Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Curse Of Procastination

I am the queen of procrastination. I avoid, I make deals with myself, I pay ridiculous consequences both figuratively and financially due to my procrastination, and you would think at age 65 I would have worked all this through. I have paid enough money to parking ticket offices in cities all over this country for late payments to have probably bought a new car! This is a tough one!

Perhaps this is something that you just don't understand. Maybe you are the responsible person I long to be, and you have a teen who makes you a crazy with the "waiting to the last minute" episodes that often become your problem. As an adult, I take full responsibility for my flaw, but with teens, no such luck. Somehow their procrastination, whether on time management issues, or homework and project deadlines, they somehow become the victims. It's your fault for not waking them up, or not reminding them, or the teacher's fault for assigning them this "stupid project." They are just not willing to take any responsibility for finding themselves in this conundrum, and it can make you hold your head in frustration.

I once coached a parent whose teen had dug himself into a homework hole. In one particular class, his missing homework and project assignments had cost him 3 letter grades. So though he could be an "A" student in this class, he was close to getting a "D"for the term. A new girlfriend, and the distraction of this "love connection" got him in this predicament. Too much texting and snap chatting and instagram at night during homework time, and not enough work. "I'll do it!!!! Don't worry!!!" rang through the house on most nights. When the midterm progress reports arrived, the parents set up a carrot;  if you don't bring the grade up to at least a "C" no drivers ed during the February vacation. week. He was at that time getting an "F". This kid, desperate for his license, vowed to change. And he did. Parents saw him hunkering down to do his work, but unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and he could only get his grade up to a "D". The good news as I told this parent, is that the consequence is already in place, and you can put yourself on a lecturing break. No need for an "I told you so" or for an " If you only". Here is what you can say: " I get how disappointing this must be for you. I know for the last month you have really worked hard to get your grade up. But I'm guessing the hole was too deep to get out of it totally. Unfortunately you will have to put off taking drivers ed till spring vacation, after third term grades come in. That was our deal. I know that you will do better next term, knowing now what you need to do to keep up. I am sorry that it didn't work out for you this time around."

Done!!!!! This is how kids learn. Lecturing or yelling do not make a difference. Consequences that have meaning and that your teen has a stake in can be life changing. Finally sick of paying extra late fines for my procrastination on those damn parking tickets, I am proud to say, I pay the tickets as soon  as I get them. Now if I could just put enough money in those meters!!!!!



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Uberizing of Parenting!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/10/06/where-boys-are-ubers/Nh1j0q4WnZgXCZeFltYdcP/story.html

Read and then we'll talk!

  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 last spring 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have heard from a number of parents that some teens have used their UBER account as a money maker. A teen will offer to use/share their UBER account for friends to go hither and yon and collect an agreed upon sum of cash for that privilege. This means the UBER account holder is walking around with a wad of cash having double dipped their parents generosity of an UBER/LYFT account . They are smart little buggers!!!

Another tactic is that one kid has an UBER account, and transports he/she and their friends everywhere. You may love this because your teen never asks you for a ride through the unbelievable generosity of another kid's parents. Oh the calls I have received from parents who have ended up with UBER sized UBER bills.

Or another parent whose daughter didn't feel like walking the mile home from school and regularly called an uber to take her home. LAZY!!!!

I get UBERS/LYFTS are wonderful new conveniences, and in a pinch they can be a a savior. But again I emphasize that checking in with you, being picked up and delivered by you, are important ways of staying in touch with your teen. Maybe they don't talk in the car  most days, but there may be that one day, that bad day, when having mom or dad in the car opens them up for a good old fashion "car talk." They may be few and far between, but that is the point. You want to be available and there when they happen. Driving, car-pooling, the bain of most parents. But truly, the relationships I formed both with my daughter and her friends by being the driving mom(all now 35) was priceless. They are now among the wonderful group of women I call my friends, including my daughter!!  Time with your children and their friends can never never never be replaced!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hazing Is Deadly: Another 18 Year Old Child Is Dead

I woke up this morning to the news story about 10 Louisiana State University Students who were arrested after a fraternity hazing incident they were involved in. Like the Penn State Student Timothy Piazza who died from an alcohol overdose during a hazing incident, so did Maxwell Gruver an 18 year old Freshman at LSU. The stories are eerily similar. You can read the link below for Maxwell's story. I am saddened and distraught, that these LSU students learned nothing from the Penn State incident that occurred only last spring. Where is the education of college students, high school students, middle school students on the dangers of alcohol poisoning. I have copied the blog I wrote about the Penn State tragedy and below is the link to the LSU story. Please, I am begging you, read these articles with your teens, and your college students. Talk to them about drinking games and how they can become deadly! Then go over this blog post with them about the science of alcohol and how it works in the body. This is information your teen should be able to recite  like the alphabet. This is never a one and done kind of conversation. Repetition, repetition, repetition, that is how we learn. Please, your teens need to be taught!!
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/us/lsu-hazing-arrests.html?_r=0

Spring 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/us/penn-state-fraternity-death-timothy-piazza.html

I am sure that most of you are aware of the recent death of  Timothy Piazza, a Penn State student who was left for dead by his fraternity brothers during a hazing ceremony that included copious amount of alcohol. I am sure that the 18 boys who were charged with manslaughter are basically good kids. I'm not being sarcastic here, these are not "bad boys." These are kids who when faced with saving a life vs getting in trouble for hazing and drinking, they chose the second, hoping against hope that their "brother" would be fine. This is the curse of teen magical thinking. The term is called Personal Fable, coined by psychologist David Elkind. Many teens feel that they are invincible and special. This corresponds with the emotional part of the brain that encourages them to act before they think. You know the emotional brain VS the thinking brain. That's why these boys just left their friend to die, probably thinking, oh he'll be fine!!!.

This is an important story to share with your teen. Below is a link to a New York Times article that describes this horrible event. You need to read it out loud with your teen, you need to talk about it, and without judgement let them know that "you get that sometimes when kids drink and someone passes out or falls, the inclination is to run without calling someone to get this kid some help, worrying that they'll get in trouble themselves." Talk about these Penn State boys, and how they are wishing now that they had just called 911 when they first noticed that Timothy was so out of it he fell down the stairs! Looking back, helping a friend to safety, and dealing with that uncomfortable call to a parent, is a whole lot better than feeling the guilt that a death could have been prevented by a simple phone call, and now a potential jail sentence.

 It is spring, and soon summer, when outdoor partying is in high gear. Please please please talk about this story with your teen. Below is all the information kids should know and understand if and when they go out drinking with their friends.

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

Why not share this post on Facebook or twitter, your friends will thank you!
Contact me for individual parent coaching, by phone or in person. Invite me to your school, business or community group for one of my 2 hour seminars.. Go to joanigeltman.com for more information











Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Giving Comfort In Scary Times

I don't know about you, but it seems every day brings some new terrifying event; hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, political decisions that affect the very way we live our lives. Sometimes it just feels like too much. Not to mention our own life crises. At least we as adults have years of life living as adults, so that we have a long term perspective on how to cope. Your teens do not have the benefit of experience. They haven't lived long enough to really accumulate the understanding that bad things often have a way of resolving, or that you know at least your feelings do.

Have you ever been in the midst of a really stressful situation that you know has no easy solution, and you call your best friend/mother/father/husband/wife knowing that just hearing their voice will make you feel better. Turns out that in fact a calming voice actually effects your body's hormonal stress responses in a positive way. In a recent study of teens, scientists wanted to see which form of communication with moms (sorry dads you were left out of this study) would help their teen feel better. After having exposed teens to a stressful situation, each teen was exposed to a different form of communication support from their moms; interaction in person, interaction over the phone, interaction over the computer/texts, or no interaction at all. Girls who experienced in person, or over the phone communication, in other words, an actual human voice showed a marked reduction in stress hormones. Those whose moms e-mailed, or sent texts showed stress hormone levels that were just as high as if the teens had had no interaction at all.

