Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Keeping Teens At Your Metaphorical Breast

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

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Psychology Of Teens and Social Networking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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
















Thursday, September 7, 2017

Why Teens Can Be Mean To Their Parents

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Kid Would Never Do.....

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

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

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

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

Here are some tips for Teen Proofing Your Home:

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