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


    Tuesday, July 25, 2017

    But I Wasn't Even Drinking!!!

    Here is a straight from the headlines story that all parents should use to talk with their teens. Erin is a 17 year old senior in high school, honor roll student and captain of her Volleyball team. On a Saturday night, Erin got a call from a friend who was drunk at a party and knew that she couldn't drive home. She asked Erin to come and get her. Erin arrived at the party to pick up her friend, just as the police had come after getting a call about this out of control party. Erin was arrested along with the other party guests. Police confirmed that Erin was "alcohol free" but regardless she was stripped of her volleyball captainship and was suspended from play for 5 games. This was devastating for Erin. She had only been helping out a friend. Unfortunately, the town in which Erin lives has a very strict, zero tolerance alcohol and drug policy especially for athletes. Being in the presence of drugs and alcohol is equal to being in possession of illegal substances, hence the severe consequences for Erin. Erin and her parents are suing the town.

    This blog is not about fairness and what the town should or shouldn't do. It is a cautionary tale for parents to share with their kids. Sometimes the world is not "fair." For Erin, she was helping out a friend, clearly a responsible act, and her friend, knew it wasn't safe to drive, clearly a responsible act. Both teens were acting responsively, that much is clear. But Erin was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and she is now paying dearly for her act of friendship. Fair or not fair, isn't really helpful right now. Talk about this story with your teen. Make sure you both understand your school policies about drugs and alcohol. Let them know that you are always always always a good starting point when a decision has to made. If a situation like this presents itself for your teen, tell them that you should be their first call, whether your teen is the drunk friend in this story, or the responsible friend. Promise to validate their act of responsibility, not punish it, and help them to figure out a strategy that is safe for everyone!!!
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2013/10/15/mass-student-opposes-punishment-for-aiding-friend/LCIJFMJXQNi7jeiuDiraqJ/story.html

    Thursday, July 20, 2017

    How To Become "Parent Whisperer"

    I watched a documentary recently that inspired me. It's called "Buck." This man is a horse trainer/philosopher/life coach on whose work the movie "The Horse Whisperer" is based. I learned more from this man in one hour and twenty three minutes than from my graduate school training. So much for school. There are some people who have an amazing ability to read themselves, the people they work with, and yes horses! Buck is such a person. You watch him take a frisky, headstrong, "you aren't the boss of me" kind of horse (substitute teen for horse) and work with him to become a horse who becomes open to a relationship where there is a mutual respect for authority. There is much talk about "breaking a horse" which Buck rejects. In that relationship there is an absence of understanding and respect, and instead there is fear and control.

    In the film, Buck often compares the process of training a horse to parenting a child. Both require an ability to stay calm in the face of  out of control emotion,  (at least your teen can't literally bite your head off) and an ability to understand the underlying issues that are driving behavior. Is the horse/teen bucking out of fear of what's to come, or because they like their freedom and don't want to be controlled. This is important to know. Though the end goal (getting the saddle on/getting your teen to follow-through on whatever) is the same, the process by which you get there will be different. There is nothing more important in a relationship than being understood, whether animal or human. Here are some lessons from Buck I learned about understanding from this film.
    • Don't be overly critical with the horse, they will just shut down.  Teens are the same way way. Maybe your teen comes home with a bad test result. How you respond to that information can make a huge difference in a future outcome. If you say: "Well, if you had studied harder, and not wasted so much time, you would have done better," feeling criticized they will deny, get angry and shut down. If you ask them how they might study differently the next time, you might open a discussion about study habits.
    • Respect isn't fear, respect is acceptance. You can punish, yell and metaphorically try to whip your horse/teen into shape, but that will not change behavior. 
    •  Build on pride, make him feel good about himself. Watching Buck work with these enormous headstrong animals is amazing. Rather than expending his own energy being negative, he would look for even the small positive gains the horse was making and pet and talk sweetly and reinforce movement in the right direction. If only a horse could smile! 
    • I'm not mad at the horse when they don't do what I want. I have to control my emotions. Yelling does not help a situation. Save the emotion for the serious stuff. Keeping your own emotions in check during a heated situation is what commands respect.
    • Blessed are the flexible as they will not get bent out of shape. There are always more than one way to reach a goal. It's not a choice to do it, just how to do it. My way or the highway encourages rebellion.
    • There is a difference between a firm hand and a hard hand. This was one of the most amazing parts of this film to watch. When he wanted to get the horse to move in a particular way he didn't yank, he used a gentle, consistent pressure until the horse "got it". "Do it cause I said so" is a hard hand,  "I need or would like you to'" is a firm hand.
    • Whenever you're ready. I'll just wait. This guy had the patience of a saint. He had clear goals, he knew what he wanted from the horse, but never got into a power struggle. When the horse understood that he could come to it on his own time, he did. Power struggles delay, patience will pay. 
    There is no one that knows your kid better than you. Reading cues from their body language, their tone of voice, their energy levels, how they sleep, how they eat, these things are all clues as to what is going on with your teen. Become an expert on "reading" your teen. If you get a sense that something is going with them, "get" that this is probably not the time to get into an argument about cleaning their room or doing their homework. Most likely this will end up with someone slamming a door in someone's face.

