Several Boston-based female enterpreneurs are showcased in this week's Smart Girls Way100x 100 Project (Jan 9-13, 2012). I first found out about the project over last summer and tooks the strengths questsionnaire (SmartGirls Mirror), which any women starting a business should take!
I am privildged to be in the 100X100 group of women to be interviewed about BodiMojo for teen girls. (And like many girls who cringe at seeing themselves front and center, these sort of public experiences are ultimtely quite empowering, quirks and all!)
What is 100 x 100 Project? Let me quote from SmartGirls Way:
The 100 x 100 Project is the first SmartGirls Way initiative celebrating the strengths and success of women entrepreneurs. These daring women entrepreneurs are building the next economy – a sustainable economy -- and each day for 100 days, we will share their start-up stories and advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs.
These video profiles provide a portrait of today's woman entrepreneurs, showcasing how women in all stages of business growth are leveraging their SmartGirls strengths to build successful businesses.
The goal of the 100x100 Project is to inspire women to create and launch new businesses by shining a light on the bench-strength and sheer grit driving the women's entrepreneurial movement.
Check out videos, and be inspired from so many women forging a path!
I haven't posted in a while because we've been very, very busy at BodiMojo.com.
First, we got some great results from our field test of BodiMojo.com used in high school health classes. Hint: Girls exposed to Bodimojo.com over one month improved their attitudes about their own body image compared to girls who didn't use the site, especially around how they feel about their physical appearance and in comparing themselves to others). Read more from Boston Globe blog post. Now we recrafting the girl interactive tools into a new "Girls Confidence" dashboard, and my teenage daugther and her friends have been helping out. Stay tuned for that this fall!
Second, we optmized the bodimojo site for mobile smaarthones, to now it's easy for teens to set and update thier health goals.
Third, we pulled some of our tools into a Facebook app. Here's the scoop from our Bodimojo blog:
So what's mojo anyway? At BodiMojo for teens we consider it your personal charm, the moment you feel most fully yourself, comfortable, confident... no self-judgment. In the zone. Mojo is also the kind of feeling or state of being you want to share, kind of like paying it forward. So we've gathered a few of the BodiMojo.com tools and packaged them into an app on Facebook: My Mojo. Five things you can do once you "allow" the app:
(1) Take a mojo quiz. We've posted 4 quizzes in the app but have many more on bodimojo.com. Be sure to check out and share with friends.
(2) Visualize your mood with the Mojo Mood Cloud. Feeling freaked out, joyful, silly, emo? Tag your moods here! (The Mood Cloud is on main site and log in is required for all personalized tools).
(3) Send friends a virtual gift to boost their mood or cheer 'em on via email or post on FB wall. We have some cool animations created by our friends at Doink. The 10 teen winners of a recent contest created some awesome art, so support the artists and your friends at the same time. A win win! (DoInk artist, Syas, created volleyball girl.)
(4) Get a BodiMojo Snapshot into your health habits. The app allows you to connect via Facebook to BodiMojo.com where you can get personalized feedback on your lifestyle habits. Just visit the My Page section where you'll find your "Health Mojo" -- nutrition, fitness, body image attitudes, stress and more. So instead of hearing the same old, same old about what it takes to be healthy, you get customized feedback. How refreshing!
(5) Once you're on the BodiMojo's My Page you can create personal health goals, and set up email or text updates, too. You earn points every step of the way. And there's lots more content to check out.
Of course, we want your feedback, too. Teens have helped shape the site and we want to keep working at it to improve your experience! Tell us on Facebook!
Why is it that grown ups seem to think that teenagers don’t care about their health? Or that if you claim to help adolescents navigate the rollercoaster ride of the teen years that you’ll be outright dismissed? (Good luck to you! they exclaim.)
I get this response on a regular basis when I talk about BodiMojo for teens, an online health engagement platform to support adolescents during this weird transition to adulthood. “Teens don’t care about their health” is the most frequent declarative response.
Why does the notion of teens + health = non-starter?
Is it because we remember our own turbulent years and recall that we wanted nothing to do with people telling us what we should do?
It’s a visceral memory. People wince or laugh or self-deprecate as they recall their own teen years. We are afraid of teens as we remember our own pasts!
Why is it, then, when we become those grown-ups, that's exactly what we do? We tell teens what they should be or not be doing. No drugs, no beer, no sex, no texting at the dinner table, don’t you dare miss your curfew, you must get As (or else you have no life). BUT…help with the dishes, mow the lawn, take out the trash, eat your broccoli, oh and, watch your sister while I run to the store.
