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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Daughter's Lessons:The Journey From Childhood To Adulthood

When our kids are young we give them the freedom to explore, to be curious, and to make mistakes. We give them room to tantrum, to cry, and to leap with crazy joy and enthusiasm. Then the teenage years hit with a BOOM. We feel their biological age ticking, the need to get it right, and not sabotage their future. We worry that their mistakes and missteps might make it harder for them to be successful as adults.

I spend a lot of my time when I do parent coaching helping parents to relax, to calm down, to feel confident that though their teen may be worrying them now, that they will inevitably be absolutely fine in the future. I hope to give parents the confidence that the work they have already done as parents, from the birth of their child to the present, is all inside their kids, ready to be called upon when the time comes as they move into adulthood. Yes, things might look scary now, but they will grow up, mature, experience life, and find themselves. Adolescence is all about the journey of finding a personal identity. It's about trial and error, what feels right. Teens show the world what they think the world wants to see, and often keep to themselves the part that feels the most authentic, real and vulnerable until they have the confidence to say, hey world here I am!!! It's all part of the process!!

I too am a parent. Although my daughter is considerably older than your kids. She is 34. And now I get a bit personal. Below you will find a link to a personal essay she wrote that was just published in InStyle Magazine. I share this with you because what she wrote and the personal but universal truths she describes, I think, will help you understand the journey from childhood to adulthood. Of course I am Kvelling (Yiddish for the most extreme pride one feel for one's child), but more importantly, my daughter has taught me so much, and this essay I think has something to teach us all. Life is a process, and in Ari's words: "No one can see you until you see yourself." I hope you might choose to also share this with your teen. Not only do you often feel stuck and scared about what lies ahead for them, but they of course feel that as well. The future for you and for your kids is not preordained. There are many life experiences ahead, things that will change them, and will change you. I know at 65 I never in a million years expected to be sitting here as a writer/blogger/parenting expert and an author with a daughter who is an actor and writer. That is the most exciting part of life, that we don't know what's ahead, and that life can shift and change in a moment. And we learn and grow from all of it. Enjoy it!!!!
http://www.instyle.com/celebrity/ari-graynor-essay

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lessons From The Death Of A Penn State Student

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.

Here is the link.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/us/penn-state-fraternity-death-timothy-piazza.html

 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




Thursday, May 4, 2017

17 Questions Why!

h   When my book was first published, I was asked by my publisher to answer these question to use while publicizing my book.  I forgot I had done this, and when I saw it today I thought hmm I think this will be helpful to my readers. So grab a cup of coffee, it's a bit long but worth the read!



1. What are the most challenging part to parenting a teenager?

For most parents, trying to understand why their teen does so many “stupid” things, makes so many “stupid” decisions, and doesn’t want to listen to their advice gained from so many years of experience is crazy making! Without understanding what drives their teen’s behavior, parents just go from one crisis to the next, throwing around consequences and punishments hoping that something they do will stick and change their teen’s terrifying ways. But alas, just saying don’t do it or you better not, and then grounding them when they do, does not change behavior. Many parents of teens feel an enormous loss of control. “Because I said so” is no longer an effective parenting tool. You cannot parent a teenager the same way you parent a younger child. It is this redefining of parenting style that most parents of teens are unprepared for.

22. Which subjects freak parents out the most – discussing sex, alcohol and drugs, social media, school, or issues like depression?

I think the issues like drugs/sex/social media are front and center because parents are forced to deal with them on a daily basis. They are “in your face” kind of issues. Many many teens are dealing with depression and anxiety these days, but they are good at masking them with…. drugs/alcohol/sex and social networking. Parents then are dealing with symptoms of possible depression and anxiety, doing too much of all those other things which are avoidance behaviors. Also parents worry that drugs/alcohol/sex and social networking will negatively impact their kid’s success in school. PS, it will!

3   3. What can parents of pre-teens do to prepare for what will be required of them, as parents, to help and control their children that will turn into teenagers?

 Take the blinders off. Many parents assume that because their kids were easy and obedient during the elementary school years that they will dodge a bullet heading into the teen years. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard; “ I never imagined that MY kid would ever…”from parents of newly minted teens doing the things teens do. As ALL teens enter adolescence they are faced with an amazing number of “firsts” for which they have absolutely no experience. They have a new brain and new body to boot; so all bets are off thinking just because their kids were easy, they will continue on that path. When you can anticipate rather than be surprised by some of the normal teen behavior there is more opportunity to use thoughtful strategy rather than be reactive, and in crisis mode.


