Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can I Just Be Me.....Please??

One of the major tasks of Adolescence is to develop a personal identity; what are my values, my interests, my passions, what are the qualities I look for in friends and lovers, what is my sexual identity, what are my goals? etc.  Part of this process is also to look closely at the people who raised them, and analyze how they are both different and the same from them. I always say that having a teen in the house is like having your own personal therapist. With this new brain of theirs, they are able to really look at you without the cloud of perfection that hovered over you in their childhood. Why the hell do these kids have to grow up?????? They are now free to share with you their thoughts and ideas about you! Unfortunately much of what they share is the stuff we already don't like about ourselves. Having them be so honest can be very uncomfortable. But if you can listen without hurt or defensiveness, you might learn something new and potentially useful about yourself. More importantly it is part of the process of figuring out who they are.

As teens start thinking for themselves, they might start to go down paths that parents aren't comfortable with. I'm not talking about unsafe or risky behavior, but life choices about what they like to do, where they might want to go to college, and ultimately what they want to do with their life. Most parents have dreams for their kids. In healthy families, parents keep those dreams to themselves waiting to see what path their children seem most interested in, even if it means parents giving up their own dreams for their kids. In some families, parent's dreams for their kids is more of a requirement than an option. We call that Identity foreclosure, when the option of choosing one's own identity is taken away from them. The following paragraphs are answers to a question on the midterm exam I gave last week, asking students to choose the identity type that most describes their experience with this process. These students have answered identity foreclosure.

Food for thought:

"My parents forced me to go to all elite catholic schools form kindergarten to college. I  was never allowed to get anything below a B or I would be in serious trouble. I am now not a catholic."

"My parents picked nursing school for me. they said they would only pay for college if I went for nursing. My mom graduated from a nursing program and really wanted me to go."

"My parents control most if not all decisions made in my life. If they think that this is the best decision for my future they will push me toward that path without acknowledging my concerns."

"Everyone in my family is in the medical field and my parents urged me to become a nurse. I was pushed to pursue this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Four Apps That Will Keep Your Daughters Safe

I've been writing a lot about the increase in sexual assaults against young women. Besides talking to your daughters and reading to your daughters the articles I've linked to, and helping them to come up with a strategy to stay safe during a night of partying, here are 4 new phone apps that have been designed with the sole purpose of keeping young women safe. Don't wait till college to get these downloaded on your teen's phone, do it now!!!! Circle of 6 seems like it would be a user-friendly teen friendly app. Add your name to the circle of 6!

OnWatch Lets the user call friends or 911 with two taps. She can set a timer if she’s in a vulnerable situation; if she doesn’t enter her code when the timer goes off, the app alerts the cops ($9.99 a year; onwatchoncampus.com).
Circle of 6 Lets the user easily contact friends for a ride, to check in or to signal an emergency (free; circleof6app.com).
SafeTrek Hold down the “safe button” on the phone; when the button is released, the app dials the police. Cancel the alert with a four-digit pin ($1.99; safetrekapp.com).
My Force One tap sends the phone’s GPS coordinates to a 24/7 live team that contacts authorities ($99 per year with code MYFORCE99; myforce.com).—V.S.S.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alcohol or Pot: Which Would You Rather Your Teen Experiment With?

I know, weird question. Because of course you would say I wouldn't want my teen to use either.  Below is a fascinating article written by a pediatrician, who was asked that question by a parent of one of his teen patients. The research he conducted in order to give this parent a thoughtful response rather than a knee jerk response is quite thought provoking. To summarize in brief. More teens die from alcohol related incidents than from pot. Drunk driving and alcohol poisoning are the two most obvious, and than there are the alcohol fuel sexual assault cases, that are occurring with way too much regularly on college campuses. Below is also an article from the NY Times describing a private Facebook page that a fraternity at Penn State created to post photos of girls who were passed out in the midst of having black-out sex, or in various stages of undress; only for the eyes of fellow Greeks of course! Thank god for a "brother" with a conscience who gave evidence of these heinous acts to the police and the press.

On the other hand, pot pretty harmless in the safety department. Of course there are other things to be worried about pot, including changes in motivation and intellectual capacity, and a gateway to more serious drug use.

So here is my answer. If you have a teen who is a recreational pot user, meaning he/she gets high once a week with friends for a weekend treat, I wouldn't be too worried. If you have a teen who is using pot regularly to deal with anxiety and life, there is cause for worry. Comparatively speaking, I would be worried by a teen who gets totally trashed/drunk once a week with friends for a weekend treat.

