The Impact of the Pandemic on Teens and Parents – A Conversation with Dr. Nneka

Are you a parent? Do you have a teen?

This episode is packed with tips and strategies to manage both of these situations.

Psychiatrist Dr. Nneka shares her wisdom on how to connect with your teen, how parents need to give themselves more credit, and the impact of social media on our teens.

Listen in to hear tips and strategies from both Dr. Nneka and Jenna on how to navigate the difficult waters of parenting today!



Dr. Nneka, Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski


Nicki Kirlin  00:03

Awesome, thank you so much Dr. Nneka, for joining us today on this episode, we’re so excited to have you here. Do you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, so maybe your hometown, your occupation, and if you have a fun or interesting fact that you want to share with us.


Dr. Nneka  00:22

So Good evening, everyone. And thank you so much, Jenna, and Nikki for having me here today. It’s an absolute pleasure. I’m going to start by just, you know, saying the full name, please do. I believe I give a give people around for the Amani trying to pronounce and that a sound Dr. Nneka came about. So the full name is Dr. Nneka Orakwue-Ononye. A child and adults and psychiatrists, the physician leader, its South health campus, Calgary and an assistant clinical professor with the University of Calgary of Nigerian descent. And Id, my basic medical training back home. And I did my residency program in Europe and moved on here to Canada. I think when you talk about fun or interesting things, I just like to explore new areas. Okay, so, yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  01:37

So like traveling. Are you a traveler?


Dr. Nneka  01:39

Yeah, it could be anything that’s like I just like to, you know, try new things out. Okay. Yeah. Oh,


Nicki Kirlin  01:46

so Where, where? What has been your favorite spot? Then out of all the places that you’ve, you’ve been? Do you have one? Maybe top two or top three? If you can’t pick just one?


Dr. Nneka  01:56

Um, I particularly loved going to the Bahamas. Okay. Yeah. And I loved Mexico as well. Those both sound really nice right now.


Nicki Kirlin  02:09

I was just gonna say and right now with the fact that we can’t really travel. Yeah, that’s right. So it’s sounding particularly intriguing. Oh, my goodness. I know. Okay, awesome. So you’ve got quite an interesting background occupation. So we’re so thrilled that you can join us for this conversation. So thinking about your area of expertise and working with youth, what would you say has been the biggest struggle that you’ve seen with your patience in this last little while?


Dr. Nneka  02:46

I’ll say that some a bit of a loaded question. But I’m glad you kind of narrowed it down a bit by saying in the last little while, because, of course, what more can we talk about in the last little while, if not the pandemic? So I won’t say that with the population I’m working with, which is mostly adolescents. The biggest challenge that I’ve seen, will be navigating the pandemic. I mean, it’s brought on a lot of challenges for everyone, how much more the youth just in terms of, you know, young people developing, like, new struggles with mental health exacerbation of pre existing mental health conditions. And, yeah, it’s, it’s definitely added to, you know, every other thing that’s been going on for them as a population.


Nicki Kirlin  03:56

And so what specifically about the pandemic has caused that do you think in your opinion,


Dr. Nneka  04:07

first of all, if I could use the word, the phrase, a rude shock, okay, I think that is what the pandemic was to everyone. It was a rude shock, you know, like, it was like, one waking up and then having nothing being stripped of everything, right. It was tough. Yeah, still tough. Cuz we’re not quite over the whole thing yet. So I think the fact that when it started, you know, we just no one was sure of what this was all about. No one like even the parents at least No one I know has been through a pandemic. So it was one of those things where like we’ve been through some Yeah, pandemics? Well, there have been some that were more short lived and everything. So everyone had the hope that it was going to be like, oh, okay, just a few months, and it will blow over. And then it just lingered and lingered. And still lingering. Yeah, so when it came a lot, I mean, the sense of loss, the sense of loss is huge. You know, young people being deprived of the fun things, that helps them to cope, the social interactions, the activities, that the love sports, and other, you know, recreational and social activities that they, they usually would occupy their time with friendships. And even the basic, like provisions for some families, of course, with parents losing jobs, and parents also going through the stress of the pandemic. So it came with a lot of, you know, stress, of course, the lack of connection, both within and outside the family, due to uncertainties, like just not knowing what the next announcement will be what, you know, what to expect school, particularly today, there on the next day, you know, like having to go through a whole school year online. I mean, it’s, it’s really something to, you know, to applaud our youth for being able to walk through, and a lot just standing, and, you know, just kind of taking it day by day. Yeah, so the pandemic definitely has been a huge challenge. Yeah. I mean, if you also think about the ways that they have tried to cope, like, unhealthy ways substance use, and so it’s brought on, like, you know, lots of challenges, and I think, yeah, it’s, it’s been a huge


Nicki Kirlin  07:40

blow. Absolutely. And I think it’s interesting to, to kind of watch the resiliency piece come about, yeah, right, for everybody, and especially for the youth, right, that they, there’s such a reliance on that right now to help the youth get through this, this piece in this this experience. So it’s really interesting to kind of watch, and to see how everybody is coping. And for the youth, I can’t imagine, you know, the experiences that they’ve had over the past year,


Dr. Nneka  08:13

I really love that you bring up the resilience piece, because, you know, I think the young people should be able to give themselves a pat on the back. And, you know, give themselves that accolade that, you know, they have been able to walk through these things, you’re still doing your best to, you know, just make the most of it. Exactly. Oh, just building that resiliency, is something to speak about? Absolutely. To acknowledge when.


