Tuesday, November 21, 2017

All You Need Is Love!!!

There is something about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Maybe its the embedded memory of a half day at school and the anticipation of four days of freedom. I know for me its also the anticipation of my favorite meal ever, looking forward to savoring every morsel of turkey and stuffing. But what I look forward to most is the minute my beloved daughter walks in the door on Thanksgiving day. There is nothing more special, more delicious, than that first hug with your child, no matter how grown up. Thanksgiving is a day to be treasured. All the worries of daily life, messy rooms, bad attitudes, disappointing grades, worries about money, job, family responsibility all put aside in order to cherish and preserve the present; family, food, and football. ( I personally hate football, but I get it's importance to some)

I know sometimes for parents this is no easy task. Maybe you have had a hard week with your teen, arguments, hurt feelings, parents feeling ignored and abandoned by their kids. I wanted to share especially for these parents a poem that a parent shared with me. She and her son had been at odds at what felt like forever. She was so saddened by the change in their relationship, and was working really hard to find some common ground with her son in this battlefield. One morning, going into her son's room to grab his laundry, she found this poem on the floor. This was not a school assignment, but an impulsive pouring out of thoughts. He did not hand his mom this poem as an olive branch, but instead, left it out for her to find. It is a tribute to the love a son has for his family. Know this, that what you often see on the outside, is not what is really going on the inside. Thanksgiving day is a day for you to share those feelings with your kids. Take the inside love and wear it on the outside, at least for the day, and maybe they will too. 


Where Am I From

I am from long nights lying on the grass
I am from days packed with sports
I am from burnt rice and undercooked hot dogs
I am from arguing about the stupidest things
I am from Love
I am from listening to my ipod late at night
I am from turning on my fan just for the noise
I am from letting facebook turn 1 hour of work into 3
I am from tiptoeing to the bathroom so my mom thinks I'm still asleep
I am from prayers said with the rest of my family over wine, even though I can’t drink
I am from Love
I am from Life

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It's Time For A Little Thanks

In the last few months, close friends of mine have dealt with life issues that seem unbearable; major health issues, loss of parents and husbands; children who have been diagnosed with scary health issues; big big big issues. It does make me feel so thankful for the blessings of family, friends, satisfying work, and good health. Life isn't perfect, and there are many days I feel discouraged, or whiny about what now seem like such silly things in light of what my friends are dealing with. So this Thanksgiving is a time for real thanks.

Your teen may need a little dose of that thanks this holiday. Maybe things haven't been so great. Maybe report cards have been disappointing, or their attitude towards you and the family has you pulling your hair out, or they seem ungrateful and entitled, or distant and uncommunicative. There is not much good to be found. And the more they disappoint, the more you pull away.  Sometimes we need an excuse to wipe the slate. Why not have Thanksgiving be that excuse. If you have found the last few months weighing in on the negative, maybe just for the next few days, you share some thankful moments with your teen. Maybe a text, or a card left on their bed with a " I get things have been hard between us over the last few months, but I am so grateful that you are my son/daughter. I cannot imagine my life without your (insert some of the good stuff here, here are some examples: humor; getting me to watch movies I never would have picked but loved; forced me to learn about..., you get the idea.) I know we will get past this other stuff. I love you."

Don't look for a response or a thank you. This is a selfless gift you are giving with no expectations. Teens need to know that with all the crap they hand out, you will always love them, plain and simple.

Treasure these days.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I'm living With A Crazy Person

Getting caught off guard by the emotional drama of your teen's life can be unsettling. Unsuspecting parents, sitting down for a relaxing night of TV can be rocked by the swear laden screaming tirade heard coming from the vicinity of their teen's bedroom. Here are some possible causes:

  •  Their phone dropped on the floor, and it pissed them off
  • They hate doing their homework, and their text book fell on the floor and it pissed them off.
  • You asked them a question, any question, and it pissed them off.
  • They want to go out and wear their favorite pair of jeans which are scrunched up in  a ball in the corner of the room stained with the ketchup from the burger they ate last weekend. Of course it is your fault the jeans are stained, in the corner of their room, and unwashed. They are pissed off. 
  • They open the refrigerator and there are no more bottles of their favorite, juice, soda, water. You are a terrible parent for not keeping all their supplies up and they are pissed off. 
Ok, get it!! The stupidest things can set off the emotional volcano that is their brain. They have been sucking down life's small hurdles and humiliations all day, and it is whatever that last thing is that makes them blow. Literally. 

Your strategy is to not contribute any more fuel for this raging fire. It may have nothing really to do with you, for a change, but you might have been the last person to speak, and was the spark that set the firestorm off. Rather than letting your feelings get hurt, or get mad because their anger is now focused on you, just give them a shrug, and in the calmest voice you can muster a: " I get you are frustrated, let me know if there is any way I can help" and then leave them alone. Nothing good will come of it!

I asked my college freshmen recently to write about their adolescence. With his permission here is an excerpt from one of the young men from my class who so beautifully describes this "emotional volcano."

"As with all kids going through puberty, my hormones were at a constant state of flux. For some reason, mine decided to leave me with uncontrollable anger. The hardest part was I had no idea why I was so angry. I never connected how I was feeling to puberty. With no reason and no outlet I struggled to maintain my composure with my friends and family. My anger piled and piled until the most insignificant slight would throw me into a terrible rage, I regret each and every time I lashed out at the people around me. I just could not stop myself after a certain point. At home I would sulk and growl if I was bothered. If my family happened to be persistent I would snap. This did not fly with my parents. I was being punished nearly every day, and the constant punishment left me more angry and resentful then I already was. On some level, it is understandable that family receives the brunt of one' emotions. As a child there is almost no way to escape them, and the majority of one's time is spent with them. The good news is although it may have taken a few years I managed to calm down. As my anger faded away I could start to see my life a little clearer."

See, there is hope!!!!!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

It's Hard To Stop A Bully!!!!

watch and then we'll talk!!
https://www.gq.com/story/burger-king-bullying-psa?mbid=social_facebook

This video is exceptional! It doesn't really offer strategy, but it certainly addresses the bystander in all of us. How much easier it is to "not get involved." Teens especially have a really hard time standing up for themselves and/or for other people who they witness being bullied. The hyper-self-consiousness that teens feel so acutely makes it almost impossible for them to "do the right thing", even though in theory they know better. The link below will take you to a video of a show that NBC did a few years ago about teens and bullying, illustrating this point. It would be great for you to watch with your teens. Listen, the adults in the video above couldn't get out of their own way, of course vulnerable teens will find it a million times harder!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J3cWrJHAcY

Bullying is all about power. It is only fun to bully someone as long as the victim stays in that one down position.  In the moment, and in the middle of a bully's taunt that puts a kid in that one down position, most kids are unprepared and their reaction is often fuel for the bully, like showing fear, embarrassment, or attempts to avoid the bully. Like all new experiences in life, most kids are not prepared for the possibility that someone might deliberately want to humiliate them. As adults we hope that that type of situation won't happen to our kids, or that our kids won't be the perpetrators of bullying, and so most often we don't get around to dealing with it until after it happens.

Giving our kids strategies for those moments in life when they are unprepared is paramount. Humor,and sarcasm are very effective tools to help counter some of the the bully's attempts at humiliation. If you have a teen who is overweight and has been teased about it, helping them to come up with some quick retorts like, "big is beautiful, thanks for the compliment", or a sarcastic retort after a fat comment: "Ya think" or "ooh you're so observant" or, " I'm looking for a trainer, want to help me get in shape?"said with strength and power.

Actress Gabby Sidibe is a master at putting bullies in their place as seen in this tweet she posted to people who commented on her weight after photos that were posted after this past Sunday's Golden Globes Make sure you show this to your kids. She is the best teacher there is!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/13/gabourey-sidibe-weight-comments-golden-globes_n_4591417.html

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Teaching Our Teens To Be Respectful To Women!

The sexual predators are coming out of the woodwork. Not a day goes by now without a new story about a famous celebrity, politician, businessman, teacher, professor, you name a profession, accused of sexual harassment or assault. Did you know that  1 in 4 teens has been sexually harassed, and 1 in 5 college women have been sexualy assaulted, but very few report, being afraid of blowback from their peers, their administration, and fear of being victimized for a second time. What the hell is going on with these young men? A researcher and alum from the Harvard graduate School of Education was on the Harvard Campus recently and relates this anecdote."  I was walking on campus and a male Harvard student walks by and says to me: "Damn, you're a sexy bitch." And this is one of our "best and brightest."  So, I guess this is the way young men say hello to women now.