And please, talk to your daughters about the dangers of being compromised by alcohol. They are prime targets for sexual assaults, unwanted sex, and set ups for being  humiliated. I am not blaming the victim here, but when a girl is too out of it to protect herself, she leaves herself open to abuse. Please read the Penn State article with your teen, and any others I post, especially if you have kids going off to college. I know "party hearty" is the battle cry for college students everywhere, but they need to be safe and prepared for anything these days!!
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/17/upshot/alcohol-or-marijuana-a-pediatrician-faces-the-question.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article&abt=0002&abg=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/18/us/penn-state-fraternitys-secret-facebook-photos-may-lead-to-criminal-charges.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

High Anxiety-It's College Decision Time


Tis the season.....For all of you who have high school seniors, the college acceptance and rejection season is upon you. You are in high anxiety, and your teen is in higher anxiety. This feels like a defining moment for everyone, even though truly....it is not. Admission to college is a little like a shell game these days. Sometimes kids get into the colleges they did not expect, and sometimes they get rejected from a school they thought was a sure thing.  Sometimes kids get into what they thought was their dream school, and by the end of the first semester they are miserable, disillusioned, and can't wait to transfer somewhere else.

Your first job is to monitor your own emotional temperature, and manage your own expectations. Where your senior gets in or doesn't get in does not define him or her or YOU. It does does not make them a genius or a loser. It is a moment in time. I have seen kids go to the school of their dreams and fail miserably, and I have seen kids go to their bottom of the list choice and end up happy, and very successful. Once the initial shock, excitement, or disappointment wears off, as it does by summer when you are in buying for the dorm mode, all will be forgotten except for the excitement of starting college...any college!  If you are more excited than, or more disappointed then your teen, you need to tone it down. Your teen is not in the business of having to meet or not meet your expectations and dreams for them. They have enough to contend with dealing with their own feelings. Talk to your partner, talk to your mother, talk to your friends, but don't impose your emotional agenda on your child. That will truly be the best gift you can give them for graduation!

What you can do is that will be helpful to your perspective college freshman is validate whatever feelings they are having. You don't need to try to make it all better, or tell them what you think they should do or go, you just need to understand and be in THEIR moment with them. As In: "I get this must be exciting for you, or disappointing for you,or frustrating for you, etc, etc" Remember that your teen lives in the emotional part of their brain. So whatever the outcome of this college decision process is, your teen will feel first, think later. Give them the time to do that. There are alot of factors that weigh in on the college decision, $$, location, course offerings, distance from home, but there is time to think about all those things later. Give your teen the time to process, and sit with the results. Maybe even a few weeks before you even start talking about it. You might say;" I get how hard this decision will be for you, I know you have a lot to think about. I want to give you time to just digest before we have to really get on the decision making stick. I am happy to talk with you anytime, but I want you to know that I respect your need to think on it. Let me know how I can help."

And finally, please respect your teen's privacy when it comes to sharing the acceptances or rejections. Maybe your teen could care less who knows and will give you permission to tell the world. But some kids are VERY sensitive about this whole process and absolutely do not want their business shared with the masses. Case in point: I was at my gym last week and over heard a discussion between two moms who were spin class acquaintances, not best friends. Both were going down their teen's list of where they were accepted or rejected. I wondered why that seemed so important to two women who didn't even know or care about each other's kids. I know parents are proud when their kids get into schools that make them proud. Often I see those parents starting off the conversation, just so someone will ask them about their kids. Try not to get into the " My kids better than your kid" state of mind. All of our kids are wonderful, and where they get in or don't get in will not change that!

This is a wonderful op-ed Frank Bruni wrote for The Times this weekend about this subject:


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-how-to-survive-the-college-admissions-madness.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Message From Your Not Perfect Teen

 Here are the 60 14-18 year olds  I surveyed, with some ideas to help you out when they screw up!


WHEN I SCREWED UP. I WISH MY PARENT (S) HAD:

·      Talked to me about it and not acted like I was the worst thing in the world.
·      Just given me more time to prove myself, and over time show them I’m responsible.
·      Worked together instead of having Dad do everything
·      Talked to me in a calm tone instead of yelling at me.
·      Just said that they knew I could do better, and then let it be for me to fix myself.
·      Just asked instead of jumping to conclusion.
·      Heard me out, and thought of themselves when they were teenagers.
·      Not yelled at me so much.
·      Forgiven me sooner than later.
·      Just asked me what happened instead of just punishing me.
·      Understand that teen’s make mistakes like that.
·      Talked to me like I was 16 not like I was 9
·      Been more understanding and had taken the time to hear my side of the story.
·      Supported me a lot more than they did.
·      Actually talked to me, not yelled or hit me
·      Know how much I wish I didn’t do it.
·      little more control of themselves, and didn’t get so mad with me
·      Accept my point of view and accept my apology and don’t think of me wrong even though they still do.
·      Not yelled at me but talked to me about it, and not make me feel like a failure.
·      Seen where I was coming from and why I said what I said.
·      Not yell at me, but just talked with me and didn’t accuse me of something that’s not true.
·      Helped me a little more rather than punish me after every offense.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Trouble With Yik Yak

Yik Yak may have been a fun, silly song in 1968, but now Yik Yak is another one of those apps on social network that can create havoc. The tag line on the app says: "Get a live feed of what everyone's saying around you." But it is really more like "Get a live feed of what everyone's saying ABOUT you!!!"

