Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Teen Couch Potato Syndrome

Recently I have had a number of coaching sessions with parents concerned with what I call the "missing child syndrome." The teen isn't actually missing missing, but spends so much time closeted off in their bedroom cave watching movies, TV, playing video games or hanging out on any and all social networks sites,  that it begins to feel that it's time to put up a missing child poster.

This becomes the most problematic on the weekends and now that it is summer, when there is an excess of unstructured time, and fewer activities. For younger teens, the pre-drivers, weekends and summer vacation can be quite anxiety provoking. What will I do? Who will I do it with? What if no one wants to do anything with me? There is a transition that occurs for kids in 8th and 9th grade. At this point some of the kids they have been friendly with, may have moved on into having a more active social life that includes meeting up at malls, parks, town centers or basements in co-ed groups. Your teen may have been left behind, not feeling ready or interested in some of the experimentation and activities of these marauding groups of kids. (and amen to that!)  So if their usual posse of friends are now unavailable to them, it leaves them potentially feeling lonely, abandoned and loserish. The computer becomes their weekend date; familiar, comforting, always available, and will always do what they want to do. I get it!!!  Hanging out with the family during this weekend time, only reinforces what they are already feeling, so avoiding you at all cost helps them save face.

Here is how you can help. First of all teens do not do well with planning ahead. That's just the way it is. Mostly its because they really don't know what it is they should do. In elementary school having a "playdate" was a no-brainer. A friend came over, you played games or dolls, or legos or watched a movie. Done! Now there are fewer options, you actually have to talk to each other, and where are you going to go and what are you going to do? So when they do feel bored on a Saturday afternoon and want to do something, the insecurity of calling someone and potentially being rebuffed because the person they want to call probably already has plans becomes a deterrent to calling anyone, and the avoidance helps them save face by thinking, "I just want to veg out by myself anyway."

 Do not at this point lecture them about waiting till the last minute. This just confirms they are a loser.  What you can do is say to your teen, "I have to do X on Saturday, I can drop you and a friend at X while I do my thing, and then pick you up later. Why don't you ask X when you see him/her at camp, your game.... (fill in the blank) and see if they want to go with you?" This accomplishes two goals. The first is that it gives your teen a real plan that they can go to a friend with that isn't at the last minute. Most kids won't have their plans for Saturday yet, and asking them in person, takes away the worry about that potentially rejecting text or phone call. Secondly, you have understood that teens don't do planning well, and since it makes you nauseous to see your teen lying around for 18 hours watching a screen, helping them by offering up a plan takes them out of the bedroom, and out into the world.

This won't last forever. So even if they are home, the good news is at least you know where they are. Soon enough the fight will be, why aren't you ever at home?

Need some coaching..Let's do a phone coaching session; 781-910-1770

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Words Matter-Words Hurt

This has been a hard few months for parents of teens. Too many stories recently that illustrate the power of the written word when it is combined with a teen's impulsivity, need for attention, excessive need to belong, and the perceived freedom that teens feel about posting the outrageous on social media without consequence. This can be a lethal, and unfortunately I am using that word literally, combination. Ask Michelle Carter who was just convicted of involuntary manslaughter when at age 17,  texted her depressed and suicidal  "boyfriend" to  repeatedly kill himself. He did.
Ask the 10  newly accepted Harvard Freshman who are no longer welcome at Harvard, because they started a private Facebook page for accepted freshman titled "Harvard Memes for Horny Bourgeois Teens. The initiation to join this exclusive private group was to post "holocaust jokes, make fun of child abuse, illegal immigrants, pedophilia, Mexicans, people of middle eastern descent and other "funny" things! Add to this mix of "awful" is the recent Penn State frat brother who was left to die because his "brothers" probably didn't want to get in trouble and thought magically that the whole"we made this kid drink to excess and than he fell down the stairs" would just go away, if they didn't call for help. It's discouraging and depressing. Below is an article from a few years ago about two 7th grade girls who kept a journal of the kids they wanted to kill, cause they were mad at them.

These stories thank god are not the norm. BUT many teens do post and text and instagram and group text things that are hurtful. And, because they are not experiencing first hand the effects of these hurtful comments or photos they post, they stay immune to the hurt they can cause. Even "nice kids" post bad things. There are so many teaching moments from the stories above and the story and blog that I wrote below....use them!!! Talk to your teens over and over and over again about this. This is not a one and done conversation. Below you will find some concrete tips.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/19/kill-list-found-triton-regional-middle-school-newbury/mDbMBp0w70usXx3YN0byzI/story.html


The last week of school you'd think would be home free for these two 7th grade girls. But their English teacher collected the journals they had been keeping for the term and actually read them. And in those journals the two girls had created a "kill list" of the kids they hated the most. These two girls were not going to "kill" the kids on this list, but in a cathartic moment of expressing and venting their frustration and anger at those they must have felt slighted from, they made this list, and then more surprising wrote it in the journal their teacher would be reading! There is that teen-age brain for you. Just did not think that one through.

