Jul 13, 2018
It’s much more than getting you into college. It’s more about asking questions that we don’t ask kids early enough and if we did, it might help them navigate some of the tough parts of being a teen or tween in the US today.
In Episode 45, I talk with Ana Homayoun, a nationally recognized counselor and consultant specializing in strategies for junior high and high school students. I invited Ana on the podcast because I found her book Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World (Corwin Teaching Essentials) to be an extremely timely and helpful book for parents, teachers, and others who work with youth.
When Ana Homayoun was a senior in college, she had a professor ask her what qualities she wanted in a career. “I want to write, I want to travel, and I want to help people,” she said without missing the beat.
Fifteen years later, she does all of the above. Ana Homayoun is an author, educator, and coach who helps teens and young adults grow into resilient, thoughtful, and engaged young people. She is the founder of the Silicon Valley-based Green Ivy Educational Consulting, and travels around the world speaking at schools and conferences. Her work has been featured in the NYTimes, Chicago Tribune, SF Chronicle, ABC News, and USA Today, among others, and she is a frequent guest on NPR. Her first book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week quickly became a classic for those who deal with disorganization and distractions. Her second book, The Myth of the Perfect Girl highlights the modern day dilemmas of today’s teen girls and young adult women, and was heralded by one college student as being the book “that discusses what everyone is dealing with but no one is talking about.” Her latest book, Social Media Wellness, caused her to spend far more hours than she would like to admit using Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
For nearly two decades, Ana Homayoun’s work has focused on helping teenagers and young adults develop their own blueprints for success. Her prescriptive solutions promote better executive functioning skills, effectively address the culture of teen perfectionism, and provide practical real-life advice on how to promote social media wellness in an always-on digital world. Her authentic wisdom and sensible perspective is real, relevant, and adored by parents, educators, and teens around the world.
Ana works with middle school and high school students on organization, time management, and finding purpose. She and her team help students figure out their own goals and the daily habits they need to practice in order to achieve those goals. She helps make the college admissions process an empowering rather than a stressful experience.
I'm looking forward to my son (starting his senior year in August) working with Ana and her team at Green Ivy on his college application process. They help students organize the process so that they do 2-4 hours of work on applications per week (2-3 tasks), maximize sleep, wellness, and free time, and are done with applications by early December. Sounds great to me!
“A lot of women read that book for their daughters and came up to me and said, ‘I read it for my daughter but I saw myself in it.’”
(Note: I'm currently reading this and have used some of Ana's insights with our teenage campers.)
Adults themselves are dealing with the same issues.
“Instead of coming from a place of fear, anger, and frustration, which a lot of parents do by default – you’re angry that you kids are on their phone – need to come from a place of empathy, compassion, and understanding.”
Helping kids find daily and weekly detox times is critical. And being consistent about that and having conversations kid get the phone.
“Kids need this structure. A lot of kids will say to me, ‘I really kind of wish my mom would take my phone away at night.’ It’s very hard for kids at that age – when they’re teens and tweens - to deal with the social pressure. They’re so relational, relationships matter, and they care what people think of them, but they also want to be off. And they don’t feel like they can, and they have permission to. Sometimes kids will get mad at you, but the general tone is that they will appreciate it.”
“This is the kind of thing that kids don’t want to admit, but they need help with regulating.
“We need to help kids understand that decisions matter in a way that they can be intentional and feel empowered to make really good choices. And those choices may be to opt into certain experiences and opt out of others.”
There are tools that can help (even tired parents) be consistent with keeping daily/weekly digital detox time for you and your kids:
“Many kids feel overwhelmed and exhausted, so they can’t really spend time on their hobbies, their interests, extracurricular activities, or things they might want to explore. So that’s really the cornerstone of our work.”
“What is your own set of values and your own set of interests and how does that blend in to your daily life and work?”
“How do you have purpose with your work in a way that’s meaningful and service-oriented for others and yourself?”
“My students are really inspiring because they’re really following their personal interests and they’re all so varied.”
“It’s much more than getting you into college … It’s more about asking questions that we don’t ask kids early enough and if we did, it might help them navigate some of the tough parts of being a teen or tween in the US today.”
“I’ve always been a huge supporter of camp … I feel like camp is a big place where kids and adults have that reflective opportunity.”
“I make kids get jobs in some forms of service – food service, retail – There’s a thread -- thinking on your feet, being able to work with the public.”
“That’s the number one thing that I think is a weakness for a lot of students coming out of college is this misbelief that you should be working in internships when often they don’t have a lot for you to do. So you’re just sitting at a desk, not really interacting. Versus if you’re at a summer camp, you have got to be “on,” and you’re working with kids, and you’re negotiating, and you’re collaborating, and you’re communicating, and you’re being creative. You’re coming up with fun different activities.”
“There are two things I look for. Were you a camp counselor and were you a resident advisor in college? It’s really important that people have those people skills and genuine joy in working with others."
“Just when you take people out of their day-to-day life, and whether it’s going in to see someone in your office or coming to camp, and you just give kids a little bit of time to reflect and talk, and you ask them questions and you hear their stories and you hear in their voice what they get most excited about it. You start finding those little clues to what’s going to fulfill this person this most.”
“Life and culture are not allowing for that slowing down and reflecting.”
“A lot of parents think their kid needs to have an internship with some big corporation during the summer when working at summer camp – the leadership skills, the bonding with the other people, that reflection time – there is nothing that a kid could during the summer of college that is a better experience for growth, communication, leadership skills, learning to work with other people, partner with other people.”
Ana Homayoun's Website: reading resources and free downloads related to her books – very solutions-oriented!