4. Doesn’t every stage of parenting present hurdles and roadblocks? What’s so different about the teen years?

Teen brains are experiencing enormous growth. This means that they are literally seeing the world through a new lens. Additionally in adolescence, the emotional part of the teen brain is in higher activation than their thinking brain, which is completely opposite from the way an adult brain functions. This means teen behavior is driven by emotion and impulse rather than by the rational and the thoughtful. Except for the first 18 months of life, there is no other time in life when there is such extreme brain change. It’s biology baby! For parents this is scary because just as their teen’s brain sees the “awesomeness” of it all, they are exposed to experiences that carry tremendous risk.

5. Let’s discuss real-life issues.  How do you advise parents of teenagers who are being bullied online?

The first issue is availability. Teens can be gluttons for punishment. Get them off the sites and apps where bulling occurs and block the kids who are taunting them from those sites. If a bully doesn’t have access to his/her victim than that can take all the fun out of bullying. But in order for that to happen parents have got to be on top of what apps and sites their kids are on in the first place. Many parents stay way to hands-off with their kids phones and computers. Monitoring a teen’s phone and computer use is a necessary evil. There may always be some trash taking between teens, but when the line is crossed by threats and serious emotional abuse, transcripts should be presented to school administrators.  

7    6. How should a parent talk to their child about sex, sexting, and dating?

With understanding and honesty. Parents should really try to stay off the lecture circuit. Telling teens how they should behave will fall mostly on deaf ears. Saying: “ I get you are going to be interested in sex. I know I’ll have to get used to thinking about you in this new way. I know you will be in situations that you have never been in before with boys/girls. I also know kids talk to each other in very sexy language, and I’m guessing that can be pretty fun, but it can also get you into real trouble. Here are some of the things I do not want to see on your phone or computer.” Parents should say all those “dirty” words they do not want on their kids phone. Saying “inappropriate language” just won’t cut it. Kids need to hear what “suck my dick” sounds like out loud!.

7.  What can a parent do to keep the lines of communication flowing with their teenager, to ensure honesty, openness, and forthrightness?

The biggest barriers to open communication are words that criticize and judge. For example when parents see their teen wasting time online and texting when they are supposed to be doing their homework, they are more likely to say: “Stop being so lazy, and get off that damn phone.” Rather than: “ I get how important your friends are to you, and how important it is for you to check in with them, but homework is important too, and we need to find a strategy that gives you time for both.” Now, instead of teens feeling like they have a character flaw, which pushes them into arguing and defense mode, they can work on solving a problem.

9    8. How can parents keep their kids focused on excelling in school and preparing for college?

Contrary to what most parents think, it is not to focus on the grades. Sometimes parents set up unrealistic expectations about the grades they expect from their teens. Starting in middle school parents start saying: “if you want to get into a good college, you better start working hard now.” Talk about getting on the worry train too early. Anxiety inhibits learning. Instead parents should focus on the learning part of school, not the report card. When parents engage with their teen about what they are learning, by reading the same books, and sharing insights; or engage in discussions about subjects their kids are studying; the message given is that being a curious learner is what is valued not the grade. Good grades will happen naturally when the process of learning is valued. And of course provide structure and get them off their phones for 2 hours every night, even if they have no homework!

1   9. Some teens just give off a lousy attitude – defiance, laziness, entitlement – what can a parent do to combat this?



Teens give off that attitude because they could care less about the things that most parents think are important. Teenagers are by nature narcissistic…just temporarily thank god! Friends are #1, chores, cleaning their room, laundry, those don’t even make the list. Every request from a parent to a teen then becomes a power struggle. My best advice is to stop yelling and badgering. When there is a demand from a teen a parent can say: “Is there a question in there?” Or if a teen needs a ride and a chore isn’t done: “I’d be happy to drive you to X’s house, let me know when you’ve emptied the dishwasher and we will be on our way. Attitude should not beget attitude!

          10. What do parents need to understand about what their teen child is going through psychologically and physically?

Puberty absolutely sucks! This wreaks havoc in a teen’s life; too tall, too short, big boobs, no boobs, acne. From the second a teen wakes up in the morning and looks in that mirror, and sees live and in person their perceived inadequacies, the mood for their day is set. One pimple can ruin a day. Because of new brain growth, teens are now hyper-aware of what other people think about them. This self-consciousness can be paralyzing. Unfortunately parents get the worst of it. When teens are with their friends they have to be “all good,” but at home the stress of this new body and brain shows in sullenness, and attitude. The most difficult part of this puberty business is there really is no way of making it better; you just have to wait it out. Parents can’t “make it all better.” For the fix-it parent this is a tough slog.

