Thursday, July 20, 2017

How To Become "Parent Whisperer"

I watched a documentary recently that inspired me. It's called "Buck." This man is a horse trainer/philosopher/life coach on whose work the movie "The Horse Whisperer" is based. I learned more from this man in one hour and twenty three minutes than from my graduate school training. So much for school. There are some people who have an amazing ability to read themselves, the people they work with, and yes horses! Buck is such a person. You watch him take a frisky, headstrong, "you aren't the boss of me" kind of horse (substitute teen for horse) and work with him to become a horse who becomes open to a relationship where there is a mutual respect for authority. There is much talk about "breaking a horse" which Buck rejects. In that relationship there is an absence of understanding and respect, and instead there is fear and control.

In the film, Buck often compares the process of training a horse to parenting a child. Both require an ability to stay calm in the face of  out of control emotion,  (at least your teen can't literally bite your head off) and an ability to understand the underlying issues that are driving behavior. Is the horse/teen bucking out of fear of what's to come, or because they like their freedom and don't want to be controlled. This is important to know. Though the end goal (getting the saddle on/getting your teen to follow-through on whatever) is the same, the process by which you get there will be different. There is nothing more important in a relationship than being understood, whether animal or human. Here are some lessons from Buck I learned about understanding from this film.
  • Don't be overly critical with the horse, they will just shut down.  Teens are the same way way. Maybe your teen comes home with a bad test result. How you respond to that information can make a huge difference in a future outcome. If you say: "Well, if you had studied harder, and not wasted so much time, you would have done better," feeling criticized they will deny, get angry and shut down. If you ask them how they might study differently the next time, you might open a discussion about study habits.
  • Respect isn't fear, respect is acceptance. You can punish, yell and metaphorically try to whip your horse/teen into shape, but that will not change behavior. 
  •  Build on pride, make him feel good about himself. Watching Buck work with these enormous headstrong animals is amazing. Rather than expending his own energy being negative, he would look for even the small positive gains the horse was making and pet and talk sweetly and reinforce movement in the right direction. If only a horse could smile! 
  • I'm not mad at the horse when they don't do what I want. I have to control my emotions. Yelling does not help a situation. Save the emotion for the serious stuff. Keeping your own emotions in check during a heated situation is what commands respect.
  • Blessed are the flexible as they will not get bent out of shape. There are always more than one way to reach a goal. It's not a choice to do it, just how to do it. My way or the highway encourages rebellion.
  • There is a difference between a firm hand and a hard hand. This was one of the most amazing parts of this film to watch. When he wanted to get the horse to move in a particular way he didn't yank, he used a gentle, consistent pressure until the horse "got it". "Do it cause I said so" is a hard hand,  "I need or would like you to'" is a firm hand.
  • Whenever you're ready. I'll just wait. This guy had the patience of a saint. He had clear goals, he knew what he wanted from the horse, but never got into a power struggle. When the horse understood that he could come to it on his own time, he did. Power struggles delay, patience will pay. 
There is no one that knows your kid better than you. Reading cues from their body language, their tone of voice, their energy levels, how they sleep, how they eat, these things are all clues as to what is going on with your teen. Become an expert on "reading" your teen. If you get a sense that something is going with them, "get" that this is probably not the time to get into an argument about cleaning their room or doing their homework. Most likely this will end up with someone slamming a door in someone's face.

This ability to "read" a horse is what makes Buck so successful at what he does. Be your own parent whisperer!. And watch this movie, it is life changing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Lies Of Omission: "Oh I Didn't Think I Had To Tell You That!"

Sometimes people lie outright, and sometimes they just don't tell you the whole story. Teens do that too. Why do teens lie? Because from their point of view, they have to. How else can you do what you want to do? The problem is that teens get so used to giving parents half a story out of habit, that they don't give their parents a chance to even say yes, which in many situations they actually might have. But instead they tell the half a story, and because teens are impulsive and live in the moment, they often get caught, and now parents have to deal with a lying issue.

Here are a few cases in point: A thirteen year old girl lives near her town's small downtown area where kids often meet up for pizza or an ice cream. She had her parents drop her off at a school nearby where she told them she was going to a sports event. Apparently, she met up with a few friends there, and they left to walk into town to meet "the boys." (which by the way was the real plan) When the mom called the parent who was supposed to pick up the girls, he told her his daughter had never gone to the school, but he dropped her off in town and that's where he was picking the girls up at the appointed hour. What a silly lie. When confronted by the mom, the girl said she assumed her mom would have said no to letting her walk around town. And she said, I did go to the game (even though it was for 5 seconds) so I didn't lie, I just didn't tell you I was going into town.  Oy vey!!!

Another story. a 15 year old girl who lives 30 minutes by train outside of New York City tells her parents she is going to sleep over so and so's house. Parents drop her off there. Parents are home, all is well. She finds out from a friend who was riding the train back from the city at 10 PM that she saw her daughter on the train. Whaaaatttt! The mother exclaimed, her daughter knows that she is not allowed to go into the city without adult supervision. Apparently the sleepover house parent who drove the girls  to the train station and picked the girls up there at 10:30 PM never questioned this girl as to whether her parents had given her permission to go into the city at night on the train, and the girl never said anything about it and went on her merry way with her friend on their adventure.

In both cases, the girls never gave their parents a chance to even discuss their desires, and now they have to deal with the consequences of lying... That's the teen "feeling" brain for you. The impulsive need to go and do is so strong that it belies rational thinking. And that is the point. Your teen needs to know that you won't always be the parent of NO. Sometimes as parents we do get into the knee jerk reaction NO's because your teen demands rather than asks, and that pisses you off, or catches you when you are busy, and just to shoo the issue away you say NO, or they have asked permission for a similar thing and you have said NO, so now they know not to ask but just do.

In both of those cases there was room for a non-no answer. It is true that in the past these parents had said no to similar requests, and the girls felt they had no other choice. Your job is to help you kids come up with a plan that could possible make it a yes. For the NYC girl a compromise might have been reached. " I get you really want to go into the city alone with your friends. I don't feel safe having you go in at night, but you could go late afternoon, and take a train home at 7:30 or 8 and still have time to get dinner and walk around in the early evening. I'm guessing that would have been an OK compromise.  In the walking into town case, the girl knew the mom was uncomfortable with the kids rambling around town. Mom and daughter could have come up together will a plan that would have made mom comfortable.

Your job is to say to your kids: "Give us a chance. Maybe we can find a way to make it happen for you that feels good to both of us. Don't give us that chance and you might get caught in your lie, and end up with a consequence that is unpleasant. I know we sometimes say no without thinking, and we will work on that so you don't need to lie."

Go back to my blog on the A+ parent for an example of how well this can work. Remember helping you kids to come up with a plan that works for both of you is so much better and more pleasant than sitting home with a grounded teen. Nobody wants to do that!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Power Of Being Understood And Forgiveness

I was thinking about this topic the other day, and was reminded of two personal experiences that reiterated to me the power of understanding and forgiveness. One experience was for me to ask for forgiveness, and the other, looking from someone else to understand me.

Some years back I received an email from someone in my past. In it she expressed a need for closure on an incident that occurred between the two of us many years ago. Unfortunately, my own memory about the issue was very fuzzy, but really it didn't matter what I did or did not remember because her feelings were very much in the present. I was devastated that something I had done, even though unintentionally, had caused her such pain. I apologized, with respect for what she was feeling, and for my own need to make amends. It is so hard to accept sometimes our own culpability in bringing on pain in people we care about. In fact often we are unaware that something we have said or done has hurt someone. So, when confronted and surprised by someone we have hurt we get defensive, and combative, rather than apologetic and understanding. In my example, this person had her experience and her feelings, that is a simple truth that I had to acknowledge and respect. Her gift to me was accepting my apology, and thanking me for my lack of defensiveness, and understanding her need to get closure and move on.

