Thursday, May 28, 2015

Knowing When It's Time To Get A life Outside Of Your Teen's Life

A Zits Comic Home run:

Jeremy is busy writing a journal he was supposed to be keeping for the last 4 months, and is busy writing about what he thought he was doing 4 months ago. To his mom he says:
Jeremy: Mom what was I thinking about around October 13th?
Mom: That was when your van started idling funny and you were worried about that rash on your leg.
Jeremy: perfect, thanks. (Jeremy walks away, leaving mom thinking...)
Mom: Maybe I do need a job outside the home.

Does this feel familiar to you? Do you remember verbatim conversations you had with your teen months ago that seemed too important to forget, and when you remind your teen about that conversation they look at you like you are an alien from another planet,and say "Ma...Dad...Get A Life."  You might hang on every word, remember every detail from the quiz they took in French, what they got, right, what they got wrong, and then remind them of that when the next quiz comes up. Or maybe you remember a fight they had with their "so-called" best friend. You remember every horrible thing that friend said to your daughter, the sobbing on the bed, and the wailing that now she has no friends. You try to remind her of that conversation when yet another fight occurs, and yes, she looks at you like an alien saying, 'nooooo, that never happened before."

Here is the disconnect. Teens live in the moment, and what happens in the moment, stays in the moment. This is why they can let go so fast of events that to parents seem momentously important. Adults live in the future. We look at each present moment as a potential future moment, and therefore have a very hard time letting go.  And because your kids and their lives are the most important thing in your life, and you pay wayyyyy to much attention to every detail of it, you will likely feel very unfulfilled a good deal of the time. Because what's important to you about your teen and his/her life, has ceased to be important to your teen.

So if you find yourself, obsessing about every detail of your teen's life, find something else to do! Your relationship with your teen might depend on it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Teen Is Graduating High School..Sniff, Sniff

What should you expect from your graduating senior the summer before they are off to college?NOTHING!!!! No really, I mean nothing! Here you are, feeling all warm and fuzzy after graduation last weekend. Nostalgic for your little girl or boy, all grown up and off on a new post-high school adventure. You pull out all the old photo albums and gaze longingly at the years that have whizzed by, and try to prepare yourself for life's next stage, having a child move away from home. You find yourself welling up with tears, as you do your son's/daughter's laundry, or pick up the dirty dishes they have left on the floor of their room or in the family room, knowing that in just a few months their room will no longer have that whiff of dirty laundry as you walk by. Everything annoying and maddening your graduate did before graduation, now seems sweeter and memorable.

OK, so maybe that only lasts a few days. Because, the expectation that your now high school graduate will suddenly become equally as nostalgic as you is blown to pieces by the seemingly instant sense of entitlement he/she seems to be exhibiting. Where is the thanks for the wonderful party and gift you gave to him/her?  Where are the thank you notes for the generous gifts given by the cast of thousands that came to your graduation party and includes their friend's parents, your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else who has ever known them. Suddenly, your graduate is nowhere to be found. You are left in the dust, with "bye, won't be home for dinner, maybe sleeping out, don't know when I'll be home!"

You are dumbfounded, thinking that their last summer home will be filled with family dinners, cozy family movie nights, a family vacation,  and shopping trips to Bed Bath and Beyond. If only they would stay home long enough to make some plans. Well, kiss those plans goodbye, because all their nostalgic moments are being saved up for and with their friends. The friends they will be leaving in only a few short months, maybe never to be heard from again, or at least until Thanksgiving. Prepare yourself.  Your graduate will be glued to their friends this summer. They will take top priority over everyone and everything. And if you don't understand the importance of "the last summer before college," your feelings will be hurt over and over again. My advice, don't take it personally. The drama of and the process of saying goodbye to high school friends takes a good two months. Of course they will miss you too, but you never really go away, and truly, many of their friends will. How many of you still have close relationships with high school friends, that is before facebook brought everyone right back to you.

