Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I Love My Mom

I loved loved loved this video. In it, parents describe all the ways they think they have failed their children. "the I'm not a good enough parent" syndrome. I meet a lot of parents who come up to me after a seminar, and say:  "Oops, I guess I've already screwed up my kids, I've done everything wrong!!! They couldn't be more wrong. Yes maybe the consequence they used when their teen did something wrong wasn't that effective. Or maybe you lost it and got over the top mad when you should have tried to keep your temper in check, or maybe your teen disappointed you yet again and you said something that signaled your disappointment in a very strong way that set them off and they felt misunderstood. Of course WE ALL behave in ways sometimes that we regret and wish we had acted differently, especially as parents, But the good news is, your kids will be fine as long as they feel completely loved and accepted, and that the stuff you think you "did wrong" is countered with all the years and years of hugs, and I'm proud of you, and you're awesome stuff!!!!

Teen often bring out the worst in us. There is a parenting adjustment that needs to happen, knowing that the way you parent your teens when they were young just won't work anymore. Frustration at what feels like a lack of power, can turn parents into screaming banshees. But you haven't always been that way, and you won't always be that way. So give yourself a break and watch this video. It will make you feel really really really really good!!!!! And have a box of tissues ready!!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

When Your Teen Asks You The: Did You Ever Questions

I came across a really interesting article by Dr. Perri Klass, a well know Pediatrician and author on kids and families. The article: Q. Did you ever smoke pot? A. It's complicated,  addresses the anxiety and ambivalence most parents feel when their teens asks this question. Of course the major worry is, if I tell the truth, will my teen use that against me as in " Well you smoked pot or drank when you were my age, so don't be such a hypocrite and tell me I shouldn't."

A study done at the Hazelton Treatment Center in Minnosota actually found that parental honesty about their own history with drugs and alcohol was a positive influence. And that has been my experience with parents as well. When your kid finds out that you dabbled yourself as a teen, I think it makes them feel that they can be more open with you and feel less judged by you if you have experienced the draw of teen experimentation.

Lying never works. If you are trying to encourage your teen to be honest and open with you, you need to return the favor. Which isn't to say that you have to tell the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth. You do not have to say that you got trashed every weekend. Dr Sharon Levy, the director of the adolescent substance abuse program at Children's Hospital in Boston advises: "You don't need to tell everything. But if you decide to answer don't lie. Tell them the truth without glorifying it, and if you think you made a mistake, tell them that too."

If your teen does decide to turn it against you, you do not need to bite. Clearly if they have been confronted about a episode of drug and alcohol use, they will use any and all means to deflect responsibility for their actions. You do not need to get defensive or argumentative, you can just say we are not talking about me here, we are talking about what happened with you. Hopefully this won't happen because when your teen asked you for full disclosure of your alcohol and drug use it went something like this; " You know honey, I get that you are interested in hearing how I dealt with this stuff when I was a teen. So here goes. I did try pot, but just didn't like the way it made me feel. I didn't like feeling like I wasn't in control,( or when I was stoned, I couldn't concentrate and it stated affecting my school work) With drinking, I hated the feeling of getting drunk and being sick, and seeing other kids do really stupid things. ( insert a story here of some kid you knew who got into trouble drinking) so mostly I would just have a beer or two. When I was a teen we didn't drink hard liquor like teens do now. No one did binge drinking like that. And also pot has really changed since I was a teen. It is much much stronger now. And now there is so much more information about the brain. They didn't know when I was a teen that the brain is still growing, and that drugs and alcohol can actually lead to permanent changes in the way the brain works. Thank god I just kind of dabbled, cause if I knew then what I know now, it would have really changed the way I thought about it. I wouldn't want you to touch a hot stove just to find out you could get burned. My parents didn't know anything about this stuff, or about what I did, thank god nothing bad happened to me. But now we know alot more about brains and the potency of the pot out there, and of course I love you and want to make sure you are making informed decisions. I know that you have a lot ahead of you,  and that you have goals, and want to be successful in life. I wouldn't want to see something that you can be in control of to get out of control and alter you life forever."