Why does this matter, because there is no substitution for human interaction. Texting, and e-mailing are good for sharing information, but when it comes to really impacting someone's life, you actually have to say something. Often times parents will tell me that most of their communication is coming in the form of texting to their kids, even when they are in the same house! Fearful of simple conversations turning into arguments, parents are resorting to  R U OK sent as a text.

So when you sense that your teen is feeling (there is just no substitute for parent intuition) is stressed by situations and expectations both socially and academically, you can safely assume your teen will need to hear your voice. They don't need you to solve their problems, they just need you to know that they have them. If they seem a little sad, lost, and anxious rather than asking "what's wrong?", maybe just a hug and a "you seem a little overwhelmed, sad, just want to say I love you." That calm and loving voice can go a long way to make them feel just a little better. The science says so!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My Kid Got Drunk And Called Me, Now What Do I Do?

A parent called me recently for some help with this very good question. Like a good dooby, this parent followed all the advice given by parenting experts like me, "let your teen know that while you disapprove and don't want him/her to drink, you absolutely want them to call you when they are so you can pick them up, no questions asked, and get them home safely. Ok, so this is what this parent did, but now this teen has walked in the house seemingly with a free pass to drink, and have a "car service" pick him/her up to boot!  Isn't this a mixed message, you might ask?

It absolutely is. Drinking/drugs and adolescence is not a black and white issue. If you say, "you are not allowed to drink!" Your teen will go underground, drink early in the evening, sleep over friends houses, chew tons of gum, or master the art of acting normal, or maybe not drink. You can always hope. And by the way, not all kids drink, and some kids will actually follow that rule. But honestly, if your teen is not a drinker, you would know, and wouldn't have to put that rule into place anyway. Many teens, thankfully do not want to drink. But for the many that do, you want them to be safe. The devil you know is better than the one you don't.

So back to the question. Now you have proof that your teen drinks, cause they asked you to come get them. But they don't exactly get off scott free. You have promised that there would be no direct consequences, ie grounding type punishment, but you still have the freedom to deal with it. You might have the following conversation: " You made a good decision last night, and for that I am really grateful. Obviously I am unhappy and disappointed that you drank, especially that you drank and were so compromised. You need to help me understand how that happened. And how in the future you can guarentee your safety. I get that the kids you hang out with like to party. That scares the sh** out of us. The fact is that you were sober enough at least to know not to drive and called us, but some other time you might not be so together."

And here is the best you can do the next time and every time thereafter they go out by saying: "Unless you can agree to stay sober tonight, we don't feel comfortable with you taking the car, or be driven by a friend. We will be happy to pick you up wherever at whatever time we agree on. Having the car or being in the car with friends gives you freedom, but freedom and alcohol and drugs just don't go together. We love you and want you to be safe." 

That is really the bottom line. I wish I could give you a magic answer that doesn't sound like doubletalk. Forbidding something you have no control over does no good. Punishing them until the cows come home, rarely has the long term affect you are looking for. Taking away the car or making yourself be a chauffeur may provide them with enough discomfort to not make drinking the priority of the evening. You will have to be the judge of whether your teen is getting trashed every weekend, in which case there is much more going on than just partying with friends. This kid has a problem that needs to be addressed in a serious way. If your teen is more in the normal range of a few beers or drinks but seems to have control, finding strategies that keep them safe is the goal.

There are no easy answers. Just keep the communication going!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Puberty Is A Bitch!!

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/girl-fakes-getting-her-period-and-pays-price-hilarious-new-ad-hello-flo-158405

If you haven't already seen this viral video, stop reading right now and watch it!!! God it's funny!! And these days, I'll take my laughs where I can get them. Watch it again, and then, watch it again with your daughter. Great for ages 10 and up! Girls get their periods early these days. Don't you be unprepared, and don't let your daughter be unprepared. Have a good laugh! And don't expect that the flood gates will open and your teen will be so thankful to you for understanding!!!! Probably she'll cover her eyes, turn beat red with embarrassment, and run for her room. And let her. It just might take some time and distance from it to be able to talk about it. But she will if you will. Who knows, maybe she will want to talk right then, but don't be offended, worried or otherwise anxious that you did the wrong thing if she doesn't. Sometime, maybe later in the day, in the car, on an errand, you might say: "oh my god, just had a visual of bobbing for ovaries!!! That was such a crazy video, what did you think was the funniest?" Get a good laugh going, and then maybe share your own puberty story. Oh yes, we all have a story. I hadn't thought of mine literally until I watched this video. And it happened, I am embarrassed to say....50 years ago. But honestly, it feels like it happened yesterday...seriously.

So I was at my first sleep over camp experience, I was going into 5th grade. I hated it! Towards the end of the torturous 8 weeks, the head counselor Rayna (and yes that is her real name,and though sometimes I can't remember my husband's name, her name was totally avail in my unconscious.) So Rayna takes me aside one day, and with her arm around me says: You know Joani, when you get home from camp I think you should talk to your mother about buying you a training bra. Your breasts are starting to develop and they are showing through your tee shirts!" I....WAS......MORTIFIED. Breasts! Don't talk to me about that! And maybe she said something to my mom, because as soon as I got home from camp, off to the bra department we went, for my little stretch training bra. Which of course I refused to wear because NO ONE ELSE had one.

And that right there is the theme of puberty. Whether you are a girl like me who got those cute little breast buds before anyone else, or like the girl in the video that was the last to get her period, or the boy who is called the "jolly green giant" in fifth grade because he towers over all his peers, all young teens have their "lightening rod." The change that is or is not happening and that they think everyone around them notices and cares about. That is the teen brain for you. That new sense of everybody is looking at me, and this stupid body of  mine. It is torture!

So use this video to acknowledge how hard this all is to have a body you can't control and you can't predict. Don't minimize with a "don't worry it will all turn out OK." cause honestly maybe it won't. MY boobs just continued to grow out of control. My tiny boob envy still haunts me today as I watch those with tiny boobs wear beautiful strapless dresses, or carefree tiny tee shirts. Not me, not ever! Be in their moment with them, and a "I get how hard this is to have your body do things you don't like." Some days will feel worst than others, and the good news is that some days you won't think about it at all!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Parenting On Demand: Texting Not Talking

Read and then we'll talk!!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2017/09/21/the-texts-are-coming-from-inside-house/a4Vaaol7RS7YCnlBSKOn9N/story.html

Does this ring true for you? Does your teen text from the comfort and serenity of their bedroom sanctuary for concierge and room service? Maybe for you it isn't a house issue, maybe your teen texts you multiple times a day with silly questions, demands for rides, food, CVS runs, and permission to go, buy or do.  I have had many many parents report that their teens text them 30-40 times a day. Often these are working parents with demanding jobs, fielding requests from their kids that absolutely do not need immediate attention. And every time the beast gets fed with immediate gratification, the requests get even more frequent and insistent. One parent reported to me that she was in an important meeting and her phone was shut off. When she turned it on after the meeting there were 20 texts from her kid, demanding, not with worry, but with entitlement: WHERE ARE YOU...PICK UP....I HAVE TO ASK YOU SOMETHING...PICK UP...PICK UP...PICK UP!!  Now times those annoying texts by 5. What a way to have to do your job and feel responsive to your kids!.

Kids are not intuitively demanding. Somewhere along the line, this behavior was reinforced probably by you. Here's the thing about technology, it sneaks up behind you and bites you on the ass!! It starts small with a cute text from your kid asking for something. It starts almost as a game. "Ooh, I bet I can text my mom/dad to get me something, and not even have to leave the comfort of my cushy bed,  and then voila, the desired snack, laundry, whatever magically appears. Mom/dad receive cute text, and with an awwww, that is so cute...run to complete the request. Rinse and repeat. That happens a few times, with a desirable outcome for your teen, and VOILA you have just conditioned your child to text and demand.