I’ve become a defender of teenagers in the landscape of health. Not only are they underserved in health care – after all they do not pay insurance premiums or have employee benefits – but teens are elusive, too. They don’t pay much attention to health prevention messages.
Why? Because teens “know” what they need to know. Ya, know what I mean? Teens have been soaking up prevention messages from school health classes, coaches, parents, peer educators, billboards, PSAs and so on (see one video teens created). A good thing, too. We need to keep this education in their faces, because individuals absorb information at different rates and in different ways depending on a host of things: cognitive maturity, ability to problem solve and plan ahead, propensity for risk taking or impulsivity, motivation, health beliefs and attitudes, pubertal status, social support, relationships and peer pressure, self-esteem and so on.
It’s a lucky teen that might get the right message at the right time, though. Health topics, like many things in life, have become so compartmentalized, one wonders how any of the information might come together in a holistic way for a teen. Think about what a typical teen might get: A few hours of puberty ed in 5th grade, a reproductive biology module in 9th grade, an assembly on bullying once a year, and alcohol prevention during prom season. At least that’s how it seems to work in my community.
How about personalizing health information for teens?
How about making it relevant to them when they need it?
Teens have a lot going on while their brains and bodies are undergoing massive shifts. So they forget things. What was taught to 11 year olds during puberty education class (largely experienced as either disgust or hilarity) should be reconfigured each year thereafter through age 18 because reproductive health becomes increasingly more relevant over time (but that’s another rant). Teens “get” the messages about eating fruits and veggies and exercising, just like they get the messages not to do drugs or drive without a seat belt or to use a condom to avoid pregnancy or STDs. That doesn’t mean they actually act intelligently on their knowledge – especially when friends are around. Groupthink overrides the common sense switch in the brain. Hormones override executive function. Social validation trumps IQ.
So let’s meet teens where they are at. They are more engaging than you think. They like to learn about themselves, test their knowledge, assess their personality, track their mood, and then share with their friends whatever they’ve learned that surprises or inspires them. They are inherently competitive and like to show off. Teens are dealing with highly personal issues and behaviors that are emotionally triggering. They may not want to talk about "health" in a classroom or with grown ups. But maybe they do. Choices matter.
Bottom line: People learn new things and change behaviors when it means something to them AND when they have the ability or skills to act on it. Not all teens mature at same rate so why do we think teaching them things at a certain time in a spotty curriculum will actually stick?
Recently, I was part of a community service project with ten urban high school girls ranging in age from 14 to 17. The topic they wanted to address was body image and the task was to bring back to the school community a positive message or outcome of the project. As part of this exercise the girls used the BodiMojo site and took the body image quizzes as a discussion and icebreaker activity. One girl, clearly overweight, read her personalized feedback about her body image attitude. She was delighted with it and cut and pasted the feedback to her Facebook page. This revealed several things. One, the message was relevant and positive to her. Two, she wanted to show it off to her friends. Three, she choose to share a “confidential” experience because it could inspire others, too. (I know this because I asked her why she did this.) What is “social” trumps privacy, in this case, for the good. Her sharing was a choice. For others in the group, they did not jump to broadcast on Facebook. Yet, according to their school teacher, the girls learned a great deal and bonded over the experience.
As a team we also discovered that the BodiMojo platform was effective for teen girls for improving body esteem. Teens care about issues that are emotionally charged and immediate. If we grown-ups can better attend to what is developmentally relevant, we might begin to affect change in other health areas, too.
You still don’t think teens care about their health? Then you might just be asking the wrong questions!
No, it’s not Casual Friday. It’s a Wednesday, April 26, 2011. It's time to throw on a pair of jeans.
Well, ok. Everyday can be a jeans day for some of us, especially us techy shrinks. But Denim Day marks a moment in the calendar year to raise awareness and to educate youth on sexual violence and teen dating abuse. The name comes from a legal case in Italy where a judge overturned a rape conviction because the female victim wore tight jeans to the court hearing.
I am not wearing jeans today. Instead, I dressed up for a luncheon hosted by MomCentral and sponsored by the Start Strong initiative, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in collaboration with the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF). What’s significant about this program is that it is the largest funded national initiative aimed at preventing relationship violence and abuse among young people. Its mission is to promote healthy relationship behaviors – among 11 to 14 year olds.