Yes, we need colleges and middle schools and high schools to set better policy about sexual harassment but that men feel permission to speak like this to women means we are not doing a good job at teaching our sons and daughters that this is not OK. Here is what I think.


  • Now that kids are getting smartphones at earlier and earlier ages, (getting one at 8 years of age is no longer an exception) boys now have easy access to pornography at a very early age, way before they even have access or readiness for the actual experience with a real live girl of their own age. Research has shown that these early images and sexually provocative language can literally make brain connections. Just like learning a new language, this now becomes their language of sex, and communication with women.

  • Now that kids can download apps where they can use extremely sexual language when texting and snap chatting each other, that disappears in 5 seconds, safe from parental supervision, sexting has become the norm for communication. As in "hey sexy bitch." Do this starting at age 8 or 10 or 12, it becomes your go-to language.
How surprising can it be then, for boys who have had the freedom to look at misogynistic porn and use misogynistic language talking to their "bitches," go off to college thinking this is how women like it! And by the way, adding fuel to the fire, these "bitches" think hearing that language from boys is no biggie,  

This is where you come in. Your kids need you desperately to let them know this is not alright, and not safe. They need you to monitor what they are writing so when you see this kind of language, you can talk to them about it and let them know it is not OK. You might need to say to your teen; Hey how would you like it if I said to your mom, hey bitch you're f##kin hot, Or mom might say: "how would you feel if your dad talked to me that way." Don't mince words or language when you are talking to your teen. Say the words they are using, say them out loud, make them uncomfortable and embarrassed, how else will they hear how demeaning and ugly sexually explicit can sound when it is used as a "hello, what's up?

If you want your teen to go off to college and life acting respectfully towards women or demanding respect if they are a woman, that takes work. It means saying no to apps that allow them to develop bad habits because no adult is giving then the other side of the story. It means disabling safari on their smartphones for young boys too young to understand and too impulsive and horny not to access porn without your knowledge. 

Think about it this way. When your kids were young, you understood that they had a developing brain, and you knew that the most important thing you needed to do was to stimulate it by providing experience; reading, talking, singing, etc Your teen's brain is in that same stage of development, it is open to stimulation. Make sure that what it's feeding on is healthy and safe, and respectful!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What's The Big Deal...Everybody Was Doing It!

This is a wonderful article about teens an peer pressure. It gives scientific evidence for the cause of peer pressure. I like science because it takes it from the personal : Why can't my teen think for him/herself?" to a place of objectivity. Parents need objectivity, because so much of parenting a teen becomes personal! Teenagers, Friends and Bad Decisionshttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/teenagers-friends-and-bad-decisions/

 I love when articles confirm what I already know, but in a new way. It makes me feel so smart. This referenced a study that was done at Temple University looking at the effect on teens brains while they are making decisions when they are alone versus when they are with their friends. The experiment was so interesting. Ask a bunch of 14-18 year olds to do a simulated driving game for which they will be rewarded with cash if they finish in a certain time frame. Embedded in the game are choices to be made like running yellow lights to finish more quickly. However if you "crash" you get penalized and delayed.  Scores were compared with a group of college students and a group of young adults.  "Half of the time each person played alone, and half the time they were told that two same-sex friends who had accompanied them to the study were watching in the next room." The results, no change in game playing or risk-taking for college students and young adults when told about people watching their play, but for the teens they ran 40% more yellow lights and had 60% more crashes when they "believed" their friends were watching. Remember these "phantom friends" were not even in the room with them, they only believed that friends were watching. 

This is pretty powerful documentation of the effect of what we call "the imaginary audience", a term coined by psychologist David Elkind that refers to the heightened sense of self-consciousness in teens. This occurs because of the newly developing and growing teenage brain that is working on overtime to make teens aware that not only do they have thoughts about themselves but that other people have thoughts about them. Think of this as opening night jitters that starts the second teens awaken and ends when they have posted their last Instagram of the day. What will I wear today, how will people see me? What will I say today, what will people think about what I am saying? and so on. The study supports the thinking that when your teen is on their own they are more likely to make responsible decisions (no imaginary audience) but give them a real or perceived audience and lets get on with the show! Because often times it is all for show, just like the teens in the study who took more risks when they thought their friends were watching. 

This would be a great article to read with your teen. Here is scientific documentation of all your worries. Let them know that you are not crazy, even the scientists can see that when you are with your friends you are more likely to put yourself in risky and potentially unsafe situations. Your job here is to use that power of understanding with your teen " I get how important it is to not embarrass yourself in front of your friends, but I know that sometimes you might make a different decision when you are alone than when you are hanging with your friends. Lets try to find some ways that you can both save face in front of your friends, but make sure that you are safe. This is the kind of conversation you might have every weekend just before your teen leaves the house. This is NOT something you can change about  your teen. It is literally chemistry, but you can make your teen aware of it and provide them with strategies, scripts and alternatives to keep them safe. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Setting Limits and Saying NO Is Not Fun!!!

Recently I was at one of my Ask the Expert Parties (think Tupperware for parenting) where I start by asking the small group of parents assembled what their biggest parenting challenge is in that moment. A dad sitting next to me, said that his biggest challenge with his 15 year old daughter was that one minute she was loving, sweet, conversant, but then the next second when he had to set a limit about something, or reprimand her for something she turns into "Atilla the hun"(my words not his) All ten parents nodded their heads in agreement, and as we went around the circle this issue emerged as the most prominent one. For some parents it makes setting limits so hard, because they know that the aftermath will be horrendous with yelling, screaming, slammed doors, and shouts of "you are the worst parent ever." And at that moment that is just how parents feel.

OK give yourselves a break here. To expect that after you have said NO to one of your teen's impulsive, emotional, can I's, that your teen will look with love in their eyes and say: thanks mom and dad, that was a really smart parenting call, thank you so much for keeping me safe is completely and utterly ridiculous. And I know you know that. But in that moment when you said your No means NO, you would just like once for your teen not to explode in your face. And unfortunately, most parents when put on the defensive for their parenting decision will fall back on the : Well if you don't like it, go live with another family defense.

Here is something you can do instead. Next time you say NO to something because it is unsafe or unreasonable, instead of getting defensive when your teen strikes back you can use an "I get it" statement. In a calm and supportive voice you can say: " Hey honey, I get that wasn't the answer you were looking for, and I know you're disappointed, and are really pissed at me. I know it's hard to watch your friends be able to do something that we don't think is safe, and it feels really unfair. But you know we love you, and though it feels smothering sometime our first priority is to keep you safe."



And then, that's it. Don't go on and on like a broken record, don't try to re-explain for the billionth time why you said no. Honestly they don't care, they stopped listening at NO. At least using the above strategy you don't make a hard situation harder, with the potential of all parties getting way out of control. You are not in any way apologizing for your decision, but your are understanding how this decision affects them. Understanding is so much better than being right or being angry.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The "I Have No Friends" Blues

How many hundreds of times have you been in this situation with your teen? Perhaps it's the Friday or Saturday night blues fest, when your teen is sitting at home, no plans in sight, seemingly excluded from the latest group text, feeling low, dejected and misunderstood. Or maybe, you notice that it is has been a fierce night of texting or posting on twitter or instagram, and every time you walk by your teen's door they are flopped on the bed, staring off into space, and you just know that something has happened, some slight, some misunderstanding.

It is in these moments that the mama/papa bear or the lion/lioness comes out in you, and you get this powerful, primal urge to protect your baby cub from hurt. So you walk in with your sympathetic, loving, supportive arms and pronounce their friends are all a**holes (which was what I always did, and I admit was completely ineffective and it always backfired on me) and tell them when they get older they will find "real friends" who get them! Which may actually be true, but they do not want to hear that. The future is light years away, and has absolutely no meaning for them. And besides, it is these friends that they want and crave. No substitutions please. So when you go in and want to be that shoulder to cry on, and take pleasure in being that one person that gets them, it is in that moment for them that that is the kiss of death. The teen in them, the teen that is trying to be independent of you and that primal need of theirs to be love and accepted, will reject you. It is the acceptance of their peers that is the most important. Love and acceptance from mom and dad, not so much.

