THE POWER OF LISTENING
By Mitch Hurst
By Mitch Hurst
Studies have shown that post-COVID there’s been an increase in the number of children and teens who are struggling with mental health issues. A recent survey of students specifically in Lake Forest shows the number of students feeling sad or depressed jumped from 28 percent in 2011 to 42 percent in 2021. Over the same time period, the percentage of students who contemplated suicide increased from 16 to 22 percent, and 10 percent of students made a suicide attempt in 2021.
While medications can be effective in treating the symptoms of mental health problems, Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, the Lake Forest-based sports psychologist, and founder of Elevive, says the key for parents of children who are dealing with mental health issues is to ensure they and their children have the skills and the training to avoid listening to the thousands of negative thoughts that race through their minds every day.
“The solution might not be what parents think. Instead of giving them advice, just listen and allow them the space so your children can feel heard and seen,” Lombardo says. “This is often harder than it looks or seems, so parents need to work on themselves—the more they stay out of the psychological Red Zone, the better parent they can be.”
Dr. Lombardo is the author of the best-selling book, Get Out of the Red Zone. She describes the psychological Red Zone as, “not a place but a head space,” when people experience high levels of stress or what psychologists call distress. Children and young adults are not immune from experiencing the Red Zone, where they start clinging to the negative and false thoughts in their heads instead of the more positive, truthful thoughts.
Parents, Lombardo says, can play a critical role in helping kids avoid the Red Zone, and it’s important parents have the tools to help their kids in situations where stress can be a big factor. This is particularly vital in an era where parents are financially and emotionally invested in their kids’ success. Parents have their own Red Zones, too.
While physical training is important—especially for athletes—Lombardo says mental training is just as critical, and both parents and children need to have the tools to mentally train.
“Once we give parents some training, it’s very useful in helping them better support their children,” she says. “Parents experience high levels of stress, and not just parents of athletes. It could be stress related to their kids’ academic performance that leads to the psychological Red Zone and parents not thinking and acting rationally.”
Lombardo says her view of the world is that the majority of people are very good people but that is not always reflected in their behavior because they’re in the Red Zone.
“This gets back to the point about listening,” she says. “The best thing as a parent that you can do is empathize with your child when they don’t do well and support them emotionally. For parents, stress is always hovering, whether it be at work or in our personal lives. It’s a fact of life. Best coping with it requires the tools and discipline to keep it under control.”
Lombardo works with many professional athletes— NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal calls her his “Head Coach for Happiness”—and she says athletes who retire, if they haven’t had a sense of purpose outside of their sport, have a lot of work to do.
“We want to help our children see that sport is part of their lives and there’s a lot they can learn from it that will help them in life,” she says. “Perseverance, teamwork, and overcoming challenges are all valuable skills that will carry them through life.”
But they won’t learn those skills without mind skills training. Lombardo says scientists estimate more than 60,000 thoughts race through our brains every day, and a majority of those thoughts are not objective.
“They are beliefs or interpretations or assumptions. We act on them and a lot of times they’re not even true,” Lombardo says. “What is completely lacking for kids and parents is mind skills training, how to really make the mind work for instead of against you.”
Contact EleVive today by visiting elevive.com.