Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Prom Proofing Your Teen

I wrote this article for the Boston Globe a few years ago, but it remains timely!! Proms are wonderful, but there are some secrets that might help you make it safer!! Love all the pictures I see on Facebook of this year's crop of prom goers. It makes me pine for my daughters teen years!!!


https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2016/05/08/prom-proofing-your-teen/9cTreAVO7ttNhuzaAp3wrK/story.html

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why Is It Important To You For Your Teen To Get Good Grades?

I just finished watching the 6:30 national news and one of the top stories was a new CDC study the found a  increase in teen suicide. This generation of teens face enormous pressure from social networking and from increased pressure to do and be better from school and parents. With the end of the school year, and exams looming I thought I would share this post I wrote a few years ago. It feels timely!

Why is it important to you for your teen to get good grades? This is a really good question for you to ask yourselves. Because often it is more important to parents than it is to your kids. Is it because you know that they CAN get good grades, and therefore they should? Is it because you were an exceptional student, and a strong academic record is something that you value in yourself and therefore want to see in your kids? Is it because it's nice to be able to say out loud and to the people you know; " My kid is an all-honor student." Is it because you know that the key to a successful life is going to an elite college, and to do that your teen needs to be an exceptional student. Or is it because this is a real goal your teen has stated is important to him/her and not just to please you. These are all very important questions to answer, especially the last one.

Below is an in-depth article in The Atlantic Magazine about the culture of academic excellence at two Palo Alto High Schools that may have inpacted cluster suicides of their high school students. As you might imagine this has thrown this community into overdrive to seek answers to why these teens wanted to die. One of the main premises is that the stress of the community and parents for academic excellence has thrown their teens into high anxiety, depression and hopelessness for their constant need to keep up the competitive edge to make it into the good schools and to have a successful life. My take is that this stress does and can affect students greatly, but that suicide is an extreme reaction for a teen who most likely had many other contributing factors for making this decision. It is a big leap to say that academic stress=suicide.

However I have spent a lot of time reading this article and the comments that hundreds of students wrote in reaction to this article. And what is clear to me is that learning and the curiosity for knowledge, for knowledge sake is missing from many teens lives. The excitement your 3rd grader felt from studying about birds and then going out into your yard beaming from his/hers' ability to label and understand what it meant for this bird to be living in your yard has all but disappeared. That makes me sad. If your teen truly loves calculus and is turned on by equations and loves the challenge of problem sets, then by all means this kid belongs in honors calculus. But if your teen just happens to have an aptitude for math, but takes absolutely no joy in it at all, will never use it again in his/her life, and is just doing it to get into a good college....... well I think you know what I would say to that!

School is obviously so important, and having high expectations for your children is reasonable if they are capable of meeting them. But life is about balance. Is your teen overwhelmed with the need for perfection in school, on the field, on stage, in your home? Is there a recognition of who and what turns this kid on? And most importantly, are there realistic expectations in place so that your teen has a seat at the table to say what it is that is or is not important to him/her?

Many kids blossom when they get to college. They take random courses and find out about passions and interests they never knew they had. They don't have to know-it-all in high school!!! Many many people who are successful in life are not the kids who were the all A students, just look at me, I was a pretty solid C, and I'm pretty damn happy with my life!

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Power Of Parental Controls!

Recently I met with parents of a 15 year old girl who is addicted to her phone, her computer, her tablet...and her apps!! Parents had been noticing a spiraling down of grades, attitude, and spending as little time as possible in their presence. Anything sounding familiar here?  Previous to our meeting, the parents had tried to set limits, but as you all know, once your kids are in addiction mode, this can be unbelievably challenging and fraught with constant conflict and fighting. Not a pleasant home to live in!!!

At my suggestion, the parents signed up and installed Disney Circle, a popular parental control program that helps them assume control over their kids social networking life. Today I got call from these parents, explaining that after they installed this program, their daughter's behavior had deteriorated even further, and the anger and abuse she spew was mind-blowing!! But then the mom went on to explain, that she caved, just spent from all the fighting, she gave back most of what she had taken away, but with a caveat. You have a choice now, do what you need to do, complete all missing assignments, and stay up to date with daily homework, spend more time with the family, and basically be a kinder gentler self, OR we take it all away...again! Pretty tall order. Initially, I groaned when I heard that her daughter's antics had worn these poor parents down and that the lesson she had learned was, being my most terrible self gets me what I want. But....and there is a big but here, the outcome was actually really positive.

The daughter completed all her assignments. The parents know this because the high school she attends has records online for parents on a daily basis from all teachers about missing assignments. So the parents were checking daily and yup, assignments were being completed and handed in on time. Also attitude and time with family improved!! I was really surprised, until I thought for a moment, and here's what I think happened. I think when these parents actually followed through with the parental controls, and the daughter realized in fact, that they were, for the first time completely in control of her use of social networking and phone/computer. Cue rage!!!!This absolute control came as a shock to this kid who had been able to manipulate her parents through her anger. When parents gave in, they actually also acquired a new bargaining tool. And here is the new deal. If and when she chooses to be disrespectful, avoids homework assignments and bails on school work, which is information for which her parents have daily access, goodbye phone, good night text, goodnight snapchat and instagram! And now that she has actually experienced life without connection, she does not want to do it again!! For a teen who sets up everything as a power struggle, she is now being given control over herself and her choices. But now parents have control too, and the kid knows it!