So when you see your teen with that  "look,"say a simple "bad night" huh, and leave it at that. If they look up to you with an invitation to talk, great, otherwise, as always, this too shall pass.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Fall College Process Blues

The leaves are starting to change, the air is turning crisp and fall like, and that means that we are upon the annual weekend ritual of visiting colleges with your high school junior or senior. If you seem way more excited to visit colleges than your junior or senior, I think I can help you understand why.

For parents the anticipation of their child all grown up and ready to go off to college is both exciting and terrifying. Remembering their own college years, they can't wait for their kids to experience all the wonderful things they did, which may even have included finding the love of their life and marrying them. Hello mom and dad! But there is trepidation as well, two years full of what if's? What if my kid doesn't get the grades, and SAT's that will get him/her into the college I want, I mean they want to go to? What if they don't write their essays on time, or worse, they are bad?  What if they don't get their applications in early? What if we don't have enough money to send them to the school of our I mean their dreams?  What if my best friend's kid has better grades and better SAT's and gets their essays and applications in before mine, and they get into the school I want my son/daughter to get in? And what if........ This is the stuff ulcers are made of.

So you become the college Nazi's. You vill get your essays done this weekend, or you won't go out!!!! You vill go with us to visit colleges on the weekends we want you to go! You vill go to SAT tutoring or you are grounded!  And for all this commitment and time and money you give to your teen in support of this college journey, what do you get in return "leave me alone, I'll do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

 Here are the questions your teen is asking. What if I don't get in anywhere? What if I disappoint my parents? What if my SAT scores suck, I will be humiliated.  How do they handle their anxiety, they avoid, they procrastinate, they miss dates. Why, because once they put themselves on paper in an essay, in an application, on an SAT score, it is out in the world for people to judge. And when they don't get into the school of your, I mean their choice it will be an affirmation of what they knew all along, I am just not good enough! Your teen does care about this process. Way more than they are showing you. So if you are only paying attention to their outward displays of attitude and avoidance you are missing the boat, and may actually be exacerbating the problem.

Use some " I get It moments" to crack the code. You might have this conversation; " I get this whole college thing is really hard. You have a lot on your plate this year, just keeping up with school stuff, your sport/theater/job, your friends, and now on top of all that, you have to deal with all this college stuff. I was wondering whether you feel like we are putting too much pressure on you, and you're worried you might disappoint us?" ( Now wait for their answer) After you get their take on that, assure them: " We have total confidence in you. There are a lot of things in this process no one can control, like who colleges accept, and that really seems like it is a crap shoot anyway. We just want to make sure that you don't unknowingly shoot yourself in the foot, by not doing the things that you are in control of. How can we help you do those things without making you crazy. We are willing to help you in anyway we can, setting up some date guidelines, reminding you that deadlines are coming up, getting you help with the essay stuff, whatever, but we don't won't to spend the next one or two years arguing with you constantly about this. We want you to take ownership. That will be a sign to us, that you are really wanting to and ready for college. If you choose not to wholly participate in this process, that will be sign to us that you might not want or be ready for the independence of college. What do you think, are you up for this, or are you feeling you might want to take a year off after high school to get yourself ready? Whatever you choose is fine with us, but commit to one or the other."

Just thought I would also throw in a few college visit tips. Remember this is your teen's opportunity to jus soak in the atmosphere. This is not the visit where they are worried about what the biology labs look like, or course selection. I know that's what you are interested in, but for these first visits, you really need to zip up, and let it be about them. They are looking at the students and wondering, are there kids here I could imagine being my friends? Does the campus feel like a place I feel comfortable and safe in? Could I sleep in this dorm and imagine myself feeling at home? This is what interests them. So walk along side them, keep a low profile, and if you have questions ask them another time. There will always be the second visit if they like and most importantly, if they get in!!! Many kids avoid the college visits prior to acceptance, because they worry that if they "fall in love" with a school and don't get in, it would feel devastating. So keep that in mind.

On the drive home, try to refrain from sharing your impressions the second you get in the car. Often parents are way more enthusiastic about a school than their teen is, and that shuts them down from talking to you. Give them time to digest. Some teens will start talking right away, others need to process. Remember that visiting colleges makes everything about the college process feel really real and maybe scary, and they might need some time to just sit with it all. So if they immediately put their earbuds in, just let them be. And then, on your way home, stop for a bite to eat, an ice cream, a coffee, and maybe ask a, "so what did you think?" in a calm neutral voice, and see where it goes.

Here is the thing, if your kid wants to go to college, this will work itself out. Maybe it won't be your first choice or their first choice, but if I have learned anything over the last 30 years it is that kids are amazingly adaptable, and whereever they end up becomes the place they want to be, and if it isn't they can always transfer, and you can do this all over again...yay!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Curse Of Procastination

I am the queen of procrastination. I avoid, I make deals with myself, I pay ridiculous consequences both figuratively and financially due to my procrastination, and you would think at age 65 I would have worked all this through. I have paid enough money to parking ticket offices in cities all over this country for late payments to have probably bought a new car! This is a tough one!

Perhaps this is something that you just don't understand. Maybe you are the responsible person I long to be, and you have a teen who makes you a crazy with the "waiting to the last minute" episodes that often become your problem. As an adult, I take full responsibility for my flaw, but with teens, no such luck. Somehow their procrastination, whether on time management issues, or homework and project deadlines, they somehow become the victims. It's your fault for not waking them up, or not reminding them, or the teacher's fault for assigning them this "stupid project." They are just not willing to take any responsibility for finding themselves in this conundrum, and it can make you hold your head in frustration.

I once coached a parent whose teen had dug himself into a homework hole. In one particular class, his missing homework and project assignments had cost him 3 letter grades. So though he could be an "A" student in this class, he was close to getting a "D"for the term. A new girlfriend, and the distraction of this "love connection" got him in this predicament. Too much texting and snap chatting and instagram at night during homework time, and not enough work. "I'll do it!!!! Don't worry!!!" rang through the house on most nights. When the midterm progress reports arrived, the parents set up a carrot;  if you don't bring the grade up to at least a "C" no drivers ed during the February vacation. week. He was at that time getting an "F". This kid, desperate for his license, vowed to change. And he did. Parents saw him hunkering down to do his work, but unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and he could only get his grade up to a "D". The good news as I told this parent, is that the consequence is already in place, and you can put yourself on a lecturing break. No need for an "I told you so" or for an " If you only". Here is what you can say: " I get how disappointing this must be for you. I know for the last month you have really worked hard to get your grade up. But I'm guessing the hole was too deep to get out of it totally. Unfortunately you will have to put off taking drivers ed till spring vacation, after third term grades come in. That was our deal. I know that you will do better next term, knowing now what you need to do to keep up. I am sorry that it didn't work out for you this time around."

Done!!!!! This is how kids learn. Lecturing or yelling do not make a difference. Consequences that have meaning and that your teen has a stake in can be life changing. Finally sick of paying extra late fines for my procrastination on those damn parking tickets, I am proud to say, I pay the tickets as soon  as I get them. Now if I could just put enough money in those meters!!!!!



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Uberizing of Parenting!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/10/06/where-boys-are-ubers/Nh1j0q4WnZgXCZeFltYdcP/story.html

Read and then we'll talk!

  DO NOT give your teen an UBER account. I know on face value it sounds like a sensible idea. How great that your teen will have a safe mode of transportation when they or their friends are otherwise compromised. YOU ARE THEIR SAFE RIDE!!!! When your teen chooses UBER over you, you have ceded complete control for their safety. They can now freely move from party to party, continuing to drink without fear of consequence. And if they are going to houses with no supervision and on to a sleep over and no responsible parent driving them, or awake when they get there, how will anyone ever know if they are close to being passed out!

A parent called me last spring about her 15 year old daughter who had been at a sleepover, a home this parent felt completely comfortable with. This mom had a sister who lived on another coast and time zone who was up early doing an instragram catch-up with her morning coffee. Low and behold she is seeing a live instagram feed of her niece at 3:00 AM in an UBER with her sleepover buddies coming back from an all-night diner run!! Sleepover parents none the wiser!!! She called her sister later in the morning and said hey, I saw Brunhilda at 3 AM in an UBER, was she on her way home from a prom or something?

