Thursday, April 27, 2017

Do You Know What a Snap Streak Is?

SNAP STREAK!!!!
Oy vey. I didn't think Snap Chat could get any more addictive for teens, but along comes snap streak. So here it is in a nutshell:. Two teens agree to snap streak. This commits them to snap each other everyday, no excuses accepted.  If terms are agreed upon, a flame emoji pops up next to their snaps to each other, along with the number of days they have been on the streak. This means our relationship is Hot! Hot! Hot!If you think your teen just chooses one special friend to do this with...oh no you would be wrong, they may go in on a streak partnership with any number of their "closest" friends!!! This means they have to do a constant check of who is snapping and making sure they are snapping back. What they snap is of no consequence. Could be a blank wall. it's not what they snap, but that they just do it. Such a great use of their time!! I have heard from parents that if kids go to summer camp or on family vacations or go to some event where phones are not allowed, or if they get punished and have their phone taken away, the teen will either hand their phone off to a friend as a kind of "snap au pair" or find some other alternative method of continuing all their streaks. YES it seems to be that important to them!!

You know who is loving this...the advertisers on snap chat and the company behind snap chat.. This was not developed as some wonderful communication tool, no, it's about money...pure and simple.

They are using your kids!! Do you hear the anger in my voice. I am raging!!! I hate to see kids used this way, unsuspectingly getting addicted to something that in their eyes becomes the most important thing ever, only to line some already rich techies pockets with money!!!

OK Joani, calm down, take a deep breath, we'll figure something out!!! First if you have younger kids who are just starting out on phones/ipads etc. DO NOT LET THEM DOWNLOAD SNAPCHAT!!!! I'm talking 10-12 year olds. They may be mad, they may feel that you are the meanest parent ever, but so be it!!! You are doing the right thing. Staving off snap chat addiction is imperative. If you have older teens, 12-16 limit the amount they can be on snapchat. You can do this by downloading a parental control like net nanny, net sanity, qustodio, teen safe to name a few. Using this software you can program your teen's devices, to limit specific app usage. Time and opportunity and what you allow you kids to download are your power. USE IT!!

Here''s how a conversation might go: "Hey I just heard about snap streaking. (said in a nonjudgmental, I am really interested in hearing what this is voice) Tell me about it. So who are you streaking with? Can you show me how it works? Doesn't it make you crazy, trying to keep up with all this, god it would make me a lunatic. How come it feels so important? What would it feel like if you broke a streak or someone broke a streak with you?"

See what I did there? I want them to want to talk to you about it, by keeping it calm, and supportive and showing that you are really interested in finding out what this is. If you go a more traditional, this is a ridiculous waste of your time route, you run the risk of them totally shutting down. As soon as they hear judgment, and criticism in your voice, the conversation will be over.

You are not giving them carte blanche or permission to go crazy with their snap streak. You are understanding how important they feel this is in their life, and you certainly will give them the opportunity to participate, but not without some time limits. The only way you will be able to set those limits is with some sort of parental control.

I'm so sorry this technology thing is so hard. And it is. It seems just when you think you've got things under control with the tech stuff, these companies throw out something newer and shinier. Below is an article I think is really useful in understanding the immensity of this new option for your teen.

Hang in there, eventually they will grow up and you won't have to deal with this s**t anymore!

 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-01-30/inside-the-mind-of-a-snapchat-streaker

Why not share this with some friends!! I think they will thank you!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Perfect Arguing Strategy

Thank god for television, comic strips, news, and AOL or where oh where would I come up with all these blog ideas. I was watching a rerun of 30 Rock. It seems "Jenna" (it doesn't matter if you don't know the show or the characters) was having a hard time dealing with her very manipulative, user mother. "Jack" who has experience dealing with his own manipulative user mother was advising "Jenna" on a foolproof strategy in dealing with her mother's outlandish requests of her. As soon as I heard it, I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget. Three perfect steps to "winning" an argument.

SAY NO
STAY LOW
LET IT GO

Perfection! So your teen comes to you with a request to do, go, or buy something. I think that covers all the bases. This is the kind of request for which there is no compromise. Its either too expensive, too unsafe, or too unrealistic. Your teen, unfortunately does not agree.  You state your case in a kind and clear manner, hoping to ward off an argument. Sometimes that works, but if your teen is extremely invested in a YES, I'm guessing you get put on the defensive after being accused by your teen for being overprotective, overbearing, too strict, and the worst parent ever. It's tough not to get hooked. After all you have to protect yourself. But here is the thing, once your teen has heard the word NO, and you mean no, it doesn't matter how loud or how long you argue to the contrary, you will not win. PERIOD! And it will only deteriorate into a place you really don't want to go with your teen. So here is the "Jack Doneghy" strategy.

Say NO in a calm but controlled voice

Stay low, as in keep your voice in a low, soft, controlled register. Once you hit the high notes, you've lost. This means NO SCREAMING NO YELLING

Let It Go: There really is nothing else to say after you have said no. Given that you have explained your rationale for the no.You might end with an "I get it moment. " I get you're angry with me, and don't understand and don't want to hear this answer. I'm sorry, I know how disappointed you are."  and you are done. Do not re-engage.

PS maybe your school or company is starting to plan for next year's speakers. I'd love to come! Here are the seminars I offer, why not invite me to your school or business!!

Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version

  • Learn how the brain affects your teen’s behavior. It’s the battle of the thinking brain VS the feeling brain.
  • Learn Effective strategies for arguing-The Four Ways Of Fighting.
  • Develop effective strategies for keeping your teen safe as they explore the new world of teen life.
  • Learn how to teen-proof your home and cell-proof your teen
Sexting. Texting and Social Networking: What’s A Parent To Do?
  • Understand how the “emotional brain” of a teen gets “turned on” by social networking.
  • Understand how the “Imaginary Audience” influences your teen’s performing on social media.
  • Learn which apps are safe and unsafe
  • Learn strategies to monitor and set limits around phone and internet use
  • Learn how your own behavior with phones and computers can positively and negatively influence your teen.
 Drugs and Alcohol: How Does Your Teen’s Personality Style, and Your Parenting Style impact their experimentation with drugs and alcohol?
  • Identify your teen’s personality style and risk-factors with drugs and alcohol
  • Identify your parenting style and how it influences your teen’s drug and alcohol use
  • Learn effective strategies and scripts to keep your teen safe
 College Bound:

  • Understand the emotional journey of your college bound high school student
  • Understand the emotional journey of a parent of college bound high school student
  • Learn strategies for making this process successful and positive
 Joani’s Top Ten Parenting Tips

The secret to parenting is to keep it simple. Learn 10 simple, concrete practical tips useful in those daily moments of stress as a parent when you wish you had the "right thing to do and the right thing to say!

 With over 30 years of experience working with families, Joani's approach, using humor, storytelling and easy to use tools make the job of parenting just a little bit easier.
Joani Geltman MSW     781-910-1770    joanigeltman.com














Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Tale Of Two Siblings

Those of you who grew up with siblings may have had the experience of being either the "perfect child" or the "black sheep" of your family. In either case you felt the pressure of having to maintain your role in the family. People expected you to behave a certain way, and you probably never failed to disappoint. Either by being provocative or by being just incredibly lovable.

I recently met with parents whose two teenage boys aged 12 and 16 fall into the good boy/bad boy trap. Their 12 year old son is the "perfect" son. Bright and successful in school, a talented athlete, sweet, even tempered, affectionate and a joy to be around. The 16 year old, not so much. He on the other hand, has some learning challenges, and therefore has found school to be a place that made him feel like a loser, and smartly enrolled in a vocational high school when he hit 9th grade, where he feels more successful. But still he is a mediocre student. He has no outside interests or passions and spends all of his non-school time playing video games or on his phone. His anger and attitude are impossible to deal with. He isolates himself from the family, and it seems his only contact with them is when he needs or demands rides or money. And to top it off he can very mean and abusive to his younger brother. Dad coaches the younger son's sports team, and both parents spend weekends at his games, leaving the 16 year old feeling a bit out of the loop I am guessing.

Mom and Dad are successful professionals. Both graduated from college, went on to get masters degrees and both have successful careers. Their older son feels like an alien to them. They admitted that when his school difficulties started they thought he was just being lazy, just not putting in the "work" he needed to do for school. In middle school he was finally diagnosed with learning disabilities and was put on a program through the school system for support, but by then, I'm guessing he saw himself as lazy and stupid.

It is hard to be "that kid" in the family that doesn't fit the family script. And the more you don't fit it, the more you become the opposite of it. In this family, being smart, athletic and and having a sunny disposition (sounds like Mary Poppins) is the character description, all others need not apply.  There is no doubt that these are loving parents, but they are stymied as to how to connect with their son. And he makes himself so unlikable to boot, that who wants to spend time with him anyway.

These parents described to me the attempts they make to include him in family outings, but unfortunately those family outings are built around the younger sons sporting events. If you felt like the loser in the family would you want to go and watch your nemesis being the shining "star"? I think not. Dinners out with the family become a fighting match, with the older son antagonizing the younger one at the table or he just becomes such a pain in the a** that the parents just don't do that anymore.

The good news is that this 16 year old has some good attributes. He is not a party guy, doesn't drink, or do drugs. Not an easy feat for a teen these days. He is a steady girlfriend and some good friends, all really good signs. What is missing for him is connection with his mom and dad.

In families like this where there are obvious differences between the kids, it is so important to make each child feel important. With this family, it turns out the dad and the 16 year old share a love for movies, but the dad being so involved with the 12 year old's sporting life doesn't leave him much extra time to engage with his older son. How hard it must be to watch watch his dad go off every weekend with the younger brother. I encouraged the dad to make the time, maybe a Sunday night when together, just the two of them, go off for a night at the movies. Or the mom, when dad and 12 year go off to practice every Friday night, get some take out and a movie and just hang together and enjoy each others company. 

Some kids do not make themselves lovable. They push you away, and tell you to go away. Ignore that!!! It's all a ruse to protect themselves from rejection. Never stop trying, drive them crazy with messages of "I love you". Do not buy them off with money or clothes or phones, or cars or doing their laundry, they love the stuff, but they are not stupid, and know that stuff is the easy stuff, the hard part, is for you the parents to keep at, not allowing their attitude and anger to push you away. It takes time for them to believe that in spite of not being "the perfect" kid they will always be "my kid", and that is enough, thank you very much!

How about sharing my blog with some friends!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Warm Weather Brings Out The Partying Teen

I know it's spring because I did my inaugural spring walk yesterday in my favorite town woods and sure enough signs of partying teens were everywhere; bonfire remains, vodka bottles, wine coolers and empty beer cans galore! Lord knows on the east coast we have all been huddled in hibernation mode, and I totally get that the first warm night is something to celebrate!! But beware parents, now with warmer weather, spring vacation and the summer not that far off, party time is here!! This is a true story that a brave parent made public a few years ago about her attempt to have a safe party for her teenage son. There are so so many lessons to be learned from this story.

