Navigating the Challenges of Raising Resilient Teens - SE2EP16 - Rehn Boothey
Welcome to "Parenting in the Digital Age," the podcast where we delve into the unique challenges and opportunities of raising kids in today's tech-driven world. In this episode, we have a special guest joining us, Rehn Boothey, the Director of Renaissance Youth, a visionary organisation empowering young people to navigate their social and emotional lives with resilience and confidence. With over a decade of experience working closely with youth, Rehn has developed a profound passion for seeing young individuals thrive. In a rapidly evolving and increasingly complex society, many young people face tremendous challenges in navigating their social and emotional landscapes. Unfortunately, the lack of effective support and resources has led to significant harm, including loss of life. Through his organisation, Renaissance Youth, Rehn aims to equip young adults with the tools they need to develop meaningful relationships, communicate effectively, make responsible decisions, and manage their emotions in healthy and positive ways. Links: Website : https://www.renaissanceyouth.com.au/ Tiktok : @renaissanceyouth Instagram: @renaissanceyouth_ Facebook: Renaissance Youth This Episode is brought to you by Skill Samurai – Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au
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Speaker 1 (00:08): Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Jamie: Hello parents and welcome to Parenting in the Digital Age, the podcast where we delve into the unique challenges and opportunities of raising kids in today's tech-driven world. In this episode, we have a very special guest joining us, Ren Boothey, the director of Renaissance Youth, a visionary organization empowering young people to navigate their social and emotional lives with resilience and confidence. With over a decade of experience working closely with youth, Rehn has developed a profound passion for seeing young individuals thrive. And in a rapidly evolving and increasingly complex society, many young people face tremendous challenges in navigating their social and emotional landscapes. Unfortunately, the lack of effective support and resources has led to significant harm, including loss of life. Through his organization, Renaissance Youth, Wren aims to equip young adults with the tools they need to develop meaningful relationships, communicate effectively, make responsible decisions and manage their emotions in healthy and positive ways. Ren, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners in your own words, what you do and what you are passionate about. Rehn Boothey: First of all, thank you so much for having me on here, Jamie. It's a pleasure to be here. And yeah, more than happy to share. So Renaissance Youth is an organisation, as you said, that is very passionate about impacting the next generation. And we do that by going into high school sporting clubs, youth organisations, just to speak with them and present on issues that they face and how they can overcome them. And the passion behind it has simply been that over the past decade... Working with youth, I've seen a lot of challenges that teenagers have been facing and a lot of them have been quite serious challenges and often they don't know where to turn or what to do when faced with those issues. So it's all about helping them overcome them. And for me personally, what really sparked it was going through high school, everyone faces challenges. And I faced significant challenges. lucky to have a homeroom teacher that took me from year 8 all the way through to year 12 and whenever I faced issues was there to be a shoulder to cry on, be a voice of reason and always lend an ear and that you know without that sort of resource I'm not sure where I'd be today and I was very fortunate that I had that resource and I know a lot of teenagers unfortunately don't passion and I guess where this was kind of birthed out of was I used to compete in the sport of all-star cheerleading and I also coached teenagers in that space and there was one year in particular where I was coaching a team it was a small team of sort of 14 to probably 18, 19 year old girls and there was only about 11 or 12 teenagers on the team. I believe throughout the year, I would say every single one of them at one point or another came up to me and wanted to have a chat and it was because either they themselves were struggling or because one of their friends had self-harmed and tried to take their life and ended up in hospital and the volume that was occurring at just sparked something inside of me to go, I want to make a difference. I don't want these conversations to be such a regular. thing at that extreme. They want to be able to come to me before, you know, that kind of stuff's been taking place. So that's really where the passion came from. Jamie: That's incredible. And there's a lot there to unpack, which we'll do over the course Rehn Boothey: Hmm. Jamie: of the show. We were talking about, well, I suppose the question, or the thing that I'm curious about with mental health, we see all these statistics published about Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: the increase in mental health. You know, do you think it's that mental health challenges have increased or that we're more comfortable to talk about it today than we once