No there was no prom!! Just a bunch of 15 year old girls who at 3 AM were STARVING. Having an UBER account at their disposal, why not head out for some chow!!! This is scary on so many levels. Immature kids out at 3 AM with a strange UBER driver, out at an all night diner with who knows who, and thinking the whole thing is HYSTERICAL!!! Out goes any judgement they might have had! UBER accounts are for you, and if there is a special occasion you are unable to pick your kid up, you order the UBER from your phone and make sure all is safe. THAT IS YOUR JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have heard from a number of parents that some teens have used their UBER account as a money maker. A teen will offer to use/share their UBER account for friends to go hither and yon and collect an agreed upon sum of cash for that privilege. This means the UBER account holder is walking around with a wad of cash having double dipped their parents generosity of an UBER/LYFT account . They are smart little buggers!!!

Another tactic is that one kid has an UBER account, and transports he/she and their friends everywhere. You may love this because your teen never asks you for a ride through the unbelievable generosity of another kid's parents. Oh the calls I have received from parents who have ended up with UBER sized UBER bills.

Or another parent whose daughter didn't feel like walking the mile home from school and regularly called an uber to take her home. LAZY!!!!

I get UBERS/LYFTS are wonderful new conveniences, and in a pinch they can be a a savior. But again I emphasize that checking in with you, being picked up and delivered by you, are important ways of staying in touch with your teen. Maybe they don't talk in the car  most days, but there may be that one day, that bad day, when having mom or dad in the car opens them up for a good old fashion "car talk." They may be few and far between, but that is the point. You want to be available and there when they happen. Driving, car-pooling, the bain of most parents. But truly, the relationships I formed both with my daughter and her friends by being the driving mom(all now 35) was priceless. They are now among the wonderful group of women I call my friends, including my daughter!!  Time with your children and their friends can never never never be replaced!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hazing Is Deadly: Another 18 Year Old Child Is Dead

I woke up this morning to the news story about 10 Louisiana State University Students who were arrested after a fraternity hazing incident they were involved in. Like the Penn State Student Timothy Piazza who died from an alcohol overdose during a hazing incident, so did Maxwell Gruver an 18 year old Freshman at LSU. The stories are eerily similar. You can read the link below for Maxwell's story. I am saddened and distraught, that these LSU students learned nothing from the Penn State incident that occurred only last spring. Where is the education of college students, high school students, middle school students on the dangers of alcohol poisoning. I have copied the blog I wrote about the Penn State tragedy and below is the link to the LSU story. Please, I am begging you, read these articles with your teens, and your college students. Talk to them about drinking games and how they can become deadly! Then go over this blog post with them about the science of alcohol and how it works in the body. This is information your teen should be able to recite  like the alphabet. This is never a one and done kind of conversation. Repetition, repetition, repetition, that is how we learn. Please, your teens need to be taught!!
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/us/lsu-hazing-arrests.html?_r=0

Spring 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/us/penn-state-fraternity-death-timothy-piazza.html

I am sure that most of you are aware of the recent death of  Timothy Piazza, a Penn State student who was left for dead by his fraternity brothers during a hazing ceremony that included copious amount of alcohol. I am sure that the 18 boys who were charged with manslaughter are basically good kids. I'm not being sarcastic here, these are not "bad boys." These are kids who when faced with saving a life vs getting in trouble for hazing and drinking, they chose the second, hoping against hope that their "brother" would be fine. This is the curse of teen magical thinking. The term is called Personal Fable, coined by psychologist David Elkind. Many teens feel that they are invincible and special. This corresponds with the emotional part of the brain that encourages them to act before they think. You know the emotional brain VS the thinking brain. That's why these boys just left their friend to die, probably thinking, oh he'll be fine!!!.

This is an important story to share with your teen. Below is a link to a New York Times article that describes this horrible event. You need to read it out loud with your teen, you need to talk about it, and without judgement let them know that "you get that sometimes when kids drink and someone passes out or falls, the inclination is to run without calling someone to get this kid some help, worrying that they'll get in trouble themselves." Talk about these Penn State boys, and how they are wishing now that they had just called 911 when they first noticed that Timothy was so out of it he fell down the stairs! Looking back, helping a friend to safety, and dealing with that uncomfortable call to a parent, is a whole lot better than feeling the guilt that a death could have been prevented by a simple phone call, and now a potential jail sentence.

 It is spring, and soon summer, when outdoor partying is in high gear. Please please please talk about this story with your teen. Below is all the information kids should know and understand if and when they go out drinking with their friends.

The Information


  • It is considered binge drinking when a male drinks 5 shots in a two hour period and a female drinks 4 shots. Consider 1 1/2 -2 ounces of alcohol a drink. Many kids use water bottles as a vodka carrier. Show your teen what this amount of alcohol looks like using a typical water bottle. Most kids drink hard and fast, thinking "oh I don't feel anything yet, I' need to drink more. Kids can easily down this amount of alcohol in under 2 hours. Remember they are not enjoying a relaxing cocktail, they are drinking to get wasted.

  • Here is what happens to the body with this amount of alcohol:
  1. Alcohol depresses the frontal cortex of the brain, or the thinking brain, making people less inhibited (which is a definite goal for teens). This impacts the ability to make decisions, and affects all senses, making it difficult to make "sense" of what is going on to you and around you.


     2. Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you pee...a lot. And if you are not counteracting this with drinking water, brain damage,  and passing out can result.


     3. Alcohol decreases breathing by affecting the part of the nervous system that controls breathing. This causes death.

     4. Alcohol lowers blood sugar and can cause seizures.


     5. Alcohol affects the part of the brain, the cerebellum, that controls balance, and motor coordination. Hence the term, falling down drunk. This can cause terrible injury. If a party is interrupted by the police or watchful parents, you can often see teens running from the scene who are completely compromised in their movements and can fall and really hurt themselves.

    6. Alcohol irritates the stomach which causes vomiting. Because of the alcohol, the normal gag reflex is disabled, and people can choke on their own vomit, aspirating into their lungs which is life threatening.

OK here's what they can do to help themselves stay safe or keep a friend safe who is drunk!

1. The obvious here is to call for help. Talk to your teen seriously about how it would feel to them to know that "If only" I had helped my friend, he/she would now be OK. Stress that NO ONE will be mad at them for potentially saving their friends life.

2. EAT!!!! Make sure your teen understands that having food in their body could save their life. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol. Many teens are drinking on empty stomachs, and do not eat when they are out.

3. Drink water and space out the drinking.

4. If a friend is obviously drunk, tell them to keep them in a sitting position, and give them water until help comes. If they are passed out, make sure they are lying on their side.

5. Check the friends breathing, is it regular and strong, or weak.

6. Keep them warm. Alcohol poisoning causes body temperature to drop. Remember, many kids party outside!.

I know this is some scary s**t!! And this feels like a mixed message, which it is. On the one hand you are saying, no drinking!!!! and on the other, here's what I want you to know. In no way are you giving them permission, but you are realistically trying to keep them safe. You love them, and you would be devastated if anything ever happened to them. Remember, this may have already happened to your teen or a friend of theirs, and you just don't know about it. Remember that teens are highly motivated to keep you out of their life especially when they know they are doing something you don't want them to do. This is just about safety...pure and simple

Why not share this post on Facebook or twitter, your friends will thank you!
Contact me for individual parent coaching, by phone or in person. Invite me to your school, business or community group for one of my 2 hour seminars.. Go to joanigeltman.com for more information











Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Giving Comfort In Scary Times

I don't know about you, but it seems every day brings some new terrifying event; hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, political decisions that affect the very way we live our lives. Sometimes it just feels like too much. Not to mention our own life crises. At least we as adults have years of life living as adults, so that we have a long term perspective on how to cope. Your teens do not have the benefit of experience. They haven't lived long enough to really accumulate the understanding that bad things often have a way of resolving, or that you know at least your feelings do.

Have you ever been in the midst of a really stressful situation that you know has no easy solution, and you call your best friend/mother/father/husband/wife knowing that just hearing their voice will make you feel better. Turns out that in fact a calming voice actually effects your body's hormonal stress responses in a positive way. In a recent study of teens, scientists wanted to see which form of communication with moms (sorry dads you were left out of this study) would help their teen feel better. After having exposed teens to a stressful situation, each teen was exposed to a different form of communication support from their moms; interaction in person, interaction over the phone, interaction over the computer/texts, or no interaction at all. Girls who experienced in person, or over the phone communication, in other words, an actual human voice showed a marked reduction in stress hormones. Those whose moms e-mailed, or sent texts showed stress hormone levels that were just as high as if the teens had had no interaction at all.

