Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Audrie and Daisy: A Powerful Must Watch Documentary For You And Your Teen

Last week I heard an interview on NPR with two documentary filmmakers talking about their recent film available on Netflix called Audrie and Daisy. I watched it over the weekend.  It is a powerful, and difficult film to watch about two intelligent lovely teens, one 14 years old and the other 17 years old. Both are from good families. They are from two different parts of the country.  Both were victimized and targeted for sexual assault. There is no sugar coating in this film. One of the girls, Audrie, commits suicide after dealing with the humiliation of social media after the sexual assault.  The other girl, Daisy, who was 14 at the time of her assault, now 17 years old, is still recovering from her assault. The small community in which Daisy and her family lived, made her recovery that much more excruciating when the four 17 year old boys got off with no punishment after literally leaving this 14 year old for dead, after getting her drunk and gang raping her. After all, as athletes, and sons of town politician, they were the Teflon teens! Not unlike the recent trial of the swimmer from Stanford who also left his victim for dead, and is now free and on the streets.  This is tough stuff to watch. But it is a must watch. Not only for you but even more importantly for your teens. Teens live in a magical world that leaves them feeling invincible. Even though they may drink or do drugs sometimes to excess, see their friends or themselves participate in risky situations, most often they don't get caught. This feeds their sense of invincibility. Kids are good at not getting caught, which is why films like this are so important for your teens to watch. It is important for your boys to understand that the alcohol defense is indefensible. "I was so drunk I didn't know what I was doing!And for your girls to understand the difference between attention and flirting, and fighting for control of their bodies. And for both genders, It is never OK to publicly shame and humiliate another human being! Sure you can tell them that, and lecture them about it, and talk about your family's values, but when they are out with their friends, and the photo's and videos are being taken of victimized teens, your words may fall on deaf ears. They need to see and hear the consequences from real victims, that they can identify with about how that feels. I have copy and pasted below the link to the parent page of this movie. This website is an amazing resource for you. It gives you the script to talk with your teen about this movie. Cause it won't be easy. But watch it they must. If your teens are out and about in their life, one out of of three of them will experience sexual harassment. So make a movie date, or if they avoid your request, make it a pre-requisite before permission is given for sleepovers or party going. That's how important I think this is!!!!!

http://audrieanddaisy.com/watch-and-discuss/discussion-guide-for-parents/

See these facts below.

Here are some facts that they filmmakers want you to know:



Young people 12 to 19 years old experience the highest rates of rape and sexual violence in the United States. 68 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and 98 percent of perpetrators will never spend a day in prison. 1
  • Approximately one in three adolescent girls and boys in the U.S. are victims of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. 2
  • 60 percent of all middle and high school students are sexually harassed each year.3
  • Nearly 30 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth experience dating violence in high school,4 and the rates are higher for their transgender peers, especially those of color.5
In this climate of sexual violence, social media is intricately woven into teens’ lives:
  • 92 percent of Americans age 13-17 are online for social media at least once a day.6
  • 42 percent of teens 13-18 years old said their parents know nothing or very little about what they do online.7
  • 95 percent of teens report witnessing cruelty or bullying online, and 21 percent joined in when they saw it.8

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The "Everybody Else's Parents Let Them" Blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c

I'm a huge Louis CK fan. Here he on David Letterman addressing this issue: when your kids wants to have or wants to do what everyone has or does!

Sometimes it is completely OK to cave. I once coached a parent who had a no TV during the week rule. This was back a few years when the show "Greys Anatomy" was a new show. It seems that all the girls in this particular middle school were completely hooked on this show. Friday lunch talk after the Thursday night episode was these girls "water cooler" moment when they obsessively talked about "Mcdreamy" and all the other characters and their lives. This mom's daughter was completely out of the loop, and began to dread going to school on Fridays. ( I know this seems ridiculous, but being part of the group is about as important as it gets for middle-schoolers) This mom was holding firm in the no TV rule, and her daughter was furious. "How come it's OK with all the other parents but not with you?" And then came the TV is a distraction, stupid shows lecture. Which completely fell on deaf ears. I asked the mom, truly, what would be the big deal if her daughter watched this one show a week. If she could show that her homework was done, couldn't they make this an experience they could enjoy together. Mom thought about it, and realized that the good out weighed the bad, and caved.