Whew!! That's a long paragraph. You can be honest, without being preachy. You want to always keep the conversation open ended. Check in with them often, every weekend, reminding them how much
you love them and want them to be safe.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Problem With Mean Girls: Is Your Daughter A Meanie or "Meaned" To?

When you're a parent of a teen, one of the hardest and most heartbreaking things is seeing your teen be left out or excluded from events with kids he/she is friends with or thought they were friends with. A parent called me the other day worried about her 13 year old daughter. Like most girls her age she had her posse of four "besties." After school it seems a delegate from this elite group was chosen to deliver the message. No mincing of words here, "we don't like you anymore." There is no more brutal assault. The daughter was bereft, sobbing and humiliated vowing never to return to school. The mom, feeling every bit as much pain as her daughter wanted to do something, to fix it. "Should I call the school, should I call the parents of the other girls, what should I do?" she asks feeling desperate to make it "all better."

There is a simple answer. Nothing. There is honestly nothing a parent can do to make this better. Best friends on Monday, enemies on Tuesday, best friends again by Friday. There is no rhyme or reason for this fickleness. Kids in middle school are especially susceptible to this jockeying for friends. They are in the midst of going to what I call the "buffet of friends." In elementary school, friends are often chosen by default. Perhaps your best friend has kids the same age, and by default your kids become "best friends." Or maybe your neighborhood is full of kids the same age, and since kindergarten they have been hanging at the bus stop together, taking the bus together, and getting off the bus together and by default end up at each others' house after school, so easy. Think of this like taking your kids to a Chinese buffet. When they are young and overwhelmed by the options, you make their plate up with those things they will eat, chicken wings, fried rice and spare ribs. Now as they get older, they go up to the buffet themselves and are astounded and excited about all the choices, and are anxious to give them a try. Choosing friends in middle school and again in 9th and 10th grade is like going to the buffet for the first time. Wow, look at all these options. I think I would like to try this friend, or that friend.

This means that some kids will do the leaving, and some kids will be left behind. Now that these teen brains are working on overtime, they are thinking more deeply about who these people are they call friends. Whereas in elementary school they only need a warm body for "playing", now they look for friends to talk to, and  to share common interests with. They are less interested in what you have to play with and more with what do you have to offer me? Do I like your personality? Are you too quiet, too loud, to bossy too pretty, not pretty enough? etc etc. Are you fun, do we like to do the same things together? Often in middle school and then again in 9th grade, some kids are ready to transition to more teenagery like behaviors, partying, experimentation with the opposite sex, drugs and alcohol, while some kids are happy with less riskyish behavior.

All this is a set up for feelings of betrayal and exclusion. It is painful, and the good news, is they will get over it. As for your role, there is not much more to do than understanding their pain, and providing tons of TLC. If you insinuate yourself into these friend dynamics you will regret it. Perhaps you have never liked the girl who has just defriended your daughter, and you tell her so. Thinking you are making it better, you wax on and on about what a bad friend this girl has been,  and good bye to bad rubbish! The only problem with this is that the next day, when the girls have made up, your daughter now knows you hate this kid, and will never talk to you again about her.

I talked to a mom about this yesterday at one of my "Ask The Expert" parties whose daughter was experiencing all these friend complications. She said that her daughter would come to her crying and in her effort to make her feel better would try to solve the problem for her, by giving her all kinds of strategies. The daughter, not looking for help, just a shoulder to cry on, then gets angry at mom for interfering. Thats' what I am saying. Stay out of it!!!!! Your kids need to learn to figure this all out for themselves. Obviously if it is more of a bullying situation, it may require a different strategy, but if it is old-fashioned cat-fighting, just let it be. Your kids will have a lifetime of friendships for which they are now in training. It's a bit like basic training. In the beginning, you never think you'll get through it, and then you get stronger and smarter, and you get better at figuring it all out. Just be patient, they'll have to sweat a little.