I won't retell the story, this mom does a great job doing it for herself. So these lessons won't make much sense until you read the story. Read and then re-join the blog!!
http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/trying-and-failing-to-host-an-alcohol-free-teen-party/#postComment

Party Lessons

1. Just because you tell your teen no alcohol and drugs are allowed at the party, doesn't mean there won't BE any drugs and alcohol. And the only way you will know is if you are a presence.

2. Numbers are important. Never have more teens at your home than you can actively supervise. This mom is lucky no drunk teen fell into the pool. Your teen should have to provide you with a list, and entry to the party is always through the front door. Any other exits and entrances to the house should be closely monitored.

3. Teens will stash the booze earlier in the day in shrubs and bushes around the house, so they won't be seen carrying anything in.

4. Understand that teens are impulsive and incredibly motivated to party hearty. Respect for you and your home gets lost in the mayhem.

5. I did a whole blog on this, but please DO NOT give your teen an UBER account. I know on face value it sounds like a sensible idea. How great that your teen will have a safe mode of transportation when they or their friends are otherwise compromised. YOU ARE THEIR SAFE RIDE!!!! When your teen chooses UBER over you, you have ceded complete control for their safety. They can now freely move from party to party, continuing to drink without fear of consequence. And if they are going to houses with no supervision and on to a sleep over and no responsible parent driving them,, or awake when they get there, how will anyone ever know if they are close to being passed out!

A Parent called me recently about her 15 year old daughter who had been at a sleepover, a home this parent felt completely comfortable with. This mom had a sister who lived on another coast and time zone who was up early doing an instragram catch-up with her morning coffee. Low and behold she is seeing a live instagram feed of her niece at 3:00 AM in an UBER with her sleepover buddies coming back from an all-night diner run!! Sleepover parents none the wiser!!! She called her sister later in the morning and said hey, I saw Brunhilda at 3 AM in an UBER, was she on her way home from a prom or something?

No there was no prom!! Just a bunch of 15 year old girls who at 3 AM were STARVING. Having an UBER account at their disposal, why not head out for some chow!!! This is scary on so many levels. Immature kids out at 3 AM with a strange UBER driver, out at an all night diner with who knows who, and thinking the whole thing is HYSTERICAL!!! Out goes any judgement they might have had! UBER accounts are for you, and if there is a special occasion you are unable to pick your kid up, you order the UBER from your phone and make sure all is safe. THAT IS YOUR JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6. Roving party goers. It may be that your teen starts off at one house, BORING....and moves on to another and another and never tells you. Many parents have asked me whether they should put tracking apps on their teen's phone. There is something about that makes me really uncomfortable. Teens are all about independence and knowing that mommy and daddy are tracking their every move feels smothering to me. However, having said that, I do think it is OK to say to your teen: "I want to let you know that I have the ability to track you when you are out with your friends. I don't want to do that, I want to put you in charge of your life and your choices. The way you show me you are responsible is to keep me up to date on location changes, and together we will make a decision about whether it's OK. But if you choose not to keep me updated and I find out that in fact you have been on the move without letting me know, than we will start to track you, and then I hope you won't be surprised if we show up uninvited to pick you up. As for that sleepover caper, that may be a time when you tell your teen that you get that sometimes when kids are at sleepovers, and the parents are asleep, it seems like a fun idea to skip out for an adventure in the middle of the night. This is unsafe for a multitude of reasons. So if you are in that situation, and your friend with an UBER account says: "hey lets go get some food", you can say;" my stupid ass parents have a location app on my phone and if they see I've left your house they will call your parents. Then we'll all be in so much trouble. How about I make us all some pancakes!!!"

7. And finally. Do not EVER buy for or provide alcohol for your teenager and their friends thinking that if they drink in your home with what you have bought them they will stay safe. That is naive and dangerous!! First of all it is illegal!! Most states have a social host law that punishes adults with fines and jail time if they fail to protect minors from alcohol and drugs, by providing them with alcohol or if they are being consumed by teens on your property with or without your permission. Also and equally as important is the assumption that if I as an adult buy the beer for my kids, I'll keep them safe in my home and know exactly how much they drink. First of all, it is not your permission to give to another parents child! And second, all your teen is hearing is we have permission to drink at my house.!!! Awesome!!! They do not differentiate between a the six-pack you bought them and the gallon of vodka that sits under a couch that they snuck in during the afternoon when you were off doing errands, or the partying they might have done before they got to their "fun house". You have no idea the condition these kids are in before they get to your house. This is a dangerous precedent to set. Our job as adults is to do the best we can to keep our kids safe, not enable them to be unsafe. You will always be giving your teens a mixed message; I don't want you drinking and doing drugs, and I get that you will be in many situations in which they will be present. Let s figure out how to keep you safe. The last words out of your mouth every single time your teen leaves for a hang with their friends, should be; "What is your safety plan for tonight!"

Thursday, April 13, 2017

13 Reasons Why: The Power Of This TV Show

Recently, Netflix released a new series called 13 Reasons Why. It may be that your teen has locked her/himself in their room over the last few weeks to binge watch this show. It is about a 17 year old girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide after leaving 13 tapes describing the 13 people with whom she had relationships with and that affected her so profoundly that collectively moved her to take her own life. This is not a show for the faint hearted. It deals with issues of friend betrayals, and exclusion and humiliation, sexual assault,  and the sense that adults are not doing their job to watch out for and keep teens safe.  I do think this show reflects the kinds of experiences and relationships that many teens have and that cause them to feel anxiety, depression and anger. If your teen won't watch it with you, I suggest you take the time to watch it yourself, especially if you know they have watched it. It is powerful, and sometimes a bit scary.