People are not perfect. We screw up. We screw up with our friends, our partners, and yes, we screw up with our kids. When you own your mistakes, and apologize to your kids, you show them respect. They will be able to move on. When you get defensive and evasive even when you know it's on you to take responsibility for your actions, your kids become disrespectful, and then feel acutely a double standard of "do as I say, not as I do."

The second experience I had, illustrates this point. I felt a colleague had crossed a professional boundary. I agonized for a week about whether to share my feelings about this incident. But when I could see that it was interfering with our relationship,  and my desire to avoid her, I decided to talk with her about it. I was expecting a simple "Oh my god, I am so sorry, I didn't even realize, I'm glad you told me so I can do better the next time. "Instead, I got a "face". You know that face, kind of all scrunched up, and disdainful. No apology, no thanks for letting me know, just the feeling that I was the crazy one! Even if I was the crazy one (which by the way I wasn't) giving me that gift of understanding would have cleared it up in a second. Like I said nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes.  How can we change if we don't know what those mistakes are, take responsibility for them and move on.

The power of understanding, and all the "I get It" scripts I feed you in these blogs I hope pave the way to help you accept, respect and move on in your relationships. Truly, it's powerful stuff.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

You're Not Allowed To Talk To My Friends!

When my daughter was a freshman in college she had her first real boyfriend. My husband and I were apoplectic to meet him. So on a sunny Saturday we drove up to campus to take them to dinner. Because my husband and I have big mouths, my daughter was beyond terrified of what might come out of them.  So prior to the actual meeting we were given very strict guidelines of what we were allowed and not allowed to ask. In our own defense we continued to comfort and placate her with a "honey we would never embarrass you. Secretly though, my hubby and I thought the whole issue hilarious and the night before our trip for the big "meeting" we developed our list of questions. None of which we were ever going to ask, but just as a fun thing to show our daughter and all have a good laugh over! Which by the way we did, especially when our daughter chose to read them out loud at dinner!

Questions included: How much money do you parents make? What are your intentions with our daughter? What is your future profession?  There were many more but since this occurred many years ago and as an "older person" the memory is not so good!!

This is a universal plight of teens. Please Don't Embarrass me. So I say to you parents, rather than asking to many specific questions of your teens friends, just saying things like, Hey what's up? Or love the outfit? Please avoid questions like: So what's your college list? or How is school going? or anything that sounds too personal. When teens don't feel your desperation to be included in the conversation, they will talk, and over time may look forward to sharing parts of themselves that maybe they don't share with their own parents. But remember, these are your teens' friendships and relationships and they don't won't you butting in unless you're invited.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Some Great Summer Movies To Watch With Your Teen

One of the best parts of summer is....time. There is just more of it. During the school year there is no extra time. Pretty much every minute is accounted for including weekends. In the summer there are weird pockets of time that you might actually find you and your teen in the house, at the same time, with nothing much to do. Take advantage of them. Maybe its at 11 AM when they are just rising from a late night, but are free till 4 or 5 when they are going to hook back up with their buddies. Or maybe all their friends are away for the same weekend, and they are hanging around the house. Here are some movies that are on demand or on netflix that are fun to watch, and might even generate some fun conversation.

First Position: I just watched this last night. Its a documentary about a world class ballet competition. Young dancers compete for scholarships for elite ballet companies. They follow 4 teens as they prepare for this competition. I LOVED it. Great examples of kids with passions and how they live their life. If you have a dancing teen, this is a must watch.

American Teen:  this is an amazing documentary that follows a group of high school seniors for their whole last year at a large midwestern high school. Every teen will find themselves represented, the social butterfly, the jock, the artsy kid, and the kid who doesn't fit in. Great film. My college students go crazy for this film every semester.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower: Feature film about a group of kids who aren't part of a "popular crowd" but form an anti-popular crowd. Great story about friendship, and relationships. I love it!

Ferris Beuller's Day Off: Teens play hooky, hilarity ensues. A classic...you must have seen it!!

Dead Poets Society: Robin Williams tour de force performance as the teacher you wish you had in high school who really gets you!  A great movie about finding yourself, separating from parents, dealing with disappointment.

The Way Way Back: I LOVED this movie about a family off to their summer rental, after a parent's divorce. Teen gets his first job and taste of independence. This movie is funny, sweet, and meaningful!

Moonrise Kingdom: Quirky independent movie about two preteens, fed up with "the grownups" take off on an adventure.

Stand by Me: 3 young teens hanging in the summer have an adventure they never anticipated. A classic!

Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Can't Buy Me Love: These are fun 80's teen movies that your kids have probably not seen, but are so much fun to watch. The hair may be big, and the shoulder pads huge but the teen issues are still the same. Would be really fun to introduce these to your kids

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist: full disclosure, my daughter is one of the stars. She plays the drunk best friend caroline. This is a really sweet movie with Michael Cera. Kat Dennings and my daughter about friendship, relationships and has great music. though my daughter does play a drunk teen, it is not glorified at all. You'll see what I mean if you watch the movie.

Enjoy!

For phone or in-person parent coaching call me at 781-910-1770.  A single session can help you go from crisis to calm!

Invite me to come and speak at your school, at your company or for your community group. Have Joani will travel!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Survival Tips

Yay...summer is here. Some of your teens may be shipped out to various camps, programs, far-away islands, and you will all be enjoying a little break from the trials and tribulations of daily teen life. However, many of you are looking at 8 weeks of "what are you going to do all day?" conversations. If you do not have a teen who has found a job, internship or volunteer gig, here are some ideas on how to keep your teen from turning into a video gaming, jersey shore watching, shopaholic, comatose during the day, but strangely energized come sundown person.

1. All teens need money to survive during the summer. Those nightly jaunts into town, to the mall, or out to dinner with friends all cost money. Pair money to gym workouts, book reading. As in, "I get you need money when you go out with your friends. Here is the deal, you can earn money for your hangs by getting off the couch. Every time you hit the gym, you earn some cash. When I see you reading for an hour, you get some cash. When you actually do some stuff around the house, ie laundry, cleaning your room, making your bed etc, you get some cash. Should you choose to just sit around the house all  day, no cash. Of course you can always find a job, internship, volunteer something,which I would love to help you with, but I cannot support you being on the computer, facebooking, playing video games and watching tv all day. That's the deal."

2. For those of you who have video game addicts. These guys are looking at the summer as an orgy of game playing. If they are not involved in any activities, jobs, etc you are looking at the potential of your son playing for 12 hours a day. NOT GOOD!!! Get a device for your device that can be programmed for finite amount of use. Your teen can earn video game play by exchanging other activity participation. Like above, book reading, exercise, internship, lawn work, be creative. But DO NOT let your teen play video games all day and night. Come September, you will have a full-fledged addict!

3. Summertime does mean more free time with friends. Weather is warm, outdoor partying is the preferred option. Make sure you continue to talk about safety with drug and alcohol use, and sex. There is just more opportunity to participate in all of it. And now that weekday nights are free and clear from homework obligations, there is that much more to fill the days and nights. Use this system to help set expectations that are mutually agreeable. It will make for a much nicer summer for all.

A four question example:

Teen asks: "What time do I have to be home tonight?
Parent asks: What time do you think you should be home?

Kid states a time. Lets say 11:00 PM
Parent asks: What do you think I will be worried about if I say yes to 11. This is your teen's opportunity to say out loud any of the dangers that in fact you do worry about.

Parent asks: Yes those issues do worry me, what is your plan to make me feel OK, that you will stay safe?
Teen needs to offer up a plan for safety around drugs and alcohol and other safety issues curfew times, keeping you in the loop throughout the night etc.  that hopefully he/she stated in the worry question.

Parent asks: What will the consequence be if you don't follow through on your plan?
Teen needs to put a consequence in place so that if he/she fails to follow though on the plan, a consequence is ready to go.

