Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Time For Self-Reflection and Honesty....Me Too!

It's been a while since I've penned a blog. When covid hit, I decided that I could be most useful to parents by offering in-person-ish support through live broadcasts with tips on surviving and yes, even taking some enjoyment in all this forced family time. Since we are still in a pandemic, you can access all those videos by going to my facebook page: Joani geltman parenting expert. There are a lot of them!! You'll get sick of me if you watch all of them, but I do hope you can find some comfort.

Now we are facing a new kind of pandemic. The pandemic of racism. The murders of black men and women has been excruciatingly painful for the black community, and the white community is now finally looking at our complicity that is this toxic culture of systemic racism in our world. I too, have been looking at my own complicity, and some stomach turning ways I have contributed to making specifically my black students to feel marginalized.

I have taken this past month to do the kind of reading and learning I should have been doing since beginning grade school. I always knew the broad outlines of racism, but not the more personal and less obvious ways POC have been made to feel less then. I have a lot to learn, and I have made it a priority to do this. Some of the most meaningful writing I have read is by black students 'real time experiences of living and being schooled amongst white people. I have linked below an amazing article by a young man who was a METCO student in a wealthy white community. I will let him speak for himself.

I have also been extremely moved and humbled by reading a number of instagram groups that have formed to share their experiences as black students in predominately white private and public schools. A few I have read are blackatwellesley, blackatandover, blackattabor.  It is these posts that have made me realize my own lack of awareness. Above is a post from a student who comments on a teacher who kept mistaking her for another black student in the class....repeatedly! As I read that, I felt in the pit of my stomach that "oh my god moment" of I have done this!!! A few years ago, in one of my college classes I had three black young women who often sat together. I am always a bit bumbling in general in my efforts to remember my students names, but I do remember vividly that I often mixed up their names. I always apologized but I feel the shame now of how I must have made those three students feel. I have to do better, I will do better. What I have realized is how much I didn't understand the emotional life and deep hurt POC carry around all the time. Reading these posts from these young people have opened my eyes and help me to firmly commit to myself to learn and understand.

As we all try to figure out how we can do better, one place is to start is with your family. Using the article linked above and these instagram groups would be a great place to start. Read them aloud at family time, share your own experiences where you might have unknowingly said something or done something that might have made a person of color feel less than. Model for your kids that acknowledging is the first step in changing. As you read these posts, ask them if any sound or feel familiar. Have they witnessed someone else doing or saying something or is there something they said or did that might have been disrespectful to a person of color. As we all learn about anti-racism, we must first take the important step of taking responsibility for our own part in it, and commit to ourselves and our community to do better!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Coronavirus Parenting Help: Live and in Person

Hello fellow coronavirus shut-ins!! I hope you are all well. In light of this new world order, I have decided to replace my weekly blogs with facebook live broadcasts. This week I will be broadcasting Wednesday/Thursday/Friday at 4 PM. And then starting next week will broadcast Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is a time for parents to ask questions and get support and info from me. Parents can either email me questions before hand at or ask them in the comments section during the broadcast. We are all in uncharted parenting territory! And I hope to give support and guidance to help you all through it.

You can access the broadcast by putting my name in the facebook search engine and join us live at 4 PM or you can watch it later, by putting my name in the facebook search engine. I will also embed each new link after each broadcast on my blogHere is yesterdays link.

PLEASE let me know what your parenting struggles are. I'm sure that whatever you struggle with, other parents are as well.

Stay well
we will learn and grow together..

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Parenting In The Age Of The Coronavirus

We are in a challenging moment of time. As parents we have a choice to make about how we communicate and protect our children from this very scary and for most of us unprecedented virus. Because most of us have never experienced this type of threat, we have no roadmap on how to care for our children both emotionally and medically.

We all come to the table with our own personality styles. Some of us are laid back, have low anxiety about the things we can't control, and some of us feel the need to control what we can, to manage our own anxiety in order to function. This virus will challenge either style. Laid backers will need to be more directive than they usually are in teaching their children about hygiene and hand washing, and appropriate coughing and sneezing protocol. Their natural go-to, don't worry, it will all be fine, will need some adjustment. Teens by nature think they are invincible and wear a protective armor that nothing bad will happen to them. So they might not be on top of what they need to do to stay safe. They may be resentful, angry and resistant to what they see as trying to be controlled, especially if you have been a more laid back parent. But you will need to model and realistically communicate that this is a time where "it will all work out" needs to move towards, we need to be more active about our own safety.