I had watched most of it and was extremely moved and disturbed. I walked into the college class I teach, and asked my freshman and sophomore college students if they had seen it yet. I was stunned at the number of kids who had literally spent 13 hours that weekend binge watching the entire show. It is based on a young adult novel that many of the students had read while in high school. We spent the class discussing the show and then I asked those interested, to write me a reaction paper on the series. The papers were sensitive and insightful and extremely moving. I thought maybe the show was a bit overwrought and not really what the typical high school experience is for most teens. Boy was I wrong! My students wrote in no uncertain terms how much they related to each and every episode of this show, and how much they learned not only about themselves, but what many of their fellow students must have been feeling. They felt regret for how they had treated and used social media to bully and humiliate teens they didn't like or were at odds with, mirroring an episode of the show, and they also felt regret for not stepping up and protecting those kids in their high school and middle schools that had been objects of ridicule and shame. They learned that what you see on the outside is not always what is going on in the inside of their fellow students. Instead, most teens offer up a persona of confidence and high self esteem when really they are insecure and hurting.

One of my students wrote this particularly moving passage about the series, and with her permission I share it with you here:

13 Reasons Why has been one of my favorite books since I was fourteen. However, I didn't realize how hard it would be for me to actually watch it. In a weird way I felt in sync with Hannah Baker. In my senior year of high school, my best friend and I were harassed by three other girls who were our best friends the year before. I had dealt with girl drama before, but this was way beyond that. My best friend has an eating disorder, so in November she left school to go to a mental treatment place. I had never felt so alone because she was my rock in school. The three girls kept going with their actions. They started rumors about me and turned some of the people that I thought were my good friends against me. I went to my guidance counselor often. I would ask him what I was supposed to do. His response to me was that because I had no proof of anything going on, I had go get over it. "After all, it's just girl drama," is what he would say to me. I felt like Hannah Baker at that moment. It was as if my cry for help was completely being ignored. If he didn't care about my well-being, why should I ? It was a day in March when my mom found me on my couch. I had fallen asleep, but when she tried to wake me up I couldn't move or speak, all I could do was cry. I could barely even breath at that point. That was my lowest day, and after that I went to therapy. I was lucky enough to have my mom care. The scene in 13 Reasons Why that was the most powerful for me was when Hannah's parents found her dead in the bathtub. When I would have days where I felt like I couldn't handle life anymore and I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, I always thought of my mom and dad and my brothers. I always put them first because I couldn't put them in the position to find me like Hannah's parents found her. I think that was the most important scene of all. Watching Hannah Baker's story was so personal for me because you really never know what someones going through. You also don't know what's true and what's a lie, so it's best to go straight to the person if you really want to know the truth.

Often times as parents we skirt around the tough stuff, worried that we might "plant" thoughts in our kids brains that were never there in the first place. Hard conversations about depression, and anxiety about drugs and alcohol, about bullying and shame. As long as they look OK , maybe they are OK. The talking is what normalizes it for teens. They hunger for normal! This is a tough show, scary and depressing, but then so is what a lot of what teens of today are dealing with but keep to themselves. If you watch without your teen, because they want to watch privately, that's OK. But let them know you have watched and are ready anywhere, anytime to talk it all out. Promise to listen and not judge, and that you are always there for loving support. Let them know that what they have to deal with on a daily basis is really hard and they don't have to deal with it alone.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Hidden Life Of Teen Anxiety

Watch this video and then we'll talk.
http://www.today.com/video/today/56063660#56063660

The Today Show did this wonderful series on The Secret Lives Of Teens.

The teens featured in this video articulate beautifully what I think are pretty universal stressors of teens life.

  • Parental pressure and expectations
  • Worries about the future
  • Social Networking and the false self
I had a conversation recently with  a parent who has the "perfect daughter." Extremely smart and well spoken, lovely to her parents, loved by teachers, and has an active social life filled with equally smart and lovely kids. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? Guess what? It is too good to be true. On a recent morning, mom went in to wake her teen up, and noticed that her room was trashed, not just messy but intentionally trashed. Turns out, that the pressure cooker that was sizzling inside this terrific kid, finally burst. She confessed that she had had a bad night, and feels depressed and anxious. This came as a complete and total shock to her parents. She had been playing her role as the perfect teen with perfection, until she couldn't.

You may have that teen who has breezed their way through school seemingly effortlessly. Good grades, great behavior, but unbeknownst to you there is a storm brewing. Some kids hit high school with a slam. Perhaps school has been pretty easy, but now the honors classes are piling up, and everyone's expectations are high, this is a star! College acceptances will be plentiful. Life is good. Only now, the work is actually hard, and it isn't coming so easy anymore, maybe they aren't really as smart as everyone thinks. And now there are more distractions. Maybe his/her social life has finally kicked in, and he/she realizes that being with friends is way more fun that reading gobs of books. And with this new social life comes stressors. Who do I like, do they like me, etc etc. Life is not so easy anymore.