Your teen's absence this summer will feel like a betrayal. Don't let it become a source of anger between you and your teen. Use "I Get It" conversations to help them to understand what you are feeling by understanding what they are feeling. " I get saying goodbye to your friends is hard. I know how much you will miss them, and probably worry that you won't find anyone as wonderful as (fill in the blank with some real names) I get you want to spend as much time as you can with them this summer, and I want you to do just that. But honey, your old ma/pa is gonna miss you too. I hope that we can find some time together as well before you go. Let's figure out how best to do that"

Your teen is also hiding away a lot of anxiety and worry. Worry that they will not be happy, worry that they will be homesick (yes they really do worry about that even if they aren't saying it), worry about keeping up with all the school work without you around to keep them on task, worry they won't know how to deal with money issues, laundry issues, and all the other millions of things they know they can depend on you for. And you know how your graduate will deal with all this worry? By being a big pain in the ass! They will seem like they are irritated with you, bothered by you and will set up all sorts of fights with you. Don't bite! Rather than looking and feeling like a needy little child, they will behave "as if" they don't need you at all, and will set up all kinds of arguments to prove that point. It's easier to leave angry than sad.

Also your graduating teen may now feel that rules no longer apply to them. After all they are 18 and all grown up. In some ways, they are right. In only a few short months they really will be on their own. So rather than having a bunch of rules this summer that they will flaunt. Take it day by day. Let them know that you "get" that they want to be independent this summer, but you still need to know that they are safe. Set up a system (not rules) so that they can keep you posted and in the loop so that you won't need to be checking up on them. The rules they will resent, but a system seems less controlling. They are teaching you to let go. Let them!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Window Into Your Teen's World

I got a call from a parent the other night saying that while she was cleaning up her teen's room she found a suspicious substance. Hanging up her daughter's discarded clothing choices that lay abandoned on the floor, she noticed a large baggie full of water in the closet. Inside that baggie was another baggie with what looked like melted jello. The mom was wondering what this substance could be. She couldn't bring herself to taste test not knowing how long said substance had been sitting in the closet, and not wanting to send the substance to a drug lab (only kidding) she called me.

My first thought is that it was a melted jello shot (favorite method for kids to ingest alcohol.) Mix copious amounts of vodka into jello, refrigerate, cut into cubes and jiggle away! It may have been that at the end of a party there were leftovers, and the teens decided that rather than throw away this delicious treat, they would divvy up the spoils, pack them in ice to prevent melting and go on their way. I'm guessing this teen hid it in her closet to save for a rainy day, and then completely forgot about it.

Obviously the first step here is to show the teen what you have found, and ask her/him to identify the substance. I can predict that most teens, even when there is some evidence presented will go directly into denial mode, as in "wow, I don't know what that is, I don't know where it came from." Claiming ignorance is a much safer strategy. In this case, the parent needs to put out her suspicion without sarcasm and judgement. " You know honey, I think this is a melted jello shot" The teen will probably be shocked that you even know what that is! Teen will probably say "it belonged to a friend, someone left it in her room, yadayadayada."

Honestly, at this point, the good news is that the parent found it, and this can lead to discussion on the danger of jello shots, which is really the point!!! Many teens don't see this form of alcohol ingestion as dangerous, after all its jello! but each one of those jello treats can hold 1 ounce of booze, and if you pop a bunch of those sweet treats quickly, you can have dangerous levels of alcohol in your system before you know it.

Cleaning your teen's room  can sometimes provide wonderful opportunities for discussion. You don't even need to snoop, just doing a cursory clean is a window into your teen's life. Is your teen's room full of discarded clean clothes? Rather than getting angry and yelling at them about a lack of respect for their clothing, you might start a discussion like this: " When I was straightening up this morning I noticed how many clothing options you rejected. It must be really hard sometimes to feel like you look OK." What a great conversation you might have about self-image. Because that is what is really going on, teens are trying on options, which is another way of saying they are trying on personas. Who am I today??

Or maybe you find discarded homework papers, or alot of disorganization with school stuff. Rather than being critical and saying "no wonder you can't get any homework done, your desk is a mess! You might say: " When I was straightening up this morning, I noticed alot of school stuff laying around. I know it's hard sometimes to keep everything organized, your days are really full, how can I help?"

Or perhaps you find some scary stuff, drugs, pipes, booze. Now at least you know and you can address the problem.

Cleaning your teen's room is window into their world. If you treat their room as their private domain, you may be missing some really important clues into their life. Sometimes your teen is going through things they can't articulate or are afraid to tell you about. Initiating conversation, and I emphasize conversation and NOT INTERROGATION lets your teen know that you care about them and are looking out for them.

When my daughter was a teen, her life was extremely busy, often not getting home from school until 5 or 6. Dinner, homework, outfit decisions for the next day, and staying in touch with friends pretty much took up her whole night. Usually once a week I would tackle her room, hanging up clothes, pile up books etc. When she went up to her room after a long day, saw her comfy bed made, a floor with no clothes,and a desk she could work, she was always grateful. When you do something for your teen that shows understanding for their life and how hard it can be sometimes, you are giving them the best gift ever!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Don't Tell Anyone......Promise???