2  11. What are four typical mistakes or assumptions parents make about their teen children?

 1. Parents think that their teens do not want to spend time with them. WRONG. In a survey I did with teens 9-12th grade, almost all the kids said they wish they could spend more time with their parents. Just don’t do it on a weekend night!
2.     Labeling their teen. Many parents see their teens doing bad things, and label them as bad. Not true!! There is a huge learning curve during the teen years. Part of the process of leaning is making mistakes, and making bad choices. Making these learning opportunities rather than just punishing “bad behavior” is what changes behavior.
3.     Over thinking and over problem solving. Many times teens come to their parents to just vent about a situation they are having trouble with. They aren’t looking for a fix, just a shoulder to lean on. Parents like fixing, and go right to the “here’s what I think you should do…” Teens then react with anger, and “you just don’t understand.” And the lovely moment has gone ugly.
4.     Unrealistic expectation. Not all teens are meant to be honor roll students. Some have strengths in other area that as life goes on will be equally if not more important in the long run of adulthood.


12For blended families or single parents, how much harder is it for the parents to raise teenagers?

Blended families can be extremely stressful during the teen years. It’s hard enough to do the job of “separation/individuation” from your own parents, but then to have to deal with another set of people you don’t know, may not care about, and did not choose to join your life can be unbelievably stressful. For single parents, there is of course the stress of having to do it all, but also the reality of not having another person to share the physical supervision that teens need. Also the relationship between parent and teen can be intense without another adult as a buffer zone.

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13. What do parents of teen boys need to watch out for vs. parenting teen girls?

Boys are much better at masking emotions than girls. They tend to be more closed-up, especially if the men in their life do not provide a model for using emotional language. Boys face the same issues of body image, social standing, crushes, etc as girls. Girls feel permission to rant and rave about this stuff where boys often keep those feelings of insecurity hidden and may be prone to depression because of them. I am extremely worried about boys and pornography. Because most kids get smartphones in middle school, boys now have easy access to porn away from any prying adult supervision. Research has shown that this early introduction to sometimes violent and misogynistic sex has given boys unbridled permission to sexually harass girls they know. Parents need to be extremely proactive in discussing this issue with their sons.

6   14. How do parents manage a teen’s amount of screen time, not to mention the specific activities or type of content accessed by their children?

First, parents have to stop being afraid that their kids will get mad when they start to set limits on this. Teens will get mad, very mad, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. Iphones, Ipads, Itouch, laptops without supervision equal addiction. Most smartphone companies now offer plans that put parents in the driver seat. Parents should be the only person allowed to download apps, no devices at bedtime and phones should be shutdown during school. There are many social networking apps that are just time sucks. Teens spend hours posting on multiple sites, and responding to other peoples posts. There are too many sites that encourage bullying, and sexting. Teens DO NOT have the controls to be smart and disciplined….yet. It is a set up to expect teens to shut off and shut down on their own.

15. Let’s face it.  Parents cannot monitor everything and don’t have the time or energy to get involved in every aspect of their child’s life.  Should parents just trust their child and give them independence and be free to make mistakes?

Making mistakes is a good thing, when it comes to natural consequences. Not getting up on time for school and getting detention; waiting till the last minute and failing to get a paper or project in on time and getting a bad grade; staying out past curfew and missing out on going out the next weekend; forgetting homework and leaving it at home and getting a zero; these are all things kids should and can be responsible for, and yet these are the things that most parents rescue their kids from, worrying that it will affect their grades or chances to get into honor classes. Monitoring technology until a teen brain has matured enough to manage dangerous impulses is worth that energy. Serious mental heath issues, and legal consequences, these risks are just too steep,


16.  How do parents teach kids about money management when they are in debt or living paycheck to paycheck?

Parents rarely share the nuts and bolts of the family financial situation with their kids. With teenagers, this can be a really useful life lesson. Teens do a lot of magical thinking, and nuts and bolts bring them back to earth. I would sit down monthly with teens and set out the family budget; money in money out. This is a good reality check for teens who think they are entitled to what everyone else has. Where there is a shortfall for things the teen may want or need, than it can become a team problem-solving event. Also equally as important is for a parent to understand that their financial situation is hard for the teen. Teens are very self-conscious and may be embarrassed about their family’s financial situation. Parents should acknowledge, and understand their teen’s perspective, but never apologize for the family circumstances, life is what it is. 