On the other hand, if you are a person who has a tendency and need to control, and are in a state of high anxiety about your children, you may need to pull back a bit. One thing we don't want our kids to do, is to develop and integrate our fears. Some kids are very cautious and fearful by nature. And for them this can be a terrifying time, feeling the world is going to end, and they will be left alone in it. As a parent with your own big fears, it will be important to understand their anxiety, but also let them know that there are very concrete things we can do to keep us safe. And that we are all here to take care and protect each other.

And again if you have a teen who does not carry a lot of anxiety around with them, they will certainly be extremely resistant if you ask them to give up and not go to places and events that they feel entitled to go. Prepare for a fight. But if you stay calm, and use this I Get It conversation, you may get less resistant. Rather than" You are not going, don't you get how dangerous this virus is. Haven't you heard about the kid that ........Sorry but you are not going!"
Instead say " you know honey, I get how unfair this feels. I know how important and how you were so looking forward to XYZ. But until the experts tell us that these kinds of events are OK and safe, we need to follow their lead. Let's think of an alternative that will be fun and safe."

Neither "Don't worry it will all be fine" or "you are not leaving the house" is useful. There is a middle ground of "this is scary AND we need to take care and still live our lives the best we can.

Stay healthy everyone, AND go enjoy this beautiful day!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

High School Is A Moment In Time

I've been reading the actress/comedian/writer/producer Mindy Kaling's book called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?   It's not only hilarious, but full of great life lessons, albeit funny ones, especially for teens. She captures so brilliantly the hyper-self-consciousness that is a such a presence in a teen's life, and also the drama that teens experience.  You know when your teen experiences a humiliation, betrayal, or exclusion, that it feels to them literally like the end of the world. Here's what Mindy says about that:

"Teenage girls, please don't worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I've noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also a big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it's so wonderfully fair. 
    I just want ambitious teenagers to know it is totally fine to be quiet, observant kids. Besides being a delight to your parents, you will find you have plenty of time later to catch up."

She talks about what it's like being a girl, well because she's a girl, but these life lessons are not gender specific. The high school experience is just a moment a time. It's not only a good lesson for your teens, but it's also a really good lesson for parents. The most important years of your teen's life are yet to come. High school is NOT the defining moment. Your teen might not know that, but you should!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Distracted Driving: Teaching Your Teens Cellphone Safety

This week, Massachusetts finally enacted a hands-free cellphone law. Financial penalties are very stiff, especially for teen drivers under the age of 18. I know for those of you with driving teens, you have already been promoting this message, but unless you have a camera in your teen's car, you have no idea what they do when they are alone in the car. Teens feel invincible! It is a biological function of the  growing teen age brain. In the best of times it helps them to leave the comfort and safety of childhood and take the kinds of risks that teach them how to be independent and successful as they move into adulthood. Being able to stay home alone, develop new passions and interests, do things that are unfamiliar and maybe uncomfortable. These are all good risk taking behavior. Unfortunately there are the bad and scary risk taking behaviors that they believe they can handle: driving and texting, smoking pot and drinking and driving, sexual experimentation and the list goes on.

Whatever state you live in, if you have driving teens you will need to "teach" them how to be phone safe while they are driving. You'll notice I said teach and not tell! Just lecturing about the No No's of driving and texting is ineffective in actually changing behavior.