Nicki Kirlin  08:47

And, Jenna, any thoughts from your perspective than to on? Maybe some, like, if you have any clients that you’re seeing that are in that kind of youth group? Similar thoughts to what Dr. Nneka has shared are


Jenna Fortinski  09:00

definitely I think that, you know, the, the biggest piece of all is that nobody has ever experienced around today, what we’re going through, not, you know, from from professionals up to, you know, parents down to children, right, like, if they’re an you know, not in a hierarchical sense, but nobody really has gone through this. And, you know, the fact that we are all now like, at the stage that we’re at, and, you know, overall, I think people are doing their best. And it’s so important for everybody to remember that is that, you know, we all try to do our best and we try to do best with the knowledge that we have the experience that we have, and we try to put that into play. And you know, so to really give the youth the accolades is so important. And, you know, for me, I always think to myself, and I’ve thought about it many times is that, you know, if I was a team during this time, like, I don’t know how I would have done it. Truly, it’s tough, right? How much I realized I’d on spending time with my friends and being able to connect with them on a regular basis how important that was to me. So, again, yeah, tons of resiliency. And it’s so important to talk about that and for parents to to think about that, that you know how much resiliency there is amongst our youth. So yeah, absolutely, yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  10:20

So then what would you say? I mean, I guess what, you can respond to this in one of two ways. So whether you want to say, if you want to focus on how things have changed over the past, you know, five to 10 years now, do you want to include the pandemic and that or sort of speak to pandemic aside how things have changed for teens over the years and the struggles that they’re facing? in your practice? What have you seen has changed?


Dr. Nneka  10:45

I believe the pandemic came with its unique challenges, you know, so, but it has also kind of wasn’t a lot of the challenges that were there for young people previously. So like school, let’s say in the past, say, five to eight years or more. School will be one of the biggest stresses me maybe peer interactions and things like that will be one of the major challenges. So I’ll say the pandemic has kind of even reinforced those pre existing challenges, right? You know what I mean?


Nicki Kirlin  11:30

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so then thinking about sort of, maybe, if there are any influences to that, I don’t know. But thinking about the impact of parenting styles, has that shifted anything, or changed anything as well, or contributed to anything in any way?


Dr. Nneka  11:51

I’ll say, that’s a really broad question. And it’s difficult to kind of, you know, put that response in one box. But if I have to speak generally, you know, what we know is, parenting will be, you know, a factor in terms of child growth and development, overall. But I have to say, if we are also focusing on the challenges that we’re talking about, especially with respect to the pandemic, and all that, I also do want to acknowledge and applaud parents, because it’s like, trying to get parents to support young people with something they don’t even know how to deal with themselves, the experience has never been there. And yet, the expectation is that they support their young ones in terms of, you know, walking through this. So I must say, of course, I can’t say parenting wouldn’t affect because, you know, parents become like, you know, the role models. And we always talk about the fact that, you know, young people feed off of parent responses most of the time. Yeah, so we can’t particularly say it wouldn’t, but I want to acknowledge that this has been a really stressful period. And, you know, we have to acknowledge the stress and parents and the effort that every parent out there is putting in to make sure that their kids walk through it in a safe way. Yeah, so Jerry’s, like an influence. But at the same time, we have to put things in context, if you know what I mean. Absolutely. Yeah. No, I


Nicki Kirlin  14:01

think that makes a lot of sense. And, Jen, I don’t know if you have anything that you wanted to add on that as well. Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  14:06

I think I just want to exasperate what Dr. Nneka said about, I think now more than ever, there is a huge I think I would maybe call it like a generational gap or a not a good understanding between parents and teens in terms of the different types of pressures teens face today, compared to what those parents faced at that time in their lives. Absolutely. So there is like there is a huge differentiation there and a huge gap in understanding how different it is and how, how much more intense the pressures are for teens Today, more than ever, and, and, you know, like so one of the things that I often say to the parents that I work with is, you know, for us as children if we were bullied at school, you know, we could go home And we could get away from it. And we would have a break for the evening and then go home, go to school the next day. Kids today don’t have that opportunity. Right. And you know, that’s part of social media, that’s part of the internet. That’s part of, you know, the connection that teens have today with their peers. So there is no escaping it. So I think like, that’s the best way to capture the difference in parents today. And teens today, right, compared to those parents being teens themselves at that time. So I think that it’s so important for people and parents to understand that that again, just like the pandemic, you’re doing the best with what you know, and that’s so important is that, yes, we do have to believe that people are doing their best and parents are doing their best with what they know.