Engaging your teen in this process of taking responsibility for behavior makes for a calmer summer. They want more freedom, and you are giving them the opportunity to take ownership. This does not in anyway give them carte blanche to go and do whatever they want. Sometimes the plan is just not good enough, perhaps it is too unsafe, or just not practical. No will still mean no when you need it to.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Teen Temper Tantrums: It's just noise!

Remember the terrible twos and threes, and maybe even fours. You're in a crowded supermarket, your then toddler has asked for the 10 millionth time for candy, and you have said for the 10 millionth time NO.  And then you hear your toddler take a deep breath, and with all their little might, they explode with screams, kicks, fall down on the floor, and start flailing like a maniac. You, feeling like every pair of supermarket eyes are upon you, are seized with humiliation. Oh why oh why did you have to do this now!!! So you buy the candy, or you leave your cart of items, even though that means leaving your laundry detergent meant for your gathering storm of dirty clothes, tonights dinner, lunch and snack items for tomorrow's meals, you pick up your kid and you are out of there!!!!!

Your toddler outgrows their tantrums, and for a while life is peaceful-ish. Then come the terrible teens!!! Full blown tantrums return. It's not about candy now!!! It's about cellphones, and apps, and money for clothes, and absolutely "have to have" whatever. It's about curfews, and sleepovers, and cars and school, and attitude and friends, and time and family and well, just about everything. Many parents I work with are so afraid of the "tantrum" that they cave worried that their teen will get out of control, and do....something! But here's the thing. It's just noise, It's the same noise they bellowed at two. It's actually the same issue...It's all about me!!! Egocentric thinking was the culprit then, and it is the culprit now. At two their little brain couldn't understand that their perspective was not the only one at play. I want what I want when I want it!!!! And...wait for it.... neither does your teen. That emotional brain fires up faster than you can say NO. And when the world stops revolving around their needs and desires...fireworks!

Your job is to develop a tolerance for noise. There it is, plain and simple. Say what you need to say, and then stop talking. Your teen's anger and frustration will burn itself out, as long as you don't give it fuel!  The article below is about an amazing dad who let his toddler burn herself out, in public, on display, for an attentive supermarket audience. His message is universal for parents of kids of all ages.  Truthfully, everybody is in the same boat, whether with a toddler or a teen. We can be a community of understanding.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/actors-facebook-post-offers-a-big-lesson-about-toddler-tantrums_us_595111f3e4b05c37bb77d13b?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000041

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Teen Couch Potato Syndrome

Recently I have had a number of coaching sessions with parents concerned with what I call the "missing child syndrome." The teen isn't actually missing missing, but spends so much time closeted off in their bedroom cave watching movies, TV, playing video games or hanging out on any and all social networks sites,  that it begins to feel that it's time to put up a missing child poster.

This becomes the most problematic on the weekends and now that it is summer, when there is an excess of unstructured time, and fewer activities. For younger teens, the pre-drivers, weekends and summer vacation can be quite anxiety provoking. What will I do? Who will I do it with? What if no one wants to do anything with me? There is a transition that occurs for kids in 8th and 9th grade. At this point some of the kids they have been friendly with, may have moved on into having a more active social life that includes meeting up at malls, parks, town centers or basements in co-ed groups. Your teen may have been left behind, not feeling ready or interested in some of the experimentation and activities of these marauding groups of kids. (and amen to that!)  So if their usual posse of friends are now unavailable to them, it leaves them potentially feeling lonely, abandoned and loserish. The computer becomes their weekend date; familiar, comforting, always available, and will always do what they want to do. I get it!!!  Hanging out with the family during this weekend time, only reinforces what they are already feeling, so avoiding you at all cost helps them save face.

Here is how you can help. First of all teens do not do well with planning ahead. That's just the way it is. Mostly its because they really don't know what it is they should do. In elementary school having a "playdate" was a no-brainer. A friend came over, you played games or dolls, or legos or watched a movie. Done! Now there are fewer options, you actually have to talk to each other, and where are you going to go and what are you going to do? So when they do feel bored on a Saturday afternoon and want to do something, the insecurity of calling someone and potentially being rebuffed because the person they want to call probably already has plans becomes a deterrent to calling anyone, and the avoidance helps them save face by thinking, "I just want to veg out by myself anyway."

 Do not at this point lecture them about waiting till the last minute. This just confirms they are a loser.  What you can do is say to your teen, "I have to do X on Saturday, I can drop you and a friend at X while I do my thing, and then pick you up later. Why don't you ask X when you see him/her at camp, your game.... (fill in the blank) and see if they want to go with you?" This accomplishes two goals. The first is that it gives your teen a real plan that they can go to a friend with that isn't at the last minute. Most kids won't have their plans for Saturday yet, and asking them in person, takes away the worry about that potentially rejecting text or phone call. Secondly, you have understood that teens don't do planning well, and since it makes you nauseous to see your teen lying around for 18 hours watching a screen, helping them by offering up a plan takes them out of the bedroom, and out into the world.

This won't last forever. So even if they are home, the good news is at least you know where they are. Soon enough the fight will be, why aren't you ever at home?

Need some coaching..Let's do a phone coaching session; 781-910-1770

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Words Matter-Words Hurt

This has been a hard few months for parents of teens. Too many stories recently that illustrate the power of the written word when it is combined with a teen's impulsivity, need for attention, excessive need to belong, and the perceived freedom that teens feel about posting the outrageous on social media without consequence. This can be a lethal, and unfortunately I am using that word literally, combination. Ask Michelle Carter who was just convicted of involuntary manslaughter when at age 17,  texted her depressed and suicidal  "boyfriend" to  repeatedly kill himself. He did.
Ask the 10  newly accepted Harvard Freshman who are no longer welcome at Harvard, because they started a private Facebook page for accepted freshman titled "Harvard Memes for Horny Bourgeois Teens. The initiation to join this exclusive private group was to post "holocaust jokes, make fun of child abuse, illegal immigrants, pedophilia, Mexicans, people of middle eastern descent and other "funny" things! Add to this mix of "awful" is the recent Penn State frat brother who was left to die because his "brothers" probably didn't want to get in trouble and thought magically that the whole"we made this kid drink to excess and than he fell down the stairs" would just go away, if they didn't call for help. It's discouraging and depressing. Below is an article from a few years ago about two 7th grade girls who kept a journal of the kids they wanted to kill, cause they were mad at them.

These stories thank god are not the norm. BUT many teens do post and text and instagram and group text things that are hurtful. And, because they are not experiencing first hand the effects of these hurtful comments or photos they post, they stay immune to the hurt they can cause. Even "nice kids" post bad things. There are so many teaching moments from the stories above and the story and blog that I wrote below....use them!!! Talk to your teens over and over and over again about this. This is not a one and done conversation. Below you will find some concrete tips.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/19/kill-list-found-triton-regional-middle-school-newbury/mDbMBp0w70usXx3YN0byzI/story.html


The last week of school you'd think would be home free for these two 7th grade girls. But their English teacher collected the journals they had been keeping for the term and actually read them. And in those journals the two girls had created a "kill list" of the kids they hated the most. These two girls were not going to "kill" the kids on this list, but in a cathartic moment of expressing and venting their frustration and anger at those they must have felt slighted from, they made this list, and then more surprising wrote it in the journal their teacher would be reading! There is that teen-age brain for you. Just did not think that one through.

That these girls hated other kids from their middle school is not a shocker. Middle school could be the absolute hardest years of adolescence. So many things are feeling out of control, bodies, brains, relationships, etc it's amazing anyone gets through it unscathed. OK these girls were pissed off and shared their anger. But in this day and age of Newtown, Columbine, and scores of other shootings and most recently of Charleston, you cannot vent publicly about your targeted anger. You WILL be taken seriously. And these two 7th grade girls were taken seriously, which came as a huge shock to the girls and to their families.