were? Rehn Boothey: I think it's a mixture of both. And I think that there is a, you know, you go back sort of 30, 40 years and the pendulum was at one end where nobody talked about mental health issues. And... I think that sometimes, I think what we've seen is that we've actually swung the pendulum to the complete opposite end where we talk about it so much that there are people that are experiencing natural human emotion and you know, just experiencing human-ness is probably the best way that I can describe it. And we've almost medicalized the human condition at the complete opposite end. So do I think that more people are suffering? with mental health issues. It's hard to tell and I believe that there are a lot of people that are struggling and it's one where, yeah, especially in our youth, I think it's probably the biggest impact and a lot of it is just they're not, they just don't know how to navigate social and emotional environments and I think by helping them navigate those, the mental health issues kind of disappear. positive. Jamie: And is it because the social and emotional environments have become more complex? Like, you know, when I grew up, there Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: was no social media, there was no cell phones, you know, I wasn't always on, you know, Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: now I look at my daughter, one of my daughters who's 16. Rehn Boothey: Hmm. Jamie: And she's always on and she wants to get a bed with the phone. She wants to wake up with the phone. And there are Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: all these emotional triggers and things going on. There must be so much more complex today than it once was right? Rehn Boothey: Absolutely, it's so much more complex and it's something that I actually speak on and what I feel that the online landscape has done is it's actually disconnected us from reality, it's disconnected us from the real world and unfortunately the online world is as powerful as technology is, it's enabling us to have this conversation now on opposite ends of the country and it is such a powerful tool but if you live your whole life on it, you become so disconnected from what's actually going on around you and that's where I think a lot of the issues stem from. As you said with your daughter almost constantly on the devices, the latest research that came out of Australia is that the majority of teenagers are constantly online on social media and on their devices and that's a scary statistic because it's not they spend a couple of hours a day, it's constantly. You look at their screen time. and some of them are in double digits for the amount of hours that they spend on here. And it's, yeah, they're almost just trapped in a world that just isn't real. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, you're 100% correct. So in some of the pre-show research and looking at your wonderful website, you talk about disconnection. And so how Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: does disconnection contribute to mental health issues among individuals? And maybe what are some practical ways perhaps that we can foster reconnection or disconnection? Rehn Boothey: Yeah, absolutely. It's that whole, I guess, series came about doing research into mental health and one of the areas that I feel society has really placed an emphasis on lately is really looking at the biological aspects of things and whilst there is a biological part and component to mental health, it also, we've kind of ignored the sort of the three factor model. the psychological and the sociological impacts on mental health. And as I was kind of thinking about, you know, how we could get a message that everyone could relate to, I wanted to try and look at what actually causes mental health and try and come back to what I believed was the root cause of all these problems because end of the day, depression and anxiety are symptoms of, you know, a deeper problem. I was like, how can I explain this in one word? The word that just dropped into my mind was disconnection. If you are disconnected to key pillars in life, the likelihood of you ending up with some form of mental health condition is very high. Throughout the series that I teach, there's six key pillars. You're disconnected to one of them and you're probably going to have some issues. multiple, it's not an addition effect, it's a multiplication effect and the more areas you disconnected from, the struggles increase exponentially. So it was, you know, looking at those areas and the areas that I came up with was disconnected to our emotions. We're disconnected to the present moment. We spend a lot of time dwelling in the past or looking into the future. And at its core, if I look at depression and anxiety, depression is I'm living in the past and I don't see any hope for my future and that's just where I spend all my time. And anxiety is I'm stuck in the future and I'm always thinking about that and never or else and the past and the future are good places to visit. You need to go to the past to learn some lessons and you need to go to the future to have a vision and a goal for your life but you're not meant to spend your whole time in either of those places. And the other areas of disconnection, as we talked about before, disconnected from the real world. We're spending so much time on social media. We're