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Parenting Skills

Delaney Ruston, MD


1. Validate Feelings:

There is an art to validating our teens' feelings effectively. Work to tell them you see and appreciate the challenge of what they are feeling, and try not to follow it with statements such as, “Oh don’t worry, it will get better.”

2. Empower Problem Solvers:

Rather than jumping in to try and fix their problems, ask,  “Do you have any solutions in mind?” or “Let me know if you want any input from me.”

3. Talk About Your Emotions:

Let them know about how you work to handle stress and other difficult emotions. It is not about burdening them, it's about sharing feelings appropriately.

4. Support with Resources:

If your teen is systematically avoiding social time, school work and other activities due to anxious and/or sad feelings, get support and find resources for help on our website. This includes learning what you can do at home, such as opposite action, exposure interventions, and behavioral activation.

5. Prioritize Sleep:

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that six to 12-year-olds get nine to 12 hours of sleep a night, and that 13 to 18 year-olds get eight to 10 hours a night. Keeping phones and other devices out of the bedroom at night is important. 36% of teens with devices in their rooms report waking up and checking them at least once a night. Another study shows that just having a phone (or any other mobile device in the bedroom) negatively impacts sleep duration and quality even if teens report not checking them.

6. Prioritizing Face-to-Face Time:

Find more ways teens can have screen-free time with peers, younger kids and adults of all ages. Examples include part-time jobs, having neighbors for dinner or meeting and getting to know adult mentors.


Unfortunately, “parenting and private” are two words that often go together. We are in a major tech revolution that warrants open conversations and help-seeking. We agree with the teacher in the film who says, “The most successful people in life are those that can ask for help.”

  • Letting your kids know examples of when and how you have reached out for help in your life is a great way to have discussions and model this important skill.
  • Ask your teens if they know where to go for support. Also, see if they have a teacher or another adult they can rely on, such as an older family member or a friend’s parent.
  • Get support for yourself when you are facing the emotional challenges of your own life. This is a great way to model self-care and it ultimately allows you to better support your kids.


More and more schools are implementing programs for building resiliency skills. Parents can make a big difference in organizing together and working with their schools.

  • Social-Emotional Curriculum: Visit our website for the programs used in the film.
  • Wellness Clubs and Peer-to-Peer: Many models exist. And programs where teens, with training, teach others about safe social media and communication skills are impactful.

In conversation with your teens, determine guidelines for your family. Sometimes you will decide on a rule that your teens will disagree with — that is OK, but explain your reasoning. For example, let’s take sleep. Share with them the science of sleep and explain your intention to parent in line with your values. You value good sleep for their emotional wellbeing and having tech off and away is essential to achieve that.


  • Car rides without devices (we allow them for directions and other quick planning issues)
  • Phones and other electronics out of the bedroom at night
  • Family meals without devices
  • Plan ahead. For example, consider emailing guests before they come for dinner that it will be phone-free because you want to ensure everyone gets to have undistracted time together. Kids may groan for a moment, but so often they are truly happy afterward
  • When together out in the world, i.e. doing errands, have phones mostly away


Parenting in the Screen Age: A Guide To Calm Conversations

Book by filmmaker /physician of the Screenagers Movies. In the book, she covers many topics designed to help parents have calmer and more productive conversations with their children about the technology in their lives and its impact upon their health, happiness and development. You will find that a lot of the tips and advice in the book are also applicable to many other aspects of family life and will help you towards creating harmonious, open and loving relationships in your home.


Books and podcasts to help with parenting

Social engineering vs helicoptering

This one tiny change will really help your kids

How to say “no” effectively

How to foster mental focus in our kids — and ourselves

Building Community to Support Emotional Wellbeing