    This ability to "read" a horse is what makes Buck so successful at what he does. Be your own parent whisperer!. And watch this movie, it is life changing.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

    The Lies Of Omission: "Oh I Didn't Think I Had To Tell You That!"

    Sometimes people lie outright, and sometimes they just don't tell you the whole story. Teens do that too. Why do teens lie? Because from their point of view, they have to. How else can you do what you want to do? The problem is that teens get so used to giving parents half a story out of habit, that they don't give their parents a chance to even say yes, which in many situations they actually might have. But instead they tell the half a story, and because teens are impulsive and live in the moment, they often get caught, and now parents have to deal with a lying issue.

    Here are a few cases in point: A thirteen year old girl lives near her town's small downtown area where kids often meet up for pizza or an ice cream. She had her parents drop her off at a school nearby where she told them she was going to a sports event. Apparently, she met up with a few friends there, and they left to walk into town to meet "the boys." (which by the way was the real plan) When the mom called the parent who was supposed to pick up the girls, he told her his daughter had never gone to the school, but he dropped her off in town and that's where he was picking the girls up at the appointed hour. What a silly lie. When confronted by the mom, the girl said she assumed her mom would have said no to letting her walk around town. And she said, I did go to the game (even though it was for 5 seconds) so I didn't lie, I just didn't tell you I was going into town.  Oy vey!!!

    Another story. a 15 year old girl who lives 30 minutes by train outside of New York City tells her parents she is going to sleep over so and so's house. Parents drop her off there. Parents are home, all is well. She finds out from a friend who was riding the train back from the city at 10 PM that she saw her daughter on the train. Whaaaatttt! The mother exclaimed, her daughter knows that she is not allowed to go into the city without adult supervision. Apparently the sleepover house parent who drove the girls  to the train station and picked the girls up there at 10:30 PM never questioned this girl as to whether her parents had given her permission to go into the city at night on the train, and the girl never said anything about it and went on her merry way with her friend on their adventure.

    In both cases, the girls never gave their parents a chance to even discuss their desires, and now they have to deal with the consequences of lying... That's the teen "feeling" brain for you. The impulsive need to go and do is so strong that it belies rational thinking. And that is the point. Your teen needs to know that you won't always be the parent of NO. Sometimes as parents we do get into the knee jerk reaction NO's because your teen demands rather than asks, and that pisses you off, or catches you when you are busy, and just to shoo the issue away you say NO, or they have asked permission for a similar thing and you have said NO, so now they know not to ask but just do.

    In both of those cases there was room for a non-no answer. It is true that in the past these parents had said no to similar requests, and the girls felt they had no other choice. Your job is to help you kids come up with a plan that could possible make it a yes. For the NYC girl a compromise might have been reached. " I get you really want to go into the city alone with your friends. I don't feel safe having you go in at night, but you could go late afternoon, and take a train home at 7:30 or 8 and still have time to get dinner and walk around in the early evening. I'm guessing that would have been an OK compromise.  In the walking into town case, the girl knew the mom was uncomfortable with the kids rambling around town. Mom and daughter could have come up together will a plan that would have made mom comfortable.

    Your job is to say to your kids: "Give us a chance. Maybe we can find a way to make it happen for you that feels good to both of us. Don't give us that chance and you might get caught in your lie, and end up with a consequence that is unpleasant. I know we sometimes say no without thinking, and we will work on that so you don't need to lie."

    Go back to my blog on the A+ parent for an example of how well this can work. Remember helping you kids to come up with a plan that works for both of you is so much better and more pleasant than sitting home with a grounded teen. Nobody wants to do that!

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    The Power Of Being Understood And Forgiveness

    I was thinking about this topic the other day, and was reminded of two personal experiences that reiterated to me the power of understanding and forgiveness. One experience was for me to ask for forgiveness, and the other, looking from someone else to understand me.

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    You're Not Allowed To Talk To My Friends!