Why does this matter, because there is no substitution for human interaction. Texting, and e-mailing are good for sharing information, but when it comes to really impacting someone's life, you actually have to say something. Often times parents will tell me that most of their communication is coming in the form of texting to their kids, even when they are in the same house! Fearful of simple conversations turning into arguments, parents are resorting to  R U OK sent as a text.

So when you sense that your teen is feeling (there is just no substitute for parent intuition) is stressed by situations and expectations both socially and academically, you can safely assume your teen will need to hear your voice. They don't need you to solve their problems, they just need you to know that they have them. If they seem a little sad, lost, and anxious rather than asking "what's wrong?", maybe just a hug and a "you seem a little overwhelmed, sad, just want to say I love you." That calm and loving voice can go a long way to make them feel just a little better. The science says so!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My Kid Got Drunk And Called Me, Now What Do I Do?

A parent called me recently for some help with this very good question. Like a good dooby, this parent followed all the advice given by parenting experts like me, "let your teen know that while you disapprove and don't want him/her to drink, you absolutely want them to call you when they are so you can pick them up, no questions asked, and get them home safely. Ok, so this is what this parent did, but now this teen has walked in the house seemingly with a free pass to drink, and have a "car service" pick him/her up to boot!  Isn't this a mixed message, you might ask?

It absolutely is. Drinking/drugs and adolescence is not a black and white issue. If you say, "you are not allowed to drink!" Your teen will go underground, drink early in the evening, sleep over friends houses, chew tons of gum, or master the art of acting normal, or maybe not drink. You can always hope. And by the way, not all kids drink, and some kids will actually follow that rule. But honestly, if your teen is not a drinker, you would know, and wouldn't have to put that rule into place anyway. Many teens, thankfully do not want to drink. But for the many that do, you want them to be safe. The devil you know is better than the one you don't.

So back to the question. Now you have proof that your teen drinks, cause they asked you to come get them. But they don't exactly get off scott free. You have promised that there would be no direct consequences, ie grounding type punishment, but you still have the freedom to deal with it. You might have the following conversation: " You made a good decision last night, and for that I am really grateful. Obviously I am unhappy and disappointed that you drank, especially that you drank and were so compromised. You need to help me understand how that happened. And how in the future you can guarentee your safety. I get that the kids you hang out with like to party. That scares the sh** out of us. The fact is that you were sober enough at least to know not to drive and called us, but some other time you might not be so together."

And here is the best you can do the next time and every time thereafter they go out by saying: "Unless you can agree to stay sober tonight, we don't feel comfortable with you taking the car, or be driven by a friend. We will be happy to pick you up wherever at whatever time we agree on. Having the car or being in the car with friends gives you freedom, but freedom and alcohol and drugs just don't go together. We love you and want you to be safe." 

That is really the bottom line. I wish I could give you a magic answer that doesn't sound like doubletalk. Forbidding something you have no control over does no good. Punishing them until the cows come home, rarely has the long term affect you are looking for. Taking away the car or making yourself be a chauffeur may provide them with enough discomfort to not make drinking the priority of the evening. You will have to be the judge of whether your teen is getting trashed every weekend, in which case there is much more going on than just partying with friends. This kid has a problem that needs to be addressed in a serious way. If your teen is more in the normal range of a few beers or drinks but seems to have control, finding strategies that keep them safe is the goal.

There are no easy answers. Just keep the communication going!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Puberty Is A Bitch!!

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/girl-fakes-getting-her-period-and-pays-price-hilarious-new-ad-hello-flo-158405

If you haven't already seen this viral video, stop reading right now and watch it!!! God it's funny!! And these days, I'll take my laughs where I can get them. Watch it again, and then, watch it again with your daughter. Great for ages 10 and up! Girls get their periods early these days. Don't you be unprepared, and don't let your daughter be unprepared. Have a good laugh! And don't expect that the flood gates will open and your teen will be so thankful to you for understanding!!!! Probably she'll cover her eyes, turn beat red with embarrassment, and run for her room. And let her. It just might take some time and distance from it to be able to talk about it. But she will if you will. Who knows, maybe she will want to talk right then, but don't be offended, worried or otherwise anxious that you did the wrong thing if she doesn't. Sometime, maybe later in the day, in the car, on an errand, you might say: "oh my god, just had a visual of bobbing for ovaries!!! That was such a crazy video, what did you think was the funniest?" Get a good laugh going, and then maybe share your own puberty story. Oh yes, we all have a story. I hadn't thought of mine literally until I watched this video. And it happened, I am embarrassed to say....50 years ago. But honestly, it feels like it happened yesterday...seriously.

So I was at my first sleep over camp experience, I was going into 5th grade. I hated it! Towards the end of the torturous 8 weeks, the head counselor Rayna (and yes that is her real name,and though sometimes I can't remember my husband's name, her name was totally avail in my unconscious.) So Rayna takes me aside one day, and with her arm around me says: You know Joani, when you get home from camp I think you should talk to your mother about buying you a training bra. Your breasts are starting to develop and they are showing through your tee shirts!" I....WAS......MORTIFIED. Breasts! Don't talk to me about that! And maybe she said something to my mom, because as soon as I got home from camp, off to the bra department we went, for my little stretch training bra. Which of course I refused to wear because NO ONE ELSE had one.

And that right there is the theme of puberty. Whether you are a girl like me who got those cute little breast buds before anyone else, or like the girl in the video that was the last to get her period, or the boy who is called the "jolly green giant" in fifth grade because he towers over all his peers, all young teens have their "lightening rod." The change that is or is not happening and that they think everyone around them notices and cares about. That is the teen brain for you. That new sense of everybody is looking at me, and this stupid body of  mine. It is torture!

So use this video to acknowledge how hard this all is to have a body you can't control and you can't predict. Don't minimize with a "don't worry it will all turn out OK." cause honestly maybe it won't. MY boobs just continued to grow out of control. My tiny boob envy still haunts me today as I watch those with tiny boobs wear beautiful strapless dresses, or carefree tiny tee shirts. Not me, not ever! Be in their moment with them, and a "I get how hard this is to have your body do things you don't like." Some days will feel worst than others, and the good news is that some days you won't think about it at all!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Parenting On Demand: Texting Not Talking

Read and then we'll talk!!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2017/09/21/the-texts-are-coming-from-inside-house/a4Vaaol7RS7YCnlBSKOn9N/story.html

Does this ring true for you? Does your teen text from the comfort and serenity of their bedroom sanctuary for concierge and room service? Maybe for you it isn't a house issue, maybe your teen texts you multiple times a day with silly questions, demands for rides, food, CVS runs, and permission to go, buy or do.  I have had many many parents report that their teens text them 30-40 times a day. Often these are working parents with demanding jobs, fielding requests from their kids that absolutely do not need immediate attention. And every time the beast gets fed with immediate gratification, the requests get even more frequent and insistent. One parent reported to me that she was in an important meeting and her phone was shut off. When she turned it on after the meeting there were 20 texts from her kid, demanding, not with worry, but with entitlement: WHERE ARE YOU...PICK UP....I HAVE TO ASK YOU SOMETHING...PICK UP...PICK UP...PICK UP!!  Now times those annoying texts by 5. What a way to have to do your job and feel responsive to your kids!.

Kids are not intuitively demanding. Somewhere along the line, this behavior was reinforced probably by you. Here's the thing about technology, it sneaks up behind you and bites you on the ass!! It starts small with a cute text from your kid asking for something. It starts almost as a game. "Ooh, I bet I can text my mom/dad to get me something, and not even have to leave the comfort of my cushy bed,  and then voila, the desired snack, laundry, whatever magically appears. Mom/dad receive cute text, and with an awwww, that is so cute...run to complete the request. Rinse and repeat. That happens a few times, with a desirable outcome for your teen, and VOILA you have just conditioned your child to text and demand.