disconnected from each other, from community. I saw a report that came out recently where the psychologist talked about the idea of third spaces. And, you know, for teenagers, they're going to school and they're at home. And for us, you know, we've got home and a work office. that extra space that we go to outside of that. And that space has largely diminished over the past, probably, decade to the point where social media and the internet have replaced that third space, and it's not proving to be a very healthy one. We've become disconnected from just loving relationships in general, and there's a lot of, especially in the teenagers' space, that they've grown up with broken families, unfortunately. and for a lot of them, they've not actually experienced what love is. And if you've never experienced that, how do you get yourself into a healthy relationship? How do you express that? It becomes very difficult. And the last one is just we've become disconnected from meaningful values. And it's not to push any set of values on anybody, but it's to kind of look at the effect that materialism and extrinsic motivation has had on our society that they need to be a millionaire, they need to drive a fast car, they need to have the fancy mansion, they need to have all this stuff to be happy. And the key message that I present in that talk is that it's a bit demotivating, but it's the fact that most people are gonna live an ordinary life. And that's actually a really good thing because we live in a beautiful country, and an ordinary life means you have a car, you have a house, you have a family. family, you have everything that you actually need. But somewhere along the line that got lost and became not enough. Jamie: Yeah, and largely thanks to the influence of social media and our so-called influences. Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: Not the only cause to blame, but certainly a big part of that. We talk about, I guess part of the theme here is about teens and suppressing emotions. Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: So in your experience, what are some of the harmful coping mechanisms that young people often resort to in order to avoid or suppress their emotions? Rehn Boothey: Absolutely. The big coping mechanisms right now, obviously alcohol, drugs have always been around in different forms. I think the biggest one that we're seeing in schools right now, especially here in Western Australia, has been vaping. And there's just been such a, I'd say, even meteoric rise in the amount of vapes that have entered our schools. than a cigarette, is certainly not true. And it's just something that they're using to self-medicate and to get out of the feelings that they're in. A lot of coping mechanisms as well that they use. Bullying is a coping mechanism. Hurt people hurt people. And that's something that the way that they cope is to put other people in pain. It's not a very healthy way of dealing with their own emotions and it also doesn't help the person on the receiving end of that now also doesn't feel good. They're using pornography. There's a massive rise in pornography with teenagers. Even getting into relationships that are unhealthy as a coping mechanism. Gaming. There's been a massive rise in online gaming and a little bit's alright but there's ones that just use it to escape. and spend their whole time gaming and you know even some healthy sort of things have been turned unhealthy. To use an example, especially in the older kind of teenage bracket, health and fitness has become almost a coping mechanism where it's not about I'm going on a run or I'm going to lift some weights to be healthy. It's I'm going to put my body through a lot of pain and torture. to get out of my head and it's sad when that happens as well. And yeah, those are just some of the more of the unhealthy sort of mechanisms that we're seeing teenagers using. Jamie: Yeah, yeah, it's quite, it's heartbreaking, you know, as a father myself and now grandfather, you know, you hear some of that stuff. And you think like, man, what have we created? You know, what sort of world are we creating here for our kids? Um, you, so in terms of like, you talk about the two spaces like home and school, you know, Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: where kids spend most of their time, apart from within their device. You know, what can parents do better? We'll come to school in a second, but what can parents do better in your view? You know, Rehn Boothey: Mm. Jamie: like you're out there teaching this stuff and helping our young adults, you know, learn to manage their emotions better, learn to speak more confidently and to understand themselves better. What is it that parents can do? Like we've got a responsibility. I think, Rehn Boothey: Hmm. Jamie: you know, most parents wanna do the right thing, but I just think perhaps sometimes we don't know what it is that we need to do to support our young Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: adults. So what would you? your advice be to someone like me. Rehn Boothey: Absolutely. Do something. And something is always better than nothing. And I think that sometimes a lot of parents, you know... don't know how to communicate with their teens, so they choose not to. And even just that attempt makes all the difference. And unfortunately, through those teenage years, sociologically and