    When my daughter was a freshman in college she had her first real boyfriend. My husband and I were apoplectic to meet him. So on a sunny Saturday we drove up to campus to take them to dinner. Because my husband and I have big mouths, my daughter was beyond terrified of what might come out of them.  So prior to the actual meeting we were given very strict guidelines of what we were allowed and not allowed to ask. In our own defense we continued to comfort and placate her with a "honey we would never embarrass you. Secretly though, my hubby and I thought the whole issue hilarious and the night before our trip for the big "meeting" we developed our list of questions. None of which we were ever going to ask, but just as a fun thing to show our daughter and all have a good laugh over! Which by the way we did, especially when our daughter chose to read them out loud at dinner!

    Questions included: How much money do you parents make? What are your intentions with our daughter? What is your future profession?  There were many more but since this occurred many years ago and as an "older person" the memory is not so good!!

    This is a universal plight of teens. Please Don't Embarrass me. So I say to you parents, rather than asking to many specific questions of your teens friends, just saying things like, Hey what's up? Or love the outfit? Please avoid questions like: So what's your college list? or How is school going? or anything that sounds too personal. When teens don't feel your desperation to be included in the conversation, they will talk, and over time may look forward to sharing parts of themselves that maybe they don't share with their own parents. But remember, these are your teens' friendships and relationships and they don't won't you butting in unless you're invited.

    Thursday, July 6, 2017

    Some Great Summer Movies To Watch With Your Teen

    One of the best parts of summer is....time. There is just more of it. During the school year there is no extra time. Pretty much every minute is accounted for including weekends. In the summer there are weird pockets of time that you might actually find you and your teen in the house, at the same time, with nothing much to do. Take advantage of them. Maybe its at 11 AM when they are just rising from a late night, but are free till 4 or 5 when they are going to hook back up with their buddies. Or maybe all their friends are away for the same weekend, and they are hanging around the house. Here are some movies that are on demand or on netflix that are fun to watch, and might even generate some fun conversation.

    First Position: I just watched this last night. Its a documentary about a world class ballet competition. Young dancers compete for scholarships for elite ballet companies. They follow 4 teens as they prepare for this competition. I LOVED it. Great examples of kids with passions and how they live their life. If you have a dancing teen, this is a must watch.

    American Teen:  this is an amazing documentary that follows a group of high school seniors for their whole last year at a large midwestern high school. Every teen will find themselves represented, the social butterfly, the jock, the artsy kid, and the kid who doesn't fit in. Great film. My college students go crazy for this film every semester.

    The Perks Of Being A Wallflower: Feature film about a group of kids who aren't part of a "popular crowd" but form an anti-popular crowd. Great story about friendship, and relationships. I love it!

    Ferris Beuller's Day Off: Teens play hooky, hilarity ensues. A classic...you must have seen it!!

    Dead Poets Society: Robin Williams tour de force performance as the teacher you wish you had in high school who really gets you!  A great movie about finding yourself, separating from parents, dealing with disappointment.

    The Way Way Back: I LOVED this movie about a family off to their summer rental, after a parent's divorce. Teen gets his first job and taste of independence. This movie is funny, sweet, and meaningful!

    Moonrise Kingdom: Quirky independent movie about two preteens, fed up with "the grownups" take off on an adventure.

    Stand by Me: 3 young teens hanging in the summer have an adventure they never anticipated. A classic!

    Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Can't Buy Me Love: These are fun 80's teen movies that your kids have probably not seen, but are so much fun to watch. The hair may be big, and the shoulder pads huge but the teen issues are still the same. Would be really fun to introduce these to your kids

    Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist: full disclosure, my daughter is one of the stars. She plays the drunk best friend caroline. This is a really sweet movie with Michael Cera. Kat Dennings and my daughter about friendship, relationships and has great music. though my daughter does play a drunk teen, it is not glorified at all. You'll see what I mean if you watch the movie.

    Enjoy!

    For phone or in-person parent coaching call me at 781-910-1770.  A single session can help you go from crisis to calm!

    Invite me to come and speak at your school, at your company or for your community group. Have Joani will travel!

    Thursday, June 29, 2017

    Summer Survival Tips

    Yay...summer is here. Some of your teens may be shipped out to various camps, programs, far-away islands, and you will all be enjoying a little break from the trials and tribulations of daily teen life. However, many of you are looking at 8 weeks of "what are you going to do all day?" conversations. If you do not have a teen who has found a job, internship or volunteer gig, here are some ideas on how to keep your teen from turning into a video gaming, jersey shore watching, shopaholic, comatose during the day, but strangely energized come sundown person.

    1. All teens need money to survive during the summer. Those nightly jaunts into town, to the mall, or out to dinner with friends all cost money. Pair money to gym workouts, book reading. As in, "I get you need money when you go out with your friends. Here is the deal, you can earn money for your hangs by getting off the couch. Every time you hit the gym, you earn some cash. When I see you reading for an hour, you get some cash. When you actually do some stuff around the house, ie laundry, cleaning your room, making your bed etc, you get some cash. Should you choose to just sit around the house all  day, no cash. Of course you can always find a job, internship, volunteer something,which I would love to help you with, but I cannot support you being on the computer, facebooking, playing video games and watching tv all day. That's the deal."