Dr. Nneka  15:45

Absolutely. Yeah, with every effort that has been put out there by parent, yeah, there’s so much competition with Yes, dealing with a social media, you know, the information that is out there. So yeah, I think, you know, parents need a lot of support to in terms of understanding. And working through the changes of today.


Jenna Fortinski  16:13

I think, like to be a broken record, especially on the podcast, I’ve, I’ve said it so many times, and I will never stop saying it is, again, that importance of people doing what works best for them, not basing their decisions on what other people are doing. To really stick with this is what works for me and my family. This is how much social media my kids can consume. This is how much internet time they have, how much video gaming time, this is what works for us, and for people to really hold strong in what works for them as a family to avoid the comparison.


Nicki Kirlin  16:50

Absolutely. Why is advice? So if, if you’re a consumer of the news, or even on the internet to I think you and you know, as a listener, you probably have seen lots of recent research or reports on the increase in perhaps admissions to treatment for adolescents for mental health concerns. So Dr. Nneka what what is your opinion? Or what is what have you observed has been the cause for this spike in increases in mental health concerns for adolescence?


Dr. Nneka  17:24

Yeah, certainly there has been pressure, there has been pressure on the system. And you know, we’re still feeling that pressure today. And, of course, it boils down to what I said earlier, in terms of our scene, you know, new presentations for kids who had no previous history of mental illness, and, of course, more frequent or recurrent presentation for kids with pre existing mental health, illnesses that have been exacerbated by the current situation.


Nicki Kirlin  18:10

Jen, any thoughts that you wanted to add on that?


Jenna Fortinski  18:13

No, I agree. I think that the pandemic is the perfect storm for just, you know, things that are already there rearing its ugly head. And, and I think that’s, that’s what’s happening. And it’s, it’s unfortunate, but it’s also, it’s also good, because people are getting hopefully getting the support that they need. Right. And, and accessing supports. And, yes, there is a lot of pressure on the system. And we know that, you know, the system can’t take on everything, but I think it’s good, because it’s generating conversations, especially in the media that, you know, there is an issue and it’s it’s okay, if you are struggling to get support. And, and also those conversations are so important. So I am, you know, grateful to see that those that’s happening. Right. And and that people are aware that they’re not alone in in the struggle, and that, you know, a lot of people are struggling to


Dr. Nneka  19:07

learn to be vulnerable. Yeah, you know, communicates your distress. Yeah. Yeah. As much as possible and make sure to access support.


Jenna Fortinski  19:16

Yeah. Yeah, right. So important. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  19:18

Yeah. And that’s, and so that’s a great segue into that into the next question that I had that which was about, you know, we and we’ve chatted a lot already about the challenges that we’ve seen that parents are facing and in our unique times, and the things that we’re coming up against right now. So Dr. Nneka, then what is your, I guess? How do you have that conversation with parents about how do they start to have some really good open and honest communication with their with their teens or their youth? How do you start to breed some of that really good practice.


Dr. Nneka  19:57

Um, I mean, just like a alluded to before, there’s a lot of competition with parents right now, social media being kind of the big thing. So they, the inflammation that all young people are being exposed to their media is overwhelming. And, you know, a lot of weight, of course, questionable. And again, this competes with parents who are doing their best to instill values in their young ones. So acknowledging the challenge, it’s important for parents to keep doing what you’re doing, you know, don’t stop as much as possible. I think, a lot of times, a lot of young people get to the point where they really do understand that whatever parents are saying to them comes from a place of love and care, right. So what I always encourage is, for parents to try to continue promoting that trust and safety, with the way they communicate, you know, so that they can create that platform where their young people will feel comfortable enough to come to them and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, because you need to know what they exposed to, if you don’t know what they exposed to, it’s going to be hard to guide them. Right? So it’s really important to create a platform where they can feel that the trust and the safety is there.


Nicki Kirlin  21:58

That makes a lot of sense. And so how do you like as a parent, then how do you? How do you foster that on like, even on a daily basis, or in your everyday practices with your team? Or with the youth? How do you how do you do that? I’m, I’m asking for your secrets here a little bit.