That these girls hated other kids from their middle school is not a shocker. Middle school could be the absolute hardest years of adolescence. So many things are feeling out of control, bodies, brains, relationships, etc it's amazing anyone gets through it unscathed. OK these girls were pissed off and shared their anger. But in this day and age of Newtown, Columbine, and scores of other shootings and most recently of Charleston, you cannot vent publicly about your targeted anger. You WILL be taken seriously. And these two 7th grade girls were taken seriously, which came as a huge shock to the girls and to their families.

Because of the ease of sharing these days, and I would like to say just teens, but many adults find themselves vilified for some "I was just kidding" comments posted on facebook, twitter, instagram, and group texts. This is a teaching moment you must give over and over and over again to your teens. When they are angry and frustrated they are at their weakest moments for control. As a result, that emotional part of their brain is exploding, and they can write and say something that can be damaging to both someone else and as importantly to themselves. Please post the following social networking safety rules in their room where they can see it. They will roll their eyes, they will say it's my room and you can't put anything you want in here, they will bitch and moan till the cows come home, but posted it should be, in many places. It will serve as a reminder about what is safe for social networking posting. Think of it like the signs you see on the sides of buses. You don't actively read them, but somewhere they register in your unconscious and in the moment when you need that random information, you will be able to retrieve it. That's how this works.


Social Networking Safety Net


Can this post be misinterpreted by anyone?


Does this post intentionally hurt someone’s 
feelings?


Does this post give out too much information?


Can any photos or video’s posted of me come back and shoot me in the foot?

Please share this one with your friends!! Sadly, interaction on social networking is probably the thing that your teen spends most of their time doing. Let's make sure they understand the power of words!











Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Power Of The Family Table

Did you know that when families do not share meal times together their teens are 2X more likely to use alcohol regularly and 1 1/2 X's more likely to smoke pot?  Those are some compelling stats.  I meet with many parents who have two or three kids all off in different directions and who have different schedules, coupled with dual career parents who might be traveling or home late from work, way after a normal dinner hour. What's a family to do?

It is a challenge, no doubt. But without scheduled times during the week when parents and kids gather together, we are all ships passing in the night, and conversations and interactions morph into 3 word questions or statements. Parents: "Have you done your (fill in the blank) yet". Teens: " Mom/Dad I need/want (fill in the blank)."

And then parents wonder why their kids never talk to them. Teens do not do well with conversations on the fly. Just because you are in the car with them and you think this is a good time to have a conversation about (fill in the blank) because you have a captive audience, doesn't mean your teen thinks it's a good time. They may be rehashing in their head an encounter they had during the day or maybe about to have with a friend, crush, girlfriend or boyfriend, coach, and your intrusion into their thoughts will be met with silence or attitude. Both of which feel insulting to you because you feel shut out and shut down.

Regular and predictable mealtimes provide moments of spontaneity and connection, not appointment conversations. Conversations about the world, stories about family and friends provide a non-threatening context for addressing subjects indirectly. Telling a story about a party you went to over the weekend and how you couldn't believe how much people drank, could easily move into a conversation about how  people act differently when they are drunk. You gotta have at least one "lampshade" story hanging around.  Or a disagreement with a colleague or boss at work might move into a discussion about controlling or hard to get along with people. Or a discussion about a newsworthy event like the one about the 10 accepted Harvard students whose admissions were rescinded after offensives posts were discovered on an accepted Harvard student Facebook page. This might be an opener to discuss why people post such mean things about other people or groups . Get the picture. But without these kinds of relaxed settings, there are few opportunities for your teens to converse and share ideas about things other than what goes on in their small world of friends and schools. The world is a big place, and and they need to explore it with you, even if the world is your dinner table.

Family meals often require sacrifice. Making commitments and following through on them is an important lesson and model for children to witness. I have worked with families where finding a common night(s) for family dining is akin to getting a reservation at the most popular restaurant in town. Excuses I have heard from parents: "I can never get home before 8, I in a tennis/squash/softball league and I can't let my team down, I have meetings every night, I am very involved with my church/temple/community. Granted this is all important stuff, but so are your kids. Sunday nights are a no brainer. Attendance required by all. No eating in rooms, in front of TV, I don't care if you eat in silence and no one talks or looks at each other. Try for at least one other night. The research shows 5 is magic number, but 2 is better than none. Also if this is something new for your family, have low expectations. Your family may not be used to all being in the room at the same time. Your kids will balk, be sullen, and wonder why they can't take their plate up to their room like they always do? Give them a hug, an "I just like seeing your adorable face", a shoulder shrug, but insist. It might take a while before anyone actually talks. I don't mean minutes, I mean weeks. But be persistence. Come to the table with a story, talk about yourself, or someone you know. When your kids get that this isn't a one shot deal, and this family time, is really gonna happen regularly and consistently, they will begin to join in.