The good news is you can reverse the curse!!! And reverse you must. There is no substitution for face to face communication. Yes, texting can be a an easy shortcut conversation and it totally has a place in your world.And sometimes there has been a heated exchange and a text and emoji can calm the waters, and then perhaps open the door to a face to face.  But like everything in life there needs to be balance and accountability and responsibility. You time is valuable and should be respected. And your teen needs to learn how to delay gratification. It is really OK for them to walk three steps down to the kitchen to ask you something or to have to wait till the end of the school day to talk or text with you. If they are texting during the school day and you are returning their texts however silly and benign they are, you are distracting them from the work of school. If you set a limit and say, I will not be responding to your texts during the school day.....period!!! They will just have to deal.  And they will. You are teaching them a life skill!! This is not just about a demanding teen, this about setting a foundation for who your teen is to become as an adult. Life is not on-demand, unless that is what we as the adults in their lives are teaching them. Be strong, set limits on your availability. Literally do not answer a text that comes from within your 4 walls. Even by responding with a "if you want to talk to me, you have to come to me is reinforcing. Ignoring is the only way to go for in-home text demands! And if you want to demand something, than demand respect for your time and your life!!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Keeping Your New and Soon To be Licensed Teen Driver Safe

A parent wrote to me recently requesting some help. This weekend her 16 1/2 yr old daughter will be taking the road test for her coveted drivers license, and barring any 3 point turn mistake (my downfall on my first test) her daughter will be a member of our driving community. The mom's main concern is how to enforce the current law here in Massachusetts, and I'm sure in many other states, that bars newly licensed teens from carting around their friends for the first 6 months of driving from the date of licensing, and how to feel confident that her daughter will always wear her seatbelt and make sure that all passengers (including illegal friends) wear their seatbelts.

Obviously, when you send your teen off in your car you are giving them a leap, a giant leap of faith. You have lectured, and lectured and lectured some more about all the rules, and they have yes'd you to death that they will follow them. But really, who knows? I hope I can help a little with these very realistic fears.

Lets tackle the seatbelt issue first. Observation will be your best evaluator of seat belt usage. Whenever your teen gets in the car, do you have to remind him/her to put on their seatbelt? If so, this is a sign they are not ready to drive alone. The first requirement is to see that your teen, un-reminded and automatically puts on their seatbelt as soon as they get into the car, either as the driver or as a passenger. Let them know that this most basic rule is a pre-requisite for taking out the family car. This includes paying attention to not only their seatbelt, but also any other passengers in the car including you and or their siblings that may be going along for the ride. To test their awareness of their passengers, every now and then, leave your buckle or your passenger's buckles undone. Has your teen done a quick glance around to all passengers before they start the car to assure seatbelt compliance. This is good practice. Let your pre-driving teen know that there is zero tolerance on this issue. And that until you sense that it is now second nature for them to buckle up as well being on top of their passenger's seatbelts, there will be no taking out the family car alone. This is an easy one, because either you have to keep reminding them or you don't, and if you don't than they are good to go!

Now, the real challenge, how to enforce the no-passenger rule. As your teen will tell you: "that's a stupid rule and nobody pays attention to it. Everybody drives with their friends in the car." Unfortunately they are right, not that the rule is stupid, but that all the kids do it. This is a powerful disincentive for your teen to follow the law. If a teen gets caught driving by the police, usually it's when they get a speeding ticket or have rolled through a stop sign or are out driving past your town's curfew, and have other kids illegally in their car, then they lose their license until they are 18. Unfortunately not enough teens get caught, and so most kids think the whole law thing is a joke.

First, do not give a mixed message on this by agreeing that it is a stupid law, even if you think it is. It is a law, and teens are into black and white thinking. Either you think it is fair and right or you think it is stupid too. So if you, in any way, give voice to your own ambivalence in front of your teen, you have lost this war. Their defense will ALWAYS be "well my parents said it was OK!" What you can do is use an 'I get it" moment. saying: " I get you think this rule is stupid, and that all your friends just ignore it. I get your friends will want rides when you have the car. You will want to give them rides and I get it will be hard for you to say no. We need to come up with a plan so that when this happens, which will probably be every time you have the car, you can have something to say that discourages everyone from wanting to ride with you. This will be something that you alone are responsible for, and we get it will be really hard, but new drivers are inexperienced, and vulnerable to distraction, and we want you to be safe. You also need to know that if you are caught by the police, or by us, or by one of our friends who we have alerted to let us know if they see you driving with friends in the car, you will lose your driving privilege until age 17 when you can carry passengers. So if you choose to allow kids in the car, you are risking your ability to drive at all. Now lets come up with a plan."

At this point, you can come up with some suggestions of things they might say to their friends when put in this position for giving rides." I can't my parents are like Nazi's and they are checking my mileage. All they do is figure out the mileage where I say I am going, and if the mileage doesn't match up they are not letting me drive. They are assholes, but I don't want to lose my license, sorry, I just can't." You don't really have to do this, but it gives your teen a very important face-saving out. Basically you want together to concoct a story they can give to their friends, that will make you the bad guys, and give them the script for getting out of the situation. The truth is they probably will still take kids from time to time, but maybe less than if they had a plan to help them get out of it. Remember, that just saying to them: "you better not take any passengers" is not helpful, you have to acknowledge how hard it can be, and help them with a strategy!.

Also you do not want them talking, dialing, or texting on their phone ever in the car. This is life saving. This means YOU SHOULD NOT BE CALLING THEM WHEN YOU KNOW THEY MAY BE DRIVING. Instead give them the responsibility of having to call or text you before or after they start to drive. If they do not take this on as a serious responsibility of taking your car, it is very simple, they do not take the car...period! Let them know that you will be checking the texting times when they are in the car, let them know you have access to these online, and will make sure that they are not texting and driving. Be very very clear about this. This texting and driving should scare the SHIT out of you. You need to scare the SHIT out of them.

Six months to a year before they get their learner's permit, you should start a no-texting in the car policy. They need to start to feel what it is like to be in your car without texting. Behavior does not just change overnight because you said so. It takes practice!! When your teen is a passenger in your car and sitting in the front seat, no texting. If they are motivated to get their license then they will comply. If they aren't so motivated, they won't. And this is an easy one for you. No license until they prove to you in a consistent way that they can delay text, snap and any other social networking gratification!!

Driving is a right of passage. It is the best thing that could ever happen to a teen. I know it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but life with cellphones, and Itunes, and texting and tweeting makes the new driving teens a much more complicated activity. Take it one drive at a time! And by the way, don't forget to ask them to pick up milk on the way home!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Everybody Else Has/Can Do That!!!



What do you do when your kids want to have or want to do what everyone has or does! Watch this funny clip from Louis CK to get you in the mood to think about this dilemma!

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

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 19, 2017

Keeping Teens At Your Metaphorical Breast

In addition to my work with parents of teens, I also speak to and coach parents of babies and young children. Yes I am an equal opportunity parenting expert! I meet with parents of kids of all ages, and truly, toddlers aren't that much different from teenagers!

New moms often ask the breast feeding questions: When should I stop breast feeding? That question got me to thinking about parents who keep their teens at their metaphorical breasts. The question all parents need to ask, whether as a parent of a 4 year old,  or a parent of a 14 year old is this: "Whose needs am I meeting here? Do I keep my teen dependent on me whether by "helping them," (and by this I mean doing) their homework for them, keeping them close to home, make my opinions from what clothes to wear, what friends to keep, or even something so simple as what to eat at a restaurant, so indispensable that they are terrified to make a decision without me. Do I "help them"and by this I mean, get their summer jobs for them, write their college applications, and don't hold them accountable when they screw up, all in the name of support? Do I solve all their problems and make everything all better so they don't have to feel anxiety or depression?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, let's hope your breast milk dries up soon. The task of all adolescents is to become adept at becoming confident in their ability to take care of themselves. If they rely on you to "feed them" and to anticipate for them when they will be "hungry" they will be completely unprepared for the challenges they face as soon as they walk out the door of your home. And you don't have to wait for college for them to have to face this world. That happens every single day of their life. If your teen is texting you a million times a day asking what he/she should do in this situation, or  in that one, whether with their teacher, their coach, or their friends, they are still hanging on that breast.  That must feel pretty good to you. There is nothing more satisfying than being needed by your teen. And thought they might not like to hear you say, "gee honey, I don't know what you should do. What do you think?" Think they must. Remember this generation likes to get information fast. Don't be their google button. Let them go hungry!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Psychology Of Teens and Social Networking

I have recently come across a plethora of articles as I was researching the issue of teens and the effects of over-connection. A recent statistic I read stated that teens spend 7 hours a day on cells and social networking. That is after-school hours. That is alarming. Literally the only leftover time is sleep! In this post I discuss three of them. Pace yourself, there is a lot to read. You don't have to read them all in one sitting, but read them you must, and maybe even read with your teen as you discuss your thoughts and ideas about how you both see social networking fitting in their lives. 