Dr. Nneka  22:18

I, I mean, I don’t have all the answers. For sure. I can try to make some recommendations. You know, like no one is perfect. And sometimes we make a joke that evenly, like, kids can wait a minute. All right. Yeah, turn to page 100. But there is no manual. That’s a you know, and I say all of these because I want every parent out there to be able to cut themselves some slack. Right? And know that they’re trying. So how do they like how do parents need to go about trying to promote that trust, and safety? I think first and foremost, what I would encourage or what old advice is being available, and being available physically and emotionally. You know, because it’s one thing to be physically available. But if you’re not emotionally available to your kids, that disconnect Jenna was talking about, it’s still dealing with that, you know, so being physically and emotionally available? And then listen, you know, just learning to listen, because I think listening as easy as it sounds, I think is one of the most challenging things in relationships, like communication generally, you know, I think more times than not, and this, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with just parenting just generally sometimes, you know, we find that it’s harder to it’s almost like what kind of listening to give a response rather than listening to understand. You know, so I think it’s something I’m going to encourage listening to understand and not listening to give a restaurant or to react. Okay? Because more times than not a lot of our young people just want a listening ear. They’re not looking for you to fix it. They just want an ear, right? So that’s one thing. I’m going to emphasize very strongly. So like I said, don’t be reactive, you know, and I’m saying this based on feedback that I’ve gotten from a lot of my younger clients. Like sometimes when you ask them, What gets in the way of, you know, that communication with parents, they talk about that reactivity.


Dr. Nneka  25:27

You know, like parents, sometimes we want to jump in, and problem solve for them, and fix it and all of that, when all they want is a place to offload. Right. So just being able to give them that channel to offload. Because sometimes, it’s still confusing for them, you’re still processing whatever it is, they’re coming to you with, you know, they’re still trying to figure it out. So how do you help them to, you know, manage that process. And also equip them like we talked about that Wrestling’s because you have to start equipping them sometimes to process and see if they can come up with some of the, you know, strategies, or the problem solving skills to manage a situation like that. So one of the things I do encourages, if our young people come to us to have a conversation about something, and the end of it, probably even saying something as simple as, what do you think you need from me right now might be kind of a good lead. Rather than, okay, I’m going to do this, right. If I have to use an example, say for a child is going through some bullying in school, and they come home and talk to their parents. And the first impulse is to pick up the phone and call the school principal. You know, it might just make things worse, because they’re already worried that if the person in question, figures out that a report was made, it might make things worse for them. Right? So it may be important as a parent to even just take a step back and understand what is going on. And then check in with the child. Okay, how can we, you know, of course, I want to be very careful, because I want parents to know that, of course, parenting is still about having the discretion. So where safety is going to be compromised, Please act, yes. Where safety will compromise, Please act. Okay. So, then is validation. I mean, that is huge. And it goes a long way. And we always talk about the fact that validation doesn’t necessarily mean agreement. validation, speaks to that understanding, which was why I said, listen to 1%. Okay, so that really helps them to process and accommodate their own feelings, right. So that it doesn’t feel alien to them, or it doesn’t feel like why, why am I feeling the way I’m feeling? So that’s the point I want to put out there. It’s important to involve them, yes. You know, keep them as age appropriate as possible. You know, just know what is appropriate, depending on the child’s age, and developmental stage and all that. It’s important to kind of try to make them part of the conversation. So even if you’re trying to prefer some suggestions or something, do to check in with grammar, sometimes to give them the options and say, What do you think because that way, you’re also equipping them to use their own kind of problem solving skills, and they can, you know, just try to figure out possible gains or cons to whatever choice that they decide to make. Right. So. Yeah, and the flexibility is important. Yes. Okay. flexibility. In terms of course, parents are easy to, you know, work in other commitments that parents have, and sometimes, you know, you might have a long day you come back And that’s when the child wants to talk to you.


Dr. Nneka  30:05

It goes both ways that young people need to be taught how to also be flexible. And understand that there is a good time for setting conversations, right? There are times when parents will be at their best just support them the most. So that’s something young people should learn. On the other hand, for parents flexibly turn their part, it depends, again, on the content of the conversation, just kind of trying to figure out, when might be the best time to, you know, manage something. And lots and lots and lots of praise, where they’re doing well, where you notice the strong points are the strengths in your child, never miss the opportunity to acknowledge it. I think it goes a long way. Yeah, absolutely.


Nicki Kirlin  31:07

Oh, my goodness, you’ve given us so many good little nuggets in there. So much good. There were so many good pieces. I really want to touch on, you know, the first piece that you mentioned around the listening, I think is huge. Because, as you I think you had mentioned this. It’s something that you can practice in all of your relationships, not just with your children. And it’s something that we all need practice in not just as parents but as being a partner or sister or brother or whatever our role is. Yeah, as an employee. That’s right, Jenna. Yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot like there’s so much value that comes from learning how to do that in the right way. So that I’m so glad that you shared that piece. And I really loved your last point to about about not your last point second to last point about the flexibility piece. Because I think that’s really important, right? Like, as a parent, you want to be in the right headspace to be able to have that conversation with your with with your child. And it’s good for them to learn the Can I say boundaries? Maybe or parameters around that. Right? And there’s because there’s almost a life lesson in that as well. Right. So I really love how you crafted that, Jenna, anything that you wanted to, I mean, she gave us so many wonderful things.


