Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Teaching Moment For Your Teen About Pot

Most teens think pot is no biggie. And it probably isn't if they are using infrequently as a treat. But for many teens, pot is becoming the high of choice. It mellows you out, you don't throw up from it, and hey it's legal in Colorado so how bad can it be.

Well as it turns out, it's not good. In the developing brain of teens, it changes the way the brain grows. Rather than trotting out your own lecture on why drugs are bad, why not read this article at the dinner table!


http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2014/04/15/casual-marijuana-use-creates-brain-changes-new-report-shows/X1cN8A7h5pOVJkeYkXTXlJ/story.html

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When I Was A Teenager.....

I've been thinking about the the standards parents set for their children as they grow up. I was a very average student in high school, but I surely did not want my daughter to be like me in that regard during her high school years. I wanted her to be better, to have more options, to exceed what I felt was my own mediocrity at the time. PS, I think I am doing fine now!

In my parent coaching lately, I have been struck by the disappointment many parents feel about their teenagers lack of perceived motivation and achievement. Sometimes it's academic, sometimes it's the lack of passion their kids seem to feel for anything significant, and sometimes it's the resentment for the time and effort their teens put into their friends and not their family. When I ask these parents what they were like in high school, they often say, rebellious, angry, social, party animal, disrespectful to their parents... and then we smile at each other. One parent said, she didn't much like her teen these days, and started to cry.

Projection is a defense mechanism we can thank Freud for introducing us to. We often "project" on our children those qualities, memories and characteristics we hate most about ourselves. We sometimes see our children in a light that unconsciously reminds us of that part of ourselves we least like, and then wonder "how did they ever get this way?" Hmmmm

I urged the mom who was feeling so negatively about her teen to tell him she totally understood how he was feeling. She had never really shared honestly with him about her own teen years, which were full of rebelliousness and anger..just like her son. She could see how her own parenting style was mirroring her parents, smothering, and overbearing. She worried that being honest with him might encourage him to throw it back in her face. In fact, just the opposite was true.

Sometimes your teen feels your expectations so keenly and worries that they will fail. So rather than disappointing you and not living up to your expectations, they will just stop trying, and then you can be angry with them rather than disappointed. Anger is a much easier emotion to deal with than disappointment. This mom remembers well how she continued to disappoint her parents, and frankly continues to disappoint her family, not because she isn't successful enough, because she is,  but because she isn't doing what they had expected her to do. She made choices to do what she wanted to do. The message that you are OK being who you are, is so much more loving and accepting than, you need to be how I want you to be. And they will be just fine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Money Matters

Unless you are comfortably wealthy, most parents these days are using up their retirement portfolios, giving up restaurants, vacations, new cars and any other perk that one usually looks forward to in mid-life, to pay for their kids to go to college and have the freedom from debt as they start their young adult life. And most parents I know who do this, do it freely and with love.  It is only when the semester grades start coming in, or the epidemic of changing one's major multiple times, that requires students to take additional courses (read more money) for their interest of the year, that parents start to wonder about the return on their investment. Many students I know are now on the 5 year plan due to flunked classes, need to make up credits or change of heart in what they want to study or do with their life. And because they have not been a part of the financial planning for their college career, and because they live in a fantasy world when it comes to money, and because many parents are afraid to talk money with their kids, they are not taking much responsibility for these decisions. Kids seem to want more, fancy phones, expensive video games, unlimited supply of clothes, and parents work hard to give them more. We aren't doing them any favors. Before they go to college is when they need to learn the meaning of money.

How many of your kids have any idea what their phone bill is, or their computer or cable bill that allows them to order movies on demand without regard to the extra $6.99 that appears on your bill.
How will your teens ever develop an appreciation for what things cost unless you teach them. I am a big advocate whether you are a family of means or a family where you need to count every penny, that you have a monthly date to go over the bills. Let them see just how many movies they did order and what the cost was. How much their portion of their cell phone cost. Dollars and cents, they need the reality. So much of teens lives in this 21st century make it easy to live in lalaland. They can say things without consequence through impersonal devices, they can order things without using the old fashioned greenback, and so it is no surprise that when they go off to college with a car full of new clothes and comforters that it feels magical. They absolutely need to know that college can cost up to $50,000 a year, and that is a sh**load of money.

