Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Plan For Summer Planning

We're coming into the summer countdown!"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, then 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 or phones to keep up their snap streaks. Being on their phone day and night or 24/7 fortnite is not gonna happen without some kind of engagement in something! Sitting around with both nothing to do, no phone, no video games, 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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

It's Prom Season!!! Be Prepared!!

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 and drug 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/drug 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. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Must See Video About Juuling

How is this happening? I thought your kids had dodged the bullet with the whole smoking issue that plagued my generation. We all worked so hard to teach the next generation of the ills of smoking and it worked!!!! Just like teaching a new generation to wear seatbelts and that worked!!! Now we have to work really hard again to teach our kids that vaping and juuling is bad!!!

This is a really really tough one. No smelling cigarette breath or smokey clothes. No hidden packs of cigs in their coats or backpacks. This juul thing is a tiny, harmless looking piece of hardware that looks like a zip drive which you may think holds your kids final project for chemistry!

This is going to have to be one of these conversations that you have to have regularly with your teen, ignoring the eye-rolling and sarcastic grunts and annoyance that will be directed towards you.
Did you know that kids are ordering their juuls and vape pens on Amazon and then having them  delivered to the Amazon lockers at Whole Foods away from parents prying eyes! Oh yes they are!!!

You may have to monitor how your teens are spending their money. These smoking devices don't come cheap. Someone has to pay for them. Beware of giving your kids cash, get them a debit card and if it seems like they are going through a lot of cash withdrawals start asking for receipts and limit the amount of cash they can withdraw.

The conversations you have with your teen must always start with" I Love You and this julling and vaping thing is scaring the hell out of me!!! I know you don't think it's dangerous, and the fruit taste and vape is cool but honey this is massively addictive!! (see video) I get many of your friends may already be addicted, and who knows maybe you are too, please please let us help you to strategize how to be with your friends and choose not to take a hit. I get that that will be really hard. But lets' work on it together."

You must watch this video with your teen. The story of this young man is compelling and I think in the short term they will be interested. But this is going to be one of those conversations that happens over and over again. The bug you put in their ear about this has to be constant so that when they are in situations when juuling and vaping is present they will hear your very loud voice in their head. It's the only way!!!

If you have friends with teens, chances are they have tried juuling and vaping, please share this blog and help them help their kids!!
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/vaping-cost-one-teen-his-health-and-dreams/

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What Can You Expect From Your Graduating Senior

What should you expect from your graduating senior before they are off to college?NOTHING!!!! No really, I mean nothing! Here you are, feeling all warm and fuzzy with graduation approaching. 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  almost graduate did before this pending graduation, now seems sweeter and memorable.

OK, so maybe that only lasts a few days. Because, the expectation that your now almost 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 will be giving him/her?  Where are the thank you notes for the generous gifts that will be given by the cast of thousands that will come to your graduation party and includes their friend's parents, your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else who has ever known them. Suddenly, your  almost 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 these next four 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 in these coming months 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!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Do As I Say Not As I Do!

If you want your teen to do something, anything, then do it yourself. I am not talking here about cleaning their room, or resistance to emptying the dishwasher. I am talking about all those things you tell your teen to do or not to do like drink and drive, text/talk on your phone and drive, get out and get some exercise, read a book for fun, do some community service, mow the lawn etc etc etc.

Yesterday while driving on a major highway I was tailgated by a an enormous Hummer, driven by a  person anxious to get around me. I was already going 70 mph by the way. After I pulled over to the next lane, I readied myself to give this person a dirty look as they passed me and what I saw floored me. In the passenger seat was a teenaged girl texting away, but in the drivers seat was her mom, elbows on the steering wheel, head down, texting furiously away on her cellphone driving at least 80 mph!! I was aghast. Forget about giving a dirty look, I wanted to call the police, the highway patrol, Child Protective Services. The danger this mom was putting all of us in and especially her own child was mind boggling. What on earth could be that important!! This teen, probably only months away from getting her learner's permit, is learning a valuable lesson. Texting and driving....no problem, just learn to drive with your elbows. This trick not included in conventional driving schools, only at selected mom and pop locations.

