Thursday, November 16, 2017

It's Time For A Little Thanks

In the last few months, close friends of mine have dealt with life issues that seem unbearable; major health issues, loss of parents and husbands; children who have been diagnosed with scary health issues; big big big issues. It does make me feel so thankful for the blessings of family, friends, satisfying work, and good health. Life isn't perfect, and there are many days I feel discouraged, or whiny about what now seem like such silly things in light of what my friends are dealing with. So this Thanksgiving is a time for real thanks.

Your teen may need a little dose of that thanks this holiday. Maybe things haven't been so great. Maybe report cards have been disappointing, or their attitude towards you and the family has you pulling your hair out, or they seem ungrateful and entitled, or distant and uncommunicative. There is not much good to be found. And the more they disappoint, the more you pull away.  Sometimes we need an excuse to wipe the slate. Why not have Thanksgiving be that excuse. If you have found the last few months weighing in on the negative, maybe just for the next few days, you share some thankful moments with your teen. Maybe a text, or a card left on their bed with a " I get things have been hard between us over the last few months, but I am so grateful that you are my son/daughter. I cannot imagine my life without your (insert some of the good stuff here, here are some examples: humor; getting me to watch movies I never would have picked but loved; forced me to learn about..., you get the idea.) I know we will get past this other stuff. I love you."

Don't look for a response or a thank you. This is a selfless gift you are giving with no expectations. Teens need to know that with all the crap they hand out, you will always love them, plain and simple.

Treasure these days.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I'm living With A Crazy Person

Getting caught off guard by the emotional drama of your teen's life can be unsettling. Unsuspecting parents, sitting down for a relaxing night of TV can be rocked by the swear laden screaming tirade heard coming from the vicinity of their teen's bedroom. Here are some possible causes:

  •  Their phone dropped on the floor, and it pissed them off
  • They hate doing their homework, and their text book fell on the floor and it pissed them off.
  • You asked them a question, any question, and it pissed them off.
  • They want to go out and wear their favorite pair of jeans which are scrunched up in  a ball in the corner of the room stained with the ketchup from the burger they ate last weekend. Of course it is your fault the jeans are stained, in the corner of their room, and unwashed. They are pissed off. 
  • They open the refrigerator and there are no more bottles of their favorite, juice, soda, water. You are a terrible parent for not keeping all their supplies up and they are pissed off. 
Ok, get it!! The stupidest things can set off the emotional volcano that is their brain. They have been sucking down life's small hurdles and humiliations all day, and it is whatever that last thing is that makes them blow. Literally. 

Your strategy is to not contribute any more fuel for this raging fire. It may have nothing really to do with you, for a change, but you might have been the last person to speak, and was the spark that set the firestorm off. Rather than letting your feelings get hurt, or get mad because their anger is now focused on you, just give them a shrug, and in the calmest voice you can muster a: " I get you are frustrated, let me know if there is any way I can help" and then leave them alone. Nothing good will come of it!

I asked my college freshmen recently to write about their adolescence. With his permission here is an excerpt from one of the young men from my class who so beautifully describes this "emotional volcano."

"As with all kids going through puberty, my hormones were at a constant state of flux. For some reason, mine decided to leave me with uncontrollable anger. The hardest part was I had no idea why I was so angry. I never connected how I was feeling to puberty. With no reason and no outlet I struggled to maintain my composure with my friends and family. My anger piled and piled until the most insignificant slight would throw me into a terrible rage, I regret each and every time I lashed out at the people around me. I just could not stop myself after a certain point. At home I would sulk and growl if I was bothered. If my family happened to be persistent I would snap. This did not fly with my parents. I was being punished nearly every day, and the constant punishment left me more angry and resentful then I already was. On some level, it is understandable that family receives the brunt of one' emotions. As a child there is almost no way to escape them, and the majority of one's time is spent with them. The good news is although it may have taken a few years I managed to calm down. As my anger faded away I could start to see my life a little clearer."