Teen dating violence is a major problem – and one that can extend into later relationships and have significant consequences for safety and quality of life. Maybe the most startling fact, even for those of us in the mental health profession, are the statistics that as many as 1 in 5 teenage girls and 1 in 10 teen boys have been physically or sexually abused by a partner (Journal of Pediatrics, 2007). A more recent study on 6th graders reveals that half of the youngsters surveyed reported having been in a “dating” relationship and 42% report being victims of “dating” violence (Journal of Early Adolescence, 2009)
Whether you believe the stats or not it doesn’t take much to see that the sexualization of youth and violence in the media is everywhere, providing very poor role models indeed. Compound that with the astonishing rate of cell phone use and texting by tweens and teens today and dating harassment has found a new route.
Start Strong intends to foster a grass roots movement involving all stakeholders: teens, parents, caregivers, educators, healthcare professionals, domestic violence advocates, and community leaders. The goal is to build environments that support healthy relationships and prevent violence and abuse. The gathering today evoked a lively discussion on how to begin a dialog with our children about these tough issues, and importantly, how do we model “healthy“ relationships that our kids keenly observe – in our own homes and with our partners, friends, and co-workers. Are we being mindful of our own relationships?
Next week my 11-year-old daughter will see the movie. She informed me of this recently. I thought out loud: Is the last Harry Potter movie out already? No, Mom, “The Movie!” she motioned with quotation fingers.
Right. THE MOVIE. The 5h grade puberty education session is coming up. I previewed it two years ago when my older daughter endured it (one of my rants). It’s a disappointment: Abstract images of fallopian tubes, a sample of a tampon, and a really corny short film on female anatomy and sweat glands. I suppose, if anything, the disembodied nature of the presentation and the confusion it evokes might spur some parents to provide more clarity on reproductive health and personal hygiene. Some schools are now offering mother-daughter, father-son education sessions.
Now imagine if this 5th grade education went beyond the one hour of puberty education and instead was extended over the course of the semester - and all of middle school years - to embrace what it means to go through puberty, what healthy relationships look like, and how to comfortably navigate the social jungle of adolescence?
Start Strong is pioneering its program in 11 US cities. We can only hope the success is immediate, so that all tweens, families and communities can benefit.
As for me, it’s time to put on some denim and tell my girls why.
I know I call on you a lot and you’ve been a great support. Now that we are ready to get BodiMojo out to teens and round up sponsors and strategic partners, we need your vote in this business plan competition. Apparently, this exercise shows the committee we’re out there networking (vs. a popularity vote). Please take a few minutes this week and give us your vote of confidence.
I have a very clear image of my mother doing a headstand on the front porch of our small ranch house in Connecticut in the late 1960s when I was about three years old. Thanks to Jack LaLanne. It is with nostalgia that read about his passing at a hardy age of 96. I’m convinced this early imprinting of my inverted mother led me to find my path to yoga.
I can’t really think of anyone in recent history that may have influenced American fitness culture more on the importance of physical activity – before it even became fashionable in the 80s or the prescription for obesity prevention today. When I think about it, by the time my mom was listening to Jack on a black and white TV he was already 50 years old.
The idea of exercising for good health, however, was part of my mother's German heritage, where walking or hiking was simply something families did together – for fresh air, to walk off lunch, and to enjoy the views of the forest or fields. Stuck raising two toddlers in the suburbs of Connecticut, I’m sure Jack LaLanne provided her with a daily dose of self-care and peace of mind.
With that said, I did not grow up playing sports or become an athlete. Born pigeon toed and prescribed shoe braces, my mother put me in ballet classes as her own idea of physical therapy. Mastering first position in ballet slippers may have helped my gait but it certainly provided me with a form of graceful exercise. The passing of Title IX occurred when I was a child and was not implemented until my teenage years; and frankly sports did not take over afterschool activities and weekends as it does today for my daughters. Back then I gave cheerleading and track & field a shot – mostly because I liked being part of a team and singing along on the bus to high school athletic events.
But later I circled back to those early poses I watched my mother do. She had no home gym equipment, special butt shaping sneakers or iPods, 50 fitness channels or Jane Fonda DVDs. Just a hokey guy with his dog, Happy, on a snowy screen.
When I discovered yoga in my early 20s, these memories of my mother would resurface with gratitude. When I studied mind-body medicine later with Jon Kabat-Zinn, I remembered him saying to our group that being in an inverted posture (or upside-down) is great for the mind – it offers a different perspective of the world. Jack LaLanne surely knew this already.