If this sounds like your teen, don't wait for an explosion. Give your teen the permission not to be perfect.  Pre-emptively, before a crisis, ask your teen whether he/she feels pressured by you in any way. Let them know that you get how hard it must feel sometimes to please all the people in his/her life who expect great things from them, ie parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches. Ask them if there is anything you could do differently to take some of the pressure off. Remember it is not your teen's job to meet your expectations and goals for for them. 

I especially was touched by the young woman who talked about social networking and the false self she put online. There is soooooooooo much pressure for teens to use twitter and instagram, and tumblr and facebook, snapchat etc to present a particular persona, which may be completely out of sync with what is really going on inside of them. Giving your teen a social networking nightly sabbatical may at first make them furious with you, but later on will provide them with a much needed break from the superficial chatter. It may take a few days, but parents have told me that their teens eventually felt such relief from the 24/7 relentless need to post. 

Just because your teen doesn't appear to be stressed, don't assume that they aren't. They have become pretty good at giving you what they think you want. And maybe their fear of disappointing you gets in the way of letting them see their messy self. Which by the way, we all have! By the way, watch this video with your teen. Great conversation starter!!

Why not share this post with a few friends. It's an important one!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

TMI(Too Much Information) For Your Teen? Lessons Learned From "Big Little Lies"

I often get calls from writers doing articles about parenting teens looking for some "expert" advice. On Monday I got a call from a woman writing an article for Yahoo Health on the HBO's mini-series Big Little Lies. Do I have any fans of that show out there??? Yes I watched, and to have the opportunity to actually talk about it professionally instead of just having a "water cooler" conversation with friends, jumped at the opportunity to share my opinion. I definitely had some "oh no you didn't" reactions while screaming at the TV, so it was karmic that she contacted me.

OK for those of you who have no idea what this show is about, I will encapsulate: 3 rich spoiled women and one sweet but "poor" single mom live in Monterrey CA in the homes we all dream of, overlooking the beach, drinking wine on their beautiful decks overlooking spectacular ocean views with their hunky husbands, one of which is a wife beater. There are feuds and drama galore. By the way it is a murder mystery!

Here is where I come into the story. There is one story line in particular that deals with a divorced mom (Reese Witherspoon/Madeline) now remarried to a perfect man. Madeline has a 17 year old daughter from her previous marriage. They don't get along, and daughter decides to move in with her dad and his "perfect" wife. Mother and daughter continue to squabble and it comes to light that this daughter, in pursuit of a school project, has decided to do an online auction in which she will sell her virginity to the highest bidder as a fundraiser and to make a political point of some kind! You know those idealistic teens!! Of course Madeline is horrified, and big mother/daughter battle ensues. Daughter screams at mother, "you wouldn't understand you're so perfect!" Madeline in an effort to "connect" with her daughter shares that she is not "perfect" and in fact has had an affair in her current second marriage. See she's not perfect!!! A-N-Y-W-A-Y.... Daughter, relieved her mother is not perfect, is therefore now able to accept her own imperfections, cancels her virginity auction. Perfect parenting!

The writer of the Yahoo article wanted my opinion as to whether the mom did the right thing by sharing her secret about an affair. I think none of you will be surprised with my answer. NO!! Sometimes parents in their effort to connect with their teens, and share their own experiences of mistake making, over share. In this particular story, this teen has seen one marriage dissolve along with her family, and is now torn between two families as both parents have remarried. She already has experience the aftermath of a divorce, complete with dueling parents. This scenario is not uncommon for those of us who live in the real world, not Hollywood. When this mom shares her affair secret with her daughter, she is giving weight to her daughter's assumption that marriages are all scams. Parents should never share with their pre-adult children the intimacies of their marriages, it is just too much for them to handle. In real life, kids then feel they must become the caretaker, and protector of their hurt parent. This is too much responsibility for any child. Instead this mom could have used another example of how she made a mistake in life, perhaps as a teen herself, or in a less loaded context to show and connect with her teen that everyone makes mistakes. Teens often see their parents as perfect because parents mistakenly believe that in order to parent well, you must appear to be perfect, so that your kids will respect and listen to you. Actually, for teens, the exact opposite is true. Teens need a model for imperfection and mistake making. Just don't tell them your "big little lies!!

Below is the article

https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/this-is-one-thing-big-little-lies-got-totally-wrong-183224428.html

How about sharing this post with any of your Big Little Lieu super fans!!!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Conundrum of College Decision-making

College acceptances and rejections are almost here and the deadline for making college choice decisions is coming. So I wanted to offer a little advice based on a conversation I had recently with a parent whose daughter is transferring after finishing her freshman year.

The school she chose to attend last May was in a warm climate, which she loved, was a college that has become one of the "it" colleges over the last 5 years, and had that cache and vibe that both parents and seniors in high school respond to. Pretty campus, small but not to small, 5,000 students, good program in the academic area she "thought" might become her major. Notice I put the "thought" in quotations. That is because many, many kids start off with an interest in one area, and when they graduate are in a completely different major. Which is great by the way. That actually is what the college experience is all about. Trying out different identities, different interests, different kinds of relationships, and different academic areas. OK so what went wrong. Turns out the school was a complete mismatch.

While the "big picture" of this college fit the bill, the actual day to day of college life did not. This is a school where the "Greek Life" is king. Everybody pledges a sorority or a fraternity, or if that doesn't interest you, than there are academic clubs that function like them. These clubs unite people who share a similar major. You live together on the same dorm floor, study together and party together. This is a college divided. So... if you don't get into the frat or sorority of your choice, and you haven't yet settled on a major, or if you have, and you don't particularly want to surround yourself by your classmates 24/7 you are kind of left out in this college. And all this happens by the middle of your freshman year.