So sometimes the bigger picture (this girl could feel a part of this group, and mom and daughter had a special night during the week when they shared something that was important to the the daughter.) These are conditions for a good cave.

But a bad cave, that's a different story. Are you being asked to allow your teen to do something you know is unsafe or unreasonable, and cave just because you don't like conflict, or you don't want your teen to be mad at you. This is an unhealthy cave. It gives your teen power and precedent. Not setting limits on cellphones and computers because your teen doesn't want you to is a bad cave. Allowing your teen to go somewhere that is unsupervised and potentially dangerous and unsafe is a bad cave.

Its important to know the difference!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How Teens and College Students Handle Pressure

Some time ago I was meeting with a group of parents. There had been a recent party incident that was the talk of the school. The family of a junior boy had all gone away for the weekend. Their son went with them, and the house was left empty. His friends knew the family was away, and decided to take advantage of this empty house. A valuable commodity in the teen world. When this family returned, they found their house completely trashed. Furniture and furnishings vandalized; urine, feces, and vomit (sorry I hope you're not reading this with your morning coffee) all over the house. Empties of all manner of alcohol littered the place. It was every parents nightmare. It didn't take much detective work to find out the party goers. Just fyi, these kids were the best and the brightest from an elite private school. The school community was reeling. In the group I led, was a parent whose daughter had gone to this party. After yelling and screaming and grounding her daughter, the mom settled down to see if she could talk to her teen about what had motivated this turn of events. How could such privileged and smart kids commit such a heinous act.

Here is what her daughter told her. I am paraphrasing not quoting: "All week long we do everything we're supposed to do. We get the A's, we're in the AP and honors classes, we do all the clubs, community service, sports, and student government that you want us to do. And when the weekend comes, we're done, and we're angry, and it is our way of saying, we're not perfect, and f**k you for expecting us to be!

Wow!!! That's a powerful message. This may be a look in the mirror moment. What are your expectations of your teen? Do you expect them to be the best and the brightest, maybe not out loud, but with subtlety? Your teens are incredibly tuned into you even though they may not say anything to you about what they think you expect from them, but they feel the pressure.

The link below is an op ed that a young woman who is a senior in college wrote in today's New York Times about how college students deal with their version of this pressure. As you will read, it is not different that these high school students. I encourage you to read this article with your teen, and follow that up with a heart to heart conversation about the pressure and stress they feel in general, but also and most importantly from you. It might be a hard conversation to have, and if your teen feels safe enough to be honest with you, it might be painful. Try not to get defensive, and just listen, and then ask them how you might do better.  You might be surprised how honest and loving your teen can be when they feel really listened to and understood.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/opinion/drinking-to-blackout.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Teaching Your Teens About Alcohol..AGAIN

I am reposting this today, because I think it is that important. I encourage you to share this post with friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, anyone you know with a teen. Copy and paste in an email, a Facebook post,  or on twitter. This is the season for Friday Nigh Lights football games, fall parties in the woods and anywhere else they can find! Consider it a public service!!! We taught kids to wear seat belts without thinking, cigarette smoking is hazardous to their heath, we have to do the same for binge drinking, and it all starts at home!!!!

A few weeks ago a mom posted on Facebook a terrifying story about a her 15 year old daughter's brush with death due to alcohol poisoning. I won't get into the details, I have copied it below and you can read it for yourself. But suffice it to say that her daughter's blood alcohol level was 2.8!!!  At .08 a person is considered impaired, but at 2.8, it's a lucky to be alive story.