The first article talks about the power of lonely!! (see link below)A feeling few teens allow themselves to feel. To summarize, it talked about the benefits of spending time alone. "When we let our focus shift away from the people and things around us, we are better able to engage in what's called meta-cognition, or the process of thinking critically and reflexively about our own thoughts." I know I crave this time alone, letting my mind wander to places it might not normally go. Our lives now make it almost impossible for some people to shut off all the distractions of Iphones, and e-mail, and facebook, and oh, also the face time we give to our jobs, and our families. This leaves little time for rumination. I know some of my most creative and deep thinking comes in the car with the radio and cell phone off, or in long walks with my dog.

The article specifically addresses teenagers and this issue of aloneness. "Teenagers, especially have been shown to benefit from time spent apart from others, in part because it allows for a kind of introspection and freedom from self-consciousness that strengthens their sense of identity." The problem is that though being alone is good for the soul, most teens are afraid of it. They have become so attuned to the buzz of ipods, cellphones, computers and video games, that silence feels alien and to some terrifying. So much so that many teens have developed in inability to go to sleep without some "noise". Just being alone with their own thoughts is scary. I have talked a lot with my college students about this, and in some classes I take the first five minutes to do a short meditation. My students have said how hard that five minutes is for them, and that it feels like forever to just be quiet. This is not a good thing.

Some teens like being alone. Even as children they were happy to play by themselves, and often refused the offer of a playdate, just to be with themselves happily in their worlds of make-believe. Some teens are terrified of being alone, desperately looking for companionship and connection. So there is the nature part of this equation.

You obviously can't make your teen take the time to "smell the roses." But you can model it, and you can call attention to it. Here is your I get it moment: 'You know honey I was thinking about how plugged in we all are, and how little time we give ourselves to just be quiet. I read this article recently that talked about how important it is for everyone to allow themselves time to just process. I get how much you have to do, and how important it is for you to stay tuned in to it all, just wish you would take some time to just be." They will probably look at you and think, what the hell is she/he talking about? But that's ok. Sometimes as parents we are just planters. We drop some seeds of wisdom, and hope that somewhere along the way, some sprouts appear.
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/03/06/the_power_of_lonely/

In another really good article in The Guardian (see link below) on the curses of social networking and teens found this:

"A survey conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people to keep track of their moods while on the five most popular social media sites. Instagram and Snapchat came out worst, often inspiring feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and self-loathing. And according to another survey carried out by the youth charity Plan International UK, half of girls and two-fifths of boys have been the victims of online bullying".

This is not good news!!! As a college professor for over 25 years, I have seen the changes that social networking can have on an entire generation. Since I teach Intro To Psych I have a unique opportunity to find out what goes on in the minds of my freshman students encouraging them, if they so choose, to talk about their experiences with anxiety and depression. I am still shocked by the number of my students that are on some kind of anti-anxiety or anti-depresssion medications as compared to my pre-technology students from the 80's and 90's. They report the same kinds of worries discussed in these articles. 

This article in The Atlantic is particularly  powerful in describing this influence. What can you do?? You can remember that you are the parent. The blog I wrote on Tuesday outlined some of the ways you can keep your teen emotionally and physically safe. There is no more important job of a parent. Will your teens be willing partners? Absolutely Not!! They will kick and scream and tell you they JUST HAVE TO DO THEIR HOMEWORK IN A GROUP CHAT!!!! And here's what I would say. "You know honey, I get doing homework is more fun and maybe even you get the help you need when you do you homework with your friends. But here is the deal, I also want you to develop skills in working things out for yourself. That is an important life skill to have!!! And I have total confidence that you can do just that. So we will have to come up with a compromise. Let's figure out how you can both have SOME time to work on homework with your friends, and SOME time when you do your reading and other work on your own. Let's figure out the time during the evening when you are on your own." Include them in the conversation, then using one of the parent controls have your teen's phone automatically shut off at the appointed time. This will not be easy, and I'm sorry about that...truly. But you are older, and smarter, and more experienced than your teen, and though their tantrums will be loud and uncomfortable, I have complete confidence in you that you can handle the noise!!
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/06/social-media-good-evidence-platforms-insecurities-health?CMP=share_btn_link

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

You Need To Know: New Apps Your Teen Uses!!!

Hey guys, I have found you a new teen bible!!!https://protectyoungeyes.com/apps/. This site maintains a whole cadre of the apps your teens are most likely using and lets you know if there are inherent risks. It is easy to navigate, and I think is a great tool to use as a way to have some good conversations with your teens about the apps they are using, and the worries you have about them. The benefit for using this site as a jumping off point is that the info is not coming from you!!! You are not lecturing, you are educating and they are participating in this education. Think of this like the blue book a pre-driving teen has to read and be tested on before they can even get their learners permit. The missing link between kids and social networking has always been training. Kids are given their phones, and most parents use a wait and see approach. It's only when a crisis presents itself ; spending too much time on their phones; finding sexy photos or texts; bullying; discovering sneaky or risky behavior. When these occur, parents jump into action mode!! However, by then your teen is addicted and pissed that you will now limit in any way the most important part of their life!!!! Remember...education is power!!

I will identify a few of the newer apps that I have become aware of that raise a red flag. As I have said many many times before. Your teens do not need to download every new app that comes down the pike. The more options they have to "play" on their phones the more they will play!!! You should exercise your right as the rightful owner of their phone to limit the number of apps that are on their phone at any one time. If they want a new app, they must read about it on the site above, and then make their case to you about why they absolutely have to have it. There should be a one-to one swap. One old app gets deleted for every new app they want downloaded. The best you can do as parents is limit time and opportunity. The sneakiness of many of these apps take away your control around content. But if they can only use their social networking apps for limited amounts of times with built in "break time" you can at least not feed their addiction 24/7. On Thursday I will address the psychological effects of too much social networking. The only way you can limit time and apps is by installing some form of parental control. PC magazine has done the work for you and reviews all your options. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2346997,00.asp

MARCO POLO: This app works like an old fashioned walkie talkie, but instead it swaps instant videos. It has all kinds of fun enhancements that teens completely get off on. I get that it is fun. But not when it becomes obsessive, as most things do with teens.

HOUSE PARTY: Face time on steroids. This allows your teen to live video chat with up to 8 people at a time. Think of the Brady Bunch opening! It accesses their contact list so that people can see who's "in the room" and join a chat. But because it accesses and notifies everyone on your contact lists, friends of kids your kids don't know can join if there is room in "the room." This means your teen is meeting kids from who knows where who are into who knows what. Not saying this is a deal breaker, just something you should know and talk about with them. Because this means your teen especially your young teens could be connecting with some other teen from wherever and planning meet ups or who knows what that you won't know anything about.


FIRECHAT: Kids can text without wifi. Maybe you shut your wifi off at night thinking this will deter late night texting. This circumvents this.