This left this student with few people to hang with. Though she had made friends in her dorm, many of them pledged or joined something and they were otherwise engaged. She didn't get into the sorority of her choice. Also turns out living on a beautiful campus, in the middle of nowhere left few alternatives for leisure non-partying activities. No real town to go to, go to a movie, take a walk, or go to eat. Pretty place, but very isolated.

The areas you and your senior should be discussing now are not academics, but college life. Because honestly, this will be the make it or break it of settling into and loving their new college life. Here are some important questions to ask, and I advise making sure your son/daughter calls and speaks to at least two kids who are completing their own freshman year for their perspective. I know admissions offices will be happy to  furnish your teen with students who have offered to talk to incoming freshman.

Questions:
  • Does size matter? Yes it does. 
  • Does rural VS urban VS suburban matter? Yes it does. How does your teen like to spend their free time, and does this school offer those chances to do what they like to do. 
  • What happens if they don't pledge a sorority or fraternity or do not get into one they want, or aren't interested in that whole joining thing, what do these students do and where do they go for their fun? 
  • What do people do on the weekends? At the college I teach at, many of the students go home on the weekends, and those left have nothing really to do. My school is in the suburbs, and most students do not head into Boston, and there is NOTHING to do in the town  where the college is located At first glance they thought that small and suburban was good, but now they feel the limitation.
This choice-making time is all about asking the detail questions, which your college-bound senior will not like to do. Teens look at the big picture, and have little patience for the smaller stuff. You will need to help them do that. It can make the difference between the phone calls you get from happy college freshman or miserable ones. Which call would you rather get?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Yin and Yang Of Giving Advice To Your Teen

When your teen asks you for advice, you think you have hit the holy grail of parenting! But the truth often is that they need you to say the wrong thing, (from their point of view)so they can disagree with you. The disagreeing is the teenage brain's way of saying, I can do it, I can stand on my own two feet.

How frustrating!! Of course you know you are right! How could you not be with so many years of life experience behind you, and an intimate understanding of this young person standing in front of you. And it feels hurtful to be discounted and ignored. But try not to take it personally. The advice you have given may in fact have parked itself away in your teen's brain and been spouted off to a friend sounding like it was his/her idea all along. Unfortunately you may not have had a ticket to the performance, limited seating only, reserved for friends, not parents!

And if you feel like they don't really want or need your advice when they come to you for it, maybe they just need a place to vent or talk out loud. A "Tell me what you think" rather than a "here's what I think you should do!" might get you more satisfaction from the conversation.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Peer Pressure Is A Powerful Thing!

I read an interesting article Teenagers, Friends and Bad Decisions. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/teenagers-friends-and-bad-decisions/.

 I love when articles confirm what I already know, but in a new way. It makes me feel so smart. This referenced a study that was done at Temple University looking at the effect on teens brains while they are making decisions when they are alone versus when they are with their friends. The experiment was so interesting. Ask a bunch of 14-18 year olds to do a simulated driving game for which they will be rewarded with cash if they finish in a certain time frame. Embedded in the game are choices to be made like running yellow lights to finish more quickly. However if you "crash" you get penalized and delayed.  Scores were compared with a group of college students and a group of young adults.  "Half of the time each person played alone, and half the time they were told that two same-sex friends who had accompanied them to the study were watching in the next room." The results, no change in game playing or risk-taking for college students and young adults when told about people watching their play, but for the teens they ran 40% more yellow lights and had 60% more crashes when they "believed" their friends were watching. Remember these "phantom friends" were not even in the room with them, they only believed that friends were watching. 

This is pretty powerful documentation of the effect of what we call "the imaginary audience", a term coined by Psychologist David Elkind that refers to the heightened sense of self-consciousness in teens. This occurs because of the newly developing and growing teenage brain that is working on overtime to make teens aware that not only do they have thoughts about themselves but that other people have thoughts about them. Think of this as opening night jitters that starts the second teens awaken and ends when they have posted their last facebook message of the day. What will I wear today, how will people see me? What will I say today, what will people think about what I am saying? and so on. The study supports the thinking that when your teen is on their own they are more likely to make responsible decisions (no imaginary audience) but give them a real or perceived audience and lets get on with the show! Because often times it is all for show, just like the teens in the study who took more risks when they thought their friends were watching. 

This would be a great article to read with your teen. Here is scientific documentation of all your worries. Let them know that you are not crazy, even the scientists can see that when you are with your friends you are more likely to put yourself in risky and potentially unsafe situations. Your job here is to use that power of understanding with your teen " I get how important it is to not embarrass yourself in front of your friends, but I know that sometimes you might make a different decision when you are alone than when you are hanging with your friends. Lets try to find some ways that you can both save face in front of your friends, but make sure that you are safe. This is the kind of conversation you might have every weekend just before your teen leaves the house. This is NOT something you can change about  your teen. It is literally chemistry, but you can make your teen aware of it and provide them with strategies, scripts and alternatives to keep them safe. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Important Considerations For Setting Limits On Cellphones!!