The good news is you can reverse the curse!!! And reverse you must. There is no substitution for face to face communication. Yes, texting can be a an easy shortcut conversation and it totally has a place in your world.And sometimes there has been a heated exchange and a text and emoji can calm the waters, and then perhaps open the door to a face to face.  But like everything in life there needs to be balance and accountability and responsibility. You time is valuable and should be respected. And your teen needs to learn how to delay gratification. It is really OK for them to walk three steps down to the kitchen to ask you something or to have to wait till the end of the school day to talk or text with you. If they are texting during the school day and you are returning their texts however silly and benign they are, you are distracting them from the work of school. If you set a limit and say, I will not be responding to your texts during the school day.....period!!! They will just have to deal.  And they will. You are teaching them a life skill!! This is not just about a demanding teen, this about setting a foundation for who your teen is to become as an adult. Life is not on-demand, unless that is what we as the adults in their lives are teaching them. Be strong, set limits on your availability. Literally do not answer a text that comes from within your 4 walls. Even by responding with a "if you want to talk to me, you have to come to me is reinforcing. Ignoring is the only way to go for in-home text demands! And if you want to demand something, than demand respect for your time and your life!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Keeping Your New and Soon To be Licensed Teen Driver Safe

A parent wrote to me recently requesting some help. This weekend her 16 1/2 yr old daughter will be taking the road test for her coveted drivers license, and barring any 3 point turn mistake (my downfall on my first test) her daughter will be a member of our driving community. The mom's main concern is how to enforce the current law here in Massachusetts, and I'm sure in many other states, that bars newly licensed teens from carting around their friends for the first 6 months of driving from the date of licensing, and how to feel confident that her daughter will always wear her seatbelt and make sure that all passengers (including illegal friends) wear their seatbelts.

Obviously, when you send your teen off in your car you are giving them a leap, a giant leap of faith. You have lectured, and lectured and lectured some more about all the rules, and they have yes'd you to death that they will follow them. But really, who knows? I hope I can help a little with these very realistic fears.

Lets tackle the seatbelt issue first. Observation will be your best evaluator of seat belt usage. Whenever your teen gets in the car, do you have to remind him/her to put on their seatbelt? If so, this is a sign they are not ready to drive alone. The first requirement is to see that your teen, un-reminded and automatically puts on their seatbelt as soon as they get into the car, either as the driver or as a passenger. Let them know that this most basic rule is a pre-requisite for taking out the family car. This includes paying attention to not only their seatbelt, but also any other passengers in the car including you and or their siblings that may be going along for the ride. To test their awareness of their passengers, every now and then, leave your buckle or your passenger's buckles undone. Has your teen done a quick glance around to all passengers before they start the car to assure seatbelt compliance. This is good practice. Let your pre-driving teen know that there is zero tolerance on this issue. And that until you sense that it is now second nature for them to buckle up as well being on top of their passenger's seatbelts, there will be no taking out the family car alone. This is an easy one, because either you have to keep reminding them or you don't, and if you don't than they are good to go!

Now, the real challenge, how to enforce the no-passenger rule. As your teen will tell you: "that's a stupid rule and nobody pays attention to it. Everybody drives with their friends in the car." Unfortunately they are right, not that the rule is stupid, but that all the kids do it. This is a powerful disincentive for your teen to follow the law. If a teen gets caught driving by the police, usually it's when they get a speeding ticket or have rolled through a stop sign or are out driving past your town's curfew, and have other kids illegally in their car, then they lose their license until they are 18. Unfortunately not enough teens get caught, and so most kids think the whole law thing is a joke.

First, do not give a mixed message on this by agreeing that it is a stupid law, even if you think it is. It is a law, and teens are into black and white thinking. Either you think it is fair and right or you think it is stupid too. So if you, in any way, give voice to your own ambivalence in front of your teen, you have lost this war. Their defense will ALWAYS be "well my parents said it was OK!" What you can do is use an 'I get it" moment. saying: " I get you think this rule is stupid, and that all your friends just ignore it. I get your friends will want rides when you have the car. You will want to give them rides and I get it will be hard for you to say no. We need to come up with a plan so that when this happens, which will probably be every time you have the car, you can have something to say that discourages everyone from wanting to ride with you. This will be something that you alone are responsible for, and we get it will be really hard, but new drivers are inexperienced, and vulnerable to distraction, and we want you to be safe. You also need to know that if you are caught by the police, or by us, or by one of our friends who we have alerted to let us know if they see you driving with friends in the car, you will lose your driving privilege until age 17 when you can carry passengers. So if you choose to allow kids in the car, you are risking your ability to drive at all. Now lets come up with a plan."

At this point, you can come up with some suggestions of things they might say to their friends when put in this position for giving rides." I can't my parents are like Nazi's and they are checking my mileage. All they do is figure out the mileage where I say I am going, and if the mileage doesn't match up they are not letting me drive. They are assholes, but I don't want to lose my license, sorry, I just can't." You don't really have to do this, but it gives your teen a very important face-saving out. Basically you want together to concoct a story they can give to their friends, that will make you the bad guys, and give them the script for getting out of the situation. The truth is they probably will still take kids from time to time, but maybe less than if they had a plan to help them get out of it. Remember, that just saying to them: "you better not take any passengers" is not helpful, you have to acknowledge how hard it can be, and help them with a strategy!.

Also you do not want them talking, dialing, or texting on their phone ever in the car. This is life saving. This means YOU SHOULD NOT BE CALLING THEM WHEN YOU KNOW THEY MAY BE DRIVING. Instead give them the responsibility of having to call or text you before or after they start to drive. If they do not take this on as a serious responsibility of taking your car, it is very simple, they do not take the car...period! Let them know that you will be checking the texting times when they are in the car, let them know you have access to these online, and will make sure that they are not texting and driving. Be very very clear about this. This texting and driving should scare the SHIT out of you. You need to scare the SHIT out of them.

Six months to a year before they get their learner's permit, you should start a no-texting in the car policy. They need to start to feel what it is like to be in your car without texting. Behavior does not just change overnight because you said so. It takes practice!! When your teen is a passenger in your car and sitting in the front seat, no texting. If they are motivated to get their license then they will comply. If they aren't so motivated, they won't. And this is an easy one for you. No license until they prove to you in a consistent way that they can delay text, snap and any other social networking gratification!!

Driving is a right of passage. It is the best thing that could ever happen to a teen. I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but life with cellphones, and Itunes, and texting and tweeting makes the new driving teens a much more complicated activity. Take it one drive at a time! And by the way, don't forget to ask them to pick up milk on the way home!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Everybody Else Has/Can Do That!!!



What do you do when your kids want to have or want to do what everyone has or does! Watch this funny clip from Louis CK to get you in the mood to think about this dilemma!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c

Sometimes it is completely OK to cave. I once coached a parent who had a no TV during the week rule. This was back a few years when the show "Greys Anatomy" was a new show. It seems that all the girls in this particular middle school were completely hooked on this show. Friday lunch talk after the Thursday night episode was these girls "water cooler" moment when they obsessively talked about "Mcdreamy" and all the other characters and their lives. This mom's daughter was completely out of the loop, and began to dread going to school on Fridays. ( I know this seems ridiculous, but being part of the group is about as important as it gets for middle-schoolers) This mom was holding firm in the no TV rule, and her daughter was furious. "How come it's OK with all the other parents but not with you?" And then came the TV is a distraction, stupid shows lecture. Which completely fell on deaf ears. I asked the mom, truly, what would be the big deal if her daughter watched this one show a week. If she could show that her homework was done, couldn't they make this an experience they could enjoy together. Mom thought about it, and realized that the good out weighed the bad, and caved.

So sometimes the bigger picture (this girl could feel a part of this group, and mom and daughter had a special night during the week when they shared something that was important to the the daughter.) These are conditions for a good cave.

But a bad cave, that's a different story. Are you being asked to allow your teen to do something you know is unsafe or unreasonable, and cave just because you don't like conflict, or you don't want your teen to be mad at you. This is an unhealthy cave. It gives your teen power and precedent. Not setting limits on cellphones and computers because your teen doesn't want you to is a bad cave. Allowing your teen to go somewhere that is unsupervised and potentially dangerous and unsafe is a bad cave.

Its important to know the difference!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Keeping Teens At Your Metaphorical Breast

In addition to my work with parents of teens, I also speak to and coach parents of babies and young children. Yes I am an equal opportunity parenting expert! I meet with parents of kids of all ages, and truly, toddlers aren't that much different from teenagers!