    2. For those of you who have video game addicts. These guys are looking at the summer as an orgy of game playing. If they are not involved in any activities, jobs, etc you are looking at the potential of your son playing for 12 hours a day. NOT GOOD!!! Get a device for your device that can be programmed for finite amount of use. Your teen can earn video game play by exchanging other activity participation. Like above, book reading, exercise, internship, lawn work, be creative. But DO NOT let your teen play video games all day and night. Come September, you will have a full-fledged addict!

    3. Summertime does mean more free time with friends. Weather is warm, outdoor partying is the preferred option. Make sure you continue to talk about safety with drug and alcohol use, and sex. There is just more opportunity to participate in all of it. And now that weekday nights are free and clear from homework obligations, there is that much more to fill the days and nights. Use this system to help set expectations that are mutually agreeable. It will make for a much nicer summer for all.

    A four question example:

    Teen asks: "What time do I have to be home tonight?
    Parent asks: What time do you think you should be home?

    Kid states a time. Lets say 11:00 PM
    Parent asks: What do you think I will be worried about if I say yes to 11. This is your teen's opportunity to say out loud any of the dangers that in fact you do worry about.

    Parent asks: Yes those issues do worry me, what is your plan to make me feel OK, that you will stay safe?
    Teen needs to offer up a plan for safety around drugs and alcohol and other safety issues curfew times, keeping you in the loop throughout the night etc.  that hopefully he/she stated in the worry question.

    Parent asks: What will the consequence be if you don't follow through on your plan?
    Teen needs to put a consequence in place so that if he/she fails to follow though on the plan, a consequence is ready to go.

    Engaging your teen in this process of taking responsibility for behavior makes for a calmer summer. They want more freedom, and you are giving them the opportunity to take ownership. This does not in anyway give them carte blanche to go and do whatever they want. Sometimes the plan is just not good enough, perhaps it is too unsafe, or just not practical. No will still mean no when you need it to.

    Tuesday, June 27, 2017

    Teen Temper Tantrums: It's just noise!

    Remember the terrible twos and threes, and maybe even fours. You're in a crowded supermarket, your then toddler has asked for the 10 millionth time for candy, and you have said for the 10 millionth time NO.  And then you hear your toddler take a deep breath, and with all their little might, they explode with screams, kicks, fall down on the floor, and start flailing like a maniac. You, feeling like every pair of supermarket eyes are upon you, are seized with humiliation. Oh why oh why did you have to do this now!!! So you buy the candy, or you leave your cart of items, even though that means leaving your laundry detergent meant for your gathering storm of dirty clothes, tonights dinner, lunch and snack items for tomorrow's meals, you pick up your kid and you are out of there!!!!!

    Your toddler outgrows their tantrums, and for a while life is peaceful-ish. Then come the terrible teens!!! Full blown tantrums return. It's not about candy now!!! It's about cellphones, and apps, and money for clothes, and absolutely "have to have" whatever. It's about curfews, and sleepovers, and cars and school, and attitude and friends, and time and family and well, just about everything. Many parents I work with are so afraid of the "tantrum" that they cave worried that their teen will get out of control, and do....something! But here's the thing. It's just noise, It's the same noise they bellowed at two. It's actually the same issue...It's all about me!!! Egocentric thinking was the culprit then, and it is the culprit now. At two their little brain couldn't understand that their perspective was not the only one at play. I want what I want when I want it!!!! And...wait for it.... neither does your teen. That emotional brain fires up faster than you can say NO. And when the world stops revolving around their needs and desires...fireworks!

    Your job is to develop a tolerance for noise. There it is, plain and simple. Say what you need to say, and then stop talking. Your teen's anger and frustration will burn itself out, as long as you don't give it fuel!  The article below is about an amazing dad who let his toddler burn herself out, in public, on display, for an attentive supermarket audience. His message is universal for parents of kids of all ages.  Truthfully, everybody is in the same boat, whether with a toddler or a teen. We can be a community of understanding.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/actors-facebook-post-offers-a-big-lesson-about-toddler-tantrums_us_595111f3e4b05c37bb77d13b?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000041

    Thursday, June 22, 2017

    Summer Teen Couch Potato Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, June 20, 2017

    Words Matter-Words Hurt

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

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

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


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

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

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


    Social Networking Safety Net


    Can this post be misinterpreted by anyone?