Here is an interesting study about college students and the effects of too much cell phone use. The short story; lower GPA's and anxiety.  This makes so much sense to me, distraction and obsession, put those two things together and you have a recipe for the college experience to be a disaster. I never really thought about cell phone use as an obsessive compulsive behavior, but truly it is. Think about it, people who have OCD have a ritualized behavior that is a coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety.  There is nothing more ritualized as the repeated hand twist checking for texts, over and over and over again, with barely a moment of rest, coping with the constant worry of missing something. If you are consumed with the worry that you might be missing something, than you never really experience the present. In college that means that sitting in class worrying more about the next text rather than the next quiz, or trying to study with one hand and one eye on the phone waiting for the next big news rather than both eyes focused on the "real text." There is still only one way to be successful in school, and that is the old fashion way, by being "present" during classtime and studying without distraction.

The anxiety issue to me is equally worrisome. The constant need to be checking in and connecting is an avoidance behavior for being alone with your own thoughts. The way to work through issues is to think about them. But if you keep yourself distracted from thinking and feeling, that there is no thinking through. The number of college students who self report being on medication for anxiety is astounding to me. This is not a good prognosis for coping with the increasing stress and responsibility for being an adult.

What can you do now to prepare your high school student for the college experience, get them into cellphone rehab now! Enforce a two hour no cellphone use a day, and no cellphones to bed. And model model model. Get off your phone!
http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/07/students-frequent-cell-phone-use-tied-to-lower-grades-higher-anxiety/62992.html

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Teen Of Few Words

Favorite teen stock answers:


  • I said I'll do it!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • In a minute!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I don't have any homework!!!
  • It was fine!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I'm fine!!!!!!!!!!
  • I'm busy!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I don't know!!!
  • When I'm ready!!!!!!!
  • Nothing!!!!!!!!!
  • When I feel like it!!!
These are just a few that come to mind, I'm sure you have a million more you can add to that list. Please do in the comment section. Clearly answers like this are meant to do one thing, stop you from asking more questions!

You might get more satisfaction by starting with a statement rather than a question. Rather than asking how much homework do you have? You might say, wow, you brought a ton of books home tonight, you must have a ton of homework?

Rather than asking what are doing tonight? You might say, wow, the texts have been flying, there must be a lot of planning going on for tonight, what do people want to do?

Rather than asking, when are you going to bring your laundry up to your room? You might say, lot of beautiful, clean-smelling newly washed clothes sitting in the laundry room, just waiting to be brought up to your room, what you say, you go get it so you'll have something to wear tonight.

You still might get the same stock answer, but starting with a statement, keeps them from giving you a knee jerk reaction once they hear a sentence that starts with Who, what, where or how, and maybe you'll be surprised.

PS Just a reminder that I am booking speaking engagements and Ask The Expert Parties for the spring. Let me know if you are interested. Also did you know that I do phone coaching. So if you need some help email me at joani@joanigeltman.com and we can schedule a phone consult.









Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Need To Get A Life Parenting Moment

A Zits comic Home run:

Jeremy is busy writing a journal he was supposed to be keeping for the last 4 months, and is busy writing about what he thought he was doing 4 months ago. To his mom he says:
Jeremy: Mom what was I thinking about around October 13th?
Mom: That was when your van started idling funny and you were worried about that rash on your leg.
Jeremy: perfect, thanks. (Jeremy walks away, leaving mom thinking...)
Mom: Maybe I do need a job outside the home.

Does this feel familiar to you? Do you remember verbatim conversations you had with your teen months ago that seemed too important to forget, and when you remind your teen about that conversation they look at you like you are an alien from another planet,and say "Ma...Dad...Get A Life."  You might hang on every word, remember every detail from the quiz they took in French, what they got, right, what they got wrong, and then remind them of that when the next quiz comes up. Or maybe you remember a fight they had with their "so-called" best friend. You remember every horrible thing that friend said to your daughter, the sobbing on the bed, and the wailing that now she has no friends. You try to remind her of that conversation when yet another fight occurs, and yes, she looks at you like an alien saying, 'nooooo, that never happened before."

Here is the disconnect. Teens live in the moment, and what happens in the moment, stays in the moment. This is why they can let go so fast of events that to parents seem momentously important. Adults live in the future. We look at each present moment as a potential future moment, and therefore have a very hard time letting go.  And because your kids and their lives are the most important thing in your life, and you pay wayyyyy to much attention to every detail of it, you will likely feel very unfulfilled a good deal of the time. Because what's important to you about your teen and his/her life, has ceased to be important to your teen.

So if you find yourself, obsessing about every detail of your teen's life, find something else to do! Your relationship with your teen might depend on it!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Do I Look????? A Teen Obsession

Watch and then we'll talk.

 This is not a new question teenage girls, and probably boys for that matter, ask. But in the old days, we just asked it of ourselves in the mirror, or our closest girl friends. We would certainly have never put it to the test to ask the random people that troll youtube or instagram or twitter or snap chat. Maybe we would have asked our parents, cause we knew we would have gotten a resounding NO are you kidding you are the most handsome or beauteous in the world. In in that moment we might have even believed them.

How sad is it that these girls, feeling so needy for affirmation, put this out to the crazies who watch youtube, or on their instagram feed. They hope against hope that someone will tell them that all their pubescent worries are for naught and that they are not the ugly, fat teen that they think they see in the mirror everyday.

I was having a conversation with my now 33 year old daughter, reminiscing about her 13 year old pleasantly plump, short not yet having her growth spurt, self.  She talked about how uncomfortable she felt in her own skin back then, and how insecure she felt with her friends.  But when she was doing what she loved and what she felt passionate about in those years, that self-loathing and self-conscious, needy side disappeared, and a confident, funny, open-hearted young girl emerged. We remarked how good it was that she had something so positive in her life that could counteract those sometimes unbearable feelings of early adolescence.