If you don't want your teen to text/talk on their cell phone while driving, then start with not doing it yourself, at least when your kids are in the car. Don't wait for your kids to be teens before you start modeling this very important and safety enhancing behavior. If your kids grow up with you driving and talking and texting while they are in the car with you, that will become their norm of how one drives a car. I am sure at nursery schools everywhere,  3 year olds are sitting in their little play cars holding plastic phones to their ears as they pretend to be mommy or daddy driving the car. Get the picture! Be deliberate about this. Say to your kids/teens when you all are in the car, "hey honey can you make sure my phone is off, I don't want to be distracted by the phone while I am driving." You need them to hear you take this intentional step for safety.

No drinking and driving. This is another popular missive given to teens everywhere by parents worried about their teens safety as they hit the roads with their friends on weekend nights. Yet at dinner out with the family at restaurants, at friends homes, or at parties, teens watch you throw a few back before you get in the car to drive everyone home. If you don't want your teen to drink and drive, then show them. At dinner, say to yourself or your partner, out loud, and in front of your kids: "who's/I'm the designated driver tonight, and whoever that is waits for their glass of Chardonney until they are safely home.

If you worry your teen never gets off the phone/computer/video game/TV,  do a self-check. Do you? Do they ever see you cozied up on the couch with a blanket and a book, TV off, phone off and charging in another room, computer screen blank. Creating an image of what it looks like for someone to just be...is a powerful one.

Do you bug your kids to do chores, as they watch a myriad of hired helpers do most of the work in your house: house cleaners, landscapers, snow plowers, handymen, peapod. Just saying.....

Do you strongly suggest to your teens to get on the community service train? It looks good on college apps, and will make you a better person. Do they see you do more than write a check to support your favorite charity?

Children learn best not by telling them what to do, but by showing them. You are the most powerful model in their life. If you want them to lead a safe, productive, full and loving life, show them how it's done.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What To Do With A Sneaky Teen

I got a wonderful e-mail recently from a parent who is struggling with "sneakiness" from her teenage son. Do I hear a chorus of "me too". This is a classic parent-teen struggle. You work hard to set reasonable rules, and your teen works just as hard to wrangle him/herself around them. Here is what this parent wrote: "I believe he senses me becoming "paranoid" and questioning things because I don't trust...and he then becomes sneakier. How do I break that cycle and how do you convey confidence and trust when they have broken that trust?"

Let's play this out. You make a rule. This mom had a rule about no food in the basement. She goes down the basement and finds cans and wrappers stashed behind furniture. This a relatively minor infraction but a great example of how these small things build up, create niggles of doubt, until full out distrust and paranoia develop. Fill in the blank here with the smaller rule breakers that your teen challenges you with. 

Here is your "I Get It" moment: "Hey honey, I just found (fill in the blank) wrappers and cans in the basement. Clearly you think this is a rule worth breaking. Give me an alternative. I'd rather we come up with something together, that we both can agree on, rather than you disagreeing with something and sneaking around to do what you want anyway." The work is always to encourage truth-telling. When you include your teen in the rule-making, at least you get them to have partial ownership of the problem. Here is how you can do this. Using the above example, 

Your teen will probably say: "its stupid that I can't eat downstairs where I hang out."

Parent says;" What do you think I am worried about when you ..........." 

In this case kid will say: "that I will trash the basement." 

Mom can say: "Yes that's right, so what will you do to assure me you won't trash the basement, and get rid of your trash."

 Now the owness is on the teen to come up with a plan that makes you happy.

Final question from parent: "What will the consequence be if you don't follow through on your plan."

The consequence is in place. If you aren't satisfied with the consequence your teen comes up with, offer one up yourself. Maybe in this case, you are banned from the basement for 24 hours if I find trash down there. 