psychologically, teenagers are trying to find their own identity, and they're trying to win the approval of their peers. And unfortunately, mum and dad fall to the bottom of that ranking system and hierarchy, because they're not that cool anymore. So it can be hard sometimes because you feel like you're talking to a brick wall, but it's the effort that goes in and it's the times that you keep showing up, keep having those conversations and keep trying that when something actually does go wrong, they will come and talk to you. and because they know that you're there, that you're able to listen, that you actually care and that's the main thing is showing that you do care. In terms of what parents can do to help encourage teenagers is get them plugged into local community groups, whether it's a sporting team, whether it's a you know chess club, book club, whether it's a you know youth group, whether it's volunteering for a charity, get them out doing something and And that's where they're going to learn all their life skills. And it's, you know, how do I teach my kid resilience? How do I build confidence in them? There's nothing you can really do in the sense of, you know, sitting down and talking to them about it. It's something that as they experience being around other people, they're going to come up with issues and problems going, how do I deal with that? And you can, you know, speak to the issue. and help them overcome it in that scenario. And the only way they come against those scenarios is to be out in the world. And one thing that parents can really do is also just limit time on devices. And it can be really hard because as parents, you don't wanna be the villain that's restricting the use. But the more you can do that, the healthier. children are going to be and you know it can even be as simple as just you know no phones in the in the bedroom at night and it's not it's not restricting their use during the day but it's just putting some boundaries in place around how much they're using devices will actually you know make them go okay I need to have a conversation with a real person now and often that real person who becomes the parent or siblings and that really help as well. Jamie: Yeah, you said something really interesting in there. about being around other people and other social groups. And I think it's helping our young adults, our teens expand their social circle is really important. Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: Before the show we talked about, and this is quite a timely podcast even for me because my 16 year old daughter recently attended a camp that was hosted and facilitated by Rotary International called Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: RIPEN, R-Y-P-E-N. And there were 63 teens between the age of 14 1617 and this is I'm coming around at this in a long winded way here but I think the importance Like I saw a marked transformation in this was only a two and a half day camp, you know, and you know, Manique had some struggles with some anxiety and confidence and perhaps lack of decision making ability. Maybe just not believing in yourself in general and came out of there after two and a half days and boy was she a different person. And these programs such as Rotaries, what you do in your organization, there's an element of what they do and what you do. And what you said right at the beginning of this podcast where when you're facing challenges as a young adult, you had a mentor, you had a teacher Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: that was, you know, would put their arm around you and have a conversation that was willing to help you through that. And I think, you know, and you touched on it there from a parent's point of view, the most impactful thing that we can do perhaps is help them expand their social circle, get them involved in these communities. whether it's, as you said, sporting clubs, volunteering organisations, Rotary is one of hundreds, right? There are so many opportunities, but teach our kids to give back, help them get into Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: those. And sometimes they're going to think they're not cool. But she came Rehn Boothey: Yeah. Jamie: away from this event thinking that us old Rotarians are kind of cool people and that we actually have a place in this world, which was really nice. So let's turn to schools for a minute. Schools, I believe, have a responsibility. Rehn Boothey: Hmm. Jamie: they've got a duty of care and many take that responsibility seriously. But perhaps in my view, aren't always doing the right activities. They're not always. Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: perhaps getting it right. What's your advice? You know, you're a specialist in this field. You know, you go and present to schools and to youth organizations. What advice would you give to, say, a school principal? If I were a school principal, what advice would you give me to help, you know, our young people build resilience, make better decisions, and just live a better life? Rehn Boothey: Yes, something that I've actually seen in schools, which works really well and something that I've been a part of this year, especially last year too, is actually putting on clubs before school. And one club which I'm involved in with a number of schools now is a breakfast club and it serves two purposes. One, there are kids that come to school hungry, that come from disadvantaged families and bit of food in their stomach certainly goes a long way to helping them out. But also it's just a fun time where they get to connect outside of school work. The programs that we run, you know we go in, we make pancakes with the kids, the kids make the pancakes, you know they're sitting there, they flip them, they're putting all their toppings on there. We've got games, card games going on and they just sit around a you know a table and play games and eat breakfast together. It's through programs like that where kids actually start to have conversations. And something that actually came out of one of those programs last week was a year 7 boy. He came up to me and he just goes, I've never in my life, I've never got to make pancakes and play games with my friends. This is the coolest thing ever. And whilst that was a really encouraging thing to hear, it was also quite sad that was kind of the first time he'd been experiencing something like that. So my message to all principals is to create times where kids can connect with each other outside of the classroom and none of it's forced. And there's different types of clubs. There's breakfast clubs I've seen fitness clubs on. I've seen chess clubs on. I've seen coffee clubs on. Book reading clubs on. There's so many different things that you can do and having a variety allows kids to go and jump in and be a part of it. community and interact with each other and that's honestly the best thing that a school can do. Jamie: Yeah, that's and I suppose it then would help to foster these informal mentorships or buddy programs, you know, rather than formalizing Rehn Boothey: Absolutely. Jamie: a buddy system or a mentorship program, which I think still have a place. You know, you have a bring a bunch of kids together, they'll naturally find people that they look up to, or they Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: you know, there's these natural leadership opportunities that occur. And particularly when you have these clubs, and if they're well led, and there are some great challenges involved, you know, bringing people together in those most help them communicate. So there Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: are so many fundamental outcomes that these clubs can take on, but often it's a lack of time or resources, lack of teachers and staff and Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: schools don't always have it easy right? Rehn Boothey: No, they certainly don't. Resources and budgets are always tough. And that's where those sort of programs, we just go in and we volunteer. We give up our time, we don't charge for helping out with the breakfast clubs because it's just, it's a way of having such a big impact in such a, an easy way in a sense. There's not a lot involved in doing it. It just really helps out. Jamie: I like that idea. I like that idea a lot, Wren. I suppose, let me think. Well, I don't know, is there a question that, you know, maybe I haven't asked that should have, you Rehn Boothey: Ha ha. Jamie: know, I know this is a tricky question. I know I don't want to put Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: you on the spot here, but. you know, as a father, you've given me some advice, you've given some advice to schools, and this is really impactful stuff. And Rehn Boothey: Absolutely. Jamie: it doesn't have to be over complicated either. But Rehn Boothey: No. Jamie: is there something that I should have asked or that may help parents out? Because I think parents are just really struggling for tools and anything we can offer them would be beneficial. Rehn Boothey: So I think going over some of the things we've touched on with social media, reconnecting back into the real world and reconnecting to our community, the big message that I always try and teach kids when it comes to community is that everyone's... I phrase it as like a coal fire in the sense that if you've got a whole bunch of coal that's burning, every one of them is hot. If you remove one of those coals, what happens to it? cools down, the fire disappears and it's become isolated and it just doesn't burn anymore. And it's very much like us, as soon as we become isolated from community, our fire goes out, we switch off and that's tough. And I think the struggle that kids have with connecting into community is they actually don't know where they fit. And the thing that I always say, it's not about where you fit, it's the fact that you do. And the way that I describe it is very much like a body. and every, you know, our human bodies, every part of our body has a different function. And if we, you know, if we didn't have our hands, there'd be things that we couldn't do. If we didn't have feet, there'd be things that we couldn't do. But likewise, we can't replace our feet with hands, and it wouldn't be the same. And it's the same way in a community. Everybody has a role. Everybody has something different to do, and no part or gifting is any more or less important than another and that's you know we're different and that's why we come together and is to form one body that can actually you know move through society together and that's why we need friends and we need people that can do things that we can't and I think sometimes we think that we've got to be able to do it all and I think for parents it's about actually