Because of the ease of sharing these days, and I would like to say just teens, but many adults find themselves vilified for some "I was just kidding" comments posted on facebook, twitter, instagram, and group texts. This is a teaching moment you must give over and over and over again to your teens. When they are angry and frustrated they are at their weakest moments for control. As a result, that emotional part of their brain is exploding, and they can write and say something that can be damaging to both someone else and as importantly to themselves. Please post the following social networking safety rules in their room where they can see it. They will roll their eyes, they will say it's my room and you can't put anything you want in here, they will bitch and moan till the cows come home, but posted it should be, in many places. It will serve as a reminder about what is safe for social networking posting. Think of it like the signs you see on the sides of buses. You don't actively read them, but somewhere they register in your unconscious and in the moment when you need that random information, you will be able to retrieve it. That's how this works.


Social Networking Safety Net


Can this post be misinterpreted by anyone?


Does this post intentionally hurt someone’s 
feelings?


Does this post give out too much information?


Can any photos or video’s posted of me come back and shoot me in the foot?

Please share this one with your friends!! Sadly, interaction on social networking is probably the thing that your teen spends most of their time doing. Let's make sure they understand the power of words!











Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Power Of The Family Table

Did you know that when families do not share meal times together their teens are 2X more likely to use alcohol regularly and 1 1/2 X's more likely to smoke pot?  Those are some compelling stats.  I meet with many parents who have two or three kids all off in different directions and who have different schedules, coupled with dual career parents who might be traveling or home late from work, way after a normal dinner hour. What's a family to do?

It is a challenge, no doubt. But without scheduled times during the week when parents and kids gather together, we are all ships passing in the night, and conversations and interactions morph into 3 word questions or statements. Parents: "Have you done your (fill in the blank) yet". Teens: " Mom/Dad I need/want (fill in the blank)."

And then parents wonder why their kids never talk to them. Teens do not do well with conversations on the fly. Just because you are in the car with them and you think this is a good time to have a conversation about (fill in the blank) because you have a captive audience, doesn't mean your teen thinks it's a good time. They may be rehashing in their head an encounter they had during the day or maybe about to have with a friend, crush, girlfriend or boyfriend, coach, and your intrusion into their thoughts will be met with silence or attitude. Both of which feel insulting to you because you feel shut out and shut down.

Regular and predictable mealtimes provide moments of spontaneity and connection, not appointment conversations. Conversations about the world, stories about family and friends provide a non-threatening context for addressing subjects indirectly. Telling a story about a party you went to over the weekend and how you couldn't believe how much people drank, could easily move into a conversation about how  people act differently when they are drunk. You gotta have at least one "lampshade" story hanging around.  Or a disagreement with a colleague or boss at work might move into a discussion about controlling or hard to get along with people. Or a discussion about a newsworthy event like the one about the 10 accepted Harvard students whose admissions were rescinded after offensives posts were discovered on an accepted Harvard student Facebook page. This might be an opener to discuss why people post such mean things about other people or groups . Get the picture. But without these kinds of relaxed settings, there are few opportunities for your teens to converse and share ideas about things other than what goes on in their small world of friends and schools. The world is a big place, and and they need to explore it with you, even if the world is your dinner table.

Family meals often require sacrifice. Making commitments and following through on them is an important lesson and model for children to witness. I have worked with families where finding a common night(s) for family dining is akin to getting a reservation at the most popular restaurant in town. Excuses I have heard from parents: "I can never get home before 8, I in a tennis/squash/softball league and I can't let my team down, I have meetings every night, I am very involved with my church/temple/community. Granted this is all important stuff, but so are your kids. Sunday nights are a no brainer. Attendance required by all. No eating in rooms, in front of TV, I don't care if you eat in silence and no one talks or looks at each other. Try for at least one other night. The research shows 5 is magic number, but 2 is better than none. Also if this is something new for your family, have low expectations. Your family may not be used to all being in the room at the same time. Your kids will balk, be sullen, and wonder why they can't take their plate up to their room like they always do? Give them a hug, an "I just like seeing your adorable face", a shoulder shrug, but insist. It might take a while before anyone actually talks. I don't mean minutes, I mean weeks. But be persistence. Come to the table with a story, talk about yourself, or someone you know. When your kids get that this isn't a one shot deal, and this family time, is really gonna happen regularly and consistently, they will begin to join in.

So cook a great meal, get some great takeout, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, who cares what the food is, so instead of making a meal, make some time!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Legacy Of A Dad

I wrote this blog several years ago and thought that as Father's Day approaches, I would share it with you again. It's message is what REALLY counts when our children, as they move into adulthood, think about what really mattered to them and stayed with them from their childhood. I meet with hundreds of parents a year. Parents of young children, and parents of older children. Their worry is pretty universal. Is it too late? Have I screwed up? Have I damaged my kid beyond repair? And I say pretty much across the board...NO! As you will read in this post below. If your kids are raised with love and understanding, all the other sh*t is just that...,momentary sh*t! As your children move into adulthood, it's really the big picture they remember. Not that you grounded them or took their phone away, or yelled at them cause they didn't do their chores, but did you show love and acceptance, and could they come to you for help and understanding. In fact, many of my college students on reflecting on their younger selves say what pains they were to their parents, and now feel badly about the times they were disrespectful or dishonest or bratty. They are so thankful for the unwavering love they felt from their parents.  That's what they remember!

A very dear friend died this past weekend, and today was his memorial service. His two grown daughters spoke at the service with devotion, eloquence, and such abundant love, and I was left thinking about what ultimately are the most important things we give to our children. And that is quite simply, love. These two young women spoke not about his accomplishments, of which there were many, but about his ability to be there for them always, even though he had an extremely demanding and successful career. His ability to hear in their voice that something was up, and be there to listen. His ability to see them from across a room, and know just by a look in their face, that something was up, and he was there to listen. They talked about his joy in just being with them, whether chatting, or playing board games, and or sharing his passions of books, and food, and France.

Other family members and a close friend all spoke of his extraordinary ability for being empathic and for taking time every single day to call and check in, "how are you"even if it was for only a minute.

His daughters spoke of how what their dad taught them about loving is now being passed down to their own young children. And how important the gifts of time and understanding are to give to their kids.

What would your kids say about you?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dealing With Teen Amnesia

"What, it wasn't me!" "It isn't mine!" "I don't know how it could have gotten there!"Famous last words of teens. A great way for teens to avoid taking responsibility, and a sure fire way to frustrate parents to the point of apoplexy!

The truth is your teen absolutely does not care that their shoes are strewn all around the house...except when they can't find them, then of course it becomes your fault: "Where are my shoes? What did you do with them," they scream at their loudest decibel. Because of course, it is one minute before their ride is coming to get them, and they did not think about these shoes, jacket, etc until just that minute, and now that they are missing they obviously can't blame themselves, so you're up!

My best advice, don't bite!!! There is nothing you need to say, nothing you need to do, it is not your job to keep track of their things. Sometime, they will figure it out, but your lecture of "if you only put your things in their rightful place this would not happen every single god damn day!!"will definitely not change their behavior. Either they'll figure it out themselves or they won't. And eventually they will move out, and you will never have to deal with it again. Make yourself unavailable for the search and rescue. And when their crap is in your way, have a basket for each of your teens in which any stray item that is making you crazy gets thrown. Think of it as your family's lost and found. If they can't find something, they can always take a gander at the lost and found and see what's there. It will be like Christmas every day!