Jenna Fortinski  32:22

You can add a couple, you can see some good fuel for thought. The wheels are turning as you Dr. Nneka. So what and these are just like, straight counseling tips, right is this things that we learn when we become counselors, and one of the first things they teach you, when you become a counselor or our therapist, his silence is golden. And you know, to really sit with the silence and to be okay, sitting in the silence, I love that. It is so important to just give them space to talk and to not feel like you have to fill the space and, and it’s really hard skill to gain. You know, we haven’t gone through, I totally agree with the development of it. And learning that is learning, you know, the importance of silence, and especially working with teens, what I’ve learned is, you know, to just just sit there and just be with them in the space. And you would be truly truly, truly amazed if you just gave them that time to form their thoughts and to offer something to the conversation. There’s so many brilliant revelations that have come from silence. So silence is truly truly golden in those tougher conversations.


Dr. Nneka  33:34

And, and something is a lot of times. A lot of young people, they know what they want to communicate, but they don’t know how to communicate it. Yeah. So that really buttresses the need for that silence, just giving them time to, you know, just formed your thoughts and put it into words as best as they can. Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  34:02

so even like little silly tricks for ourselves as parents, you know, if you need to, like count in your head and just, you know, like distract yourself inside. And just to stay in the silence. And because it can be tough because we are used to just filling the silence. So I think you know, just doing this silly trick of counting in your head and slowly counting one Mississippi, two Mississippi, just to fill that silence for yourself while your teen has time to formulate what they want to say. And then the there’s two other things that I wanted to comment on. Another one for a counseling strategy is active listening. So oftentimes, there’s things that are said that we’re not sure what to say about. So active listening allows people to reflect back what a person has said to you. So the classic example they give when you’re in counseling school is a team comes in and they sit on the couch and they say I hate my mom and Hmm. And so the counselor says back, you hate your mom. And the teens as well. No, I don’t hate my mom. But, you know, like, I’m really frustrated with her. Okay, so you’re frustrated with your mom. So it’s interesting how the direction of the conversation can change drastically, just by reflecting back what you’re hearing. So if you’re not sure what to say to your team, when you’re having these tougher conversations, just reflect back, what you’re saying is that you have a really good understanding of what you’re hearing. And they also have an opportunity to clarify and refine what they want to communicate, right. So I think that really establishes a beautiful sense of we both understand each other and we can both internalize the message it’s given


Nicki Kirlin  35:43

and that I’m really listening. Exactly right.


Jenna Fortinski  35:45

Yeah. So it’s active listening, right. The third thing that I thought of is that if you are just starting some sort of strategies like this, you have a teen or a youth that you feel is particularly hard to open up with. My recommendation is car rides. So going for a car ride, it makes it a little bit easier to say something because we’re not facing each other. And you know, sometimes there’s, it’s interesting what comes out of just being in a car together, maybe going to grab a Slurpee or going to grab an ice cream, and just being in the car for with each other. And sometimes that helps to have some of those harder conversations are just


Dr. Nneka  36:22

amazing ways to do it. Because a lot of young people don’t like the FOMO Yeah, no conversation. Yeah, you know, so just an ad even builds the relationship, like trying to do stuff with them, the car ride, join an activity together and having a conversation. Like the walking talk, it could be anything at all that is a shared interest, and you’re just having a conversation, we find that you get the most out of young people because they don’t feel like on the pressure. They don’t have to deal with, you know, kind of intense eye contact and all those expectations, the body language and everything. It’s easier for them to be more expressive. Yeah, so that’s a really good recommendation. Yeah. Jenna to figure out what works for your team.


Jenna Fortinski  37:18

That’s right. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  37:19

Yeah. And I think that’s so that’s so it’s such a wonderful idea. And what what I’m hearing from both of you is about you really creating or crafting the space? Yes. For the young person to feel comfortable. Yeah. Right. You’re, you’re creating that environment where they feel open, and comfortable and vulnerable, to be able to have that really good conversation. So that’s, that’s a fantastic takeaway from our conversation, and I’m checking


Dr. Nneka  37:47

in is also really good. Yeah, depending on, you know, what you’re talking about, if it’s, you know, a conversation that is kind of reciprocal and all that, it’s really important to checking with them. And what that looks like, is just kind of trying to figure out how the whole thing is, London and Damn, how, what emotions they’re feeling. And, you know, as much as possible, we encourage using the I feel, you know, and that way they are connecting with the emotions. And that that gives a lot of inflammation and just even in terms of managing compensations.



That’s fantastic.


Nicki Kirlin  38:34

Okay, so I’m going to switch gears a little bit. And we started talking about this earlier in the episode, but I’ll kind of make the obvious statement here that we’re kind of on information overload as a general sort of society where information is everywhere that you look, whether it’s, you know, you open up your computer, you open up your phone, you turn on the TV, there’s information everywhere, and it’s so easy to access. So what I want to know is, how has that sort of information overload impacted our youth today? Is it helpful? Is it harmful? What like, what what are the implications of that, that that you’re sort of seeing maybe in your practice?