Teens need structure, expectations, and a little bit of control! Parents need to feel that they have the ability to do what they need to do to make sure their kids are their best selves. Parental controls are really the only way to do that. Magically you are given the power to turn on or turn off, control time limits for apps that take up wayyyyy too much time like snap streaking and chat and instagram and group chats.

Try it you'll like it!! Here are some of the popular ones. They cost about $50  a year. Well worth it!!
Disney Circle
Verizon family
Netnanny
Netsanity

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Power Of Understanding Is Very Powerful

Recently I had two personal experiences that reiterated to me the power of understanding and forgiveness. One experience was for me to ask for forgiveness, and the other, looking for someone else to understand me.

I got an email recently from someone in my past. In it she expressed a need for closure on an incident that occurred between the two of us many years ago. Unfortunately, my own memory about the issue was very fuzzy, but really it didn't matter what I did or did not remember because her feelings were very much in the present. I was devastated that something I had done, even though unintentionally, had caused her such pain. I apologized, with respect for what she was feeling, and for my own need to make amends. It is so hard to accept sometimes our own culpability in bringing on pain in people we care about. In fact often we are unaware that something we have said or done has hurt someone. So, when confronted and surprised by someone we have hurt we get defensive, and combative, rather than be apologetic and understanding. In my example, this person had her experience and her feelings, that is a simple truth that I had to acknowledge and respect. Her gift to me was accepting my apology, and thanking me for my lack of defensiveness, and understanding her need to get closure and move on.

People are not perfect. We screw up. We screw up with our friends, our partners, and yes, we screw up with our kids. When you own your mistakes, and apologize to your kids, you show them respect. They will be able to move on. When you get defensive and evasive even when you know it's on you to take responsibility for your actions, your kids become disrespectful, and then feel acutely a double standard of "do as I say, not as I do."

The second experience illustrates this point. I felt a colleague had crossed a professional boundary. I agonized for a week about whether to share my feelings about this incident. But I could see that it was interfering with our relationship,  and that we needed to talk about it. I was expecting a simple "Oh my god, I am so sorry, I didn't even realize, I'm glad you told me so I can do better the next time. "Instead, I got a "face". You know that face, kind of all scrunched up, and disdainful. No apology, no thanks for letting me know, just the feeling that I was the crazy one! Even if I was the crazy one (which by the way I wasn't) giving me that gift of understanding would have cleared it up in a second. Like I said nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes.  How can we change if we don't know what those mistakes are, take responsibility for them and move on.

The power of understanding, and all the "I get It" scripts I feed you in these blogs I hope pave the way to help you accept, respect and move on in your relationships. Truly, it's powerful stuff.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"I Don't Want To Talk To You"

I was giving a seminar the other night, and one of the parent asked me what to do if your teen literally does not talk to you? She described her situation this way: "he walks in the house, goes to the refrigerator or cabinet, takes his food, brings it up to his room, shuts his door...gone for the night. He seems to be doing OK at school, since his grades seem fine when the report card comes in. Where he goes, what he does when he is not home or at sports seems to be a mystery. What can I do?"

OK if you have a teen who has completely shut down, there is a reason, and I am afraid the reason is not just that he/she is an uncommunicative teenager. Many teens don't sit down with their parents in the family room for long chats about life, but there are meals together, or an occasional meet ups in the kitchen. If your teen literally has cut you out of his/her life there is a more serious problem.

My first suggestion is to take stock of your side of the relationship between you and your teen. Last night I was giving a seminar on stress and teens and asked parents to go home, sit down with their teen and say: "I get your life can get pretty stressful, with school stuff, and sports or drama or your job, and I know your friends are important to you and that takes up a lot of room in your life. Is there anything we are doing that is contributing to your stress. What can we do differently to make your life less stressful?"

This can be a go-to discussion for your alienated teen as well. Something has gotten in the way of your relationship, and it is possible that unknowingly you have said or done something that has turned your teen off to you. You must find our what that is, before you can close the chasm. This is a chance for your teen to "give you a report card." It might be hard to hear, but hear it you must. The hardest part of this conversation is not the hearing but the not responding. Your job is to listen.....period. It is not to defend yourself, or over-explain why you parent him/her the way you do. Your gift is your opening yourself up to feedback. As parents we give "feedback" to our teens all the time. "if you would just .....", or "you never...." or "why can't you......?" Now it is their turn. Sometimes as parents we operate on automatic, using our go-to lectures to get our kids to do what we want them to. But guess what, those lectures go in one ear and out the other, and your teens aren't listening anyway.

So if you have a teen who has shut you out. Let him/her know that you miss them, you love them and that you want to figure out what you might be doing that has changed the way they feel about you. You might hear something that hurts, but honesty in a relationship is good. Honesty can sometimes be painful but it can also be a healer.

Maybe your relationship with your teen is good, but this is still a good conversation to have with your teen, cause it can only get better!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What To Do About 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 1, 2018

What To Expect From A 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!