Start teaching them now. They may not have to pay the bills, but at least let them know that it all costs the real deal...money. Maybe there is a limit on downloads and uploads, and scanning the bills together you develop some budget items. Let them know that mediocrity is not acceptable for college when everyone in the family sacrifices for their ability to go. A little guilt never hurt! And more importantly, obstacle and challenge make the journey to success so much more meaningful.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Preparing For Proms

With Prom night looming, its time to talk about the safety issues of prom night. A parent called me recently with this prom night delemna. Her 15 year old daughter had been invited to a prom. The kids in this group had decided to rent not just a limo, but a party van which seats 20+ kids. The plan was to all go in the party van to a restaurant for dinner, sans adult supervision and then head back on the van to the prom. Sounds like fun!!!! Except the sans adult supervision. Though it is verboten to drink on these party buses, where drivers are trained to make sure kids get on the bus as alcohol free as possible, the stop at the restaurant would be a perfect opportunity for some pre-party alcohol/drug prep. No watchful eyes of limo driver or parents. I'm guessing mulitple visits to the restrooms provide ample opps for quick and dirty booze comsumption.  Not safe!!!! This is drinking at its least safe. With a small increment of time teens will power drink so that they can reach the desired "highness" before re-boarding the bus. This is a prime-time for kids drinking potentially lethal amounts.

Expectations, expectations, expectations. This is night that has been planned for months, down to the most finite detail. Not least of which is how to sneak, hide, and invent new ways to party so the adults won't catch them. A few years ago it was water bottles. Teens, feigning dehydration, brought in their innocent looking water bottles into the prom party. No need to even hide their drinking, it was "just water". It didn't take long for the chaperones to figure out that ploy as kids vomited all over the dance floor, and passed out.

Moving on, last year, a few students ate some brownies, a lovely gift from mom to snack in the limo. Only these brownies may have come from mom's oven, but not mom's recipe, being full of pot. The kids still throwing up on the dance floor, (must have been some pretty strong pot) were sent by ambulance to a local hospital. Let's just say, there will now be no food or drink allowed into the prom. So much work, such creativity, all in the name of getting high.


The message here is that teens are extremely motivated to find new and different methods of partying before the party. I remember a community drug/alcohol committee I served on many years ago. Around prom time, the committee met with the group that included a number of high school students. When asked about a "sober prom" all the students said that kids would almost rather not go to the prom if they couldn't party before fearing they wouldn't have fun if they weren't drunk. That just made me so sad.

There is work to be done here. Below are some tips on helping your teen have a safe prom night:

"I Get It" Opportunities:

  • I am so excited for you.
  • I know how much fun you are going to have.
  • I know there will be some situations that you have never been in before, lets figure out what they might be and put a plan together. 
Prom proofing your home:
  • Lock up all alcohol and prescription drugs
  • You drop off your teen's backpacks and sleepover bags to houses they will be going to either pre-prom or post-prom. (This helps with the hidden contraband kids pack in their backpacks)
  • If kids come to your house to pre-prom. Supervise. This is when a lot of kids try to imbibe since they can't drink in the limos anymore. 
  • If kids come to your house to post-prom, be the keeper of the backpacks and bags. Stay up all night if you are having an all night sleepover. One parent I know made it a requirement that all parents whose kids were coming to her house after the prom had to call her personally to let the parents know the rules of the house. No cars, parents were responsible for picking their kids up in the morning. This guarded against any kids sneaking out and possibly driving to get booze or drive drunk. Any teen caught with alcohol would have to be picked up by the parents immediately. 
  • For those parents who think it's ok to let kids drink in your house to celebrate prom night as long as you take their car keys thinking you are now the "responsible parent" Listen up. First of all it is not your right to make a decision about kids that are not your own to drink. That is every parents right and responsibility to make their own rules and expectations about alcohol and drug use for their own kid. Also just because you are giving them "permission" and may have purchased the booze, don' think that means that kids will drink responsibly. That just means kids are going "yippee" we can get trashed! Getting trashed also means getting sick, passing out, getting alcohol poisoning, falling, tripping, get the picture? Also what happens if one of those kids you have given"pemission" to drink has a medical condition you don't know about, and alcohol exacerbates it and there is a medical crisis. And finally, IT IS ILLEGAL TO GIVE MINORS ALCOHOL.
Prepare and help your teen plan for:
  • Getting in a car with someone who is buzzed.
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Drinking and drugs at a house party
Strategies and scripts for getting out of unsafe situations:
  • Make an "escape plan" using text message code word
Provide scripts:
  • I'm allergic, alcohol makes me sick
  • My boyfriend/girlfriend wouldn't want me to fool around with anyone else
  • My parents drug/alcohol test me
  • Thanks I don't need a ride, I'm going with someone else
  • I feel like crap, I'm going home
If things get out of hand, and a friend is out of control and wants to drive:


  • Get a few friends together and grab the keys from the kid who shouldn't be driving.
  • Text the parent in the house that there is a problem in the basement, or outside
  • Go to the bathroom....for a long time. Text me, and I will meet you around the corner
Proms are fun and are memory makers. Really, don't be scared with everything I just wrote. I just want you to be prepared, and for you to prepare your teen. When you "get" that this night can be full of surprises, and that the awesomeness of it all can make it hard to stay safe, you are being smart. Be excited with your teen, and help them to be safe. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Procrastination...My Old Friend

Zits Cartoon for Apr/04/2014

Oh does this bring back memories. I admit it, I am the queen of procrastination. I avoid, I make deals with myself, I pay ridiculous consequences both figuratively and financially due to my procrastination, and you would think at age 62 I would have worked all this through. I have paid enough money to parking ticket offices in cities all over this country for late payments to have probably bought a new car! This is a tough one!

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Teens and Depression


This last year has been noteworthy for the number of teen suicides. No way to sugar coat this, it is just horribly sad. The three teens who have died in my community shocked everyone. They were the "good teens" the ones with passions and drive and loads of success. Teens who commit suicide are often the kids you least expect to. The ones who can say they are depressed, ask for help and get it, are not the ones who commit suicide. A young comic, Kevin Breel, (see link below) is a young man who has struggled with depression for many years, he is now 20, and no one knew. He describes living a double  life; excellent student, amazing athlete, active in the theater program, had a thousand friends, everyone loved him. And as he describes it, he was a moment away from suicide. His depression was not a result of a bad breakup, or a bad grade, but chemicals in the brain that just couldn't make enough of those feel good chemicals that keep us feeling stable. 

Everyone understands the bad breakup sadness, but depression that is biology based gets short shrift in our culture, but it is the one that has got to be discussed. 

 I have had a number of calls recently from parents worried about their teen, trying to figure out whether their teen is just having growing pains, or is in a real depression. Teens love to dump on their parents, giving them their most angry, their most sad, their most anxious and fearful feelings. This is the good news. Think of it as colic. When the bad stuff gets expelled, then sleep and peace can come...until the next time.

Teens are feeling their feelings in ways they have never experienced them before. The intensity comes from an adolescent brain that is over activated in the area responsible for emotion, and literally from having some of these feelings for the first time. Without experience and a history that would have given them a game plan to deal with these feelings that are overwhelming, they are vulnerable to feeling like they might never go away. The first break-up, a humiliation on a soccer field, or a stage, the embarrassment of doing something or saying something impulsively stupid in front of your peers, the disappointment that someone you like doesn't like you back, the worry that they are disappointing you in some way, or any one of a million other things can feel like a catastrophe.