Dr. Nneka  39:18

It’s a two way thing, right, you know, the SM gains and definitely, I think, actually, the harmful effects seem to outweigh the gay, I’m not sure. But yeah, it’s, it’s starting to feel that way, unfortunately. So of course, when you think about the benefit of the, you know, information that is out there. It just promotes knowledge. As much as possible. There’s easy access to information. It broadens the knowledge and I think that’s fantastic. But if we have to look on the downside, There’s a lot of inappropriate and inaccurate content till there as well. And a lot of our young people are vulnerable. And very, they find it very easy to soak in a lot of this information, which starts to create fear, anxiety, you know, depression, and every other thing you may possibly think about. So that’s worrisome in and of itself. I do worry about the risk out there, because sometimes they get some information that is absolutely inaccurate. And they believe it’s so much, and they run with it. So that that is quite concerning. Yeah, absolutely.


Nicki Kirlin  40:57

And then it makes that whole conversation that we’re having earlier about, you know, the parenting role, so much more important, right? That if they, if they are finding this information, that what a great place to go to, if they can go to a parent to validate or say like, this is what I read, is it true or whatever, you know, whatever it is, it makes that that relationship so much more important. Did you have anything that you wanted to add on that, john, before I move on?


Jenna Fortinski  41:20

No, I think Dr. Nneka captured it perfectly is that he has of course, you know, watch the same as one will talk about his social media and you know, the internet and all that is that, yes, there’s, there’s good and there’s bad, and it’s a lot of it stems from the relationship that we have with our teens, and the understanding that we have of knowing what they’re accessing, and helping them to understand it and and to internalize the messages that they’re getting and creating that safe space for them to talk about what they’re seeing is so important. So, but yeah, definitely pros and cons. But I agree with the sentiment that I think the cons definitely show more than the pros on foot. Yeah. Yeah. What wasn’t meant to be so bad. Yeah, I know.


Nicki Kirlin  42:11

So how do we like how do we know what’s good versus what’s bad information? How do we make that decision? Or how does how did the youth make that decision? How do we help them to understand that?


Dr. Nneka  42:23

Yeah, I think I would just echo what Janice said a few minutes ago about just creating that safety and trust. Just so they can have this conversations with, like, trusted caregivers, as the case may be. It’s like teachers and school parent figures. a responsible adult, let me just put it that way. I’ll mentor, even if it’s not an adult, but yeah. So it’s really important to vet every information, you know, especially if you have your doubts about something you’re reading. Then question, yeah, ask questions. Don’t run with it. Yeah, go back and explore and, you know, find the right people. If it’s kind of a medical piece or something relating to your health, you talk to your health care provider. If it’s kind of a social inflammation, figure out the best source to clarify that bit of inflammation. And of course, you’re the parents that should be the first port of call to checking like, Mom, dad. I don’t understand. But I read this, and it’s a bit confusing. I’m trying to figure it out. Where the parents can support of course they do. And where they can’t they help the young person to seek the right support or clarification to whatever that inflammation is. So it’s very important to vet every questionable inflammation. Yeah. And if you’ve got kind of tell you that there’s something off, please just do something about it. Listen to it. Listen


Nicki Kirlin  44:19

to your gut. Absolutely. Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  44:21

Are sorry. Go ahead. Yeah, yeah. Cuz I think what we talk about a lot with parenting teens or parenting at all is, is to be a role model. And I think, you know, even parents being able to have that conversation themselves of, you know, like, Oh, I was reading this and I knew that something had had told me that it didn’t feel right. So I did some more research on it, and I found out more information about it. So even having our conversations about that amongst ourselves as adults in the room to role model for our teens and for children that, you know, even as adults, it’s hard for us to navigate and to understand the information we’re receiving and, and to have that conversation and make our own help our team Be a part of that conversation, such a role model that yes, it happens to us to adults that we get, you know, confusing messages, we get, you know, different reports. And I’m going to take the time to research it further and to ask questions and to advocate for myself to understand it better. So that’s a good way to navigate it as well.


Dr. Nneka  45:20

And the parents need to be curious to Yes, you know, parents need to be curious, because sometimes, depending on the age of the child, and the content of what they’re bringing to you, you may feel like, Oh, this is too much information. This is not the right time. And, you know, a parent might want to dismiss, because they’re thinking, it’s not the right time to, for me to be discussing this. But the curiosity, I mean, is if the child at that age is asking questions along those lines, then as an adult, you should be able to ask yourself, what are they accessing? What interactions are they having? How were they exposed to this bit of information in the first place? And that becomes the right opportunity to do some education around that, if you’re worried that it’s inappropriate for that age? So I really like if possible, try not to dismiss Yes, yeah. Yeah,


Nicki Kirlin  46:26

that’s a really, really good point. I’m so glad that you said that. Because I think that that’s so true, right? Is it? And I think too, because sometimes as parents, it’s like, oh, my God, I didn’t realize that my child is at that age where they’re asking, you know, whatever questions it is that they’re asking, you kind of forget, right? And you you, and you, do you, that’s your first line of defense is to just dismiss the whole conversation.