Teens love this app. It's anonymous, no profile or identity needed. Just download the app, keep it open and anyone else who has downloaded the app who is within 1 1/2 miles of you (think middle and high school buildings) can read what you post and vice versa. It was developed by two naive college students who thought it would be a fun app for college students who wanted to know what was going on around campus. But if I've learned anything about this new industry, many social networking apps are rarely used the way they were intended. Snap chat, Ask FM, Whisper, Confide and now Yik Yik seem to click into the underbellies of our personality. They take us to the dark side. Protected by anonymity, people un-edited can say anything they want about another person, safe from having to take any personal responsibility. It's the wild wild west of hate!

This article is very informative. This should be one of those apps your teen should not be allowed to download. Look on their phone for the furry buffalo-like animal icon....press delete!
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/technology/popular-yik-yak-app-confers-anonymity-and-delivers-abuse.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sexual Harassment Is NOT Funny

Just this week there were two news stories about our young men that gave me chills...and not in a good way. First story: A Boston University Fraternity sends out an invite for a "Black-Out" party. For those of you who think this means the guys are going to pull down all the shades and have a party in the dark, you would be wrong. No, this is a party where the goal is to get girls to drink too much and "black-out" in hopes of "persuading" these young women to engage in all manner of humiliation and sex. And if you don't believe me and think that these "nice boys" were only kidding, read the article below and see the link they included in their invite to whet the appetite. Do I sound disgusted? You bet I am!!!!! And so should you!

Now if that story wasn't enough, here is the second story: Curt Shilling, a former Red Sox player is a proud father. His daughter was recently accepted to her college of choice. As many proud parents do, he posted his pride on Twitter in a very sweet and loving way. I'm guessing he was expecting congrats and good wishes. Instead he received a barrage of disgusting sexual tweets, men insinuating themselves into sexually humiliating scenarios with his 18 year old daughter! As you might imagine, Curt reacted with a father's wrath. With some sleuthing, Curt was able to track down and publicly identify these perpetrators, and now they have paid the consequences for their bad behavior by getting expelled from college and fired from jobs. Good for Curt!!! Read the stories below, and then we'll talk!
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/02/26/suspends-fraternity-for-demeaning-women-while-sponsoring-blackout-party/MFOz64OKEd6bUY8T0ZCQ7O/story.html

http://www.salon.com/2015/03/03/curt_schilling_goes_after_the_trolls_who_went_after_his_daughter/

OK, what the hell is going on here? This is not "boys will boys" stuff. I have asked a number of men who grew up in pre-Internet times whether humiliating women ever played into their drunken fun as young men. These are guys went to good schools, participated in frats, and loved a good time. But not one of them could recall incidents where the humiliation and the sexual degradation of women was ever ever ever part of their fun. Something majorly significant has changed!

These kinds of stories are now part of the social narrative. Where are boys getting the message that this is OK? I know they are not getting it from their parents. I can't think of any parent who would espouse this as a great way to behave with women. Researches and I agree that it starts with the Internet. Your kids can access the Internet on their smartphones in the privacy of their own rooms, on the bus, in the back seat of carpool, at sleepovers, sports games, eating pizza at the local dive, in the school library "studying" etc etc etc,you catch my drift?  Boys especially are accessing and watching porn at earlier and earlier ages. I heard a story from a parent where her 11 year old son was on a community ski trip. Sitting on the bus with his buddies, one of the boys gets on his phone and finds some very graphic porn to keep them entertained on the 2 hour sojourn to the ski area. I'm guess singing 100 bottles of beer on the wall is no longer bus ride entertainment, but porn...definitely! This 11 year old had never seen this kind of stuff before, and was beyond upset. The other two boys, seemed to be porn veterans.

Remember that the teenage brain is in a great growth spurt, with new kinds of stimuli making new permanent connections in the brain. Imagine that malleable brain being barraged with regular images and verbal commentary that center on the humiliation of women. Connections get made, and the norm of what women like and want gets burned into their little brains, UNLESS it is countered by a different message, shared as regularly and consistently as the porn they can access 24/7.

That would be your job. Make these two news stories, and any other stories that come your way about sexual assaults at colleges and high schools. (that won't be hard, stories galore these days about that) Read them aloud, discuss, and strategize with both your girls and your boys.  What they would do if they were in a situation where they were asked to engage or even just observe this kind of sexual harrassment happening. Understanding that your teen feels vulnerable and might feel uncomfortable to stop it alone, you will need to help them come up with strategies that help them to save face but can also help a friend stay safe!! They can always leave and go to the bathroom, and text you a safe word, that you know to mean help! They can grab two or three other friends, and agree together to stop a situation that is getting out of hand. After all there is safety in numbers. But most importantly they need to hear from you regularly that the degradation and sexual humiliation is NOT what women want. Though the message might get confusing with the book and movie 50 Shades Of Gray being so popular. But try you must!!! if you are a mom who mostly reads my blogs, please, please, please get the men in your life on board with this. Have them read these articles, this blog, and make sure that the message they are giving their boys is that showing respect for women in their sexual life, social life and moral life is of the utmost importance.

OK I've ranted long enough, clearly I am passionate about this, and so worried about our boys for the future. I leave it in your good hands.