    Does this post intentionally hurt someone’s 
    feelings?


    Does this post give out too much information?


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

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











    Thursday, June 15, 2017

    The Power Of The Family Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, June 13, 2017

    The Legacy Of A Dad

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

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

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

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

    What would your kids say about you?

    Thursday, June 8, 2017

    Dealing With Teen Amnesia

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017

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

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

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

    Thursday, June 1, 2017

    The Magic Of Change And Growth

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

    Tuesday, May 30, 2017

    The Birds and Bees Talk Gets A Remodel For The 21st Century

    A new study just released by Harvard that looks at data about what teens need and want from their parents to help them with the sexual life of a 21st teen and young adult, is an eye opener. I give some tips for parents in this article in USA Today that discusses this recent study. Link to article is below.
    Here are a few more tips.

    If you're concerned about your teen's emotional or sexual inexperience, direct questions toward those issues: "What do you want your first sexual experience to be like?" "Access to alcohol is going to be freer, so how do you feel you'll handle that?" "Do you have a strategy for ending an intimate encounter that's gone as far as you want it to go, or are getting mixed messages about how far to go?"
    These conversations may make you uncomfortable, but they're important because your teen probably can't talk to his/her friends about setting boundaries, and they are going to need some new strategies, even if they're as simple as just saying "Not tonight!" or "I've got to go now."
    "I think the biggest gift a parent can give a teen who's about  to dip their toes in experiencing sex is to say ,'I know you're going to be in these situations. I'm not judging you. I just want to give you opportunities to be the safest you can be, so let's talk about it."
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2017/05/25/consent-hook-ups-harassment-why-you-
    must-talk-your-teen-all-before-college/102137806/

    Why not share this post with your friends, everybody could use a little help with the sex thing!!

    For parent coaching by phone, Skype or in-person contact me at 781-910-1770 or joani@joanigeltman.com. Sometimes you just need to bounce off an issue for an hour and walk away with a strategy!

    Thursday, May 25, 2017

    My Teen Has A "Bad Seed" Friend

    A mom wrote me the other day with this dilemma. She has a 14 year old daughter whose friendship with a girl a year older had caused her daughter a great deal of trauma last year. They succeeded in helping her separate from this girl. There was a big team effort from the school, the daughter's therapist and a lot of love and caring from this mom and dad. Parents, school and therapist saw a huge change in this 14 year old.  She began to have a happier disposition, a reconnection with old friends, and a lot less anxiety and misery. A win win. 

    Mom thought this friendship was a done deal. This school year has been a good one, with little drama now that this friend was out of the picture, not only emotionally, but physically as well, having moved on to an alternative high school for teens with attitude and behavioral issues.  Everybody breathing a sigh of relief. And then... A request from her daughter last weekend to go to a semi-formal dance a few towns away with a friend mom loves, and another girl...the girl from last year that had caused her daughter so much angst. Mom was shocked. She thought this girl was gone and forgotten. But here she is again. Mom had been keeping up with this girl by reading her daughter's facebook, and had been reading about all her drug and alcohol fueled partying escapades which she freely described  to all on facebook.

    There was a simple answer to this request from her daughter..NO. Mom understood her daughter's disappointment, understood she wouldn't be happy with her answer, but felt firm in that decision. The daughter, not so understanding. She pulled out the "you're the worst mother ever" line. A sure fire guilt producer. And this mom wrote me wondering whether she was the worst mom ever. I am here to say NO. 

    Mom wrote: "She seems to gravitate to these kids because they “accept” her. She does not have a huge group of friends, and is trying to make new ones, but is having trouble. These troubled kids all accept her, because misery loves company. Help!!!!! 

    The bottom line is you can not control your teens friendships.  When your teen hangs with kids you don't like, and feel don't bring anything positive to the table, you can often feel helpless in your ability to intervene. But, and this is an important but, you can have influence, which is different than control. These parents, school personnel and therapist definitely had influence in helping this 14 year old see that this friend was a downer, and the daughter was able to separate from her. 

    This is hard work for a young teen. There is nothing more flattering to someone to have someone show interest in you, especially the "bad girl". These girls or boys are usually charismatic, fun, risk-taking personalities, who often prey on more passive, insecure types. They can seem especially attractive to those kids because they do all the "friendship work" for them. Making the plans, and orchestrating their social life with all the kinds of things that feel so hard for them. This mom really "gets" her daughter's motivation, and it must feel so exhausting to have to go through this all again. 