1    17. What are the rewards to investing time and attention to your child’s well being during their tumultuous teen years?


The most exciting part of raising teen is watching this new person develop, like seeing your baby walk for the first time. They are now capable of seeing all that the world has to offer. They are at the buffet of life, and they will need to try out different offerings to see what is right for them. Everything a parent has taught, and nurtured up till this point is all in the mix, and parents need to trust that. A parent’s greatest gift to this emerging adult is to let go of their own expectations of what they want their teen to become, and let their teen become who he/she is meant to become.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What To Expect From Your Graduating Senior

What should you expect from your graduating senior before they are off to college?NOTHING!!!! No really, I mean nothing! Here you are, feeling all warm and fuzzy with graduation approaching. Nostalgic for your little girl or boy, all grown up and off on a new post-high school adventure. You pull out all the old photo albums and gaze longingly at the years that have whizzed by, and try to prepare yourself for life's next stage, having a child move away from home. You find yourself welling up with tears, as you do your son's/daughter's laundry, or pick up the dirty dishes they have left on the floor of their room or in the family room, knowing that in just a few months their room will no longer have that whiff of dirty laundry as you walk by. Everything annoying and maddening your  almost graduate did before this pending graduation, now seems sweeter and memorable.

OK, so maybe that only lasts a few days. Because, the expectation that your now almost high school graduate will suddenly become equally as nostalgic as you is blown to pieces by the seemingly instant sense of entitlement he/she seems to be exhibiting. Where is the thanks for the wonderful party and gift you will be giving him/her?  Where are the thank you notes for the generous gifts that will be given by the cast of thousands that will come to your graduation party and includes their friend's parents, your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else who has ever known them. Suddenly, your  almost graduate is nowhere to be found. You are left in the dust, with "bye, won't be home for dinner, maybe sleeping out, don't know when I'll be home!"

You are dumbfounded, thinking that their last summer home will be filled with family dinners, cozy family movie nights, a family vacation,  and shopping trips to Bed Bath and Beyond. If only they would stay home long enough to make some plans. Well, kiss those plans goodbye, because all their nostalgic moments are being saved up for and with their friends. The friends they will be leaving in only a few short months, maybe never to be heard from again, or at least until Thanksgiving. Prepare yourself.  Your graduate will be glued to their friends this summer. They will take top priority over everyone and everything. And if you don't understand the importance of "the last summer before college," your feelings will be hurt over and over again. My advice, don't take it personally. The drama of and the process of saying goodbye to high school friends takes these next four months. Of course they will miss you too, but you never really go away, and truly, many of their friends will. How many of you still have close relationships with high school friends, that is before facebook brought everyone right back to you.

Your teen's absence in these coming months will feel like a betrayal. Don't let it become a source of anger between you and your teen. Use "I Get It" conversations to help them to understand what you are feeling by understanding what they are feeling. " I get saying goodbye to your friends is hard. I know how much you will miss them, and probably worry that you won't find anyone as wonderful as (fill in the blank with some real names) I get you want to spend as much time as you can with them this summer, and I want you to do just that. But honey, your old ma/pa is gonna miss you too. I hope that we can find some time together as well before you go. Let's figure out how best to do that"

Your teen is also hiding away a lot of anxiety and worry. Worry that they will not be happy, worry that they will be homesick (yes they really do worry about that even if they aren't saying it), worry about keeping up with all the school work without you around to keep them on task, worry they won't know how to deal with money issues, laundry issues, and all the other millions of things they know they can depend on you for. And you know how your graduate will deal with all this worry? By being a big pain in the ass! They will seem like they are irritated with you, bothered by you and will set up all sorts of fights with you. Don't bite! Rather than looking and feeling like a needy little child, they will behave "as if" they don't need you at all, and will set up all kinds of arguments to prove that point. It's easier to leave angry than sad.

Also your graduating teen may now feel that rules no longer apply to them. After all they are 18 and all grown up. In some ways, they are right. In only a few short months they really will be on their own. So rather than having a bunch of rules this summer that they will flaunt. Take it day by day. Let them know that you "get" that they want to be independent this summer, but you still need to know that they are safe. Set up a system (not rules) so that they can keep you posted and in the loop so that you won't need to be checking up on them. The rules they will resent, but a system seems less controlling. They are teaching you to let go. Let them!