Remember those days when you were a teen and you and your friends made "talking behind another friend's back an art form. You pinky swore, you promised complete confidentiality, and god forbid when the word got out about what you said, you could always deny, deny, deny. You were clean, no proof, no record of that conversation, someone just made it up, after all you would never talk behind your friends back!!! She's your best friend!!!

Well those were the olden days of yore. Nowadays, the gossip is not only a text away, but it's also a screen shot away from being caught. So teens will send private messages on Facebook, instagram, twitter or just write a plain old text to their "best friend." The "best friend" just covering her/his ass takes a screenshot of the "I'm only telling you this" text/message for that, just in case moment, when some drama in a friendship requires payback. And that payback is in the form of the previous screenshoted confidential, promise you won't tell X what I just said! ready for pubic consumption.

Oy!!! I have had many calls about this dilemma from parents recently. Their teen, either the gossiper caught in his/her web of talking behind someone's back, or the teen who has been gossiped about and now feels angry, hurt, humiliated, and betrayed. ( even though a few weeks previous they were also called on some "private gossip.") Honestly, the whole thing makes my head spin. What can you do? You can warn your teens to gossip in person, not on their smartphone. Let them know that even though they "trust" their friends till the ends of the earth, shit happens. When teens feel betrayed, excluded, and hurt, they want to lash out and hurt the person who hurt them. You can't stop the gossip, but you can teach your teen to watch his/her own back. A good friend is only a good friend until they aren't!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

OH OH New Study Says Teen Binge Drinking Is Up

Because we are heading into heavy duty party season, you need to have some good, serious discussions about the whole drug and alcohol issue as it relates to safety. Just this past weekend a  police were called to a teen party taking place in the woods of a near-by town. As the cops approached, the kids ran!!! One young woman, unaware that the party was close to a cliff, and in the haste of running fell off the cliff and was seriously injured.

Please use this I Get It moment to talk to your teens; "honey, I know now that the weather is warm, and you and your friends have more free time, partying is probably going to be somewhere in your plans. It scares me to think that you might drink too much, and not be aware of how the alcohol can affect you. When you power drink, and do shot after shot, your body just can't tolerate that much alcohol. It can shut down, you could black out, you could trip and fall, you can aspirate on your own vomit, some really ugly things. I need to know that you have a plan to keep yourself safe. I don't want you drinking or doing drugs at all, but I know how easy it is to get caught up in the moment. Let's figure this out together. I love you, and I couldn't bear it if something happened to you."

Also be aware that phone apps make gathering hundreds of teens together to party happen in a matter of seconds, one tweet and the word is out. An app like yikyak is an uber party tool. If your teen has the app and it is open on their phone, anyone within 10 miles who also has the app open can notify or be notified of some rad party happening "in the hood." You do not have to know the person, or be  a follower of the person. Total strangers can show up as long as they have the app,and are in the area when someone posts, "hey party at 67 Main st!. Also with live streaming apps like periscope, your teen and their party behavior can be broadcast live to hundreds/thousands of people on that app. Maybe even their soccer coach who has strict rules about partying behavior and drinking. Good bye varsity soccer. These are things you need to talk about with your kids. Have them download this app  http://www.circleof6app.com It might literally save their life. Kids chose 6 people (I hope you might be one of them) who with a touch of a button, and GPS locator can come to their aid in a scary situation. Maybe it's a party out of control, maybe with a guy who is pressuring them to do something they don't want to but don't know how to extricate themselves from, it could be anything. It's a great safety tool.

Be prepared for the eye-rolling, disgust and denial. Do not let it deter you. Love is a pretty strong deterrent.
http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2015/05/12/report-binge-drinking-young-people-increasing/GBok6l6H0w2LjGL9IVE86L/story.html

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Teen Age Clone

Why does your assertive, unique, confident eleven year old suddenly turn into a clone of all the other eleven year olds in their class, in your town, in the world? After all, you have worked so hard lo these last eleven years to teach your child to think for themselves, not care what anyone else thinks, and  encourage them to wear/do/read/play/act ways that feel true. And guess what? They follow your advice....until they turned 11 or 12 or 13, then they don't! When they ask to buy an article of clothing, or go to a movie you don't approve of, or want to listen to music that you know is only because "all the other kids are listening to it, " you preach the "be yourself" sermon, which in the past has worked like a charm. But suddenly you get "you just don't understand." You feel rejected, and for the first time feel worried that all the values you have worked so hard to develop in your child have vanished in the blink of an IPHONE.