Now having just told you to mind your own business, I do have one caveat. A parent recently told me of this situation. Her daughter went to a friend's house with 7 other girls for a weekend night "girl party." It seems that this girl cherry picked 5 of the girls to sleep over and left the other two out of the sleepover. As you can imagine, those two girls felt like s**t.  It didn't seem like the host's mom had any idea this had happened. If your kid has a group of friends over, there should be a proportion rule. In the example above, the parents should have been aware of the situation from the beginning, knowing who was invited for the sleepover. In a large group of 7, I get that all the girls sleeping over might have been too much, but 5 out of 7 is just too exclusionary. Have a rule in your home about sleepovers that states, either everyone or just 1. It would make sense the host girl wanted someone with her to finish out her fun night with the girls. I think all the girls could have understood the one rule, but they didn't understand the 5 and not you two rule. Your teens might need some of this kind of help. You won't choose the sleepover friend, but you can teach them about inclusion!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

When Is It My Turn To Be The Good Cop?

When kids are young arguments between parents tend toward eating and TV habits, and bedtimes and manners. Ah, the good ole days say parents of teenagers. If only we were just arguing about too much junk food. Arguments for parents of teens get much more personal. "You never say no, or all you ever do is say no, or why am I always the bad guy, or don't you remember when you were a teen, or kids will be kids, can't you just lighten up?" Worries about your teens safety, future,  and their success in life are present in every decision and negotiation you go through with your teen. Differences in personality and style with your parenting partner can become especially apparent in parenting your teen.

Most of us have very vivid memories of our own teenage years and the parents who got us through them. Some memories skew toward the awful. "My parents were so rigid, and punitive, I never want to be that way with my teen, or "I got away with everything, my parents were clueless, its amazing I am still alive, I will be much more on top of stuff with my teenager." You can see the inherent problem here. If you and your partner were parented from opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, and now are parenting from those perspectives, your teen will be in hog heaven. There is nothing easier for a teen than having parents who are extreme opposites. Because their brain now allows them to analyze their parents and how they parent, (your own private couples counselor) they can now figure out who is the best parent to go to for which things. Want to go to a concert and stay out late, go to the parent who is excited you love music and feels concerts are a rights of passage. Definitely do not ask the parent who would never let you go out on a school night, thinks concerts are only for drug addicts, and whose only experience with concerts is the Symphony.

This is problematic, not only because your kid is learning how manipulate his parenting duo, but also because it is a set-up for one parent to have a satisfying and fun relationship with their teen while the other parent ends up with the anger, and the lack of connection as the "bad cop parent."No fair! If there are two parents present in the family, it is important for this teen to have a model of cooperation. If a teen learns to manipulate a situation to his advantage on the home front, this then becomes a roadmap for manipulation in other relationships as well,  with friends, with co-workers when they start a career, and any future partnership or marriage of their own. Teens learn how to manage the world from the people who are closest to them, and that my friends are their parents.

The only way to deal with this is to at least have an agreement that neither parent will impulsively give their teen the immediate answer to a request. Teens are extremely talented in the art of negotiation and are not good at delaying gratification, that doesn't mean that you have to feed into that. Both parents have to get into the habit of saying, "your mom/dad and I will get back to you on that." When your kid pressures you for an answer, nothing really you have to say here, but give a shrug of your shoulders, a smile, and a we'll get back to you, and thats that. If is something that is time sensitive, and the other parent is not at home, thats why cellphones and texting were created. Obviously this strategy is for decisions you know are open to question, not the run of the mill, can I go hang at Joey's house. Do not ever disagree as a marital unit in front of your teen!!!! Take it outside, into the bathroom, in the car. Kids love seeing you two fight over this kind of stuff, and it can make one or the other parent seem ineffective and powerless. So please do your own negotiating privately, especially when you have to take defeat. You and your parenting partner may come from two very different places, but respect for each other always always always needs to be modeled. Even saying to your teen after a decision has been made: "you know I get why your mom/dad was so worried about having you do this. But we talked about it and here is why we came to this decision. You are communicating parenting understanding,not necessarily agreement, but respect for differing opinions. Believe me, this will come in very handy when you need your teen to understand you!!