    Certainly, saying no to situations that you know will be unsafe is a number one priority, like the dance. So maybe you will get the "worst mom/dad award that weekend. so be it. But the bigger job is to continue to help your teen to navigate this relationship and help her to be successful in forming new ones. Some "I get It" help. You can say to your teen: " I get how X can be a fun friend. Tell me what you like about them? And secondly, So what do you think worries me about X?" lecturing your teen about all the ills of this "bad seed" will only make them want to defend this kid. What you want to do is get them to articulate what's attractive about this kid, and to articulate what they think worries you about that. When it comes out of their mouths than they are an active participant in the discussion. They hear the words they are saying, and can take ownership. When you just lecture and talk at them, they shut down, and may be missing important information. 

    Helping kids find positive relationships, especially for those kids who lack confidence is really the bigger task. Sometimes it takes a little sleuthing. If you know your teen has an interest in something but is shy about getting involved you can go behind the scenes. For example, say your kid is a good artist and getting involved with scenic design for the spring musical or poster design for the prom  would be a boost to their ego. So you might go to the guidance counselor or art teacher or drama teacher, and see if they might personally approach your teen to help, saying they heard they were a talented artist and could really use their help. This gives your teen access to whole new group of kids. Or perhaps your kid isn't into sports or theater or anything at school, and helping them to find a job or internship where there are other kids would help. The work here for kids who have a hard time in the friendship department is to help them get access to a wider network. Maybe that's a job, or volunteer work, some school activity. But what you need to know is that this kind of teen will not be the one to go find these opportunities. So saying things like" Why don't you sign up for....fill in the blank will fall on deaf ears. Whether its finding new friends, or signing up for activities, they just don't have the confidence. The work is helping them develop the confidence. So do a little behind the scene work. This is a little bit like the "secret life of a parent" here. You want your teen to feel like he is being asked not that his mommy or daddy is doing it for him. 

    Navigating friendship comes very easily to some and not so easily to others. Recognizing and understanding that this might be your teen's challenge is important, helping them to feel confident and successful is your goal.

    For Parent Coaching Services in-person or by phone or Skype, contact me at Joani@joanigeltman.com

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    The Choking Game Is NOT A Game At All!

    Recently a parent called me with a very disturbing story. Her 14 year old son had a very good friend who died a few months ago. He had been home alone, and when his parents got home they found him dead of asphyxiation. At first look it seemed like a suicide, but after careful investigation by the family, medical community and police it was determined that he had died from playing the "choking game." Some kids play this with friends, and others do it alone. Apparently there is a tiny window of ecstasy when one deprives oneself of oxygen by either having your friends momentarily strangle you or you do it to yourself. I repeat...tiny opportunity, when at the release of suffocation, at just the right moment, the body sends a rush of oxygen and endorphins through the body for an instant but possibly fatal high!

    It is very important that you discuss this with your teen. Because teens have that sense of invincibility, and until someone puts the absolute fear of god and death into them, they might think that nothing bad could happen to them, because after all....it's just a game. The article below has a very detailed explanation so rather than making you read about it twice, you can read the article.
    Talking about this with your teen WILL NOT make them want to do it. This may be something they have been in the presence of already, or could be in the future. Don't wait, read this article with them, and talk about it today!!!!
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201205/the-dangerous-game-your-kid-may-be-playing

    Thursday, May 18, 2017

    Bullying and Sexual Assault-The new epidemic of the Teen Age Years

    A new federal study by The National Center For Education Statistics and  The Justice Department, states that "one of every five middle school and high school students has complained of being bullied at school, and the number of reports of sexual assault on college campuses has more than tripled over the past decade." Other recent studies have found that a similar statistic of sexual assault and harassment is also true for high school and middle schoolers.

    Having the "birds and bees" conversation that your parents had with you about sex seems so sweet and naive as compared with having to now prepare your teen for sexting, hooking up, sexual harassment and sexual assault. Oh how I yearn for the old days!! Bullying...harassment....assault, how do you ever prepare your teen for it all? You do it one step at a time, one story at a time.

    Teens live in an emotional brain. Therefore you need to meet them where their brain is most activated. As an adult you live mostly in your thinking brain. This means that your go-to method of "teaching"your teen" goes automatically to the logical and rational. Cue teen eye-rolling. This is why the use of real stories from teens like them, has a better chance of getting them to listen and hopefully open up. This is why the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" has been such a hit. It hits them where they live and where they feel, in their emotional brain!

    Bullying is all about power. It is only fun to bully someone so long as the victim stays in that one down position.  In the moment, and in the middle of a bully's taunt that puts a kid in that one down position, most kids are unprepared and their reaction is often fuel for the bully, like showing fear, embarrassment, or attempts to avoid the bully. Like all new experiences in life, most kids are not prepared for the possibility that someone might deliberately want to humiliate them. As adults we hope that that type of situation won't happen to our kids, or that our kids won't be the perpetrators of bullying, and so most often we don't get around to dealing with it until after it happens.

