals:

A question for you. And it should be a pretty easy one. The parents and the family that is in the perfect house up on the bench with a beautiful little white picket fence and their lives are perfect. And then you have a family that maybe is out in a more rural area. And they don't have the same income. They don't have the same resources around them that this other family does. Which one of those teams is more likely to be abused or to be in a situation of abuse?

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

I would say it's absolutely equal.

Cory Mikhals:

Yes. Yeah. And that's it. It doesn't it doesn't terminate, there is no discrimination, but just looking at socioeconomic religious backgrounds, color, race, creed, whatever. It doesn't, none of that matters. And so there comes the tough part because, you know, I anyone who is listening right now that has teens, and I don't care if you're listening in Europe right now, in Idaho, in whatever country, there is one thing that is that is pretty similar. I would think with teenagers. As parents, we don't know anything anymore. They already know everything. And so telling them why they should have their vegetables or why they should do their chores, is a difficult conversation at times. Because there's that challenging, you know, that coming of age of you don't know what you're talking about. I have it all figured out. So with that in mind When the simplest things like taking out the garbage or picking up the dog poop is a tough conversation. How do you how do you have and effectively be able to get through to a teenager about something as important as consent and sexual assault?

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

That's a great question. I think, I think you probably would be different for every family, right? Every situation and person is unique and different. But honestly, I think the thing that would make the biggest difference is starting that conversation young, and normalizing that as something that is talked about, and is okay to ask questions, and come to a parent or caregiver for help. So, even just starting that conversation as young, you know, as elementary age, and talking to them about their friendships, and the relationships they have with their peers at school, and that sort of thing, I think will really normalize, taking that conversation into maybe their teenage years, when they start dating, and those sorts of things. It's, it's not going to be an out of the blue, Oh, my gosh, why is my mom asking me about my boyfriend or my, you know, partner, because that's just kind of standard for for your relationship. And for that, for that family. I think that's a really important piece.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and I've even seen where not necessarily the person that you're in a relationship with, or your teen is, but in that passion in a romantic way, but even the friends, because sometimes it is the people that are allegedly their friends, that as a parent, you just get that feeling, you know, something is not okay with this child. And that's horrible. And you wish you could help that person. But you also want to protect your child and telling your child, there's something wrong with your friend, that is just an immediate way to get them to turn around and, and run the opposite direction from you.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Right. I mean, it's kind of that situation of any of us, whether we're teens or adults, or anything, if we're being told, you can't be friends with this person, you can't do this thing. It's a pretty natural instinct to just want to do the opposite of that.

Chris Davis:

Talk to me about the relationship spectrum and do you actually just have a conversation with your child about that in terms of, do they make you happy? Do you sit down and say, let's talk about the relationship spectrum?

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

You know, you you could, you would want to, I love the relationship spectrum, I think it's a really great visual, I'm a visual learner, a visual person. And so I really enjoy the visual of the spectrum. But really, just this idea of, you know, the relationships that we have in our lives, again, whether that's platonic or romantic, or whatever the case might be familial, even, they fluctuate on this spectrum, like no relationship is 100%, healthy 100% of the time, like we are human, we make mistakes, we learn and grow and change, and our relationships do too. And so the relationships that we have naturally fluctuate on that spectrum. And, you know, we should be doing everything that we can to keep that relationship towards the healthy end of the spectrum. That's ultimately like the goal. But there definitely are going to be times where things come up that, you know, put that relationship in a kind of weird gray area of unhealthy behaviors. And that doesn't necessarily mean that like, bam, that relationship is abusive, and it needs to end right then and there. But, you know, there are ways that you can assess if that if that unhealthy behavior is something that keeps coming up, and maybe is a pattern that we're seeing with this person, or, you know, the intention behind those actions is more controlling than just a one time mistake or a one off like situation where somebody you know, had a bad day or something. So, it's a, I think it's a great way to talk about relationships in terms of like, we don't have to always expect 100%, healthy 100% of the time, but both people or all people in the relationship should be working towards making that relationship healthier. And if we're noticing these unhealthy things happening over and over and over again, or if they're maybe staying in that unhealthy zone or and things are eventually getting worse. That's when we start sliding from the unhealthy part of the spectrum into the abusive part of the spectrum. And so I think that can be a really great visual to kind of share with young people and like, it's not an all or nothing like black or white situation there. There's a lot of gray area in relationships. And it's really about figuring out, you know, where do you draw the line for for your particular relationship?

