Military parents, educators reflect on their own resiliency to help their teens
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — With two tweens and one teenager at home, Air Force spouse Megan Wallace was hoping to get some insight about teen mental health at Ramstein Middle School’s Wellness Night on Thursday.
“I thought I need to learn more about them, what it’s like to be a teen,” she said of her 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds.
Instead, the script was flipped and the discussion led by Krystal White, a clinical psychologist and chief of the workforce engagement office at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, “became a lot about us,” Wallace said.
About 75 parents and educators of teens in the Kaiserslautern Military Community attended. Organizers said parents and mental health professionals are seeing increased reports of teen depression, anxiety, self-harm and other mental health issues in the community.
White described being resilient as “being open to change in a positive way,” a state of being that starts with the parents of teens.
Listening without interjecting one’s own expectations or needs into the conversation is key, White said.
“You’re either in a state of openness or you’re not,” she said. “The more we practice that discipline, the easier it gets to move from a (place of) ‘stuck-ness’ to possibility.”
Wallace said that was helpful advice. “It made me think about how I am as a parent and a human communicator and to think less about my end game, that you can’t go into thinking about a goal or fixing a problem; you have to think about talking to them as humans.”
One parent asked White what she would do when a teen won’t engage in conversation.
“If you are worried because they are not talking,” talk to others who see and know your child, including their teachers, White said. Kids need other adults besides parents to model emotional resiliency, White said.
Victoria Barlow and her husband, a servicemember, also attended. They have two teenage sons.
“The piece about how we impose our own stories on our kids, that ‘if you don’t do this, you’re going to end up like this,’ that had a lot of resonance with me,” Barlow said.