So cook a great meal, get some great takeout, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, who cares what the food is, so instead of making a meal, make some time!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Legacy Of A Dad

I wrote this blog several years ago and thought that as Father's Day approaches, I would share it with you again. It's message is what REALLY counts when our children, as they move into adulthood, think about what really mattered to them and stayed with them from their childhood. I meet with hundreds of parents a year. Parents of young children, and parents of older children. Their worry is pretty universal. Is it too late? Have I screwed up? Have I damaged my kid beyond repair? And I say pretty much across the board...NO! As you will read in this post below. If your kids are raised with love and understanding, all the other sh*t is just that...,momentary sh*t! As your children move into adulthood, it's really the big picture they remember. Not that you grounded them or took their phone away, or yelled at them cause they didn't do their chores, but did you show love and acceptance, and could they come to you for help and understanding. In fact, many of my college students on reflecting on their younger selves say what pains they were to their parents, and now feel badly about the times they were disrespectful or dishonest or bratty. They are so thankful for the unwavering love they felt from their parents.  That's what they remember!

A very dear friend died this past weekend, and today was his memorial service. His two grown daughters spoke at the service with devotion, eloquence, and such abundant love, and I was left thinking about what ultimately are the most important things we give to our children. And that is quite simply, love. These two young women spoke not about his accomplishments, of which there were many, but about his ability to be there for them always, even though he had an extremely demanding and successful career. His ability to hear in their voice that something was up, and be there to listen. His ability to see them from across a room, and know just by a look in their face, that something was up, and he was there to listen. They talked about his joy in just being with them, whether chatting, or playing board games, and or sharing his passions of books, and food, and France.

Other family members and a close friend all spoke of his extraordinary ability for being empathic and for taking time every single day to call and check in, "how are you"even if it was for only a minute.

His daughters spoke of how what their dad taught them about loving is now being passed down to their own young children. And how important the gifts of time and understanding are to give to their kids.

What would your kids say about you?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dealing With Teen Amnesia

"What, it wasn't me!" "It isn't mine!" "I don't know how it could have gotten there!"Famous last words of teens. A great way for teens to avoid taking responsibility, and a sure fire way to frustrate parents to the point of apoplexy!

The truth is your teen absolutely does not care that their shoes are strewn all around the house...except when they can't find them, then of course it becomes your fault: "Where are my shoes? What did you do with them," they scream at their loudest decibel. Because of course, it is one minute before their ride is coming to get them, and they did not think about these shoes, jacket, etc until just that minute, and now that they are missing they obviously can't blame themselves, so you're up!

My best advice, don't bite!!! There is nothing you need to say, nothing you need to do, it is not your job to keep track of their things. Sometime, they will figure it out, but your lecture of "if you only put your things in their rightful place this would not happen every single god damn day!!"will definitely not change their behavior. Either they'll figure it out themselves or they won't. And eventually they will move out, and you will never have to deal with it again. Make yourself unavailable for the search and rescue. And when their crap is in your way, have a basket for each of your teens in which any stray item that is making you crazy gets thrown. Think of it as your family's lost and found. If they can't find something, they can always take a gander at the lost and found and see what's there. It will be like Christmas every day!

I will be available over the summer for parent coaching, Ask The Expert Parties, and seminars!
joani@joanigeltman.com 781-910-1770

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Real Truth of What It Feels Like To Be A 7th Grade Girl

I don't really have much to say here because this 7th grader says it wayyyy better than I ever could. If you have a middle schooler even one who seems happy and confident, watch this together. What I love about this girl is her ability to feel her feelings and the work she has to do to just be invisible and fit in, even when that feels inauthentic to who she really is. Teens work so hard to be what everyone else defines as normal. Find out from your teen, if they didn't have to work so hard to be "normal,"who would they want to be!!

http://www.12news.com/opinion/talker/you-are-good-enough-young-queen-creek-student-inspires-with-powerful-poem/443296567

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Magic Of Change And Growth

I am in Los Angeles with my daughter having attended the premier last night of her new show on Showtime called I'm Dying Up Here. Cue shameless plug, premiers this Sunday, June 4th at 10 PM on Showtime. Knowing I would be in LA when this blog was published I decided to get it done before I left. I remembered a live blog I did a few summers ago about the magical power of change. As I watched, I was reminded of my own relationship with my daughter that went through it's peaks and valleys as she moved through childhood, to adolescence and into young adulthood. I can look back now with great perspective not only on her journey, but also my own as I moved from young adulthood, middle adulthood and now though I loath to say it, later adulthood now that I am 65. There are times in our lives, especially the hard times, when we feel like things will never get better. As I celebrate my daughter's accomplishment, I am reminded of all she went through to get to this place, the peaks and the valleys, all I went through to bring me to this time in my life, and all you and your family has been through to bring you to this moment, and all that will be happening for all of you in the future. Enjoy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpU_K1IkNEQ&feature=youtu.be