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and Tracy you had mentioned, and I think, you know, for myself as well, and I think a lot of people, you know, especially teenagers these days, it's visual, really helps. Oh, absolutely. And like the end, we had played the audio to a video that's available on YouTube. And we'll put the link in the description here. For the tea vs. consent. Yeah. Yeah. And I thought that was the most perfect way to put this out in the most simplistic terms. That is, even the audio is good at home. But you want to talk about a great visual to show to a teenager that they're going to be able to look at and put it in terms of, oh, okay, that makes sense. Yeah. It was great. And like I said, check it out, show it to your teenager, and see it yourself. I think everyone should should check this out. But yeah, it's tea vs. consent. And we'll put the, like I said, the link will be in the description.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Yeah, there's, there's another similar video, that's, that makes me think of this, that's really great. And it calls attention to a lot of the ways that in an unhealthy romantic relationship, or an abusive romantic relationship, sometimes people can use their feelings or their love for another person as a justification for their behavior. And this particular video is about like high school age students and calling calling those things out. And that's really a great, great tool too, because I think you can even I can really like resonate with the people in the video. And I've heard many of those things said not maybe to myself, but to friends or people that I care about. And and yeah, it's a really great, really great visual to pull that in. So we can definitely put that recording the podcast.

Chris Davis:

Yeah, description to really great. And, as, as we'll put those links in there, do you want to give us some tips about starting those conversations? Because we'll keep those links in there. I want to, I want to point out that one of those studies we talked about earlier, I think it's important to know that as parents as because I'm a parent and Cory, I think you are too. Yes, we think we're gonna recognize, we think we know our kids, right, we, we have their tiny little bodies, in our hands, we change their diapers, we wipe their faces, you know, we, we, you know, play Tooth Fairy and all those fun things. But 82 parents, 82% of parents in the study with this posted on loveisrespect.org. There's some great information on there. By the way, loveisrespect.org. 82% of parents thought they could recognize teen dating violence, but more than half couldn't actually identify the warning signs, right. So more than half of them. So they thought they knew what they were looking for. But they missed it. Yeah. So we can talk about some things to look for. And if you want to, I don't know if you want to start there. And then but I think the bigger thing is, because it really is some of the same things are things in adults, loss of interest in things not not participating, not not hanging out with friends. Changing the way they look or dress. And obviously, maybe getting really cranky, and maybe sleeping a lot and things like that. But I think, for me, actually starting the conversations and getting my kid to talk to me, was the biggest thing and I mean, I do things like go drive around the block or you know, yeah, like I'm gonna go take you to buy you something or we're gonna have ice cream, and then I would stick him in the backseat and drive not look at him. Talk at the windshield and be like, Mom, Mom, this again? Yes, this again. And I would just talk and talk and that's what I would do. And I would you know, and, you know, we had some conversations and now he now he's, he's 25. He tells me things I don't want to hear a lot of times because yes, he's Yeah, he shares a lot of information.

Cory Mikhals:

But he feels secure enough and safe enough to be able to I know I have. I have three daughters. And there's some times that I'm so happy they feel the ability to share with me. There's but at the same time I'm going wow, you're you're really going to share right now. Okay, yeah, sure. Wait, honey,

Chris Davis:

There's things that he's telling me now that he did not tell me that even though I tried and I poked and prodded and I tried and I shared, I overshared expressed when I thought I was doing all of the right things. And I know now, because my really good friend Tracy here tells me and educates me that I was not and I thought I was. So Tracy, you want to? You want to share with us some some tactics? Share with all the parents and caregivers.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Yeah, I think Well, first off, yeah, I wouldn't say like parents, but also just any adult who is concerned or who cares for a young person in their life, I personally don't have human children. But when I when I have these conversations and stuff, I think about my niece, she's 14 and and, you know, we, during the pandemic, and stuff, we started, like pen pal relationship, like sending each other letters and cards and postcards, and all sorts of things, and really just opening up those avenues to have those conversations, you know, we're talking about her friendships and the things that were going on. And you know, the challenges that she was having with school being virtual, and those sorts of things. And so really, it's just like being the I think the first step is just being willing, right to have that conversation and to open up and to do that with the person. But yeah, there are some like actual, like tips that you can use to start the conversation and to, to try and get it to go in a productive direction. We like the teach tips. That's the ones that I typically talk about. And the teach is an acronym. It was developed by the Gottman Research Institute, they do a lot of really great work around research or research with relationships, obviously. But I think it's a really great way, it's really simple way to just kind of break down those different parts of the conversation. So you want me to talk about the teach tip. Okay, so the T in teach is for take a minute to relax with your teen, I think this is a really important one to think about in terms of making sure the moment is right. I think, Chris, you were definitely onto something when you said you were driving your son around in the car. That can be a really great moment to have a conversation, whether they're sitting in the backseat or even sitting beside you in the passenger seat. Honestly, sometimes it's easier to have these conversations when you don't have to make direct eye contact, especially with a parent or somebody, you might be a little bit uncomfortable talking with them about taking away that. That pressure to look them, like directly in the face, maybe while you're saying oh, this thing happened that was really hard for me. That can automatically like change the dynamic of the conversation. So thinking about when and where you're having this conversation, if maybe your child is dating, like, maybe not right after they had a fight with their partner, because that's obviously like a really emotional moment for them. They might not be in the best place to like actually talk about the dynamics of that relationship. So being really mindful about when and where you're having that conversation. If you have other maybe kids around like maybe just making sure it's time for the the two of you. Rather than having distractions or things that might take away from that conversation, that sort of thing. The E in teach tips stands for empathize, empathize with how complicated relationships can be. I think this can also be helpful as adults to first think about how we were experiencing relationships that that age, sometimes again, we can go into this adult moment of like, Oh, I know better. Now I'm, you know, a pro at relationships. I literally do this for a living, but like, I still have to work really hard to make sure my relationships are all healthy and good and safe. So just thinking back to like, Okay, what where was I at when I was this age, what was I experiencing in the relationships that I was having? And knowing too, that they're, especially if they're younger teens that are maybe just starting into like relationships. There's so many complicating feelings and they might just like be very confused of what's going on. So like just empathizing with that and letting them know that it's complex.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and especially for dads, dads, don't go all dad on a situation. And I say this from personal experience with my daughters who are all grown now, but our first reaction is something has been stated from our baby, especially our baby girl. has a dad. Yeah. And it's immediately where am I going to bury the body