I will be available over the summer for parent coaching, Ask The Expert Parties, and seminars!
joani@joanigeltman.com 781-910-1770

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Real Truth of What It Feels Like To Be A 7th Grade Girl

I don't really have much to say here because this 7th grader says it wayyyy better than I ever could. If you have a middle schooler even one who seems happy and confident, watch this together. What I love about this girl is her ability to feel her feelings and the work she has to do to just be invisible and fit in, even when that feels inauthentic to who she really is. Teens work so hard to be what everyone else defines as normal. Find out from your teen, if they didn't have to work so hard to be "normal,"who would they want to be!!

http://www.12news.com/opinion/talker/you-are-good-enough-young-queen-creek-student-inspires-with-powerful-poem/443296567

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Magic Of Change And Growth

I am in Los Angeles with my daughter having attended the premier last night of her new show on Showtime called I'm Dying Up Here. Cue shameless plug, premiers this Sunday, June 4th at 10 PM on Showtime. Knowing I would be in LA when this blog was published I decided to get it done before I left. I remembered a live blog I did a few summers ago about the magical power of change. As I watched, I was reminded of my own relationship with my daughter that went through it's peaks and valleys as she moved through childhood, to adolescence and into young adulthood. I can look back now with great perspective not only on her journey, but also my own as I moved from young adulthood, middle adulthood and now though I loath to say it, later adulthood now that I am 65. There are times in our lives, especially the hard times, when we feel like things will never get better. As I celebrate my daughter's accomplishment, I am reminded of all she went through to get to this place, the peaks and the valleys, all I went through to bring me to this time in my life, and all you and your family has been through to bring you to this moment, and all that will be happening for all of you in the future. Enjoy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpU_K1IkNEQ&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Birds and Bees Talk Gets A Remodel For The 21st Century

A new study just released by Harvard that looks at data about what teens need and want from their parents to help them with the sexual life of a 21st teen and young adult, is an eye opener. I give some tips for parents in this article in USA Today that discusses this recent study. Link to article is below.
Here are a few more tips.

If you're concerned about your teen's emotional or sexual inexperience, direct questions toward those issues: "What do you want your first sexual experience to be like?" "Access to alcohol is going to be freer, so how do you feel you'll handle that?" "Do you have a strategy for ending an intimate encounter that's gone as far as you want it to go, or are getting mixed messages about how far to go?"
These conversations may make you uncomfortable, but they're important because your teen probably can't talk to his/her friends about setting boundaries, and they are going to need some new strategies, even if they're as simple as just saying "Not tonight!" or "I've got to go now."
"I think the biggest gift a parent can give a teen who's about  to dip their toes in experiencing sex is to say ,'I know you're going to be in these situations. I'm not judging you. I just want to give you opportunities to be the safest you can be, so let's talk about it."
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2017/05/25/consent-hook-ups-harassment-why-you-
must-talk-your-teen-all-before-college/102137806/

Why not share this post with your friends, everybody could use a little help with the sex thing!!

For parent coaching by phone, Skype or in-person contact me at 781-910-1770 or joani@joanigeltman.com. Sometimes you just need to bounce off an issue for an hour and walk away with a strategy!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Teen Has A "Bad Seed" Friend

A mom wrote me the other day with this dilemma. She has a 14 year old daughter whose friendship with a girl a year older had caused her daughter a great deal of trauma last year. They succeeded in helping her separate from this girl. There was a big team effort from the school, the daughter's therapist and a lot of love and caring from this mom and dad. Parents, school and therapist saw a huge change in this 14 year old.  She began to have a happier disposition, a reconnection with old friends, and a lot less anxiety and misery. A win win. 

Mom thought this friendship was a done deal. This school year has been a good one, with little drama now that this friend was out of the picture, not only emotionally, but physically as well, having moved on to an alternative high school for teens with attitude and behavioral issues.  Everybody breathing a sigh of relief. And then... A request from her daughter last weekend to go to a semi-formal dance a few towns away with a friend mom loves, and another girl...the girl from last year that had caused her daughter so much angst. Mom was shocked. She thought this girl was gone and forgotten. But here she is again. Mom had been keeping up with this girl by reading her daughter's facebook, and had been reading about all her drug and alcohol fueled partying escapades which she freely described  to all on facebook.

There was a simple answer to this request from her daughter..NO. Mom understood her daughter's disappointment, understood she wouldn't be happy with her answer, but felt firm in that decision. The daughter, not so understanding. She pulled out the "you're the worst mother ever" line. A sure fire guilt producer. And this mom wrote me wondering whether she was the worst mom ever. I am here to say NO. 

Mom wrote: "She seems to gravitate to these kids because they “accept” her. She does not have a huge group of friends, and is trying to make new ones, but is having trouble. These troubled kids all accept her, because misery loves company. Help!!!!! 

The bottom line is you can not control your teens friendships.  When your teen hangs with kids you don't like, and feel don't bring anything positive to the table, you can often feel helpless in your ability to intervene. But, and this is an important but, you can have influence, which is different than control. These parents, school personnel and therapist definitely had influence in helping this 14 year old see that this friend was a downer, and the daughter was able to separate from her. 

This is hard work for a young teen. There is nothing more flattering to someone to have someone show interest in you, especially the "bad girl". These girls or boys are usually charismatic, fun, risk-taking personalities, who often prey on more passive, insecure types. They can seem especially attractive to those kids because they do all the "friendship work" for them. Making the plans, and orchestrating their social life with all the kinds of things that feel so hard for them. This mom really "gets" her daughter's motivation, and it must feel so exhausting to have to go through this all again. 

Certainly, saying no to situations that you know will be unsafe is a number one priority, like the dance. So maybe you will get the "worst mom/dad award that weekend. so be it. But the bigger job is to continue to help your teen to navigate this relationship and help her to be successful in forming new ones. Some "I get It" help. You can say to your teen: " I get how X can be a fun friend. Tell me what you like about them? And secondly, So what do you think worries me about X?" lecturing your teen about all the ills of this "bad seed" will only make them want to defend this kid. What you want to do is get them to articulate what's attractive about this kid, and to articulate what they think worries you about that. When it comes out of their mouths than they are an active participant in the discussion. They hear the words they are saying, and can take ownership. When you just lecture and talk at them, they shut down, and may be missing important information. 

Helping kids find positive relationships, especially for those kids who lack confidence is really the bigger task. Sometimes it takes a little sleuthing. If you know your teen has an interest in something but is shy about getting involved you can go behind the scenes. For example, say your kid is a good artist and getting involved with scenic design for the spring musical or poster design for the prom  would be a boost to their ego. So you might go to the guidance counselor or art teacher or drama teacher, and see if they might personally approach your teen to help, saying they heard they were a talented artist and could really use their help. This gives your teen access to whole new group of kids. Or perhaps your kid isn't into sports or theater or anything at school, and helping them to find a job or internship where there are other kids would help. The work here for kids who have a hard time in the friendship department is to help them get access to a wider network. Maybe that's a job, or volunteer work, some school activity. But what you need to know is that this kind of teen will not be the one to go find these opportunities. So saying things like" Why don't you sign up for....fill in the blank will fall on deaf ears. Whether its finding new friends, or signing up for activities, they just don't have the confidence. The work is helping them develop the confidence. So do a little behind the scene work. This is a little bit like the "secret life of a parent" here. You want your teen to feel like he is being asked not that his mommy or daddy is doing it for him. 

Navigating friendship comes very easily to some and not so easily to others. Recognizing and understanding that this might be your teen's challenge is important, helping them to feel confident and successful is your goal.

For Parent Coaching Services in-person or by phone or Skype, contact me at Joani@joanigeltman.com

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Choking Game Is NOT A Game At All!

Recently a parent called me with a very disturbing story. Her 14 year old son had a very good friend who died a few months ago. He had been home alone, and when his parents got home they found him dead of asphyxiation. At first look it seemed like a suicide, but after careful investigation by the family, medical community and police it was determined that he had died from playing the "choking game." Some kids play this with friends, and others do it alone. Apparently there is a tiny window of ecstasy when one deprives oneself of oxygen by either having your friends momentarily strangle you or you do it to yourself. I repeat...tiny opportunity, when at the release of suffocation, at just the right moment, the body sends a rush of oxygen and endorphins through the body for an instant but possibly fatal high!