Now the question is: What will my teen girls remember about my relationship to exercise since I opt to escape from home life and go to structured classes? I think I’ll pull out my yoga mat suggest some shoulder stands when things get wiggy in our household. It will, at the least, be the start of a conversation on being in “balance.” They can’t fain embarrassment in our own home with no one looking.
Thank you, Jack LaLanne for entering my childhood living room.
The number of text messages the average teen sends today is staggering. The last statistic I saw was that teen girls send over 3300 text messages a month, an average of more than 100 texts /day. Of course most of this happens at bus stops and after school, between activities, and distills down to messages about homework, rides, and boys. For kids who are “hypertexters” (over 120 messages/day) there is some research correlating the behavior to high risk taking, too... but I’m not convinced.
In fact, I’m trying to figure out my reaction to all the finger action and what seems to be the irresistible urge of the teen girls I know to text each other in the same room or when piled in the same car. Social scientists and journalists lament whether this is the end of authentic interpersonal interactions, the learning of social skills needed to be contributing adults in the world, ethical behavior, and so on.
But I have to say I have come to see the texting as one way I know my 13-year-old daughter still cares. If all I get is something like this:
“Can u pick me up@ graces? <kisses>”
…. I’ll take it.
I mean, when do you get a real hug or kiss at this stage anyway?
It strikes me that texting serves a new way for teens to hint to their parents they are appreciated, the kind of gesture that will no longer be acknowledged in a sideways hug, high five, or God forbid, a verbal “thanks” or “love ya” face to face. It’s sort of like when around the age of 8, you can no longer kiss your kid on the forehead before she hops on the bus for her fear of being ruthlessly tagged as being a baby.
So while my not-so-little girl has entered the beginning of what Erik Erikson dubbed the “Identity vs. Role Confusion” - that betwixt and between developmental stage from child to adulthood, it seems that technology may ameliorate the experience of rejection, dismissal and withdrawal. I suppose it can go the other way, too.
For now texting is like a tether, however flimsy or flighty, of sweet somethings that I can hold on to.
The initiation into teen parenthood was swift and harsh. Within mere moments of her turning 13 years old I became an embarrassment to my daughter.
Yes, an embarrassment.
Not longer the cool yoga mom with style, I am now shunned with glares that shout: “Don’t say anything to me.”
The request to help in the kitchen or the do me a favor and grab my keys, for instance, are fielded with stomps and sighs and sheer dismissal.
Some older teen girls I know recently told me it passes, assured me that the Abercrombie uniform gets relegated to a middle school fad, and that the wigginess dissipates over time somewhat. Parents I know, and some fellow psychologists, claim that getting past the 16-year mark helps. (I’ve read many of the parenting books on the subject.) Maybe it is the new found responsibility of a driver’s license and more serious thoughts about college filtering in or that boyfriend that hangs around to get your good graces that begs better, kinder behavior.
You mean 3 or more years of this?
Recently, shopping for a baseball cap for her cousin at Lids in the local mall, I began chatting with the women in line trying to figure out whether to risk buying a cap her nephew might not like or getting a gift card instead. I chimed in casually – it was a wait after all. Next thing I know my daughter is flush red, does this full body duck-and-cover move as if we are being shelled, and shrewdly whispers, “Mom you are so weird, why are you talking to a stranger?”
Ok. Shoot me for being friendly.
Forget that I noticed what jeans she liked at the shop next door that appeared under the Christmas tree. I mean, right? (As she would say.)
Of course, this is classic behavior, and rather benign for the first few days of official teendom, but what was a bit unnerving was my physiological reaction. The swish of bonding hormone oxytocin that circulates in your blood stream after having babies and keeps mothers in 24-7 nurture mode (and lasts until the wee ones leave home) – well, it was like an immediate drug withdrawal. I felt depleted, deprived, bruised, yet yearning for a glimmer of connection.
A flash flood. Lost in a parenthood puddle of loss.
I took yoga class the next day. I decided I can only go with the flow and try to institute a modicum of respect and rules at home to bid my time. Of course, if she tried yoga, too, see might understand why the bumper sticker I have on my dilapidated minivan reads: Namaste.
As of this month I am officially the mother of a teenage daughter. Thirteen. Hard to believe. And she’s milking the teen thing now. Just like that, she’s got a sense of confidence and attitude, like she’s allowed to elbow with the rest of us.