    Giving our kids strategies for those moments in life when they are unprepared is paramount. Humor and sarcasm are very effective tools to help counter some of the the bully's attempts at humiliation. If you have a teen who is overweight and has been teased about it, helping them to come up with some quick retorts like, "big is beautiful, thanks for the compliment", or a sarcastic retort after a fat comment: "Ya think" or "ooh you're so observant" or, " I'm looking for a trainer, want to help me get in shape?"said with strength and power.

    Actress Gabby Sidibe is a master at putting bullies in their place as seen in this tweet she posted to people who commented on her weight after photos that were posted after a past Sunday's Golden Globe show. Make sure you show this to your kids. She is the best teacher there is! Also below is an award winning essay from a teen who experienced bullying at her high school. When you share stories like this with you teen, without judgment or criticism they then feel freer to open up. Comments like "I can't believe kids can be this cruel" won't work. Comments like" it is so hard to be a teen" work better.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/13/gabourey-sidibe-weight-comments-golden-globes_n_4591417.html

    Teenage Girls; the Cruel Super Humans from Outer Space
    By Lena Rawley, 17, from Montclair, N.J.

    Teenage girls are cruel super-humans from a distant galaxy sent here to destroy us all. They have the self entitlement of a celebrity heiress and the aggression of a Roman Gladiator. Like vampires they feed off the blood of the weak. They’re pubescent monsters. Adolescent boogeymen.
    While my observations may be coming from a point of bias, that doesn’t mean they are faulty in accuracy. As a teenage girl myself, I think I know teenage girls quite well. Not only was I a former teenage mean girl, but I was tortured, tormented, isolated and socially maimed by them as well. 
    When they acquire a target, teenage girls, with the determination of a private assassin, will stop at nothing to take down their target. They’re relentless. They’re cruel. Their methods are insane. They are never to be underestimated. In middle school, I made the mistake of underestimating the power of these skinny jean clad monsters. I thought I was safe, I thought myself impervious to their cruelty. I watched them do on to others as they would later do on to me, and felt no fear.
    I was a fool however, for teenage girls pick their targets by familiarity. They are less likely to torment someone small and insignificant and more likely to viciously turn on their friends. Preferably the weakest link in their group, prey who is easy for them to catch and take down.
    I was the weakest link. I was the wounded gazelle. And thus, I became their target.
    It was eerie because, when my eventual demise began, I had no idea what was going on. Yes it was slightly fishy that they had stopped calling me, stopped saying hi to me in the hallway, but I assumed it was just nothing.Again, I was wrong.Once the period of silence came to a close, all hell broke loose. Vicious rumors began spreading around and dirty looks and foul words were thrown my way in the hall. I was forced off the lunch table and into social leprosy.Exactly a week after phase two (social alienation) had began I received an email from the ringleader of the group. I opened it up to reveal a headline that bluntly stated, “Fifty Reason Why We Can’t Be Friends With You.” Underneath the headline, as promised, were neatly fifty reasons, ranging from my body to my personality to my clothes, that clearly stated the reason for my alienation.I felt sick. But I wasn’t going to let them get me. Those hyenas didn’t deserve my tears. I deleted the note, picked up the pieces and moved on. I found friends who were kind and accepting. Friends who wouldn’t devour their own. My experience, while evidently not ideal, is something I would not change. I don’t see it as a stain upon the fabric of my life, but more like an embellishment. A decorative brooch I wear with pride, a brooch that cries, I overcame bullying, so can you.

    If bullying takes the shape of sexual harassment both in person and on sexts, this app can literally be a life saver. http://sendthisinstead.com Download it onto your teen's phone. This gives him/her options for the kind of "comebacks" that go directly to the harasser, and can stop the harasser in his/her tracks!

    Below is an essay from one of my college students, who gave me permission to use it. It is a story to share with your teens, boys or girls!

    "I have been a victim of sexual assault. The summer going into my senior year of high school, I met my now ex-boyfriend. We met at a football game and he seemed to be the right balance for me. He was caring but also protective. As the months progressed with us, things seemed to get more serious and he went off to college. A couple of months into dating he wanted to take things further sexually, but I was not ready for that. I tried pushing him off, but it was to no avail. I could not find my voice; I was essentially voiceless. he knew I did not consent but yet he continued anyway. I felt lost and partially like it was my fault. Why did I deserve this? What did I do to deserve this? I left his room to sit on the stairs feeling hopeless. Time passed and he came out to see what was wrong. After a couple of moments of me ignoring him, he got aggressive pulling me up and back to his room. Once we got there, he threw me onto the bed, very annoyed with my behavior. From that moment I knew something was off. Things went badly from there. He tried forcing sexual behavior again, but this time without a condom, something I would not let him do. This made him VERY angry, essentially ignoring me. As the time passed, I knew I was in a very abusive relationship and I needed to get out. I ended it. From then I have seen therapists and have been working on myself, knowing that no one deserves that type of pain."