See, there is hope!!!!!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

It's Hard To Stop A Bully!!!!

watch and then we'll talk!!
https://www.gq.com/story/burger-king-bullying-psa?mbid=social_facebook

This video is exceptional! It doesn't really offer strategy, but it certainly addresses the bystander in all of us. How much easier it is to "not get involved." Teens especially have a really hard time standing up for themselves and/or for other people who they witness being bullied. The hyper-self-consiousness that teens feel so acutely makes it almost impossible for them to "do the right thing", even though in theory they know better. The link below will take you to a video of a show that NBC did a few years ago about teens and bullying, illustrating this point. It would be great for you to watch with your teens. Listen, the adults in the video above couldn't get out of their own way, of course vulnerable teens will find it a million times harder!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J3cWrJHAcY

Bullying is all about power. It is only fun to bully someone as 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 this past Sunday's Golden Globes Make sure you show this to your kids. She is the best teacher there is!

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Teaching Our Teens To Be Respectful To Women!

The sexual predators are coming out of the woodwork. Not a day goes by now without a new story about a famous celebrity, politician, businessman, teacher, professor, you name a profession, accused of sexual harassment or assault. Did you know that  1 in 4 teens has been sexually harassed, and 1 in 5 college women have been sexualy assaulted, but very few report, being afraid of blowback from their peers, their administration, and fear of being victimized for a second time. What the hell is going on with these young men? A researcher and alum from the Harvard graduate School of Education was on the Harvard Campus recently and relates this anecdote."  I was walking on campus and a male Harvard student walks by and says to me: "Damn, you're a sexy bitch." And this is one of our "best and brightest."  So, I guess this is the way young men say hello to women now.

Yes, we need colleges and middle schools and high schools to set better policy about sexual harassment but that men feel permission to speak like this to women means we are not doing a good job at teaching our sons and daughters that this is not OK. Here is what I think.


  • Now that kids are getting smartphones at earlier and earlier ages, (getting one at 8 years of age is no longer an exception) boys now have easy access to pornography at a very early age, way before they even have access or readiness for the actual experience with a real live girl of their own age. Research has shown that these early images and sexually provocative language can literally make brain connections. Just like learning a new language, this now becomes their language of sex, and communication with women.

  • Now that kids can download apps where they can use extremely sexual language when texting and snap chatting each other, that disappears in 5 seconds, safe from parental supervision, sexting has become the norm for communication. As in "hey sexy bitch." Do this starting at age 8 or 10 or 12, it becomes your go-to language.
How surprising can it be then, for boys who have had the freedom to look at misogynistic porn and use misogynistic language talking to their "bitches," go off to college thinking this is how women like it! And by the way, adding fuel to the fire, these "bitches" think hearing that language from boys is no biggie,  

This is where you come in. Your kids need you desperately to let them know this is not alright, and not safe. They need you to monitor what they are writing so when you see this kind of language, you can talk to them about it and let them know it is not OK. You might need to say to your teen; Hey how would you like it if I said to your mom, hey bitch you're f##kin hot, Or mom might say: "how would you feel if your dad talked to me that way." Don't mince words or language when you are talking to your teen. Say the words they are using, say them out loud, make them uncomfortable and embarrassed, how else will they hear how demeaning and ugly sexually explicit can sound when it is used as a "hello, what's up?

If you want your teen to go off to college and life acting respectfully towards women or demanding respect if they are a woman, that takes work. It means saying no to apps that allow them to develop bad habits because no adult is giving then the other side of the story. It means disabling safari on their smartphones for young boys too young to understand and too impulsive and horny not to access porn without your knowledge. 

Think about it this way. When your kids were young, you understood that they had a developing brain, and you knew that the most important thing you needed to do was to stimulate it by providing experience; reading, talking, singing, etc Your teen's brain is in that same stage of development, it is open to stimulation. Make sure that what it's feeding on is healthy and safe, and respectful!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What's The Big Deal...Everybody Was Doing It!

This is a wonderful article about teens an peer pressure. It gives scientific evidence for the cause of peer pressure. I like science because it takes it from the personal : Why can't my teen think for him/herself?" to a place of objectivity. Parents need objectivity, because so much of parenting a teen becomes personal! Teenagers, Friends and Bad Decisionshttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/teenagers-friends-and-bad-decisions/

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

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

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