The theoretical term for that thing you do that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside is called self-efficacy. We all need something that we feel good at, especially during the early teen years when so much else feels not so good. Having a special skill or talent to feel proud of can fight against those feelings that those girls who post on youtube are experiencing. Helping your teen to find that area of specialness is crucial to maintain the self-esteem that is threatened on a daily basis.

Maybe you have a teen who hasn't found that specialness yet, and is hyper-focused on her/his physical self, and all the things they hate about themselves.  Maybe they aren't the sports kid, or the music kid, or the theater kid, and you are stumped about what would make them feel good about themselves. I was working with a parent recently whose 12 year old fit this profile. I asked this mom, whose daughter is an only child of a single parent, whether her daughter liked playing with younger children, and she nodded her head, yes she does, she loves her little cousins. I suggested perhaps looking for a day care center kind of set-up where she might do this as a volunteer. Mom asked her daughter who was very enthusiastic about the idea. Mom checked out her local YMCA. They indeed had such a Saturday program for toddlers and did use volunteers. This 12 year old, somewhat shy insecure preteen, rose to the occasion, filling out a complicated application. She had to find references to vouch for her, and go on an interview. She jumped through every hoop, with enthusiasm, and felt such pride in her acceptance. It has been a wonderful lesson on "self-efficacy" and building self-esteem, not from how you look, but what you do

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Learning From The Mistakes Of The Military: Nude Photos and Teens

This week there was a big news story about Marine Corps soldiers posting nude photos of female marines on a private marine Facebook group. It seems that they either secretly and illegally photographed female marines or posted photos that female marines had shared with soldiers or boyfriends, that had been hacked from female marine's computers. These women thought that these private photos would remain private."  Here is the link of a Boston Globe article as well as a just published op ed from the NYtimes that my blood boil. these soldiers were once teens or may still be teens. Where are they getting the message that this behavior is acceptable???  We are not doing a good job teaching our boys about respect for women!!! https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/07/marine-corps-wide-female-marines-detail-harassment-nude-photos-scandal/0QDCmlWaUP9pLJh3JvDeZP/story.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/08/opinion/more-than-just-marines-behaving-badly.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

I have had a rash of calls over the last couple of weeks from parents who either accidentally (an opportunity presented itself) or deliberately (regular monitoring) found words and pictures on their teen's phone that sent them into parent hell. No parent, is ever prepared to see language on their teen's phone that sounds like it has been copied from the most disgusting porn movie ever. And by the way, the girls are equally as "colorful" as the boys.

Found these interesting statistics, share them with your teen.


The percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves:
  • 20% of teenagers overall
  • 22% of teen girls
  • 18% of teen boys
  • 11% of young teen girls ages 13-16
The percent of teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:
  • 39% of all teenagers
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys
15 Percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.
48 Percent of teenagers say they have received such messages
71 Percent of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent or posted this content to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
21 Percent of teenage girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.
44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
51 Percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18 % of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.
66 Percent of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”; their most common reason for sending sexy content.
52 Percent of teenage girls used sexting as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.
44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.
40 Percent of teenage girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”
34 Percent of teen girls say they sent or posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”
12 Percent of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.


So now what? First read these article with your teens. This is a front page story!! Your teens need to understand the very very serious consequences of sharing these kinds of intimate photos either consensually or not!! Both boys and girls. Teen have magical thinking when it comes to sharing private messages and and sexy photos. Teens unfortunately do not think there is anything wrong, clearly if 40% think it is just a joke. What they need you to help them with is that the "joke" could be on them!

An outrageous text or sexy picture will for sure be shared amongst friends. I can hear the conversation now: "Hey guys look at the picture Sally sent of her tits!" Or Hey guys, Sally said she'd blow me" Now Sally is not only going to have to answer to the one guy she "flirted" with but 10 of his best friends who will probably now corner her at school, the mall, at a party and ask for her to make good on her offer to them as well. If it's good for one it's good for everyone.

Even if a teen shares a sext or sexy picture with a boyfriend or girlfriend, it is more than likely that this couple will split up before too long, and someone will be the injured party looking for revenge. Hello naked pictures. 

These are scenarios it is important to talk about with your teen. Using and I get it statement: "I get that kids think sending sexy pictures and text messages is no big deal. But I do need you to understand that it is a big deal and that what you send to someone will for sure get passed around. If you wouldn't say in person what you write in your texts, it shouldn't be on your phone. Would you go up to a boy and say "I want to suck your dick", or a girl and say "suck my dick" I don't think so, unless I don't know you very well. Would you go to a party and start taking your clothes off, and parade around in your underwear, if not, it should not be on your phone. Just because you don't feel the embarrassment or humiliation because you aren't present when the viewing party happens, doesn't mean you should share your body with the world. This is a safety issue. People make assumptions about your willingness to participate in sexual situations based on what you put out there. I would never want anyone to take advantage of you, or put you in a situation you can't handle because they misunderstood your intentions. " I love you and want you to be safe" 

Parents, especially those with middle school kids, you must monitor their phones. It is not an invasion of privacy, it is a physical and mental health safety issue. Teens are impulsive, and conforming. If "everyone" is doing it they will want to do it too. You don't need to get angry with them about that, just understand with them, that it is hard to not do something if all their friends are doing it. You should surprise them every now and them with a phone check, done together. This is NOT about punishing them if you find this stuff, it is a time to help them strategise a solution with you about how not do it. Yelling and taking their phone away will NOT solve this problem, educating will!