It is very important that you discuss this with your teen. Because teens have that sense of invincibility, and until someone puts the absolute fear of god and death into them, they might think that nothing bad could happen to them, because after all....it's just a game. The article below has a very detailed explanation so rather than making you read about it twice, you can read the article.
Talking about this with your teen WILL NOT make them want to do it. This may be something they have been in the presence of already, or could be in the future. Don't wait, read this article with them, and talk about it today!!!!
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201205/the-dangerous-game-your-kid-may-be-playing

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bullying and Sexual Assault-The new epidemic of the Teen Age Years

A new federal study by The National Center For Education Statistics and  The Justice Department, states that "one of every five middle school and high school students has complained of being bullied at school, and the number of reports of sexual assault on college campuses has more than tripled over the past decade." Other recent studies have found that a similar statistic of sexual assault and harassment is also true for high school and middle schoolers.

Having the "birds and bees" conversation that your parents had with you about sex seems so sweet and naive as compared with having to now prepare your teen for sexting, hooking up, sexual harassment and sexual assault. Oh how I yearn for the old days!! Bullying...harassment....assault, how do you ever prepare your teen for it all? You do it one step at a time, one story at a time.

Teens live in an emotional brain. Therefore you need to meet them where their brain is most activated. As an adult you live mostly in your thinking brain. This means that your go-to method of "teaching"your teen" goes automatically to the logical and rational. Cue teen eye-rolling. This is why the use of real stories from teens like them, has a better chance of getting them to listen and hopefully open up. This is why the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" has been such a hit. It hits them where they live and where they feel, in their emotional brain!

Bullying is all about power. It is only fun to bully someone so 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 a past Sunday's Golden Globe show. Make sure you show this to your kids. She is the best teacher there is! Also below is an award winning essay from a teen who experienced bullying at her high school. When you share stories like this with you teen, without judgment or criticism they then feel freer to open up. Comments like "I can't believe kids can be this cruel" won't work. Comments like" it is so hard to be a teen" work better.

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

Teenage Girls; the Cruel Super Humans from Outer Space
By Lena Rawley, 17, from Montclair, N.J.

Teenage girls are cruel super-humans from a distant galaxy sent here to destroy us all. They have the self entitlement of a celebrity heiress and the aggression of a Roman Gladiator. Like vampires they feed off the blood of the weak. They’re pubescent monsters. Adolescent boogeymen.
While my observations may be coming from a point of bias, that doesn’t mean they are faulty in accuracy. As a teenage girl myself, I think I know teenage girls quite well. Not only was I a former teenage mean girl, but I was tortured, tormented, isolated and socially maimed by them as well. 
When they acquire a target, teenage girls, with the determination of a private assassin, will stop at nothing to take down their target. They’re relentless. They’re cruel. Their methods are insane. They are never to be underestimated. In middle school, I made the mistake of underestimating the power of these skinny jean clad monsters. I thought I was safe, I thought myself impervious to their cruelty. I watched them do on to others as they would later do on to me, and felt no fear.
I was a fool however, for teenage girls pick their targets by familiarity. They are less likely to torment someone small and insignificant and more likely to viciously turn on their friends. Preferably the weakest link in their group, prey who is easy for them to catch and take down.
I was the weakest link. I was the wounded gazelle. And thus, I became their target.
It was eerie because, when my eventual demise began, I had no idea what was going on. Yes it was slightly fishy that they had stopped calling me, stopped saying hi to me in the hallway, but I assumed it was just nothing.Again, I was wrong.Once the period of silence came to a close, all hell broke loose. Vicious rumors began spreading around and dirty looks and foul words were thrown my way in the hall. I was forced off the lunch table and into social leprosy.Exactly a week after phase two (social alienation) had began I received an email from the ringleader of the group. I opened it up to reveal a headline that bluntly stated, “Fifty Reason Why We Can’t Be Friends With You.” Underneath the headline, as promised, were neatly fifty reasons, ranging from my body to my personality to my clothes, that clearly stated the reason for my alienation.I felt sick. But I wasn’t going to let them get me. Those hyenas didn’t deserve my tears. I deleted the note, picked up the pieces and moved on. I found friends who were kind and accepting. Friends who wouldn’t devour their own. My experience, while evidently not ideal, is something I would not change. I don’t see it as a stain upon the fabric of my life, but more like an embellishment. A decorative brooch I wear with pride, a brooch that cries, I overcame bullying, so can you.

If bullying takes the shape of sexual harassment both in person and on sexts, this app can literally be a life saver. http://sendthisinstead.com Download it onto your teen's phone. This gives him/her options for the kind of "comebacks" that go directly to the harasser, and can stop the harasser in his/her tracks!

Below is an essay from one of my college students, who gave me permission to use it. It is a story to share with your teens, boys or girls!

"I have been a victim of sexual assault. The summer going into my senior year of high school, I met my now ex-boyfriend. We met at a football game and he seemed to be the right balance for me. He was caring but also protective. As the months progressed with us, things seemed to get more serious and he went off to college. A couple of months into dating he wanted to take things further sexually, but I was not ready for that. I tried pushing him off, but it was to no avail. I could not find my voice; I was essentially voiceless. he knew I did not consent but yet he continued anyway. I felt lost and partially like it was my fault. Why did I deserve this? What did I do to deserve this? I left his room to sit on the stairs feeling hopeless. Time passed and he came out to see what was wrong. After a couple of moments of me ignoring him, he got aggressive pulling me up and back to his room. Once we got there, he threw me onto the bed, very annoyed with my behavior. From that moment I knew something was off. Things went badly from there. He tried forcing sexual behavior again, but this time without a condom, something I would not let him do. This made him VERY angry, essentially ignoring me. As the time passed, I knew I was in a very abusive relationship and I needed to get out. I ended it. From then I have seen therapists and have been working on myself, knowing that no one deserves that type of pain."

Imagine if this was your daughter, and she came to you for help. I'm guessing that all the protective energy that we as parents would feel at this boy would turn into action. 'I'm calling the police, I'm calling his parents!" Your teen knows this would be your loving reaction, and so that is why many teens do not share these kinds of incidents with their parents, either about sexual assault or harassment, or bullying. What they need is empathy, support and working together to come up with a plan that feels right to them. This is an important story to read with your teens. As a daughter you want to let you girls know that if they can come to you before things move into a crisis, you promise to just be there for them and work through this scary time, and not move into parent action mode. This will feel enormously comforting to them. And if you have a son, you know how important it is to help them to understand how this young girl felt and how threatened and unsafe she felt. Though you may feel you have raised a great kid, you just never know what buttons get pushed in an intimate sexual situation, especially where there might be alcohol or drugs in the mix. Just saying "women need to be respected and no means no" is not enough. An "i get you might be with a girl sometime and you are aroused and thought you got the go ahead, and then she changes her mind, how can you deal with that."

Here is an app that all kids should have on their phone. It allows you to push one button, and the 6 people you have chosen to connect with in an emergency are contacted immediately. If this young woman had this she might have been able to connect with her friends and you to come and get her!
https://www.circleof6app.com

Parents often have their heads in the sand. These things would NEVER happen to my kids. They know better, they have wonderful friends, they know how to take care of themselves...and on and on. This may all be true in the abstract. But in the actually situation, when emotions are running high, and sexual feelings are aroused, and alcohol and drugs are present, all bets are off. It is your job to anticipate and to help your teens to be as prepared as they can be to stay safe.

Please share this with your friends via Facebook or twitter This is information every parent should have. For parent coaching, hosting an Ask The Expert Party, or inviting me to speak at your child's school, at your business or community organization, visit my website: joanigeltman.com, contact me at joani@joanigeltman.com or call: 781-910-1770

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Trials and Tribulations Of Summer Planning

We're coming into the summer countdown. 30 days and counting!"Idle minds are the devils playground." No truer quote applies when thinking about teens and summer. If you haven't yet gotten into the summer mindset, here is your wake-up call! Everybody needs down time, but 10 weeks of down time for teens can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e, especially if you are a working parent. If you anticipate leaving your house for work at 8 AM with your sleeping teen snug as a bug in a rug, thinking that all is well, get you head out of the sand. The devil will be over to visit.