YELLOW: It is specifically for teens 13-17. This one feels completely terrifying to me. It is the teen equivalent of Tinder. A teen can post a photo and profile. And they can access other peoples photos and profile. If you think the guy/girl is cute, if you both swipe right,  you can "meet up" virtually or in person, swipe left if you're not interested. This gives teens access to complete and total strangers, including adults posing as teens, and young teens being in touch with much older teens.  Too may scary situations to mention here. Use your imagination!!This should absolutely be forbidden!

APPS THAT PROMISE ANONYMINITY: AFTERSCHOOL, ASK.FM, MONKEY, SARAHAH. Complete descriptions on the site above. These are all invitations for bullying!!

Okay, I'm done!!! You should be checking your teen's apps regularly if you choose not to limit them through a parental control. Keep yourself educated and informed, so you are speaking about something you know. You need to be an expert on this stuff. And if you have more than one teen you have to do this with, what can I say except...God help You!!!

PS: You might want to share this post with your friends with teen or your teen's friends' parents so everyone knows what the kids are doing!!
















Thursday, September 7, 2017

Why Teens Can Be Mean To Their Parents

There is a really good reason why teens are mean to their parents. Now with this new teenage brain growing by leaps and bounds, they are literally having thoughts they have never had before. Remember back when you were a teenager the moment when you realized " hey, my parents aren't perfect...awesome!!!!"

Teens have this new thinking ability that allows them to analyze and think more deeply about things. This is why teachers in middle school and high school expect their students to go from the concrete: who-what- where kinds of questions and answers, to the whys? They want them to read between the lines. School is not the only place teens are expected to do this kind of thinking. Their social life, their family life, all of it is now seen and understood under a whole new lens. What do you think gossip is?? It's a new way to think and analyze the people in their life. And you dear parents are part of their life. For the first time, they are seeing you without the rose-colored glasses of childhood, where parents are perfect, and their #1's. Now they see cracks in the armor. "Hey my parents don't practice what they preach, they can be hypocrites." Your teen can see right through the "do as I say, not as I do!"

Not only do they see you more realistically, but they absolutely love to tell you all their new perceptions that they are having about you. They are missing the edit button that will come with adulthood. For now though, if they have a thought about you, no matter how mean sounding, they share it.  You may feel that no matter what you do or say, according to your teen it's the wrong thing!!!!

Never fear, this is only temporary. Remember it's a new way of thinking about you. It's a novelty, and it feels really powerful for a teen to be able to see their parents in a whole new way. Having a teen in your home is like having a live in therapist. There is no one who will be more honest with you. If you can hold off on getting defensive, and listen to what they have to say, you might learn something new about yourself that is useful.

The trick here is to not feed into your teen's feeling of power. Basically they are being bullies, and the best way to handle a bully is to take away their power of hurt. So the next time you feel that biting criticism from your teen, rather than expressing hurt or anger, go up to them, give them a great big hug and say: "You are so cute when you're being a brat, I love you!!!" That ought to do the trick!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Kid Would Never Do.....

A study by the University of Michigan found that most parents look at  their teen through rose colored glasses, as in "my kid would never." Only 10% of the parents polled nationwide believed that their teens had used alcohol in the last year, and only 5% of parents thought that their teen had smoked pot. Here is the fun part, when the teens were polled through a study by the National Institutes of Health, the results showed that 52%of teens admitted to drinking and 28% admitted to smoking pot. Someones....not....paying.... attention. And what is even more telling is that these same parents polled believed that 60% of other teens (but not mine) were drinking alcohol and 40% were smoking pot.

Some examples of not my kid:
 Last week a parent told me this story. He had taken his 15 year old teen to a small, maybe 10 kids "get together" at a friends house on a Saturday night. Not only were the parents home, but this dad knew the parents and felt completely fine about the supervision. Dad shows up to pick up his son at the appointed hour and finds  50-60 teens milling about the yard as they had all been thrown out of the house. Why had they been thrown out? Because the "supervising parents,"who must have been deaf, dumb and blind not to have heard or seen the party numbers growing by leaps and bounds finally heard something that sparked their interest and when they joined the party saw 60 kids, tons of booze and pipes(for pot for those who don't know) scattered outside and in their basement. "What a surprise???? How could all these kids come uninvited to our house??? These are all such good kids, I don't understand, lamented the host parents." How could my son think this was OK?" Ah, hello, this is what most kids do when given the opportunity, the space,and the clueless parent!!!!

Story 2:
This mom shared this story with me during a coaching session. Mom has a 14 year old, straight A, quiet studious daughter who has a few best friends but is definitely not a party girl, preferring to stay in with friends on weekends and watch movies. Parents of this small group of teens always felt very comfortable leaving these girls "home alone". One day after school, on a half-day, this mom's daughter and a friend went back to the other girl's house. The parents both work, but these are the "good"girls so of course they were fine at home. Apparently because these girls are not the party girls they have been very curious about what the whole "drinking" deal is all about. So they planned an afternoon of drinking to find out. Getting the alcohol was easy, because it was right where the vodka always is, in the cabinet. Short story, one girl, kept drinking more and more vodka cause she wasn't feeling anything...until she did.  But by that point she passed out, was rushed to the hospital with a blood alcohol of .18 and had her stomach pumped. Moral of this story, it's the "good girls/boys, and the "party boys/girls" .

Parent's job is to anticipate, expect and do as much as they can to protect!  The only way you can do that is to predict that yes indeed, at some point, your kid too will want to experiment, take risks, do things you would never expect of them. It doesn't make them a bad kid or you a bad parent, just a realistic one.

Here are some tips for Teen Proofing Your Home:

  • Does your teen go to bed hours after you even on school nights? If you are in bed by 9, and your teen is up till..whenever. You need to set your alarm for 11 ish PM and do a check. Many kids are having trouble sleeping and are down in your basement, or open their window in their bedroom and do a little pot to help them sleep, and because they use a vape pen, you may have no idea. Pot has become a very popular drug of choice for teens!
  • When your teen has a sleepover: This is another time when you are in bed wayyyyy earlier that your teen and their sleep over buddies. They may be in the basement floors away from you. Believe me when I tell you kids sneak out, drink, smoke pot, watch porn, take your car keys and go for a joy ride. How do I know all this???? Because I have been doing this for a VERY long time. I teach college students, and they love to tell me how they "got over" on their parents. I also have coached hundreds and hundreds of parents, and they tell me. I'm not saying all teens are up for a grand ole time at a sleepover, but what teen doesn't doesn't like some kind of fun. Set your alarm for 11:30, 1:30 and 3 AM. Tell your teen you are an insomniac and have to pee all night long. Hope your nocturnal activities won't bother them and their friends. WINK,WINK!!! This will be a deterrent!!! Trust me!
  • Lock up your alcohol and your drugs: Who doesn't have a little ambien, xanax or oxy around from an old root canal or back injury!! You may think your teen knows not to go in your bathroom, but really?.......Go to CVS and buy an insert that fits right into your medicine cabinet that locks. Also, I can't tell you how many homes I visit where the garages are full of booze and the living room has bottles of booze just out for the taking. The #1 place teens get alcohol is from their parent's house!! Don't forget the beer/wine refrigerator in the basement!
  • Backpacks and water bottles should be left at the door: Teens are crafty, they will bring stashes into your house, do what you can to limit that.
  • If you go away for the weekend without your kids: I know, they are staying at their best friends, and you have told them that are not allowed to come into the house. But when their friends realize there is an empty house for the taking on the weekend....well you know!! Call your local police station and tell them you will be away for the weekend. Your teens are not staying at the house, but as a precaution ask them to do some drive bys on the evenings you will be away. Tell your teen, "oh by the way, I called the police and they will be checking on the house while we're away. So if you're friends put any pressure on your to come into the house, you can tell them your stupid ass parents called the cops!!" That will take care of that!
I know this all sounds alarmist. But this is about temptation!  You never left your kid's halloween candy out for the taking when they were in elementary school, why would you leave out your alcohol and drugs! This is about safety, not only for your teens, but for any teens that come into your house. Just think, only a few more years, and you can sleep through the night again!!!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Don't Forget" Is Not A Remembering Strategy

Not that school has started, you'll be back in the DON'T FORGET mode!!!How many times have your said to your teen: Don't forget your math book, sports equipment, lunch, house keys, etc., etc., etc. You may have even done the reminding just before your teen walks out the door, and you are responded to with a " I WON"T!" And so you leave it at that!