One of the most disturbing parts to this story, and there were many, was that her friends basically abandoned her. A student she barely knew was really the one who saved her life, and called for help.

In addition to this story, I recently had the opportunity to talk with a group of thirty-somethings. This group represented the best and the brightest back when they were teens, and are now very successful and amazing adults. I was telling them this story, and asking them whether this kind of thing happened during their teenage years. It was a resounding YES! And with all honesty and candor they told me that this outcome was not an uncommon one for their group of friends, and others they knew. They too said they left friends who were in a black out condition, worried that if they "told" they would get into trouble. They also said that most parents were completely in the dark. They explained that there were many close calls, but were able to keep if from parents by not sleeping at home. Some things never change, how unfortunate that as a culture we have yet to figure out to keeps kids safe.

I asked this group whether they thought there would have been anything their parents could have done differently back then to make them more aware of the dangers of binge drinking. Sadly, they could not think of a thing. I asked whether they had ever received information (like the kind I am going to offer below) by school, parents or other concerned adults. They said no. So that's where I'm starting, by giving you some very detailed facts about alcohol and how to care for someone who is incapacitated by alcohol. Your job is to share this information with your teen often. This is not a one and done kind of talk. This is anytime your kids leave the house and you suspect alcohol will be available. Write it down, post it somewhere where they see it, and repeat it over and over. It could save a life.

It is important to understand that it is not the bad kids, or the party kids, or the "fast crowd" that needs to be prepared. It is all kids. I know for sure that at some point during their middle, high school, and for sure college years, your teen will be in a situation where either they or a close friend will be compromised by too much alcohol. It can be the smart kids, the nerdy kids, the jocks, the quiet ones, and the shy ones. It may not be the kids who party every Friday and Saturday nights, but also the ones that stay in with close friends, who you absolutely least expect to binge. It can be any one's teen!

This information is in no way meant as a get of jail free card for drinking teens. You continue to preach sobriety but are realistic enough to know that the lecture will not stop the drinking. You can only do that by either keeping them locked in the house until they are 22 or teach them the tools they might need to keep themselves safe, and their friends safe.

The Information

  • It is considered binge drinking when a male drinks 5 shots in a two hour period and a female drinks 4 shots. Consider 1 1/2 -2 ounces of alcohol a drink. Many kids use water bottles as a vodka carrier. Show your teen what this amount of alcohol looks like using a typical water bottle. Most kids drink hard and fast, thinking "oh I don't feel anything yet, I' need to drink more. Kids can easily down this amount of alcohol in under 2 hours. Remember they are not enjoying a relaxing cocktail, they are drinking to get wasted.

  • Here is what happens to the body with this amount of alcohol:
  1. Alcohol depresses the frontal cortex of the brain, or the thinking brain, making people less inhibited (which is a definite goal for teens). This impacts the ability to make decisions, and affects all senses, making it difficult to make "sense" of what is going on to you and around you.


     2. Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you pee...a lot. And if you are not counteracting this with drinking water, brain damage,  and passing out can result.


     3. Alcohol decreases breathing by affecting the part of the nervous system that controls breathing. This causes death.

     4. Alcohol lowers blood sugar and can cause seizures.


     5. Alcohol affects the part of the brain, the cerebellum, that controls balance, and motor coordination. Hence the term, falling down drunk. This can cause terrible injury. If a party is interrupted by the police or watchful parents, you can often see teens running from the scene who are completely compromised in their movements and can fall and really hurt themselves.

    6. Alcohol irritates the stomach which causes vomiting. Because of the alcohol, the normal gag reflex is disabled, and people can choke on their own vomit, aspirating into their lungs which is life threatening.

OK here's what they can do to help themselves stay safe or keep a friend safe who is drunk!

1. The obvious here is to call for help. Talk to your teen seriously about how it would feel to them to know that "If only" I had helped my friend, he/she would now be OK. Stress that NO ONE will be mad at them for potentially saving their friends life.