Dr. Nneka  46:46

Like even if you’re not prepared to deal with that, at that point in time, don’t dismiss it, you know, go think about it, if you need support to respond to them, but address it, right, in an age appropriate way, as much as possible. Because if they don’t get the guidance from you as a parent figure, they’re more likely going to believe that sauce. Yeah, that they got that thing from the first place.


Nicki Kirlin  47:19

Yeah, yeah, that’s a really good point. Okay, so let’s have a conversation about social media. We’ve been alluding to it this entire time. And it’s just this question is just been kind of floating there about about social media. So complete without it. I know. Right? So when it’s bad, what are the impacts? And when it’s good? What are the impacts? And you kind of touched on this a little bit already, when we’re talking about just information in general? But give us a perspective from specific to social media? What are the impacts when it’s bad?


Dr. Nneka  47:53

I mean, I guess we could write a whole list. Right? The impact of social media? Yeah, on youth. Yeah, just different things. They wave when that was the basic thing of sleep deprivation, because a lot of young people clutch on to the technology for as long as they can. Yeah. You know, time management. It gets in the way of other things that they she’ll be doing schoolwork, teachers, family time. Yeah, you know? You Yeah, Wayne did feel a need to put up some impression out there. They want to be represented in a particular way to the world, I think sometimes speaks to the vulnerability, it speaks to the self esteem. And this is again, where the questions have to come like what is driving some of the behaviors. So even when a young person is doing something’s maybe putting a specific type of posts on social media. It’s important to not just tag it, the behavior of course, the behavior is concerning. But it’s helpful to try to understand what is underlying that behavior of what’s the function of the behavior. So yeah, having the wrong like or inappropriate role models out there. They start to have an image of what life or perfect should be and it affects different things. Erase? Yeah, exposure to unhealthy things, addiction, questionable characters, toxic relationships. Yeah. And, of course, it leads to a lot of even conflict with parents and all that, because it’s that’s to get in the way of other things that young people should be doing. So it leads to conflict, bringing in a lot of stress for the young person for the parents. Yeah. So that there’s a whole lot, I’m sure you can list a few. So, oh, I’m great. It’s right to you.


Nicki Kirlin  50:50

Any other Bad’s that you want to note?


Jenna Fortinski  50:53

Oh, it’s true. The list is unfortunately. Right. And it’s, it’s totally dependent on the dynamic of that specific team team and the that specific information that they’re consuming. And so there, there really is an endless list. And, again, you know, the same as the responses, the last question with information overload is that, it really seems to be that the cons really, truly seem to outweigh the pros when it comes to social media. And I think it just really speaks to the amount of pressure dependency that comes with social media. And it just it seems to just be fuel on the fire of being a team. The this the difficult pneus of being a team is just magnified, and


Dr. Nneka  51:51

the insecurities just huge Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  51:54

it just it really feels that fire of how hard being a teen is, and I think social media just compounds that so much. So, yeah, it’s, it’s hard. And it’s, I think, as parents as well, you know, we, we have to think of, you know, is my team gonna be like, you know, what are your options? Do you just take it away? Completely? Is my team going to be the only one without it? How do you manage it? Right? There’s a lot of things that need to go into that.


Nicki Kirlin  52:20

That was gonna be my next question was how like, the million dollar question of if you’re speaking to parents? What is your recommendation to them? When it comes to having this conversation about social media? What do you what do you generally say,


Dr. Nneka  52:34

I think is about finding the right balance.





Dr. Nneka  52:37

you know, I it’s, it’s all about balance, as much as possible, because, unfortunately, is the trend right now, and distill some good out of it, right? If it’s used, in a healthy appropriately, be time conscious, like you’re not spending your whole day on social media, know when to get out of it. So if a young person is able to have that self control, and manage social media, well, they are assertive enough to block anything that is unhealthy for them, you know, say no to requests and advance that is that are being pulled out of them. So if every young person is assertive enough to manage it, then I don’t think it should be taken away. You know, it helps with some of that social connection. So a lot of them have healthy relationships. And it’s, like a medium where they can also reach out to friends and all that, but as long as they’re navigating that in a healthy way. And managing your time, well, then, yeah, because it’s hard to take away everything. If you take that away, then you have to be replacing it with something of which it’s good to give them that opportunity to explore other things that they can do. Yeah, just grow their strengths in other areas as well. But as long as they’re using it appropriately, and they can balance their use, then I think it’s okay. Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  54:31

I think it goes. And I think all of that goes back to the conversation we had earlier about communication. And if you’re putting the effort as a parent and as a team, if you guys have that open communication, then with that comes, you know, the ability to talk about the social media use and, and, you know, if they’re struggling with the messages they’re seeing, or if they’re having if they’re struggling with being assertive and blocking, you know, certain information then again, that’s gives that opportunity to put in, to put in boundaries at or to talk about it right and to understand how you can support your team through it. So I think a good balance comes with that open communication between parents and teens and understanding what what they’re consuming as a whole.