Then the phone call comes in from your teen, not a text, but a real honest to goodness human voice: "Hiiiii, it's me....... how's your day going?" Said in the sappiest, sweetest tone your teen your kid can muster. And then the: "I forgot my _________________, can you bring it to school?" And you grimace, and groan, and say: " how many times did I ask you and remind you to make sure you had that to bring to school? "And you start in on the lecture; "If you only did like I told you to get your school stuff ready the night before this would never happen........" And then you cave and interrupt whatever it is your doing and bring the damn_______________ to school. Because you know that if you don't, the teacher will give your teen a "0" for class that day, and that too many zero's can add up to a grade drop for the term, and if the term grade isn't high enough, it will effect their chance of an honor's class or grade point cum or any other consequence that might in some way affect your teen's college chances and therefore the rest of their life.

That train of thinking is called sequential thinking, and that is the kind of thinking that your teen does not do very well. When you did that final yell up the stairs in the morning, your teen heard you, and really did think, oh yeah, gotta remember that book. But then a second later he/she got a text from a friend who asked a really important question like "what are wearing today? or Wassup. And this very important question took them away from the remembering.

If you really want your teen to remember the things they always forget, than you have to help them come up with a strategy for remembering that works for them. Remember that you and your teen are not the same person, you do not have the same brain, and therefore what works for you in the remembering department like making a list for example, may not work for them.

So don't start off this conversation with the "you know what works for me?" Instead you can say; "You know honey, I know it's hard to keep track of what you need to do and remember, you have alot on your mind. (And they do) and I get it's easy to forget things when in that moment you have a ton of other things that take up space in that brain of yours. So here's the thing. I get that just saying "don't forget" does not work. I also am not willing anymore to interrupt my day to take you what you need, or letting "I forgot" being an excuse for not following through on something, like keeping in touch with us when you are out with your friends. Instead, we have to come up with strategy to help you remember."

And here is the real work. TOGETHER you brain storm some ideas. Perhaps if your teen is attached to his phone, he/she can set an alarm just before leaving for school that reminds them to remember such and such. Or maybe you text them just before they leave, even if you are sitting in the same room, or perhaps you have color coded post it notes on the door out to the garage that match up with what they need for the day. Be creative. Look at who your kid is and how their brain works. Thinking through a strategy is giving them a life skill that they can use the rest of their life, saying don't forget lasts only a second.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It Is Time For A Parenting Reality Check

Get a big cup of coffee, or a big glass of wine and settle in. I have a lot of reading for you to do today. Below are two links from this month's Boston Magazine. A great issue for parents of teens. One of them is about sending off your newly minted college freshman with some tips from me, and the other is an excellent, first hand reflection article about the pressure for parents to think their teen needs to be the best at everything. The third link is about how teens choose to handle this pressure that parents often exert from the New York Times. All of these work in concert with this blog that I wrote in 2012, but is really timeless.

"I come from a family that gets disappointed and chews me out for B's or B+'s and even A-'s. I've been told that the only way to be successful is through academic excellence. I'm sick of the expectations to be a perfect kid. Change your unrealistic expectations and take the My Kid Is An Honor Student bumper sticker off your minivan."20 year old non-ADD Adderall user.

The New York Times (see link below) did an eye-opening article citing the number of high school and college students without ADD that are using drugs like Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin. Kids with ADD who have been prescribed these drugs have found a great market niche. Sell their own prescribed ADD medication to kids looking for either a cheap high, or like to use the amphetamine like high or energy boost to get through homework faster and with a higher degree of success. What parents see from their teen is a renewed sense of dedication and ability to concentrate from their students, and applaud their successes, blinded to the reality that this is being achieved through a drug high. Remember these are kids NOT DIAGNOSED with ADD, but have felt a pressure to meet the high expectations from parents, teachers, and community. Read the article for a full explanation of the dangers of using these drugs which are not prescribed for the many kids using them. If your teen is prescribed such a drug, do not give them the responsibility for the bottle. You dose it out and maintain control of the bottle. There is too much temptation out there for selling their pills to other students.

First off, let me say that  not all kids are "A" students, nor should they be. Academic achievement is getting a bad rep.  Making honor roll every term, does not assure success as an adult. There are many very successful people who were high school or college drop outs whose "A's" came from their passions in other areas, but did not show up on their report cards. People like Peter Jennings, Rachel Ray, Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey Chocolates, Joyce Hall, founder of Hallmark cards. And the list goes on.(Google successful people who didn't graduate and you will be amazed at the list) This is not to say, you should not have high expectations of your kids. But they should be realistic expectations. If you have a son or daughter who is engaged fully in their life, with a passion like sports, or theater, or computers, or cartooning, or film making or is a budding musician who wants to spend every waking moment making music, that is a good thing. That drive and passion will translate to the real world in a meaningful way. If in addition to a non-academic interest they have many friends and an active social life. That too is a good thing and will translate to the real world in a meaningful way. If in addition to a passion, and friends, they have a job, that will translate to the real world in a meaningful way, And if they do well enough in school, and are actually interested in what they are learning, how amazing that is and how important that will be as they head out into a very complex and complicated world. Getting on honor roll to make you happy should not be the goal. Getting on honor roll because it is a goal they have for themselves is the real work.

Some years back I was doing some work for a prestigious private school. One weekend party binge was particularly upsetting to the school community. A student whose parents were away for the weekend, had a party at her house. The party got out of control, and hundreds of kids showed up at this house. Not only did they party hearty with alcohol, but these "A" students completely trashed this house, leaving no lampshade unturned. The damage to this beautiful house was beyond belief. How could these well-educated, smart, goal-driven kids do this? When the kids who were caught were asked, here is what they answered: " Our parents expect us to the "best little boys and girls" in the world. They want us to get good grades, be the best athlete or singer or actor or artist, be active in the school, do community service, do it all!" And we do! But guess what, trashing this house was our way of saying "f##k you, we are not perfect!

Your kids feel the pressure of your expectations, and because they love you want to please you. But of course there is a cost. If taking a drug that is not meant for them will get the job done, then so be it! Parents, this is time for a reality check. Ask your successful grade A student why they get the grades.  If they say, "because I know it will make you happy", then give them an F, cause that is the wrong answer. If they answer "cause I really love school, and I love what I am learning," give them an "A", cause they deserve it. When your friends ask you,'Hey how is Sally doing?" and you answer by giving them a rundown of Sally's honor roll report card and SAT scores, give yourself an "F". If you answer by saying: "you know she seems really happy, has great friends, loves soccer, and seems to be enjoying her classes," give yourself an "A". Of course we take pride in ourselves when our kids do well, and feel disappointed and maybe even embarrassed when our kids don't do well. But truly, I would rather have a kid who struggles, but has a lot of other good things in their life besides academics that build their confidence and self-esteem, than a kid who feels pressure to strive for the A by taking drugs that will make them work even harder, and diminishes the joys of working hard and achievement to just getting the job done.

When the final report cards come in this week. Whether you are elated or if you are disappointed, the question should be the same. "How have our expectations of you impacted this report card?" In the long run, the kids who become successful adults are the ones who have something in their life that motivates them, interests them, and gives them joy. But that shouldn't be you!

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/10/education/stimulants-student-voices.html?emc=eta1#/#4

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2017/08/27/in-praise-of-mediocre-kids/#MhdbktCE7eAdHrEZ.01

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2017/08/27/college-students-mental-health/

Thursday, August 24, 2017

On these Lingering Last Few Days Of Vacation

Just a few more days, and the easiness of the last 2 months will transition to the frenetic pace of school and work, and family. Before it all gets away from everybody, why not start a new family tradition of welcoming the new school year by expressing gratitude for what the summer brought you all and what everyone is looking forward to in this year.