2. EAT!!!! Make sure your teen understands that having food in their body could save their life. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol. Many teens are drinking on empty stomachs, and do not eat when they are out.

3. Drink water and space out the drinking.

4. If a friend is obviously drunk, tell them to keep them in a sitting position, and give them water until help comes. If they are passed out, make sure they are lying on their side.

5. Check the friends breathing, is it regular and strong, or weak.

6. Keep them warm. Alcohol poisoning causes body temperature to drop. Remember, many kids party outside!.

I know this is some scary s**t!! And this feels like a mixed message, which it is. On the one hand you are saying, no drinking!!!! and on the other, here's what I want you to know. In no way are you giving them permission, but you are realistically trying to keep them safe. You love them, and you would be devastated if anything ever happened to them. Remember, this may have already happened to your teen or a friend of theirs, and you just don't know about it. Remember that teens are highly motivated to keep you out of their life especially when they know they are doing something you don't want them to do. This is just about safety...pure and simple


A Mother's Story


PLEASE READ,SHARE, AND SPREAD AWARENESS!!!! 
This past Saturday night my 15 year old daughter asked me to sleep at a friends house and go to the movies. I said yes. She has always been very good about communicating with me and checking in with me. But her plans changed that night and the series of events that followed are nothing that any family should have to experience....I received a fb message at 100am saying someone had received a phone call saying that my daughter Ryleigh Payton was somewhere passed out. Immediately my heart sank and I tried to call her phone repeatedly and of course there was no answer. I questioned who, where, when, why's...and received no answer back because that girl was already in route of finding the girl who called her and my daughter, picked them up and brought them to my driveway. As I opened the car door to see my daughter, lifeless and foaming at the mouth covered in vomit 911 was on their way. Ambulance arrived on seen and she was unresponsive, since we didn't have many details except she had been drinking vodka we weren't sure if she was given or taken anything else so she was given Narcane 4 time only to still fall unresponsive. Transported to Heywood where there was no change we were told my daughters airway was not strong enough and she would need to be interbated and transferred immediately to Umass. While arriving there the doctors informed us my daughter was No longer breathing on her own at all. I suffered 14 long hours pleading and begging for my daughters life, experiencing flashbacks from the moment she was born, to her first smile and giggle, the first time she said Mumma, her first step, her 1st birthday, her first day of school, her first friendship,sleepover, sickness, her graduation of middle school, our private mother daughter moments, laughing, joking, running, snuggling and so forth, I was thinking of her siblings and what losing her would do to them and the rest of her family and all of the people that love her. My daughter was with a group of teens, I'm sure as the started to notice some signs that Ryleigh was not okay panic started to set in, they thought they would get in trouble if they tried to get help so they left her there....only 1 girl who was not even her friend but an acquaintance stayed with her, trying to find a way to get my information and she succeeded. She didn't care about getting in trouble herself, she wanted to get her the help she so desperately needed, the other kids who left her I'm sure we're scared and didn't realize the severity of her condition at the time so I'm sharing our experience so that EVERY TEEN who may come to be in this situation knows....you will NOT get in trouble for getting someone help!!!! You have the ability to SAVE a precious life!!!!! So please reach out and get help no matter what the circumstances. That one girl SAVED my daughters life by contacting someone who could get ahold of me and if it were not for her the reality of it is I would be burying my daughter this week. PARENTS share this with your children so they see the dangers of under aged drinking and what it can do!!! After 14 hours my beautiful daughter finally by the grace of God opened her big beautiful green eyes to see her Mumma and asked for her sister Courtney Ackles and we are on our way to a long recovery due to breathing issues, bodily injury from her repeatedly falling while intoxicated, lacerations to her eye, and the worry she doesn't develop a pneumonia from vomit being in her lungs, so we are not fully out of the woods yet, but she is home,safe and as comfortable as she can be right now. Thank you to all who have stood by my family in this time, saying prayers, helping my other kids and husband while I was at the hospital, we are blessed. Please share this to prevent another child from going through this and another parent to endure what I have. My 92lb child had a 2.8 blood alcohol level from drinking Ciroc the typical Vodka of choice among young teens these days. Don't ever think this couldn't happen to you because it is very real and it's everywhere!!! Our pictures of her may be disturbing to some but our hopes are in sharing our pain we may be able to PREVENT AND SAVE ANOTHER CHILD!!! SHARE OUR STORY!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Teaching Your Teen About Alcohol!