Nicki Kirlin  55:20

Awesome. Okay, so we’re gonna do a few questions that are more like wrap up questions to kind of bring us to a close, because we’ve had such a fantastic conversation so far. So Dr. Nneka then if you could give one piece of advice to youth that might be struggling? What would it be? And then the next question is going to be, what advice would you give to parents of the teens that are struggling? If that helps you to think out of the two responses there?


Dr. Nneka  55:52

I think for the youth out, probably just use a quote becuase, that kind of gives the message I’m trying to give to the youth out there. It’s, these are difficult times. And I just want to say to my review, though, there that when it rains, I would love them to look out for the rainbow. And when it’s dark, they look out for the stars.


Nicki Kirlin  56:22

Perfect. That’s so beautiful. And hopefully that resonates. Because it’s it’s very powerful statement. Okay, so then what would you say to the parents,


Dr. Nneka  56:36

and to every parent out there, I just want to acknowledge the hard work. Again, especially in this difficult times, I want every parent to be able to give themselves a pat on the back. But one of the things I really want to say is, self care is very important. You know, I don’t think any parents should feel guilty, having a mitani. Knowing when to reveal, because it’s hard to pour from an empty cup is just like when did tell us when we got on the airplane, you have to be able to put on your oxygen mask first before you put on that of your child. So if parents are not looking after themselves, it’s really going to be hard, more difficult or challenging to be able to be there for their young people the way they would love to. And there should be no guilt with taking some time out for oneself. Yeah, absolutely.


Nicki Kirlin  57:57

And that’s, and I’m so glad that you are reinforcing that message. Because we’ve talked a lot about the things that parents can do in our conversation, right. And that’s such a critical piece of what parents can do is look after themselves as well. Right. Okay, so then the last question is kind of a big question. So what do you hope will change as we grow this next generation of youth and what do you hope will stay the same?


Dr. Nneka  58:28

Probably most of my references they seem to have the message and have given away that. Yeah. I think social media it’s like the vegan I mean, right now. Yeah. Unfortunately. I mean, I know the Assam good to wait. But yeah. Maybe just changing the how of how it’s been used? I don’t know. But just something about social media. Yes. Yeah. has taken from us. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.


Nicki Kirlin  59:02

I agree. Jenna. Any thoughts on what you hope to see change?


Jenna Fortinski  59:07

This is the moment where I’m going to say ditto? Yeah.



I agree. Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  59:14

I think that social media is just it’s such a horrible, yeah, such a black hole. So I will say ditto.


Nicki Kirlin  59:26

Okay, so then what do you hope stays in the same?


Dr. Nneka  59:32

I really desire for family values and social connectedness to stay the same. Okay. I think that means a lot. Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of the things social media is taken away.


Nicki Kirlin  59:48

Yeah. Good point. Absolutely.


Jenna Fortinski  59:51

And this past year,


Nicki Kirlin  59:53



Jenna Fortinski  59:54

Yeah, the isolation and so I think it really proves that how important is social media? activeness and the face to face interactions are in our lives and how much how important it is to connect with other people and how much it fills our cups. Yes, yeah, absolutely. Um, what do you think? I’m gonna put you on the spot for retail? Don’t put me on the spot. I don’t have a response. Um,


Nicki Kirlin  1:00:25

I don’t know that that is a tough question. What I hope that will change. I just thought it was an interesting. I know. I know. No, no, no. And I and I think it’s an I don’t have to answer if you No, no, no. And I do want to answer because I think that it’s a really important conversation to have. And I hope that what changes is that there is a renewed sense of security for our young people, because I feel like there’s a lot of insecurity that exists right now. And I think social media is a massive part of that wars. But I do think that there, there needs to be a renewed sense of security for young people, because they’re thanks for bringing that up. They’re wonderful human beings, and they are our future. So if we can, you know, foster that in any way. And I think that what you both have said in this episode has lended itself so well to that, that, you know, that we play a critical role in really building them up and reminding them of their value. Right. And so, and I loved that so much a part of your message. Dr. NNEKA, like I really hear that in what you say. So, definitely. I hope that that changes. Yeah. And what I hope stays the same. That you know, that, that optimism, right, like you see that in a child or a youth, it’s like that sense of optimism and hope for the future is just incredible, right? Yeah. So I yeah, I like that. Thank you. Oh, my goodness. Okay, so that brings us to the end of the episode. Thank you so much. Dr. Nneka


Jenna Fortinski  1:02:01

that was a wonderful conversation. Thank you.


Nicki Kirlin  1:02:06

I think we’ll have to have you back at some point to have a show. But


Jenna Fortinski  1:02:15

as always, we will end this episode with a quote from Dr. Nneka, so if you could share with us what you’ve come up with,


Dr. Nneka  1:02:20

please. Okay, so thank you, Jenna. I’m going to add another quote to the Elliott said one, yes. To the team. Okay. So this quote is by Mary- Anne Radmacher. And it says courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, I’ll try again tomorrow. Thank you.