The weirdest thing that is happening for me, though, is that I am finding myself dabbing on the mascara when I go out. (Aside from my lipstick, Clinique #83, Double Truffle, I stopped bothering with make-up long ago, opting for the au natural look). It started a week before her 13th birthday when she went to her first dance. The only make-up a few of us moms allowed the girls to wear was mascara and lip-gloss. Yah, we’re so tough aren’t we? But then again why not join in on the experimentation. After all, the most these girls have been doing to make personal statements is wearing color pre-wrap on their hair at soccer. No tutus and stage make-up in this crew.
Of course, when I see the girls with smudged eye circles I remember why I stopped wearing the black ink. Why exaggerate the sleep deprived look?
I know that my brief indulgence is but a fancy to soak up the youthful glee and excitement of these sweet girls in catching the attention of ...boys. It might also be why there is a spike in make-up sales among the tweens - mothers are definitely enabling the pubertal flights of fancy.
I took the girls out for a birthday dinner (three of six friends turned 13 over one weekend), followed by a sleepover. The winning choice this year was hardly mine: The Cheesecake Factory. The wait, even at a reasonable hour of 6pm, was 90 minutes.
“Mom, can you hold our place while we checkout some stores? We’re not buying anything. Text me when we’re about to be seated!”
And so it goes with the modern teenager. All that anti-consumerism, media literacy and car-ride chats on sensible choices waft quickly over the adolescent abyss, black streaks and all.
Empathy. It seems that that the experience of this basic human emotion is on the decline among young people. In my recent lament about the deaths among a number of youths I wondered what happened to basic empathy and regard for our kin. Luckily, it seems to be a shared concern. To wit, an article in today’s paper edition of Boston Globe, "Empathy is so yesterday" tackles the social science on the subject (Keith O’Brien, Oct 17, 2010). Today’s youth, he asserts, may be more aware of one another’s whereabouts, but less likely to show genuine concern for others. This might be in part a consequence of incessant news bites, tragedy upon tragedy, and hurricane after tsunami after terror attacks. After all, we have to protect ourselves from the assault of such relentless, troubling communications. (I stopped watching TV news after having children, simply to avoid a night of fretful sleep and anxiety over “what ifs.”)
But what of this lack of empathy? Is empathy a worn out past-time dismissed by a generation of hyperspeaking tech freaks and self-involved capitalists? One might think so after seeing The Social Network. (Just sayin’.) There are the obvious societal culprits including the advent of the World Wide Web and the rapid dependence on technology, gadgets and instant messaging in one decade – for better and for worse. It's worth reflecting on the potential fall out for real human connection. O’Brien does a little digging into the definition of empathy. (In fact, it's a relatively new 19th century term derived from the German word, Einfuehling – irony notwithstanding). He also summarizes some fascinating research. The studies are relatively few (apparently only 72 to date) and the results are largely culled from written role play scenarios and self-reports with college students. But here’s the upshot: Since about 2000, there has been a “sudden” drop in two areas of empathy: Perspective taking (cognitive empathy) and empathic concern (emotional empathy). In fact, the drop in empathy concern, the physiological or felt experience of another's situation, has declined by 48% between 1979 and 2009, according to the Globe article.
This does not bode well for our young people. O’Brien points out, via interviews with researchers, that it is not the emotional capacity that may be lacking – after all, babies are born with an innate sense of empathy and feeling another’s distress cry – but that the context of modern life has shifted dramatically. He mentions the high divorce rate and media consumption as two possible influencers, as well as recessions, climate change, and other global situations that leave many feeling powerless. But we needn't feel this way.
I spent part of one evening this weekend at a small candle light march in Mattapan, at Morningstar Baptist Church, to pay respect to four people slain just a few weeks ago. I attended this intimate gathering with a group of teens from my town at a local parish, just one mile away. There is an invisible line between our two communities – and there exists, quite frankly, an apartheid. And it is to the credit of the two youth groups – and the ministers – that this vigil took place.
In the cold drizzle of an October evening, neighbors, black and white, walked together in song. In the shadows of worn three-decker buildings, past barking dogs behind chain-linked fences, and among the sputtering candle flames, these young people could imagine – for a moment at least – the last agonizing footsteps of the victims. I think it changed them in some small way, if not great. How could it not? Huddled we were in collective grief at a sidewalk shrine. In person. Together. Strangers. Leaning into each other, lighting and relighting each other's candles, singing, whispering, praying and feeling. It was but a short moment in the scheme of our lives, but bodily felt. And it is in such communal moments that truly, deep in my heart, I believe we shall overcome… someday.
No information in this blog is intended to diagnose or treat any health or mental health condition. The opinions expressed here are my own. If you have concerns about a personal issue please seek a consultation with a doctor.