A few weeks ago a mom posted on Facebook a terrifying story about a her 15 year old daughter's brush with death due to alcohol poisoning. I won't get into the details, I have copied it below and you can read it for yourself. But suffice it to say that her daughter's blood alcohol level was 2.8!!!  At .08 a person is considered impaired, but at 2.8, it's a lucky to be alive story.

One of the most disturbing parts to this story, and there were many, was that her friends basically abandoned her. A student she barely knew was really the one who saved her life, and called for help.

In addition to this story, I recently had the opportunity to talk with a group of thirty-somethings. This group represented the best and the brightest back when they were teens, and are now very successful and amazing adults. I was telling them this story, and asking them whether this kind of thing happened during their teenage years. It was a resounding YES! And with all honesty and candor they told me that this outcome was not an uncommon one for their group of friends, and others they knew. They too said they left friends who were in a black out condition, worried that if they "told" they would get into trouble. They also said that most parents were completely in the dark. They explained that there were many close calls, but were able to keep if from parents by not sleeping at home. Some things never change, how unfortunate that as a culture we have yet to figure out to keeps kids safe.

I asked this group whether they thought there would have been anything their parents could have done differently back then to make them more aware of the dangers of binge drinking. Sadly, they could not think of a thing. I asked whether they had ever received information (like the kind I am going to offer below) by school, parents or other concerned adults. They said no. So that's where I'm starting, by giving you some very detailed facts about alcohol and how to care for someone who is incapacitated by alcohol. Your job is to share this information with your teen often. This is not a one and done kind of talk. This is anytime your kids leave the house and you suspect alcohol will be available. Write it down, post it somewhere where they see it, and repeat it over and over. It could save a life.

It is important to understand that it is not the bad kids, or the party kids, or the "fast crowd" that needs to be prepared. It is all kids. I know for sure that at some point during their middle, high school, and for sure college years, your teen will be in a situation where either they or a close friend will be compromised by too much alcohol. It can be the smart kids, the nerdy kids, the jocks, the quiet ones, and the shy ones. It may not be the kids who party every Friday and Saturday nights, but also the ones that stay in with close friends, who you absolutely least expect to binge. It can be any one's teen!

This information is in no way meant as a get of jail free card for drinking teens. You continue to preach sobriety but are realistic enough to know that the lecture will not stop the drinking. You can only do that by either keeping them locked in the house until they are 22 or teach them the tools they might need to keep themselves safe, and their friends safe.

The Information


  • It is considered binge drinking when a male drinks 5 shots in a two hour period and a female drinks 4 shots. Consider 1 1/2 -2 ounces of alcohol a drink. Many kids use water bottles as a vodka carrier. Show your teen what this amount of alcohol looks like using a typical water bottle. Most kids drink hard and fast, thinking "oh I don't feel anything yet, I' need to drink more. Kids can easily down this amount of alcohol in under 2 hours. Remember they are not enjoying a relaxing cocktail, they are drinking to get wasted.

  • Here is what happens to the body with this amount of alcohol:
  1. Alcohol depresses the frontal cortex of the brain, or the thinking brain, making people less inhibited (which is a definite goal for teens). This impacts the ability to make decisions, and affects all senses, making it difficult to make "sense" of what is going on to you and around you.


     2. Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you pee...a lot. And if you are not counteracting this with drinking water, brain damage,  and passing out can result.