New moms often ask the breast feeding questions: When should I stop breast feeding? That question got me to thinking about parents who keep their teens at their metaphorical breasts. The question all parents need to ask, whether as a parent of a 4 year old,  or a parent of a 14 year old is this: "Whose needs am I meeting here? Do I keep my teen dependent on me whether by "helping them," (and by this I mean doing) their homework for them, keeping them close to home, make my opinions from what clothes to wear, what friends to keep, or even something so simple as what to eat at a restaurant, so indispensable that they are terrified to make a decision without me. Do I "help them"and by this I mean, get their summer jobs for them, write their college applications, and don't hold them accountable when they screw up, all in the name of support? Do I solve all their problems and make everything all better so they don't have to feel anxiety or depression?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, let's hope your breast milk dries up soon. The task of all adolescents is to become adept at becoming confident in their ability to take care of themselves. If they rely on you to "feed them" and to anticipate for them when they will be "hungry" they will be completely unprepared for the challenges they face as soon as they walk out the door of your home. And you don't have to wait for college for them to have to face this world. That happens every single day of their life. If your teen is texting you a million times a day asking what he/she should do in this situation, or  in that one, whether with their teacher, their coach, or their friends, they are still hanging on that breast.  That must feel pretty good to you. There is nothing more satisfying than being needed by your teen. And thought they might not like to hear you say, "gee honey, I don't know what you should do. What do you think?" Think they must. Remember this generation likes to get information fast. Don't be their google button. Let them go hungry!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Psychology Of Teens and Social Networking

I have recently come across a plethora of articles as I was researching the issue of teens and the effects of over-connection. A recent statistic I read stated that teens spend 7 hours a day on cells and social networking. That is after-school hours. That is alarming. Literally the only leftover time is sleep! In this post I discuss three of them. Pace yourself, there is a lot to read. You don't have to read them all in one sitting, but read them you must, and maybe even read with your teen as you discuss your thoughts and ideas about how you both see social networking fitting in their lives. 

The first article talks about the power of lonely!! (see link below)A feeling few teens allow themselves to feel. To summarize, it talked about the benefits of spending time alone. "When we let our focus shift away from the people and things around us, we are better able to engage in what's called meta-cognition, or the process of thinking critically and reflexively about our own thoughts." I know I crave this time alone, letting my mind wander to places it might not normally go. Our lives now make it almost impossible for some people to shut off all the distractions of Iphones, and e-mail, and facebook, and oh, also the face time we give to our jobs, and our families. This leaves little time for rumination. I know some of my most creative and deep thinking comes in the car with the radio and cell phone off, or in long walks with my dog.

The article specifically addresses teenagers and this issue of aloneness. "Teenagers, especially have been shown to benefit from time spent apart from others, in part because it allows for a kind of introspection and freedom from self-consciousness that strengthens their sense of identity." The problem is that though being alone is good for the soul, most teens are afraid of it. They have become so attuned to the buzz of ipods, cellphones, computers and video games, that silence feels alien and to some terrifying. So much so that many teens have developed in inability to go to sleep without some "noise". Just being alone with their own thoughts is scary. I have talked a lot with my college students about this, and in some classes I take the first five minutes to do a short meditation. My students have said how hard that five minutes is for them, and that it feels like forever to just be quiet. This is not a good thing.

Some teens like being alone. Even as children they were happy to play by themselves, and often refused the offer of a playdate, just to be with themselves happily in their worlds of make-believe. Some teens are terrified of being alone, desperately looking for companionship and connection. So there is the nature part of this equation.

You obviously can't make your teen take the time to "smell the roses." But you can model it, and you can call attention to it. Here is your I get it moment: 'You know honey I was thinking about how plugged in we all are, and how little time we give ourselves to just be quiet. I read this article recently that talked about how important it is for everyone to allow themselves time to just process. I get how much you have to do, and how important it is for you to stay tuned in to it all, just wish you would take some time to just be." They will probably look at you and think, what the hell is she/he talking about? But that's ok. Sometimes as parents we are just planters. We drop some seeds of wisdom, and hope that somewhere along the way, some sprouts appear.
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/03/06/the_power_of_lonely/

In another really good article in The Guardian (see link below) on the curses of social networking and teens found this:

"A survey conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people to keep track of their moods while on the five most popular social media sites. Instagram and Snapchat came out worst, often inspiring feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and self-loathing. And according to another survey carried out by the youth charity Plan International UK, half of girls and two-fifths of boys have been the victims of online bullying".

This is not good news!!! As a college professor for over 25 years, I have seen the changes that social networking can have on an entire generation. Since I teach Intro To Psych I have a unique opportunity to find out what goes on in the minds of my freshman students encouraging them, if they so choose, to talk about their experiences with anxiety and depression. I am still shocked by the number of my students that are on some kind of anti-anxiety or anti-depresssion medications as compared to my pre-technology students from the 80's and 90's. They report the same kinds of worries discussed in these articles. 

This article in The Atlantic is particularly  powerful in describing this influence. What can you do?? You can remember that you are the parent. The blog I wrote on Tuesday outlined some of the ways you can keep your teen emotionally and physically safe. There is no more important job of a parent. Will your teens be willing partners? Absolutely Not!! They will kick and scream and tell you they JUST HAVE TO DO THEIR HOMEWORK IN A GROUP CHAT!!!! And here's what I would say. "You know honey, I get doing homework is more fun and maybe even you get the help you need when you do you homework with your friends. But here is the deal, I also want you to develop skills in working things out for yourself. That is an important life skill to have!!! And I have total confidence that you can do just that. So we will have to come up with a compromise. Let's figure out how you can both have SOME time to work on homework with your friends, and SOME time when you do your reading and other work on your own. Let's figure out the time during the evening when you are on your own." Include them in the conversation, then using one of the parent controls have your teen's phone automatically shut off at the appointed time. This will not be easy, and I'm sorry about that...truly. But you are older, and smarter, and more experienced than your teen, and though their tantrums will be loud and uncomfortable, I have complete confidence in you that you can handle the noise!!
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/06/social-media-good-evidence-platforms-insecurities-health?CMP=share_btn_link

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

You Need To Know: New Apps Your Teen Uses!!!

Hey guys, I have found you a new teen bible!!!https://protectyoungeyes.com/apps/. This site maintains a whole cadre of the apps your teens are most likely using and lets you know if there are inherent risks. It is easy to navigate, and I think is a great tool to use as a way to have some good conversations with your teens about the apps they are using, and the worries you have about them. The benefit for using this site as a jumping off point is that the info is not coming from you!!! You are not lecturing, you are educating and they are participating in this education. Think of this like the blue book a pre-driving teen has to read and be tested on before they can even get their learners permit. The missing link between kids and social networking has always been training. Kids are given their phones, and most parents use a wait and see approach. It's only when a crisis presents itself ; spending too much time on their phones; finding sexy photos or texts; bullying; discovering sneaky or risky behavior. When these occur, parents jump into action mode!! However, by then your teen is addicted and pissed that you will now limit in any way the most important part of their life!!!! Remember...education is power!!

I will identify a few of the newer apps that I have become aware of that raise a red flag. As I have said many many times before. Your teens do not need to download every new app that comes down the pike. The more options they have to "play" on their phones the more they will play!!! You should exercise your right as the rightful owner of their phone to limit the number of apps that are on their phone at any one time. If they want a new app, they must read about it on the site above, and then make their case to you about why they absolutely have to have it. There should be a one-to one swap. One old app gets deleted for every new app they want downloaded. The best you can do as parents is limit time and opportunity. The sneakiness of many of these apps take away your control around content. But if they can only use their social networking apps for limited amounts of times with built in "break time" you can at least not feed their addiction 24/7. On Thursday I will address the psychological effects of too much social networking. The only way you can limit time and apps is by installing some form of parental control. PC magazine has done the work for you and reviews all your options. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2346997,00.asp

MARCO POLO: This app works like an old fashioned walkie talkie, but instead it swaps instant videos. It has all kinds of fun enhancements that teens completely get off on. I get that it is fun. But not when it becomes obsessive, as most things do with teens.

HOUSE PARTY: Face time on steroids. This allows your teen to live video chat with up to 8 people at a time. Think of the Brady Bunch opening! It accesses their contact list so that people can see who's "in the room" and join a chat. But because it accesses and notifies everyone on your contact lists, friends of kids your kids don't know can join if there is room in "the room." This means your teen is meeting kids from who knows where who are into who knows what. Not saying this is a deal breaker, just something you should know and talk about with them. Because this means your teen especially your young teens could be connecting with some other teen from wherever and planning meet ups or who knows what that you won't know anything about.