Make it official, maybe a special dinner out or favorite take out, or favorite meal shared the last night before school starts. Take turns sharing the best of the summer and what your were grateful for, and what each of you looks forward to this year.

Teens tend to live moment by moment, rarely taking the time to reflect. This is a life long skill. These reflections set the stage for their futures and how they might remember and use these memories as a foundation for the goals they set for themselves in life.

You don't have to go deep and all philosophical. But I do think rituals and traditions are important parts of family life. As I reflect on my summer I'm getting a little teary. I had some surgery this summer, nothing serious, all is well, but it made me so grateful for the loving care of my husband, my daughter and my amazingly supportive friends. I am grateful for the parents who stayed with me this summer, reading my blogs, and making me feel useful even when I felt like sh**!! I am grateful for the time I was able to have to recover with no pressure to work, and to be able to take the time I needed for myself.

See how easy that is!!! Go for it!!! And I wish you all a wonderful new beginning. Because that is what every new school year brings. A new slate. Give your kids the gift of new beginnings!!!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Just Right Parenting Style-Part 3

Today's installment  is the "just right" parent. Just like in Goldilocks And The Three Bears, we have the parent who is too "hot", the authoritarian parent, the too "cold" parent, the permissive one, and now we have the "just right" parent the authoritative one. This parent gets that their teen is becoming their own person. This parent understands that the goal of parenting a teen is to gradually, over the 6 years of teendom( ages 12-18), first to share control and then finally to cede control over the lives of the teen as they leave the nest. The teen years are a training ground for adulthood. Learning to make safe and healthy decisions about relationships, life's temptations, education and career take practice. Practice makes perfect.  An authoritative parent understands that part of practice includes making mistakes. An authoritative parent understands that their kids are not supposed to be mirror images of themselves. They get that their teen has a unique personality and temperament that needs to be respected, supported and nurtured, even if that means adjusting their own expectations of who they hoped this growing child would become.

An authoritative parent understands that a teen still needs structure in their life to be successful, but rather than imposing one, works with their teen to develop one together. Understanding that getting a teen to "buy in" and take ownership of rules and expectations means you have to include them in the planning and implementation of them. This takes time, and I know, it is so much easier to just say nothing as with the permissive parent, or just do it for them, as with the authoritarian parent.  Keeping the ultimate goal in mind really helps. All parents want their kids to be successful adults. If we overprotect or under protect  our kids, they will be dependent on us for life. And by the way, you are going to want them to be able to take care of you someday, so you better get crackin!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Parenting Style-Part 2

In today's episode of Understanding Your Parenting Style, we look at the permissive parent. In this style of parenting we might hear things like: "no problem, okay, see you whenever, sure, have fun, love you."This all sounds so nice, so loving, so calm, where's the problem in that?  Here is the problem, the teen in this situation is not required to think, to assess, to plan, to be responsible to anyone but him/herself. Adolescence by nature and definition is all about self-centeredness. We know that a certain amount of this self-centeredness is natural and normal, but if we add to it, by not presenting alternative perspectives we create narcissistic adults, as in "I want what I want when I want it!"  More importantly these teens are often engaged in dangerous and risky behavior because they live in a world with no boundaries. Expectations from parents may be inconsistent or non-existent. For example I often work with parents when their teen's behavior has become out of control. In many of these families there are high expectations when it comes to academic performance by no expectations around behavior. So kids "get" that if they do well in school, the rest of their life will be free from restraint.  It is an unspoken quid pro quo.

Here is what I think contributes to parent permissiveness. Many of us hate hate hate conflict. We will go to any extreme to avoid argument and disagreement. So rather than say "no" or "we need to discuss this" or "I need to hear your plan before I make a decision" this parent goes right to the sure, love you place. Parenting an adolescence requires conflict, welcomes conflict, and invites conflict. This is how we make our teens use their new developing brain to learn how to make decisions. We disagree, we argue, we force them to think, to weigh options, to plan and to decide.  So if you are uncomfortable with conflict, learn to wallow in. The worst that can happen is that your teen might momentarily hate you. But they' will get over it, and when they become young adults will thank you for helping them to become thoughtful and responsible people.

Additionally the conflict-avoiders also to to be the kinds of parents who want their teens and their teens friends to think of them as the cool parents. They want their kids to want to hang out with them, and to use their house as "the house". This often means turning a blind eye to situations that other parents aren't comfortable with like "sex, drugs and rock and roll." The permissive parent's house tends to become the "safe house" for their kids and kid's friends. Let me just say that you can still have a great relationship with your kid and kid's friends without being an enabler. Your primary job is to be the bouncer not the party host, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.

Another contributing factor in permissive parenting is allowing our own needs and wants to take priority.  I have a very vivid memory of being out to a lovely restaurant with my husband. We were seated next to a group that consisted of two couples and their collective four children. The couples were enjoying their cocktails and conversation with each other leaving their young kids to fend for themselves. The kids, bored at this fancy restaurant entertained themselves by kicking our booth, and throwing over napkins and food. The parents were oblivious to it all until management changed our table, and my wonderful husband gave them "a little feedback on parenting." Though this story is about younger children, fast-forward to this family 5 years later. Parents still have a busy work and social life, and are excited now that their kids are teens they can leave them to their own devices, no babysitters needed. These teens are often left unsupervised for evenings, maybe even weekends while parents attend to whatever it is they want or need to do. Without sounding preachy here, OK I am preaching here, parenting does require sacrifice. So many parents I know spend most weekend nights babysitting their home, not their kids. They "get" that though their kids don't need babysitters anymore, their house does. Leaving an empty house is a public invitation to party. Also when you are available to your kids, it makes them feel secure that if they need you, they can have you. Teens need to feel that they are still your first priority, and that you are always looking out for their safety and well-being.

Stay tuned for part 3: The authoritative parent.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What's Your Parenting Style? Part 1

I thought for the next three blogs, I would do a primer on the three major parenting styles, kind of like those quizzes you can take in magazines. Rate your marriage or your sex life, or are you a half -full or half-empty kind of person?  You know the ones where you get a "1" for the answers that make you sound the most sane, and a "5" for the ones that make you sound crazy. I don't know why but I love those quizzes. I think because I am always looking for ways to evaluate how I am doing in life. Am I OK? yes! phew!! Or, oh god, is it really that bad, oy vey!

Understanding your parenting style might help you to understand your relationship with your teen. Parenting a teen is not the same as parenting a younger child. It requires a different set of skills: an ability to be flexible, but not too flexible; understanding, but not a push-over; willing to take a stand and set limits, but not like a marine sergeant.  Let's see how you roll.

Lets start with the "authoritarian" parenting style. You might hear things from this parent like the old favorite: "it's my way or the highway", or "my house, my rules", and lets not forget, "if you don't like it, then get out." Clearly this is a parent who likes to be in control. When you are this type of parent and you have young children it works well. Young children love rules and structure. They love to please mommy and daddy, and are all around lovely little beings to have around. The problem occurs in adolescence when your teen is not so motivated to please and follow your rules. Since they are biologically driven to start to fend for themselves, being told the what, when and how to do things goes against the natural order of the developing teen.

 If you have parented this way in the past, you will have a rude awakening. Things can go badly in two possible ways. First, if your teen is somewhat passive, quiet in nature, or has a really good understanding that you need to be control, they will tend to yes you to death, looking like the pleasing child they have always been, and fly under your radar by excessively lying. Rather then incurring your wrath they will try to avoid it. They learn some valuable lessons here in manipulation. They learn just how to play you so that you feel the illusion of being in control, but basically have figured out to do exactly what they want to do, just behind your back. The worry here is that your teen never comes to you for help because they anticipate that you won't really want to listen. The danger is that they could be in an unsafe situation and rather than come to you will risk themselves rather than risk getting in trouble with you. Not a great gamble.