     3. Alcohol decreases breathing by affecting the part of the nervous system that controls breathing. This causes death.

     4. Alcohol lowers blood sugar and can cause seizures.


     5. Alcohol affects the part of the brain, the cerebellum, that controls balance, and motor coordination. Hence the term, falling down drunk. This can cause terrible injury. If a party is interrupted by the police or watchful parents, you can often see teens running from the scene who are completely compromised in their movements and can fall and really hurt themselves.

    6. Alcohol irritates the stomach which causes vomiting. Because of the alcohol, the normal gag reflex is disabled, and people can choke on their own vomit, aspirating into their lungs which is life threatening.

OK here's what they can do to help themselves stay safe or keep a friend safe who is drunk!

1. The obvious here is to call for help. Talk to your teen seriously about how it would feel to them to know that "If only" I had helped my friend, he/she would now be OK. Stress that NO ONE will be mad at them for potentially saving their friends life.

2. EAT!!!! Make sure your teen understands that having food in their body could save their life. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol. Many teens are drinking on empty stomachs, and do not eat when they are out.

3. Drink water and space out the drinking.

4. If a friend is obviously drunk, tell them to keep them in a sitting position, and give them water until help comes. If they are passed out, make sure they are lying on their side.

5. Check the friends breathing, is it regular and strong, or weak.

6. Keep them warm. Alcohol poisoning causes body temperature to drop. Remember, many kids party outside!.

I know this is some scary s**t!! And this feels like a mixed message, which it is. On the one hand you are saying, no drinking!!!! and on the other, here's what I want you to know. In no way are you giving them permission, but you are realistically trying to keep them safe. You love them, and you would be devastated if anything ever happened to them. Remember, this may have already happened to your teen or a friend of theirs, and you just don't know about it. Remember that teens are highly motivated to keep you out of their life especially when they know they are doing something you don't want them to do. This is just about safety...pure and simple


A Mother's Story


PLEASE READ,SHARE, AND SPREAD AWARENESS!!!! 
This past Saturday night my 15 year old daughter asked me to sleep at a friends house and go to the movies. I said yes. She has always been very good about communicating with me and checking in with me. But her plans changed that night and the series of events that followed are nothing that any family should have to experience....I received a fb message at 100am saying someone had received a phone call saying that my daughter Ryleigh Payton was somewhere passed out. Immediately my heart sank and I tried to call her phone repeatedly and of course there was no answer. I questioned who, where, when, why's...and received no answer back because that girl was already in route of finding the girl who called her and my daughter, picked them up and brought them to my driveway. As I opened the car door to see my daughter, lifeless and foaming at the mouth covered in vomit 911 was on their way. Ambulance arrived on seen and she was unresponsive, since we didn't have many details except she had been drinking vodka we weren't sure if she was given or taken anything else so she was given Narcane 4 time only to still fall unresponsive. Transported to Heywood where there was no change we were told my daughters airway was not strong enough and she would need to be interbated and transferred immediately to Umass. While arriving there the doctors informed us my daughter was No longer breathing on her own at all. I suffered 14 long hours pleading and begging for my daughters life, experiencing flashbacks from the moment she was born, to her first smile and giggle, the first time she said Mumma, her first step, her 1st birthday, her first day of school, her first friendship,sleepover, sickness, her graduation of middle school, our private mother daughter moments, laughing, joking, running, snuggling and so forth, I was thinking of her siblings and what losing her would do to them and the rest of her family and all of the people that love her. My daughter was with a group of teens, I'm sure as the started to notice some signs that Ryleigh was not okay panic started to set in, they thought they would get in trouble if they tried to get help so they left her there....only 1 girl who was not even her friend but an acquaintance stayed with her, trying to find a way to get my information and she succeeded. She didn't care about getting in trouble herself, she wanted to get her the help she so desperately needed, the other kids who left her I'm sure we're scared and didn't realize the severity of her condition at the time so I'm sharing our experience so that EVERY TEEN who may come to be in this situation knows....you will NOT get in trouble for getting someone help!!!! You have the ability to SAVE a precious life!!!!! So please reach out and get help no matter what the circumstances. That one girl SAVED my daughters life by contacting someone who could get ahold of me and if it were not for her the reality of it is I would be burying my daughter this week. PARENTS share this with your children so they see the dangers of under aged drinking and what it can do!!! After 14 hours my beautiful daughter finally by the grace of God opened her big beautiful green eyes to see her Mumma and asked for her sister Courtney Ackles and we are on our way to a long recovery due to breathing issues, bodily injury from her repeatedly falling while intoxicated, lacerations to her eye, and the worry she doesn't develop a pneumonia from vomit being in her lungs, so we are not fully out of the woods yet, but she is home,safe and as comfortable as she can be right now. Thank you to all who have stood by my family in this time, saying prayers, helping my other kids and husband while I was at the hospital, we are blessed. Please share this to prevent another child from going through this and another parent to endure what I have. My 92lb child had a 2.8 blood alcohol level from drinking Ciroc the typical Vodka of choice among young teens these days. Don't ever think this couldn't happen to you because it is very real and it's everywhere!!! Our pictures of her may be disturbing to some but our hopes are in sharing our pain we may be able to PREVENT AND SAVE ANOTHER CHILD!!! SHARE OUR STORY!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