I wrote this article for The Boston Globe on teaching teens about distracted driving in teens a few years ago, and it certainly stands up to the test of time. In it there are very practical tips on how to help your teens. Enjoy

A few scary statistics to motivate:

More than 3000 teens die every year from texting and driving!
More than 50% of teens admit to texting and driving. Than is 1 our of very 2 teens. That is a lot!!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Secret To Raising Exceptional Kids

I watched a documentary movie this weekend called Who Are The Debolts and Where Did They Get 19 Children? You can find it on netflix or Amazon, and it will give you the secret to parenting and raising exceptional kids. It starts circa 1973. Dorothy and Bob marry, the second marriage for both. Together they have 4 biological children. And then the fun begins. They decide to adopt and adopt and adopt and adopt until they finally have 19 children. I know...seriously! I have an only child! The children they adopt were complicated. Some came from the last airlift out of Vietnam, traumatized both emotionally and physically from war. Some were from Korea, and some from the US. All had special needs. Many had serious physical disabilities. One of their daughters, Karen had no natural limbs, using prosthetics for both her arms and her legs. Other children had polio, or missing limbs and seriously handicapped, others blind. Like I said this is a complicated family. I cried the whole way through. (but in a good way)

What was their secret? Their secret and the gift they gave to their kids was that every single one of them, no matter how disabled, were expected to be their best. Not over and above, and not with pressured expectations, just with the belief that they were "able" to do whatever they set their minds to do. Bob and Dorothy would be there to support, but not cajole, convince or coddle. It's hard even to describe the "ableness" of these disabled kids, because they believed and saw themselves as mobile and as intelligent and as independent and "able" as any non-disabled child. Watching 9 yr old Karen, putting on her prosthetic limbs and then dressing herself was a feat worthy of an Olympic medal. Watching kids manage a grand staircase with crutches and braces on their own is awe inspiring. Watching the absolute love and affection shared among each other, and watching the fun these parents shared with their children support the notion that raising kids who believe in themselves, who want to challenge themselves to become the independent and successful adults we want all our children to become is really quite simple. Allow and encourage your kids to take risks and to challenge their comfort zone, provide support and expectations without pressure, and have fun...lots of fun.

Maybe you see your teen as having a rough time of it. Maybe he/she struggles academically, or socially, or suffers from depression or anxiety. Or maybe your family is in crisis with a divorce or major illness in in the family, and you're worried that your teen is overwhelmed with the family situation.  Do you find yourself having lower expectations of them, worrying about stressing them out? Sometimes kids can internalize these low expectations and begin to think, well if my parents don't push me it must be because they really don't think I can do it, whatever the "it" is.

Or, on the other hand, do you have extremely high expectations, and anything less than almost perfect is not good enough. A number of my college students have described these kinds of expectations from parents. One of my students, having received a B+ on a major paper was devastated, and in tears worried that her father would be mad. He expected her to get all A's.

Sometimes in our effort to help move our children forward, we "over help." When they need to do volunteer work we find it for them, making calls to friends or colleagues that might take them on, or summer jobs we put out all the feelers to make that happen. We edit their papers, give them the topics they should pursue for big projects, or pay them for good grades to help motivate them. The problem with this kind of "help" especially in our current culture of instant gratification, is that our teens never learn to deal with the slog of the actual work it takes to live a life. " I right!!??" The pride kids feel after doing something they didn't think they could do is what drives us to want to challenge ourselves more. Recently I ordered an exercise bicycle from Amazon. It came in a million little pieces. As I laid it all out, I thought, well I'll never know what its like to sit on this bike! But somewhere down deep I said fuck it!!! I can do this.!And an hour later I was pedaling away. "I did it all by myself" and honestly I am still feeling the pride and glow of accomplishment.

I did some research to see how the Debolt kids in this special family fared as adults. All of them were living and working independently, most married with children and in loving relationships. Bob and Dorothy sold the family home in Southern California and retired to Northern California, wishing their  kids well in their successful, and independent lives.

I walked away from this movie with so many life lessons. But also seeing the damage that our present technological culture is reaping onto our children. This was 1973, no computers, or cellphones. Kids were outside in nature, playing and discovering. The house was full of music and art and creativity. Bob and Dorothy took time for each child individually, making each of them feel important and unique. They opened the doors to the world both physically and metaphorically and expected that their kids would master it...and they did.

During this vacation down time, snuggle in with your kids, or just yourself and experience the magic of this family.

Also I'm  booking winter and spring Ask The Expert Parties. Think tupperware parties, only for parenting. Invite a group of parents over to your home, maybe have a little food and wine, and I promise to entertain!! I can do a mini-presentation and then  Q&A or I can tailor the party to your particular interests. Contact me at for more info!

 I am always available for parent coaching by phone. So no matter where you live, I'm only a phone call away. contact me at