ASK DR. E.
By Elizabeth Lombardo
By Elizabeth Lombardo
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo is a Lake Forest psychologist and concierge life coach who is famous for her work with professional athletes. Her career as a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and media guest have made her one of the most sought-after experts in the world for those who seek to harness the power of mindset. In 2019, she founded EleVive, a business that helps teens and their parents navigate life’s challenges. Her new column in The North Shore Weekend addresses these issues and more.
Dear Dr. E—
Sometimes I’m concerned about my child’s mental wellbeing. With all the pressures they face these days, what’s the best thing I can do to support them?
—Worried in Wilmette
Your question is thoughtful—and crucial. Between school and sports (not to mention social media and television!) kids can feel the pressure to perform coming from a hundred different directions. That’s why it is our job, as parents, to address our own mental well-being and psychological health first.
It’s common for chronically stressed or anxious parents to unintentionally pass on their distress to their children. Kids are emotional sponges—they don’t just read the room, they absorb it.
When you find yourself in what I call the “Red Zone,” a state of heightened distress, you cannot be the best you—and neither can your child. The key to strengthening your own emotional health, and modeling mental well-being to your child, is to learn and practice the skills you need to keep yourself out of the Red Zone.
Here are two good places to start:
Remember, children often mirror the behaviors, emotions, and habits they see at home. By demonstrating positive well-being, and actively working to stay out of the Red Zone, you’re teaching your child the valuable mental and psychological skills they need to handle real life—pressures and all.
Dear Dr. E—
How do I get my teen to open up to me? They used to share everything, but lately, I’m lucky to get more than a one-word answer before they’re off to their room. What should I say?
—Silent Treatment in Skokie
As the mother of two teen daughters, I get it. The transition from a chatty child to an independent young adult is a tricky one for both kids and parents—especially when your teen is more interested in their friends, phone, or homework than in an engaged conversation.
So, why the sudden silence? One word: Independence.
When they are young, our children rely on us for support, guidance, and feedback. As they mature, these needs are increasingly met by peers, teachers, and coaches. For parents, it can be hard to let go and let grow, further widening the communication gap between you and your teen.
When you want a conversation, but get the cold shoulder, it’s important to avoid anger. Don’t criticize your teen for their newfound independence; instead, let them know that you genuinely care about them and are interested in what they are experiencing—but respect their need for independence. That’s the key to open communication.
Beyond these muted moments, look for additional— and natural—opportunities to give your teen the chance to share:
When your teen is ready to talk, be mindful of your response. Criticism and uninvited advice are two of the fastest ways to shut down a positive conversation, especially when they just want a listening ear.
The teen years are undeniably challenging. But by respecting your teen’s need for independence, and offering them a safe space to share, you can keep the communication channels open—and encourage real conversations.