You Can't Change Nature!

Teens are: unpredictable, aliens, explosive, risk-taking, and temperamental. So say hundreds of parents when I ask them to throw out adjectives that describe their teen at my seminar: Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Version. You ask yourself, who is this person? I don't know what's going to come out of his/her mouth next. This is unsettling to say the least because what has worked in the past to calm your kid down so you can have a civilized conversation seems to have flown out the window. Not to mention, the way he wants to spend his time, the kinds of kids she likes to hang with, and what about how school used to be the most important part of his life. This isn't my kid, who is this kid?

Well actually deep down inside those tiny tank tops or baggy jeans and untied sneakers is the kid you raised, and all those characteristics you thought sweet or funny as a toddler, now in a taller, more filled out body...not so funny and sweet. For example, maybe you had that 3 year old who had fantastic verbal skills, and you thought it was so cute when they were able to talk you into reading just one more book at bedtime, or just one more cookie for dessert, or just one more episode of Sesame Street. After talking baby talk for 3 years, how refreshing to have these adult like conversations with your "little man". Well your "little man" has grown up and his verbal skills have grown with him, and he wants to share them with you! Now he understands that these verbal/negotiating skills can wear you down to the point that he is able to get exactly what he wants. And how about that adorable little 4 year old girl who had the energy of a rabbit, bouncing from one activity to the next. Running instead of walking, climbing the highest slide or jungle gym with you standing below, screaming, "honey be careful!!! Now at 14 she wants to run out of the house, hang with her friends, doing what and with whom..."Honey be careful"
Or maybe you had that shy 5 year old, who clung to your leg and didn't want to go into the school, or to the play date or the birthday party, and now as a 13 year old seems overwhelmed with the expectations of the 8th grade social strata.

See, they aren't really so different. What your teen brings to the table in terms of temperament and personality is biological, sorry,you can't change that. But you can be aware of it, and help your teen to see what their natural inclinations might be to keep them safe during this time in their life when their world is so inviting and exciting.  So if you have that risk-taking 4 year old all grown up now, it's important to have this kind of conversation; "You know honey, when you were little, you used to make me crazy with worry because you were always the kid who wanted to climb the highest tree, or ride your bike down the steepest hill, you were an excitement junkie. I loved how confident and fearless you were about things, always wanting to try something new. And I love that about you now, but because this is the essence of you, now as a teenager, you will also want to drive the fastest, party the hardest, take the biggest risks, and that worries me. We just need to make sure that you are safe, knowing that won't come naturally to you." Or if you have that verbal kid who has the skills of the slickest lawyer on TV, your job is to avoid getting into a verbal volleyball match. You won't win! Or maybe  you have that shy teen who has friends he wants to party with, and ends up going because he want to fit it. This shy 5 yr old grown up may be especially vulnerable to drinking or drugs because after the first experience with a few beers they feel the confidence and comfort in a group that they never felt before. That is a seductive feeling. So you need to say to this teen, "I know being in groups has always been hard for you, and now you have friends, which makes me so happy, and they want you to hang and go to parties where I know there is going to be alcohol and drugs. I worry that because those situations initially are hard for you, your friends might encourage you to drink to "loosen up" and that you might become dependent on alcohol or drugs to have fun in these situations.