So your kid comes to you in a rage, in a tantrum, sobbing uncontrollably and you feel helpless. But they are coming to you. Like a sponge, you absorb every drop of emotion. You can't sleep, you can't eat, you live with a pit in your stomach that your kid is in pain. But here is the thing, now that they have dumped it all on you and you have so graciously sopped it all up, they are free to go out and enjoy life again. Rinse and repeat!

When is it time to worry? The dumping is a good sign. The emotion is a good sign. They are working it out.  It may be hard on you, but at least they have an outlet. The worry should start, if they are not talking, isolating themselves, and really seem to have lost the up and down nature of teen life. Up and down is good. Staying down is not, or never getting down are both red flags.  If you see your teen spending increasing amounts of time alone, in their room, avoiding family and friends, you might say something like this: " I have noticed recently that you seem more down than usual. You seem to be spending a lot of alone time in your room away from us and your friends. I get life can be complicated and difficult and sometimes overwhelming, and you might like just getting away from it all. I used to do that to sometimes. But I worry that you are not giving yourself a chance to talk about it. If you don't want to talk to us, I understand, maybe it would be helpful to talk to a counselor. I don't want to bug you, but I love you, and want you to work out what seems to be bothering you. I'll check back in with you in a few days, and we can talk about a plan." You will probably get a "leave me alone!" but don't let that deter you. Keep checking in, and letting them know that you are concerned. Eventually, you may just have to make an appointment and make them get in the car.

An conversely, if you have the teen who is almost manic in their ability to manage it all, grades, extra curriculas, friends, etc, make sure you do a check with them as well: " You know honey, you always look like you are so in control of your life, you put a lot of pressure on yourself, I just want to check in to make sure you're OK with it all." Open the door, let them know that that kind of pressure cooker life can mask other feelings, and you just want to let them know you are available and can handle their down moments. 

Seeing your teen be in pain is the worst. Giving them a safe haven to express it is a gift. I would watch this video with your teens, and open the discussion. It doesn't scare you.

http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_breel_confessions_of_a_depressed_comic

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Saying No Can Have Many Unexpected Outcomes

I read a wonderful editorial this past weekend. (see below) Most parents say NO when their teens make one of their many requests because the requests are either unreasonable, unsafe or because parents are tired, worn out and aren't in the mood to deal. But after reading this article it got me to thinking about the times in my life when I got a NO. And many times, that NO forced me to rethink, readjust expectations, and become more creative. For example, I have a new book coming out in May, (have your heard??)  When I showed what I thought was a finished manuscript to a big time editor of a big time publisher who I had met socially and who graciously offered to read it, I thought I had hit the holy grail. Hey everyone had told me this publishing thing was hard, and first time out I had my book in someone's hands. Initially the feedback was good, but then I got the "I think we'll pass" email, but with some very sage advice. First I had to lick my wounds, I was disappointed, and had to grieve a hit to my ego. But now I can see that this NO is what made book what it is today. It's two years later, and alot of really hard work I didn't think I had in me, but that NO made me see that I did.

Saying NO doesn't have to be punitive. It can be a gateway to growth. This quote says it all:
Amichay identifies three types of “no”: The one that makes us try harder; the one that inspires us to rethink our visions; and finally, the one that moves us into a different direction. 

So one of those times you say NO to your teen, maybe give them that chance to move in another direction. For example, when they come to you with one of their cockamamie, ridiculous, what are you thinking requests; instead of saying NO this is ridiculous, you can say: " Go back rethink, and come back to me with a more reasonable plan, and let's talk. Make them work just a little bit harder, and think just a little bit more, and maybe then they will get their holy grail YES.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2014/03/27/are-millenials-hearing-enough/HPRtqb0oh2eH8Bocjo4chL/story.html