spending time with your with your child uncovering what their what their gift to what they've been blessed with, what talent or natural ability that they have, and helping them bring that forth into the world, because that's gonna make a difference. And it's knowing that your gift is different to someone else's, and that's great. That's a great thing. You don't need to be like anybody else. You need to just walk in the line that you've been called to walk in. And that's probably the biggest thing. that parents can do to assist is just help kids find what that is. Jamie: Yeah, and you said something beautiful there is, you know, a lot of kids don't know where they fit, or they may not fit in or feel that they don't fit in, you know, and Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: those, and if you know your school for those parents that are listening to your school doesn't have some sort of breakfast club, you know, maybe it's a conversation with the PNC or you know, the principal and start Rehn Boothey: Hmm. Jamie: one, you know, maybe you as a parent need to be the driving force behind that, first and foremost. And if you can't get those sorts of experiences through, then really consider the after school route, you know, for Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: those that follow. the podcast know that we run Skill Samurai, coding and STEM learning centers and we strive really hard to create a diverse and inclusive space and we know that many of the kids who come to our learning centers... They don't fit in at school. They don't fit. I'm Rehn Boothey: Yep. Jamie: not saying all of them, but you know, there's many that just don't fit into that mold. And when they come Rehn Boothey: Yeah. Jamie: to Skills Samurai, they find their tribe. They find people that they can connect with that are just like me. Right. So Rehn Boothey: Hey. Jamie: and they form these positive, healthy relationships that really impact them long term. But it doesn't even have to be that like, you know, Scouts are amazing. Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: Martial arts clubs and academies like just and just try all these after school kid finds that tribe and in there they Rehn Boothey: Absolutely. Jamie: will find mentors, they'll find people they look up to, they'll find people they can talk to when sometimes they won't come and talk to us, Rehn Boothey: Mm. Jamie: you know, and don't beat yourself up as a parent if your kids not talking to you, like that's just part of development Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: and life and they may not, it may not be they're not feeling comfortable but the more social groups we can expose our kids to the better. So that's some wonderful advice. One fun question before we end the show today, Rehn Boothey: Yes. Jamie: Ren is if we had a time machine and Ren could go back to his 10 year old version of yourself, what's one piece of advice that you would give yourself? Rehn Boothey: Oh, that is a fun one indeed. Oh, 10-year-old me. 10-year-old me was a very different person. 10-year-old me had not been through a lot of storms or trials at that point. So I think the advice would be, this too shall pass. and it's to know that in the midst of everything that I faced through high school, that was the core message is that this too shall pass. It's not going to kill me, it's not going to take me out. Yes, it's hard but the hard times will not necessarily end but you'll get stronger and you'll make it through. and keep going, don't give up, is the advice that I would give the younger self. Jamie: Wise advice indeed, Red. Now, where can our listeners reach out to you? How can they find you? How can they learn more about your programs? If I'm a teacher or a principal listening, how can we get this program into our school? Where do we find you? Rehn Boothey: Absolutely. The website is www.renascenceyouth.com.au. Renaissance is spelled R-E-N-A-I-S-S-A-N-C-E. I know that people every time they hear the word go, how do we pronounce that? That's a strange one. Throwing a bit of French around for everyone. But that is where they can find me. We're on all social media platforms on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, to reach all the teens. Seems to be where they all hang out these days. And the handle for those is just renaissance youth underscore. And yeah, they can find us there. There's a bunch of free content on the social media pages. and obviously if any teachers, principals listening would like to reach out and have a discussion, you can send an enquiry through the website and we'll be in touch. Jamie: Ren, thank you for your time and generosity this morning. I know I got a lot out of today's podcast, as many of our listeners will. Thank you for your impact and the work you do. We can't say thank you enough because it's something that is just becoming an ever increasing challenge for us as parents and as teens. So thank you for the work that you do. Look forward to catching up again soon and bye for now. Rehn Boothey: Fantastic. Thank you. Bye. Jamie: You're welcome, cheers.
If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids. Skill Samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit www.skillsamurai.com.au. This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academywww.skillsamurai.com.au
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