Regardless of good intentions, too much time = too much potential for temptation. We're talking sex, drugs/alcohol and general mischief. Once boredom sets in, which it always does after the initial bliss of no structure, look out. The planning should start now. If you have a younger teen, 13-15, this is a bit harder. They are too old for day camp, too young for most jobs, and too inexperienced or  not motivated to find something on their own. Many older teens are unmotivated as well, or lack the confidence to find something on their own. So the first thing is to have realistic expectations of how much your teen will do independently to make something happen. Your job is to make your expectations clear, that is step #1. "I get you are looking forward to the summer, and having free time to hang with friends. We want you to have time for that too, but it's also important for you to have other things going on for you as well, either  a job, or a volunteer/educational/internship experience, or camp, something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. How would you like to go about this? What kind of help do you need from us?. Here is the deal, the question isn't, do you want to do something or not? but what is it you would like to do?"

This can be a slow, painful process, as mostly you will get a lot of "I don't knows." If you have some extra money, there are many great programs that cater to particular interests of teens. If they want a job, expecting that they will have any idea of how to go about looking for one is unrealistic. Do this together, making a list of the kinds of places that are of interest to them, and then drive them around to pick up applications, and sit with them as they fill them out. If you just say to your teen, go get some applications, and have you filled our those applications probably not much will happen. I worked in a work/study program for 14 years with teens, and rarely did I find a teen who felt confident enough to follow through on expectations. What looks like laziness is actually low-self esteem.

It is important to let them know that if there don't seem to be any jobs, and volunteering or interning is the fallback, that you will provide them with some kind of stipend. But, and this is important, if they choose to be idle, and do neither, then you will choose  not to provide them with any summer spending money. Sitting around with both nothing to do and no money is not fun, and will get old really really fast. So provide incentive and reward for those idle minds, and keep that devil at bay.

Contact me for parent coaching services or to present to your school, business, or community organization. joani@joanigeltman.com 781-910-1770

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Daughter's Lessons:The Journey From Childhood To Adulthood

When our kids are young we give them the freedom to explore, to be curious, and to make mistakes. We give them room to tantrum, to cry, and to leap with crazy joy and enthusiasm. Then the teenage years hit with a BOOM. We feel their biological age ticking, the need to get it right, and not sabotage their future. We worry that their mistakes and missteps might make it harder for them to be successful as adults.

I spend a lot of my time when I do parent coaching helping parents to relax, to calm down, to feel confident that though their teen may be worrying them now, that they will inevitably be absolutely fine in the future. I hope to give parents the confidence that the work they have already done as parents, from the birth of their child to the present, is all inside their kids, ready to be called upon when the time comes as they move into adulthood. Yes, things might look scary now, but they will grow up, mature, experience life, and find themselves. Adolescence is all about the journey of finding a personal identity. It's about trial and error, what feels right. Teens show the world what they think the world wants to see, and often keep to themselves the part that feels the most authentic, real and vulnerable until they have the confidence to say, hey world here I am!!! It's all part of the process!!

I too am a parent. Although my daughter is considerably older than your kids. She is 34. And now I get a bit personal. Below you will find a link to a personal essay she wrote that was just published in InStyle Magazine. I share this with you because what she wrote and the personal but universal truths she describes, I think, will help you understand the journey from childhood to adulthood. Of course I am Kvelling (Yiddish for the most extreme pride one feel for one's child), but more importantly, my daughter has taught me so much, and this essay I think has something to teach us all. Life is a process, and in Ari's words: "No one can see you until you see yourself." I hope you might choose to also share this with your teen. Not only do you often feel stuck and scared about what lies ahead for them, but they of course feel that as well. The future for you and for your kids is not preordained. There are many life experiences ahead, things that will change them, and will change you. I know at 65 I never in a million years expected to be sitting here as a writer/blogger/parenting expert and an author with a daughter who is an actor and writer. That is the most exciting part of life, that we don't know what's ahead, and that life can shift and change in a moment. And we learn and grow from all of it. Enjoy it!!!!
http://www.instyle.com/celebrity/ari-graynor-essay

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lessons From The Death Of A Penn State Student

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.

Here is the link.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/us/penn-state-fraternity-death-timothy-piazza.html

 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




Thursday, May 4, 2017

17 Questions Why!

h   When my book was first published, I was asked by my publisher to answer these question to use while publicizing my book.  I forgot I had done this, and when I saw it today I thought hmm I think this will be helpful to my readers. So grab a cup of coffee, it's a bit long but worth the read!



1. What are the most challenging part to parenting a teenager?

For most parents, trying to understand why their teen does so many “stupid” things, makes so many “stupid” decisions, and doesn’t want to listen to their advice gained from so many years of experience is crazy making! Without understanding what drives their teen’s behavior, parents just go from one crisis to the next, throwing around consequences and punishments hoping that something they do will stick and change their teen’s terrifying ways. But alas, just saying don’t do it or you better not, and then grounding them when they do, does not change behavior. Many parents of teens feel an enormous loss of control. “Because I said so” is no longer an effective parenting tool. You cannot parent a teenager the same way you parent a younger child. It is this redefining of parenting style that most parents of teens are unprepared for.

22. Which subjects freak parents out the most – discussing sex, alcohol and drugs, social media, school, or issues like depression?

I think the issues like drugs/sex/social media are front and center because parents are forced to deal with them on a daily basis. They are “in your face” kind of issues. Many many teens are dealing with depression and anxiety these days, but they are good at masking them with…. drugs/alcohol/sex and social networking. Parents then are dealing with symptoms of possible depression and anxiety, doing too much of all those other things which are avoidance behaviors. Also parents worry that drugs/alcohol/sex and social networking will negatively impact their kid’s success in school. PS, it will!

3   3. What can parents of pre-teens do to prepare for what will be required of them, as parents, to help and control their children that will turn into teenagers?

 Take the blinders off. Many parents assume that because their kids were easy and obedient during the elementary school years that they will dodge a bullet heading into the teen years. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard; “ I never imagined that MY kid would ever…”from parents of newly minted teens doing the things teens do. As ALL teens enter adolescence they are faced with an amazing number of “firsts” for which they have absolutely no experience. They have a new brain and new body to boot; so all bets are off thinking just because their kids were easy, they will continue on that path. When you can anticipate rather than be surprised by some of the normal teen behavior there is more opportunity to use thoughtful strategy rather than be reactive, and in crisis mode.


4. Doesn’t every stage of parenting present hurdles and roadblocks? What’s so different about the teen years?

Teen brains are experiencing enormous growth. This means that they are literally seeing the world through a new lens. Additionally in adolescence, the emotional part of the teen brain is in higher activation than their thinking brain, which is completely opposite from the way an adult brain functions. This means teen behavior is driven by emotion and impulse rather than by the rational and the thoughtful. Except for the first 18 months of life, there is no other time in life when there is such extreme brain change. It’s biology baby! For parents this is scary because just as their teen’s brain sees the “awesomeness” of it all, they are exposed to experiences that carry tremendous risk.

5. Let’s discuss real-life issues.  How do you advise parents of teenagers who are being bullied online?

The first issue is availability. Teens can be gluttons for punishment. Get them off the sites and apps where bulling occurs and block the kids who are taunting them from those sites. If a bully doesn’t have access to his/her victim than that can take all the fun out of bullying. But in order for that to happen parents have got to be on top of what apps and sites their kids are on in the first place. Many parents stay way to hands-off with their kids phones and computers. Monitoring a teen’s phone and computer use is a necessary evil. There may always be some trash taking between teens, but when the line is crossed by threats and serious emotional abuse, transcripts should be presented to school administrators.  

7    6. How should a parent talk to their child about sex, sexting, and dating?