First let me say...STOP WORRYING!! All those values you have been promoting and modeling have not disappeared, just gone into hibernation for the next 5-7 years. I promise, they are all still there and when they get on the other side of adolescence, and they have had a chance to choose to make them part of who they are, you will be brimming with pride. Choose here is the operative word. Up until this point in their young life they have relied on you to orchestrate their life. You have been their #1, and they have counted on you to watch their back. Now they are literally biologically driven to watch their own back. Their new brain is showing them ALL the possibilities of life, not just the ones YOU choose to share with them. Part of raising a teen is trusting that you have already done a wonderful job, and now it's their time to experience the world as they see it. Think of it like a buffet table. In the past you chose their foods for them, knowing what you think they would like, and not wanting to waste any food. Now, they walk down the buffet line and maybe see the sushi and say: " hey, this looks cool, how come you never let me eat this."And off they go, trying new foods you never dreamed they would like.

So seeing all the possibilities of life is one part of what's driving this change in personality. The other part is the hyper sense of self-consciousness that is ever present especially in early adolescence. There is a constant worry that everyone is looking at them, and judging them. And if they don't wear the right clothes, have the same phone, listen to the same music, talk the same talk, then everyone, and I mean everyone will think they are completely and utterly uncool. This is where the clone-like behavior comes in. Its not about values, and I know it drives you crazy that they are making choices based on what other people think of them. But relax, it is only a moment in time. It is not a character flaw in your child, it is developmentally normal! This new brain of theirs is just realizing that other people think things about them, and feel that if they look/feel/ and think like their peers that all their flaws will be invisible. As they begin to develop a sense of their own identity (when they have traveled down the buffet enough times and tried it all before settling on some favorites), they will have renewed confidence.Come on, I know you drank the kool aid too when you were their age!

But beware, if you take the high road here, and continue to preach the sermon, your teen will feel judged/ criticized and never quite good enough for you. This doesn't mean that you don't have a say, it just means you have to take a circular route to get there, if you want to maintain the relationship you have taken the time to build. So when your tween comes to you with a request that you know is cause "all the other kids..." Here is what you can do. If it is unsafe, or truly inappropriate (like getting a smartphone..don't get me started on this one) you can use this "I get it moment": I get how important this is to you, and I know all your friends have it. And I know that not having it,  will make you feel different from your friends, and I am really sorry about that, I know how that feels, but it just isn't safe and I am willing to take the heat from you to make sure you are safe.

So relax, all is not lost cause they want to look like every other kid on the block. You know they're special and unique and that is all that matters.

PS: If you have bought my book and liked it, I would love it if you would write a review on Amazon. Word of mouth is the best publicity. http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Guide-Parenting-Teens-Drinking/dp/0814433669 scroll to the bottom of review and click on submit a review. THANK YOU

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What's Really On Your Teen's Mind


Tweets from a 15-year-old

"Sometimes when I really like a person I act like I don't like them because I don't know how to express my feelings properly."

"I'm sitting by myself at a party and I'm scared to get up because I don't have anywhere to go and I don't want to wander around alone. "

"It's hard to support your friends who aren't supportive or even pretend to be supportive of you."

Don't you just love this kid? I do. I know this teen and I think she is the honest voice of a generation of teens. From what I can gather about her, she is adorable, smart, has tons of friends, and seems ridiculously confident. But what you see is very often not necessarily reflective of what is going inside a person. And that goes for your teens as well. When they come home from school, or a night out with friends, or a dance or rehearsal or practice, there is a good chance that they are dealing with the kinds of feelings Maude is expressing; insecurity, embarrassment,  and disillusionment. Teens encounter these feelings many times daily. And because the relationships they are now experiencing as teens are new to them, they are obsessed with thinking about them. Learning to deal with intimacy based relationships rather than activity based relationships is a whole new ballgame. The worry is not whether they have someone to "play with," but instead, does this person(s) I'm hanging with like me? What do they think about me?

So when your teen walks in the door with a sour puss expression, it may be that something felt bad in the friend department, and unless they ask, it's probably something they don't want help with. They may need to be a sour puss for the night, and saying "whats wrong with you?" in an accusatory voice, after they have been unresponsive and grumpy towards you, probably won't help.

Read these tweets to your teen.  Maybe it will generate some interesting discussion. Or not!