    Imagine if this was your daughter, and she came to you for help. I'm guessing that all the protective energy that we as parents would feel at this boy would turn into action. 'I'm calling the police, I'm calling his parents!" Your teen knows this would be your loving reaction, and so that is why many teens do not share these kinds of incidents with their parents, either about sexual assault or harassment, or bullying. What they need is empathy, support and working together to come up with a plan that feels right to them. This is an important story to read with your teens. As a daughter you want to let you girls know that if they can come to you before things move into a crisis, you promise to just be there for them and work through this scary time, and not move into parent action mode. This will feel enormously comforting to them. And if you have a son, you know how important it is to help them to understand how this young girl felt and how threatened and unsafe she felt. Though you may feel you have raised a great kid, you just never know what buttons get pushed in an intimate sexual situation, especially where there might be alcohol or drugs in the mix. Just saying "women need to be respected and no means no" is not enough. An "i get you might be with a girl sometime and you are aroused and thought you got the go ahead, and then she changes her mind, how can you deal with that."

    Here is an app that all kids should have on their phone. It allows you to push one button, and the 6 people you have chosen to connect with in an emergency are contacted immediately. If this young woman had this she might have been able to connect with her friends and you to come and get her!
    https://www.circleof6app.com

    Parents often have their heads in the sand. These things would NEVER happen to my kids. They know better, they have wonderful friends, they know how to take care of themselves...and on and on. This may all be true in the abstract. But in the actually situation, when emotions are running high, and sexual feelings are aroused, and alcohol and drugs are present, all bets are off. It is your job to anticipate and to help your teens to be as prepared as they can be to stay safe.

    Please share this with your friends via Facebook or twitter This is information every parent should have. For parent coaching, hosting an Ask The Expert Party, or inviting me to speak at your child's school, at your business or community organization, visit my website: joanigeltman.com, contact me at joani@joanigeltman.com or call: 781-910-1770

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    The Trials and Tribulations Of Summer Planning

    We're coming into the summer countdown. 30 days and counting!"Idle minds are the devils playground." No truer quote applies when thinking about teens and summer. If you haven't yet gotten into the summer mindset, here is your wake-up call! Everybody needs down time, but 10 weeks of down time for teens can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e, especially if you are a working parent. If you anticipate leaving your house for work at 8 AM with your sleeping teen snug as a bug in a rug, thinking that all is well, get you head out of the sand. The devil will be over to visit.

    Regardless of good intentions, too much time = too much potential for temptation. We're talking sex, drugs/alcohol and general mischief. Once boredom sets in, which it always does after the initial bliss of no structure, look out. The planning should start now. If you have a younger teen, 13-15, this is a bit harder. They are too old for day camp, too young for most jobs, and too inexperienced or  not motivated to find something on their own. Many older teens are unmotivated as well, or lack the confidence to find something on their own. So the first thing is to have realistic expectations of how much your teen will do independently to make something happen. Your job is to make your expectations clear, that is step #1. "I get you are looking forward to the summer, and having free time to hang with friends. We want you to have time for that too, but it's also important for you to have other things going on for you as well, either  a job, or a volunteer/educational/internship experience, or camp, something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. How would you like to go about this? What kind of help do you need from us?. Here is the deal, the question isn't, do you want to do something or not? but what is it you would like to do?"

    This can be a slow, painful process, as mostly you will get a lot of "I don't knows." If you have some extra money, there are many great programs that cater to particular interests of teens. If they want a job, expecting that they will have any idea of how to go about looking for one is unrealistic. Do this together, making a list of the kinds of places that are of interest to them, and then drive them around to pick up applications, and sit with them as they fill them out. If you just say to your teen, go get some applications, and have you filled our those applications probably not much will happen. I worked in a work/study program for 14 years with teens, and rarely did I find a teen who felt confident enough to follow through on expectations. What looks like laziness is actually low-self esteem.

    It is important to let them know that if there don't seem to be any jobs, and volunteering or interning is the fallback, that you will provide them with some kind of stipend. But, and this is important, if they choose to be idle, and do neither, then you will choose  not to provide them with any summer spending money. Sitting around with both nothing to do and no money is not fun, and will get old really really fast. So provide incentive and reward for those idle minds, and keep that devil at bay.

    Contact me for parent coaching services or to present to your school, business, or community organization. joani@joanigeltman.com 781-910-1770