With understanding and honesty. Parents should really try to stay off the lecture circuit. Telling teens how they should behave will fall mostly on deaf ears. Saying: “ I get you are going to be interested in sex. I know I’ll have to get used to thinking about you in this new way. I know you will be in situations that you have never been in before with boys/girls. I also know kids talk to each other in very sexy language, and I’m guessing that can be pretty fun, but it can also get you into real trouble. Here are some of the things I do not want to see on your phone or computer.” Parents should say all those “dirty” words they do not want on their kids phone. Saying “inappropriate language” just won’t cut it. Kids need to hear what “suck my dick” sounds like out loud!.

7.  What can a parent do to keep the lines of communication flowing with their teenager, to ensure honesty, openness, and forthrightness?

The biggest barriers to open communication are words that criticize and judge. For example when parents see their teen wasting time online and texting when they are supposed to be doing their homework, they are more likely to say: “Stop being so lazy, and get off that damn phone.” Rather than: “ I get how important your friends are to you, and how important it is for you to check in with them, but homework is important too, and we need to find a strategy that gives you time for both.” Now, instead of teens feeling like they have a character flaw, which pushes them into arguing and defense mode, they can work on solving a problem.

9    8. How can parents keep their kids focused on excelling in school and preparing for college?

Contrary to what most parents think, it is not to focus on the grades. Sometimes parents set up unrealistic expectations about the grades they expect from their teens. Starting in middle school parents start saying: “if you want to get into a good college, you better start working hard now.” Talk about getting on the worry train too early. Anxiety inhibits learning. Instead parents should focus on the learning part of school, not the report card. When parents engage with their teen about what they are learning, by reading the same books, and sharing insights; or engage in discussions about subjects their kids are studying; the message given is that being a curious learner is what is valued not the grade. Good grades will happen naturally when the process of learning is valued. And of course provide structure and get them off their phones for 2 hours every night, even if they have no homework!

1   9. Some teens just give off a lousy attitude – defiance, laziness, entitlement – what can a parent do to combat this?



Teens give off that attitude because they could care less about the things that most parents think are important. Teenagers are by nature narcissistic…just temporarily thank god! Friends are #1, chores, cleaning their room, laundry, those don’t even make the list. Every request from a parent to a teen then becomes a power struggle. My best advice is to stop yelling and badgering. When there is a demand from a teen a parent can say: “Is there a question in there?” Or if a teen needs a ride and a chore isn’t done: “I’d be happy to drive you to X’s house, let me know when you’ve emptied the dishwasher and we will be on our way. Attitude should not beget attitude!

          10. What do parents need to understand about what their teen child is going through psychologically and physically?

Puberty absolutely sucks! This wreaks havoc in a teen’s life; too tall, too short, big boobs, no boobs, acne. From the second a teen wakes up in the morning and looks in that mirror, and sees live and in person their perceived inadequacies, the mood for their day is set. One pimple can ruin a day. Because of new brain growth, teens are now hyper-aware of what other people think about them. This self-consciousness can be paralyzing. Unfortunately parents get the worst of it. When teens are with their friends they have to be “all good,” but at home the stress of this new body and brain shows in sullenness, and attitude. The most difficult part of this puberty business is there really is no way of making it better; you just have to wait it out. Parents can’t “make it all better.” For the fix-it parent this is a tough slog.

2  11. What are four typical mistakes or assumptions parents make about their teen children?

 1. Parents think that their teens do not want to spend time with them. WRONG. In a survey I did with teens 9-12th grade, almost all the kids said they wish they could spend more time with their parents. Just don’t do it on a weekend night!
2.     Labeling their teen. Many parents see their teens doing bad things, and label them as bad. Not true!! There is a huge learning curve during the teen years. Part of the process of leaning is making mistakes, and making bad choices. Making these learning opportunities rather than just punishing “bad behavior” is what changes behavior.
3.     Over thinking and over problem solving. Many times teens come to their parents to just vent about a situation they are having trouble with. They aren’t looking for a fix, just a shoulder to lean on. Parents like fixing, and go right to the “here’s what I think you should do…” Teens then react with anger, and “you just don’t understand.” And the lovely moment has gone ugly.
4.     Unrealistic expectation. Not all teens are meant to be honor roll students. Some have strengths in other area that as life goes on will be equally if not more important in the long run of adulthood.


12For blended families or single parents, how much harder is it for the parents to raise teenagers?

Blended families can be extremely stressful during the teen years. It’s hard enough to do the job of “separation/individuation” from your own parents, but then to have to deal with another set of people you don’t know, may not care about, and did not choose to join your life can be unbelievably stressful. For single parents, there is of course the stress of having to do it all, but also the reality of not having another person to share the physical supervision that teens need. Also the relationship between parent and teen can be intense without another adult as a buffer zone.

4
13. What do parents of teen boys need to watch out for vs. parenting teen girls?

Boys are much better at masking emotions than girls. They tend to be more closed-up, especially if the men in their life do not provide a model for using emotional language. Boys face the same issues of body image, social standing, crushes, etc as girls. Girls feel permission to rant and rave about this stuff where boys often keep those feelings of insecurity hidden and may be prone to depression because of them. I am extremely worried about boys and pornography. Because most kids get smartphones in middle school, boys now have easy access to porn away from any prying adult supervision. Research has shown that this early introduction to sometimes violent and misogynistic sex has given boys unbridled permission to sexually harass girls they know. Parents need to be extremely proactive in discussing this issue with their sons.

6   14. How do parents manage a teen’s amount of screen time, not to mention the specific activities or type of content accessed by their children?

First, parents have to stop being afraid that their kids will get mad when they start to set limits on this. Teens will get mad, very mad, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. Iphones, Ipads, Itouch, laptops without supervision equal addiction. Most smartphone companies now offer plans that put parents in the driver seat. Parents should be the only person allowed to download apps, no devices at bedtime and phones should be shutdown during school. There are many social networking apps that are just time sucks. Teens spend hours posting on multiple sites, and responding to other peoples posts. There are too many sites that encourage bullying, and sexting. Teens DO NOT have the controls to be smart and disciplined….yet. It is a set up to expect teens to shut off and shut down on their own.

15. Let’s face it.  Parents cannot monitor everything and don’t have the time or energy to get involved in every aspect of their child’s life.  Should parents just trust their child and give them independence and be free to make mistakes?

Making mistakes is a good thing, when it comes to natural consequences. Not getting up on time for school and getting detention; waiting till the last minute and failing to get a paper or project in on time and getting a bad grade; staying out past curfew and missing out on going out the next weekend; forgetting homework and leaving it at home and getting a zero; these are all things kids should and can be responsible for, and yet these are the things that most parents rescue their kids from, worrying that it will affect their grades or chances to get into honor classes. Monitoring technology until a teen brain has matured enough to manage dangerous impulses is worth that energy. Serious mental heath issues, and legal consequences, these risks are just too steep,


16.  How do parents teach kids about money management when they are in debt or living paycheck to paycheck?

Parents rarely share the nuts and bolts of the family financial situation with their kids. With teenagers, this can be a really useful life lesson. Teens do a lot of magical thinking, and nuts and bolts bring them back to earth. I would sit down monthly with teens and set out the family budget; money in money out. This is a good reality check for teens who think they are entitled to what everyone else has. Where there is a shortfall for things the teen may want or need, than it can become a team problem-solving event. Also equally as important is for a parent to understand that their financial situation is hard for the teen. Teens are very self-conscious and may be embarrassed about their family’s financial situation. Parents should acknowledge, and understand their teen’s perspective, but never apologize for the family circumstances, life is what it is. 

1    17. What are the rewards to investing time and attention to your child’s well being during their tumultuous teen years?


The most exciting part of raising teen is watching this new person develop, like seeing your baby walk for the first time. They are now capable of seeing all that the world has to offer. They are at the buffet of life, and they will need to try out different offerings to see what is right for them. Everything a parent has taught, and nurtured up till this point is all in the mix, and parents need to trust that. A parent’s greatest gift to this emerging adult is to let go of their own expectations of what they want their teen to become, and let their teen become who he/she is meant to become.

Why not share these with a friend!!