Embrace the person your teen is and is becoming. Recognize the strengths in their personality and temperament, and give them the tools to manage them. Your legs won't be there to hold on to, and you won't always be waiting at the bottom of the slide.  They need the confidence and know-how to do it
"all by myself".

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Navigating The Minefields Of Middle School Friendships

As this fall back-to-school season commences, and many of your kids are transitioning to middle school, I am reminded by a group of 6th grade parents I met with a few years ago. The pain in the room was palpable. Why are these kids so mean to each other? And why aren't  parents on top of their kid's meanness? There is nothing more painful than comforting your young teen who has been excluded from some event that ALL her friends have been invited too, except for her or him. And often adding insult to injury is that the parent of the excluded can not understand why the parent of the excluder doesn't step in and tell her child that either everyone is invited or no one is invited.

Middle school reeks havoc with friendships. Kids in 6th grade come into middle school with their best friends from elementary school. But in the melting pot of new kids from the other schools in town, new kids who have moved into town and kids who have moved from private school to public school, the old friend relationships often takes a hit. Maybe a new kid sees in opening in a group, forms an alliance with a "new friend" and courts that group for membership. She may see someone in that group as a barrier to membership and seeks to oust that kid to make space for herself. There is nothing more important in middle school than having "your group."

One of the moms in this group told me of an incident where all her daughter's best friends and one new friend had been invited to a sleepover, but not her. She was devastated, and found out that the "new girl" had lobbied against her inclusion. As we dug a bit deeper, I found out that the new girl had not been invited to an after school outing that the excluded girl had hosted. Are you following me here? So I think that the new girl was doing a little "payback" for not being invited to the after school event. 'If she didn't invite me to her thing than I'll make sure she doesn't get invited to this other thing." Oy, yes it's petty, it's hurtful, and it's normal.

Now the question that came up with these moms, is should they intervene, and make sure that everyone is included? Here is what I think. In elementary school, it is all for one and one for all. Everyone is included as much as possible. But as kids move into adolescence, friendships take on a new dimension. When they were younger, any body would do, as kids get older, they do begin to look more closely at their friends. Do I even like this kid? Do we have anything in common? Maybe one of the friends is ready to move on to more teenagery behavior, and feels like they have outgrown an old friend. Is it the parent's job to keep these friendships, unfortunately no. Your teen does have a right to move on from people. But as a parent it is your job to help them do it with as much kindness and mindfulness as they can. Because as kids grow into teens, they do become more narcissistic, and are looking out mostly for themselves. They do need some help.

In that earlier example, I do think both of the moms might have said to their daughters:" Hey honey, I noticed you didn't invite X. She has always been one of your good friends. What's up with that? I think her feelings will be really hurt. I get that your friends might be changing, but maybe we can figure out a way for you to that without hurting her feelings." Your job as a parent during this difficult time of transitioning friendships is not to make them feel guilty for wanting to move on, but to help them with a strategy that will be the least hurtful. Middle school friendship transitions are probably the hardest it will ever be. These kids  are so vulnerable and so much is changing for them simultaneously that as parents we just want to protect them from all this hurt. Hurt is part of life, and teaching them coping and recovery skills can help.