FIRECHAT: Kids can text without wifi. Maybe you shut your wifi off at night thinking this will deter late night texting. This circumvents this.

YELLOW: It is specifically for teens 13-17. This one feels completely terrifying to me. It is the teen equivalent of Tinder. A teen can post a photo and profile. And they can access other peoples photos and profile. If you think the guy/girl is cute, if you both swipe right,  you can "meet up" virtually or in person, swipe left if you're not interested. This gives teens access to complete and total strangers, including adults posing as teens, and young teens being in touch with much older teens.  Too may scary situations to mention here. Use your imagination!!This should absolutely be forbidden!

APPS THAT PROMISE ANONYMINITY: AFTERSCHOOL, ASK.FM, MONKEY, SARAHAH. Complete descriptions on the site above. These are all invitations for bullying!!

Okay, I'm done!!! You should be checking your teen's apps regularly if you choose not to limit them through a parental control. Keep yourself educated and informed, so you are speaking about something you know. You need to be an expert on this stuff. And if you have more than one teen you have to do this with, what can I say except...God help You!!!

PS: You might want to share this post with your friends with teen or your teen's friends' parents so everyone knows what the kids are doing!!
















Thursday, September 7, 2017

Why Teens Can Be Mean To Their Parents

There is a really good reason why teens are mean to their parents. Now with this new teenage brain growing by leaps and bounds, they are literally having thoughts they have never had before. Remember back when you were a teenager the moment when you realized " hey, my parents aren't perfect...awesome!!!!"

Teens have this new thinking ability that allows them to analyze and think more deeply about things. This is why teachers in middle school and high school expect their students to go from the concrete: who-what- where kinds of questions and answers, to the whys? They want them to read between the lines. School is not the only place teens are expected to do this kind of thinking. Their social life, their family life, all of it is now seen and understood under a whole new lens. What do you think gossip is?? It's a new way to think and analyze the people in their life. And you dear parents are part of their life. For the first time, they are seeing you without the rose-colored glasses of childhood, where parents are perfect, and their #1's. Now they see cracks in the armor. "Hey my parents don't practice what they preach, they can be hypocrites." Your teen can see right through the "do as I say, not as I do!"

Not only do they see you more realistically, but they absolutely love to tell you all their new perceptions that they are having about you. They are missing the edit button that will come with adulthood. For now though, if they have a thought about you, no matter how mean sounding, they share it.  You may feel that no matter what you do or say, according to your teen it's the wrong thing!!!!

Never fear, this is only temporary. Remember it's a new way of thinking about you. It's a novelty, and it feels really powerful for a teen to be able to see their parents in a whole new way. Having a teen in your home is like having a live in therapist. There is no one who will be more honest with you. If you can hold off on getting defensive, and listen to what they have to say, you might learn something new about yourself that is useful.

The trick here is to not feed into your teen's feeling of power. Basically they are being bullies, and the best way to handle a bully is to take away their power of hurt. So the next time you feel that biting criticism from your teen, rather than expressing hurt or anger, go up to them, give them a great big hug and say: "You are so cute when you're being a brat, I love you!!!" That ought to do the trick!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Kid Would Never Do.....

A study by the University of Michigan found that most parents look at  their teen through rose colored glasses, as in "my kid would never." Only 10% of the parents polled nationwide believed that their teens had used alcohol in the last year, and only 5% of parents thought that their teen had smoked pot. Here is the fun part, when the teens were polled through a study by the National Institutes of Health, the results showed that 52%of teens admitted to drinking and 28% admitted to smoking pot. Someones....not....paying.... attention. And what is even more telling is that these same parents polled believed that 60% of other teens (but not mine) were drinking alcohol and 40% were smoking pot.

Some examples of not my kid:
 Last week a parent told me this story. He had taken his 15 year old teen to a small, maybe 10 kids "get together" at a friends house on a Saturday night. Not only were the parents home, but this dad knew the parents and felt completely fine about the supervision. Dad shows up to pick up his son at the appointed hour and finds  50-60 teens milling about the yard as they had all been thrown out of the house. Why had they been thrown out? Because the "supervising parents,"who must have been deaf, dumb and blind not to have heard or seen the party numbers growing by leaps and bounds finally heard something that sparked their interest and when they joined the party saw 60 kids, tons of booze and pipes(for pot for those who don't know) scattered outside and in their basement. "What a surprise???? How could all these kids come uninvited to our house??? These are all such good kids, I don't understand, lamented the host parents." How could my son think this was OK?" Ah, hello, this is what most kids do when given the opportunity, the space,and the clueless parent!!!!

Story 2:
This mom shared this story with me during a coaching session. Mom has a 14 year old, straight A, quiet studious daughter who has a few best friends but is definitely not a party girl, preferring to stay in with friends on weekends and watch movies. Parents of this small group of teens always felt very comfortable leaving these girls "home alone". One day after school, on a half-day, this mom's daughter and a friend went back to the other girl's house. The parents both work, but these are the "good"girls so of course they were fine at home. Apparently because these girls are not the party girls they have been very curious about what the whole "drinking" deal is all about. So they planned an afternoon of drinking to find out. Getting the alcohol was easy, because it was right where the vodka always is, in the cabinet. Short story, one girl, kept drinking more and more vodka cause she wasn't feeling anything...until she did.  But by that point she passed out, was rushed to the hospital with a blood alcohol of .18 and had her stomach pumped. Moral of this story, it's the "good girls/boys, and the "party boys/girls" .

Parent's job is to anticipate, expect and do as much as they can to protect!  The only way you can do that is to predict that yes indeed, at some point, your kid too will want to experiment, take risks, do things you would never expect of them. It doesn't make them a bad kid or you a bad parent, just a realistic one.

Here are some tips for Teen Proofing Your Home:

  • Does your teen go to bed hours after you even on school nights? If you are in bed by 9, and your teen is up till..whenever. You need to set your alarm for 11 ish PM and do a check. Many kids are having trouble sleeping and are down in your basement, or open their window in their bedroom and do a little pot to help them sleep, and because they use a vape pen, you may have no idea. Pot has become a very popular drug of choice for teens!
  • When your teen has a sleepover: This is another time when you are in bed wayyyyy earlier that your teen and their sleep over buddies. They may be in the basement floors away from you. Believe me when I tell you kids sneak out, drink, smoke pot, watch porn, take your car keys and go for a joy ride. How do I know all this???? Because I have been doing this for a VERY long time. I teach college students, and they love to tell me how they "got over" on their parents. I also have coached hundreds and hundreds of parents, and they tell me. I'm not saying all teens are up for a grand ole time at a sleepover, but what teen doesn't doesn't like some kind of fun. Set your alarm for 11:30, 1:30 and 3 AM. Tell your teen you are an insomniac and have to pee all night long. Hope your nocturnal activities won't bother them and their friends. WINK,WINK!!! This will be a deterrent!!! Trust me!
  • Lock up your alcohol and your drugs: Who doesn't have a little ambien, xanax or oxy around from an old root canal or back injury!! You may think your teen knows not to go in your bathroom, but really?.......Go to CVS and buy an insert that fits right into your medicine cabinet that locks. Also, I can't tell you how many homes I visit where the garages are full of booze and the living room has bottles of booze just out for the taking. The #1 place teens get alcohol is from their parent's house!! Don't forget the beer/wine refrigerator in the basement!
  • Backpacks and water bottles should be left at the door: Teens are crafty, they will bring stashes into your house, do what you can to limit that.
  • If you go away for the weekend without your kids: I know, they are staying at their best friends, and you have told them that are not allowed to come into the house. But when their friends realize there is an empty house for the taking on the weekend....well you know!! Call your local police station and tell them you will be away for the weekend. Your teens are not staying at the house, but as a precaution ask them to do some drive bys on the evenings you will be away. Tell your teen, "oh by the way, I called the police and they will be checking on the house while we're away. So if you're friends put any pressure on your to come into the house, you can tell them your stupid ass parents called the cops!!" That will take care of that!
I know this all sounds alarmist. But this is about temptation!  You never left your kid's halloween candy out for the taking when they were in elementary school, why would you leave out your alcohol and drugs! This is about safety, not only for your teens, but for any teens that come into your house. Just think, only a few more years, and you can sleep through the night again!!!