The second scenario with the authoritarian style of parenting occurs if you have a teen who is feisty in nature. Now that they are bigger, and they think smarter than you, they will fight you every step of the way, which often becomes all out warfare. "You can't make me, and you aren't the boss of me" are daily mantras. In this situation, you have run out of ideas. You have taken away everything you can, phone, computer, car. You have grounded them for months at a time, but rather than taming the beast that has become your teen, it has enraged him/her, like King Kong being assaulted by all those airplanes. The danger here is that your teen now has nothing left to lose, the relationship is damaged. In this situation, the teen is feeling their power. Their ability to challenge your authority, and drive you completely insane is intoxicating. The balance of power in your relationship has shifted, and they are loving it.

Give yourself a 5 if this is your style of parenting. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2: The Permissive Parent.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Matter Of Money!

Unless you are comfortably wealthy, most parents these days are using up their retirement portfolios, giving up restaurants, vacations, new cars and any other perk that one usually looks forward to in mid-life, to pay for their kids to go to college and have the freedom from debt as they start their young adult life. And most parents I know who do this, do it freely and with love.  It is only when the semester grades start coming in, or the epidemic of changing one's major multiple times, that requires students to take additional courses (read more money) for their interest of the year, that parents start to wonder about the return on their investment. Many students I know are now on the 5 year plan due to flunked classes, need to make up credits or change of heart in what they want to study or do with their life. And because they have not been a part of the financial planning for their college career, and because they live in a fantasy world when it comes to money, and because many parents are afraid to talk money with their kids, they are not taking much responsibility for these decisions. Kids seem to want more, fancy phones, expensive video games, unlimited supply of clothes, and parents work hard to give them more. We aren't doing them any favors. Before they go to college is when they need to learn the meaning of money.

How many of your kids have any idea what their phone bill is, or their computer or cable bill that allows them to order movies on demand without regard to the extra $6.99 that appears on your bill.
How will your teens ever develop an appreciation for what things cost unless you teach them. I am a big advocate whether you are a family of means or a family where you need to count every penny, that you have a monthly date to go over the bills. Let them see just how many movies they did order and what the cost was. How much their portion of their cell phone cost. Dollars and cents, they need the reality. So much of teens lives in this 21st century make it easy to live in lalaland. They can say things without consequence through impersonal devices, they can order things without using the old fashioned greenback, and so it is no surprise that when they go off to college with a car full of new clothes and comforters that it feels magical. They absolutely need to know that college can cost up to $50,000 a year, and that is a sh**load of money.

Start teaching them now. They may not have to pay the bills, but at least let them know that it all costs the real deal...money. Maybe there is a limit on downloads and uploads, and scanning the bills together you develop some budget items. Let them know that mediocrity is not acceptable for college when everyone in the family sacrifices for their ability to go. A little guilt never hurt! And more importantly, obstacle and challenge make the journey to success so much more meaningful.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Getting Honest

Part of the fun of having my book : A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens; Talking To Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You Out, published a few years ago, was that I got to do all kinds of fun interviews that made me think. Here is an interview I did for the website: Good enough Mother. It was challenging and made me think about my life and get really honest with myself.  How might you answer these questions?
http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2014/09/life-lessons-joani-geltman/


Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Trials And Tribulations Of Summer Vacating With Your Teen

I've had a number of frantic calls this summer from parents who have either planned a fabulous family vacation, and their teen is kvetching and complaining that they don't want to go, OR they just came back from a family vacation and their teen stubbornly did not participate or appreciate the vacation the family took, spending too much time on their phones and avoiding family fun bonding time!

When your teens were younger, the "family" vacation was mythical. Something to look forward to, something to get your kids though the winter doldrums and that last month of school when you can taste summer but can't experience it yet. Fast forward to the teen years. "We're going to the cape again....Europe!!!! who wants to spend my summer looking at churches and museums. Wah wah, I'll miss my friends."

First don't get hooked into that argument or come back with a "Do you know how lucky you are?" lecture. In this moment, being separated from friends, and possibly missing out on some amazing party, concert, or hang session is all they can focus out. You don't need to argue or convince, just listen, and then say " I get that this feels hard and I know that you're worried you might miss out on something fun." And then just stop there. You know they are going, and that this is not an optional trip. If you allow yourself to get hooked into an argument they will never stop hoping that if they wear you down, you'll leave them at home with a friend. Just let them vent.

In addition to the venting strategy, do try to include them in the planning. If they feel included in the decision-making you will get much less resistance. Maybe the dates aren't flexible but the what of the trip is still open to discussion. Maybe it's to visit family, or go to a vacation destination that you have been going to for years, or maybe you are lucky enough to travel to some exotic location. Make sure that the activities you choose to do where ever you go, take into account who each of your kids are, and their personal interests . If they love sports, then find a local soccer/tennis/ baseball game that might spark their interest. Or if they like amusement parks, or shopping malls, beaches, pools, zoos, you get the idea. Your idea of what to see and do, may be the antithesis of what they like to do. Ask them to look on the Internet for something in the location that they might like to do. Including them in the planning is a sign of respect. And respect leads to accommodation. Just don't expect smiles and gratitude. You'll get that in 10 years as they look back on their youth and tell you how amazing that trip was that you took when they were 16. As you think, OMG you were a pain in the ass on that trip. Now you tell me you had fun!!! Go figure.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Curse Of Summer Reading Lists

OK, the summer is exactly one half over, and crumbled up summer reading lists are being found and resurrected by parents everywhere. Most kids have spent the summer avoiding your queries about the reading by saying, "I'll do it, I have the whole summer, just leave me alone!!!" Well the whole summer is now down to 4 weeks and the books have been bought, Kindled or Nooked depending on the summer bribe. "If I buy you a Kindle/Nook, will you do the reading?" Your kid, panting like a dog who sees a new treat coming his/her way has promised that yes yes yes I will do the reading if you buy me off, I mean buy me a Kindle/Nook. But listen, it doesn't matter what form the book is in, it is still reading and might/could be way less exciting than say sitting on the couch texting/facebooking/videogaming/tv or movie watching or studying one's navel.

So here are a few strategies to get the reading done before school starts before you have to resort to the threats of no phone, no computer no life until you finish your reading.
  • Sit with your kid and add up the number of pages that need to be read by the start of school. Get out the old calculator and number of pages from each book and add together. Divide that number by the number of days left before school and you now have a PPD (pages per day) your kid needs to complete. When you break it down this way, it is far less intimidating. Most kids avoid the summer reading because it seems daunting. Maybe they have 3 or 4 books to read, and the image they have is just hours and hours of reading to complete it, so pretending it doesn't exist is much easier. Having to read 20 pages a day may not seem as bad.
  •   Set aside a reading time. Not on your schedule but a time of day that your kid feels is do-able. Get your book, take your kid to Starbucks, get him/her a Mochachino and read together for 30 minutes or an hour. Pair the reading with something pleasurable.
    • If your kid continues to be resistant to follow-through, pair reading with favors. For example, if the PPD has not been completed and your kid asks for a ride, some money, clean laundry etc you can say: "I would love to help you out, but I noticed you haven't done your PPD today, and I don't really feel like complying with your request until you do. I get this reading stuff is hard for you, but it's just something you gotta do.
    • Get the reading list books on tape. Some kids might be more motivated if they were hearing them rather than reading them. Put them on in the car while you are driving. Put it on an old CD player and let them listen with earphones, bring it to the beach and they can tan and "read" at the same time.   
    Get creative.  Just hucking your kid to do the reading is not going to get the job done. You have to "understand" their resistance, rather than criticize it, and help them to develop a plan that makes the impossible seem possible. 

    PS. I am now booking for this upcoming school year seminars. Have Joani will travel..anywhere!! Last year, I spoke in California, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Below are the seminars I offer. Talk to your PTOs, religious organizations, community groups or businesses about presenting one of these to your community. I promise it will be fun and informative! Contact me for pricing and availability

    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
      

    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!


     Joani Geltman MSW     781-910-1770    joanigeltman.com