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

that's a common response or reaction.

Cory Mikhals:

And it is, and I know I'm guilty of it as well, we go right into protection mode. Well, the problem is with that is they can recoil and maybe not share it the next day. And the next time might be really important for him to share. Yep, so try your best. And I get it, I understand. And moms too, because mama bears can be even worse and is try your best to just empathize, take a deep breath, and listen and respect that they are sharing with you

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

write those feelings in your journal. But maybe don't say them out loud to that person. And that's very fair. Like, that's a conversation I remember my dad having with me, when I like left home for the very first time, right after college like this very, we did a road trip from my hometown to like Florida, halfway across the country, we had a lot of time to talk in the car. And that was something that came up was like if something happens. I'm not afraid to take care of it sort of situation. And like that's, I know, he where he was coming from with that. Yeah. But again, that kind of put me in this place of like, well, if something does happen, I don't know that I would tell him about it. Because I don't want the reaction to be whatever that was, right. So again, coming from a place of love coming from a place of concern. But ultimately, maybe not the most productive or best way to go about having a conversation.

Cory Mikhals:

But a very honest reaction. understandable, right? Try your best Yeah, shoe that urge back and just

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Get yourself a feelings journal, put it in there, it can be helpful just to get that out but again, maybe not to not this person who's experiencin that thing.

Chris Davis:

Or if you've got a treadmill in the garage, go punch bag or walk around the block. I mean, it's whatever you got, you get those feelings

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

out. However that may be take a timeout, but yeah, it Yeah, it's understandable. But also usually counterproductive. Yes, yeah.

Cory Mikhals:

Now, it brings us to A

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

A, um, this is a good one to acknowledge their feelings and needs. Um, I talked to a lot of adults, or I've heard from a lot of adults that like, because maybe their young person's relationship isn't exactly what they would have had when they were that age, or like, Oh, they just text each other. So they're not really dating, or this isn't a serious relationship, because they're only 14, whatever the case might be.

Chris Davis:

And that's it.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Yeah, that's invalidating for those, those young people who's like, those feelings are very real for them. And whether or not that looks different than when you were that age, or then, you know, maybe you would want a relationship to be like, that's their reality. And that's still a very valid feeling for them to be going through. So just acknowledging that, and knowing that they, you know, they're just trying to figure it out the best way that they can, and that you may be coming in again, with this maybe good intention, or saying, like, well just break up or like, just don't text them back, or whatever the case might be, like,

Chris Davis:

not really that big of a deal,

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

right? Or it's not that big of a deal. Like those, those sorts of statements just end up making that young person feel more invalidated with what they're going through. And again, it kind of just shuts down that shuts that door to having a conversation later on down the road. So yeah, just taking that time to acknowledge their feelings and their needs, and then going forward from from there based on what they tell you. Yeah. So the next is C. C stands for connect by actively listening. Before sharing your own thoughts. This is one that I personally struggle with. And again, like even though I do this, like for work, I still have to be really thoughtful and really mindful about it when I'm having conversations with, with young people and with like adults in my life that I care about. You know, really sometimes people just need that time to express what they're going through to talk about the situation. And a lot of times they can come to a solution or a you know, an answer on their own just by talking about it or just bringing just like putting it out there. But a lot of times again, we're norwell meaning and we're we care about somebody, we automatically want to jump in and just like fix, fix, fix. So, or just tell them where we're coming from with it. But again, this is usually relationships scenarios and situations like, this person is going to need to come to this solution on their own and in their own way and in their own time. And so make sure that you're listening to them, and then provide your response or your own thoughts and feelings, like when they're ready for it, and maybe even asking if they want that, like, they may just want to talk to you, or tell you the situation. And even just saying, like, Hey, you know, do you want to? Do you want to know what I think about this? Or do you want me to just listen?

