Ask Athena: Hold the Line

Firm boundaries are the foundation of healthy habits and relationships.

Q: My teenager is struggling with so much negativity on social media, and it’s affecting their attitude, self-esteem, and even hopes for the future. How can I help them navigate this heartbreaking situation? I grew up in a very different world.

A: I’m sorry to hear your teen is having a rough time online – sometimes kids need help managing digital stress in their lives. Social media is unavoidable these days, but the good news is it’s not all doom and gloom. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc create space for teens to explore their identities, entertain themselves, and express who they are.

You may be relieved to hear, too, that new studies show that social media actually does not lead to higher rates of depression and anxiety in most teens. It can still disrupt sleep, though, and distract focus, and even overwhelm some kids with constant stimulation and feedback. The trick is finding a healthy balance, and maintaining open communication while your teenager learns to navigate all the information and emotions coming at them.

There are things you can do:

  • Discuss limiting social media to two or three hours per day. Get a child minder app on your phone and use it.
  • Let your teenager know that you’ll check their social media accounts on occasion – and then make an effort to randomly refer to things in their timelines to let them know you are looking.
  • Talk about social media as a family, both pros and cons. Find out what is popular and why. Listen! Share your opinions and concerns, but don’t lecture or preach. Let your teen know you trust them, and that you’re here if they run into questions or problems they need help with.
  • Find other things for your teen to do in the analog world: after-school clubs and lessons, volunteering, babysitting or other part-time job.
  • Encourage personal contact with friends, such as coming over to watch TV or going out to a movie. If you can, offer to host or drive to make it easier.
  • Keep tabs on your teen, and if you see troubling signs or have any worries about depression or anxiety, don’t hesitate to take them to the doctor.

Need Help Now? Call 988 to speak with a compassionate trained professional for counseling, guidance, and direction for further evaluation and treatment services available. For safe, confidential resources and one-on-one support, call Philly’s “Warmline” at 267-687-4381 and pick option #1.

Q: I have a close friend who’s constantly borrowing money from me, and while they eventually pay me back, it’s straining our relationship as I feel like I’m helping her continue making terrible financial choices. How can I address this issue without damaging our friendship?

To start, speak up now before your friend is in need again: tell them kindly but in no uncertain terms that you are unable to keep loaning out money, and won’t be able to help them out if they need another quick fix of cash. This gives your friend time to process this change in your relationship, and hopefully they’ll budget accordingly.

You don’t owe them an explanation, but it might be easier to say something simple like you are saving for school, retirement, real estate, a big trip or something. Steer clear of judgy statements or criticism about how they handle money. Don’t try to make it about your friendship, either: this decision is about you, and what you feel comfortable with. Period.

There’s a good chance your friend’s feelings will still be hurt, but that’s actually pretty appropriate considering there was some strain already between you. Go ahead and acknowledge by highlighting the positive, for example: “I had been worried about having this conversation but now that we’ve talked, I feel so much better and appreciate how understanding you’ve been.”

Your friend might go ahead and ask for money anyway the next time they need it. Hold your ground. Remind them about the talk you had. Perhaps offer to help them brainstorm other funding, or connect with free budgeting tools and financial empowerment programs available.

Most friends will get the message but if yours can’t handle your new boundaries, that’s on them. You are not a personal bank and do not deserve to be treated like one. If that is the sole basis of your friendship, then you’re better off directing that energy towards a healthier and more balanced connection.

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Read the last Ask Athena here.

About Athena 46 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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