As your kids get older, they will disagree with you more and more. Your choice is to set your rules, and watch your kids dance around them, or engage them in the process so they feel a part of the process. They want to manage their life, they are driven to manage their life, even if they don't do it well. It's called practice! It is up to you to give them opportunity to practice, by including them in the process. They will screw up. But I think it is less about trust, and more about temptation. Teen''s are impulsive, and don't think things through for very long. They need help in that department. So when you find the beer can in the basement, what you want is use that to open conversation. So rather than getting angry, and going with a "how can you betray my trust like this" You might say" I was surprised to find this beer. I know we don't have any in the house, so either you or one of your friends brought it in. What are you going to do to make me feel OK about being in the basement and sneaking in beer or booze.?" Again, using the words trust can be loaded. Teens are tempted by all the fun stuff teens want to do and try. They need your help to stay safe and trustworthy, not just your anger.  

Have you seem my new short film about the power of understanding:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzpwSYP-Id0&t=11s

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

An Amazing Model For Raising Caring, Loving, Socially Aware and Passionate Kids

This weekend I watched Ethel, a fantastic documentary on HBO about Ethel Kennedy, which was directed by her daughter Rory, a wonderful documentary filmmaker. ( I have seen other films she has done) Anyway, I had many takeaway's from this extraordinary family of 11 children. I hyperventilate just thinking of raising and having that many bodies and personalities all in one household.

First and foremost, Ethel and Bobby Kennedy loved, loved, loved children. I don't just mean that they loved their children, I assume most parents do. I mean they loved children, hanging with them, talking to them, playing with them, eating with them, going away with them, and seeming to prefer their company to anything else in their life. I'm not sure all kids would say that their parents love being with them. I am reminded of a dinner out a restaurant recently. We were with friends at a lovely, grown upish restaurant, on the early side for dinner. Next to us were two tables, one with 5 young children and two nannies, and at the other, the moms, enjoying a glass of wine while the nannies were hanging with the kids. And did I mention it was one of the kid's birthday?????? See this is what I mean about Ethel and Bobby, dinner with the kids was sacred, playing with the kids was a priority. As these now middle aged adults reminisced, they all individually talked about this as an important part of their lives. Though their dad was obviously engaged with important and serious work, and often away from home, he spoke with them regularly and lovingly even during a crisis moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those kids knew without question they were loved and the most important people in their parents lives. I have worked with many families where parents have long work hours or travels regularly for work, or parents are separated or divorced, and was surprised at how infrequently they talked to their children. Teens especially need to feel connection to their parents, even if it seems like they are not at all interested. If you are not the custodial parent, or you work late or travel often, make time every single day to connect with your kids.

Another striking element of this family was how important Ethel and Bobby felt it was to make sure that their kids knew that the privileged life they led was NOT how most families lived. When Bobby Kennedy was doing work on the  Civil Rights Act, the kids went with him(all 11) to the South, so he could show them make them understand what it meant to be discriminated against. When Bobby Kennedy was fighting with Joseph McCarthy in court about blacklisting, Ethel took the kids to sit in that courtroom, day after day, even the young ones, so they could learn and understand discrimination. These parents did not protect their kids from the evils of the world, they exposed them, and taught them what the world had in store for them.

Dinner time was a protected time, and a time for conversation. The kids were expected to read the newspaper and to be up on current events, and be ready to share their opinions at the table. What an exciting dinner table that must have been, 11 children, 2 parents all fighting for the floor! I am always surprised by how little most teens know about the world. Granted they are not much interested, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't help them to stay informed. Watch the national news together, on a real TV not online, read interesting news stories at the dinner table and generate discussion. Stimulate them, excite them about the world they will be joining!

Ethel and Bobby obviously had a unique life, and were part of a legacy passed down from both their families. But the lessons they teach about family are for everyone. Love being with your kids, stay connected even when it's hard, show them that the world is a much bigger place than your community, and teach them that all people should have rights and dignity. You'll be doing a good thing!

Watch my new short film about the power of understanding!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzpwSYP-Id0&t=183s