Chris Davis:

Do you want my suggestions? Yeah, but my opinions. And I want to say something really quickly. If you don't know the definition of actively listening, you might want to look it up,

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

because you're probably not doing it,

Chris Davis:

because you're probably not doing and I have encountered quite a few people in my own life, who don't know really what that is, I'm listening to you. But at the same time, they're actually trying to solve the problem, or giving me opinions that are not asked for. Yep. And really what I just wanted somebody to listen. Yeah. Or, you know, to hear me out. And and it's well intended, is absolutely, and I have no doubt Yep, but so really, when you're saying Connect by actively listening, that is a thing. It's a real thing. And it's a skill, it is a skill, so look it up and people practice this to get good at it, really. So if you're struggling with communicating with your kids, and you're really trying to connect, and you're concerned, something's going on, look it up and read about it and, and maybe even practice with your partner. Yeah, or a friend or something, and have some dialogue. And we roleplay a little bit because it's not actually easy to do active listening. That's true.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

And I think it could ultimately benefit you and probably other areas of your life as well. So, so Yeah, and I think that's absolutely true, Chris, that active listening is a skill that needs to be practiced to be good at it. So I struggle with it. I yeah, we all do.

Chris Davis:

shut my mouth, shut my mouth. shut my mouth. don't fix it. Don't like, you know, yeah,

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

it's tough. It's tough, though.

Chris Davis:

Raise your hand. Right. Again.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

It's always I think, coming out of a place of I concern and I'm concerned and I care. Oh, yes. Yeah. I don't think that any of us would ever have bad intentions. No, you know,

Cory Mikhals:

about you, I love you. And I want to fix right. Yeah, our goal, I think at our core is human beings, is we want to care for the people that we learned, yes.

Chris Davis:

For our children are threatened or if they're like, What in the world are you doing? And you forget that you're supposed to be actively listening? So if you've practiced it, right, then you're going to be better prepared? Yeah. You know, absolutely. So

Cory Mikhals:

and H

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

H, this one I think, is maybe going to be the most challenging for a parent, H, is for help them find solutions when they're ready. Again, I

Cory Mikhals:

this is a tough one,

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

yeah, it was kind of brought up in the last one of like, we want to jump in, we want to fix especially if we're concerned that you know, our child is being hurt or something like that. The immediate response or reaction is like, I need to stop this from happening right this second. But again, like that might actually do more harm than good. depending on the circumstances, depending on the situation, obviously, if there's like immediate physical danger, there are steps that need to be taken in that moment, right to make sure everybody in that in that situation is safe. A lot of times too, like if you just you know, really want that person or your child to break up with their their partner, and you tell them that they have to and then, you know, maybe you think that they do, but then they're still seeing that person and keeping it secret. And then they feel like they can't actually come to you maybe when things progressively get worse, or go further down that, you know, relationship spectrum. So again, it might be it might be challenging, to just not step in with that. Well, I'm the parent and this is what I say goes, um, that is difficult. I recognize that. But again, getting them to a point where they're really ready for that for that solution or for that change in relationship status or whatever the case might be, hopefully will be a safer, healthier, like long term solution to, to that thing that's happening. So yeah, it's tough one though,

Cory Mikhals:

and, and know that there are resources out there. It's okay. You know, just like your teen is not alone. You're not alone. Absolutely. There is help. There is guidance, and we have a whole lot in the description of different resources and things for you to be able to click on right now. Tracy is going to join us more I'm sure I'm sure As as we progress. And, Tracy, thank you so much for being here with us.

Tracy Darling-DeMarcus:

Thanks. I'd be here

Cory Mikhals:

and please click on the links, find out more information reach out there is help and you are not alone and we look forward to a night. Well, we can't say it enough.

Chris Davis:

I know I appreciate you. We appreciate you joining us and I appreciate you Cory. Doing this. It's it's

Cory Mikhals:

I'm so honored to be a part of it and looking forward to our next episode of what compassion accomplishes.

Intro:

Thank you for listening to this episode of what compassion accomplishes. Again, if you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, dating or sexual violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the WCA's 24 hour hotline 208-343-7025