Booking seminars for the fall!!! Invite mew to speak at your company during for a lunch-time seminar, your kid's school, your church/temple or community group.

Understanding Your Child’s Temperament and Personality
Strategies For The Future

 Is your child:

·      The adventurer
·      The lawyer
·      The child who always says no
·      The anxious/shy child
·      A combination of all 4

 This 1 hour  seminar describes these personality styles and gives parents the strategies to bring out the best in their child both in the present and implications for their development from childhood through their teen years.

 Audience: Parents of all ages

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!
Audience: All ages


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

College Bound:
  • Understand the emotional journey of your college bound high school student
  • Understand the emotional journey of a parent of college bound high school student
  • Learn strategies for making this process successful and positive

With over 40 years of experience working with families, Joani's approach, using humor, storytelling and easy to use tools make the job of parenting just a little bit easier.
Joani Geltman MSW     781-910-1770    joanigeltman.com

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sleepover Scams

Summertime sleepovers are in high demand. Unless your teen needs to be up early for work or some summer program, you're not left with too many excuses about why they can't sleep at a friends after a night out or hang. During the school year when I teach college classes about Adolescents to Adolescents I ask my my college students to tell me what they argued about most with their parents, when they were in high school. They raised their hands with the usual; messy room, laundry, fighting with siblings, messy room, laundry, rest and repeat. But one student raised her hand and told me how every weekend she would fight with her parents to be able to take the car on the weekend nights when her evening would end up with a sleepover at a friends. Coming home to sleep, no problem, take the car, sleeping at a friends, no way. Turns out it wasn't even the family car, it was her own car.  I was intrigued, and puzzled. But then the real story revealed itself.

Hypothetically speaking here, if your teen brings your car to a sleepover with your permission, then the ease of sneaking out after curfew with those attending the sleepover is considerably easier. Because of course the sleepover host parents have obviously told their teen that use of the car is verboten after everyone is home and accounted for. Meaning you better not sneak out. Now technically speaking when another teen has brought a car to your house, and the sleepover crew sneaks out and drives away in the friends car, from their point of view they are not technically breaking a rule. After all it wasn't YOUR car they used for the getaway. Let me emphasize here that the teen rationalization for being out and about after curfew is well, "It wasn't your car." As if the car is the issue!

I surveyed the class to see if this was just one rogue ballsey student, but when I asked who else pulled this sleepover scan, almost the entire class of 30 hands went up! So where would you go at 1 in the morning? I asked naively. "To a boys house, to a party, to get a food. "But how could you just walk into someone's house that late, weren't the parents home? I asked again naively. "Through the basement door, through the front door. The parents were asleep or away for the weekend and just never knew!

So I don't think you want your teens driving around late at night, partying and trying to get home before you get up after a night of drinking! So please parents, supervise those sleepovers. Set your alarms, and get up and do a bed check at 2 AM and 4 AM. And most importantly, let your teen know that you will be doing this. If teens think they can get away with something, they will give it their all. How many times have you said your goodnights, and gone up your two or three flights of stairs none the wiser to what your night owl teens are up too. This is about temptation not trust. Don't set your teen up for failure or unsafe decisions.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Curse Of Summer Reading

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 24, 2018

    The Two Most Annoying Teen Behaviors: Solutions!!!!

    This might be one of the major hurdles that parents and teens just can't get past. Forget drugs. alcohol, sex, cellphones, computers; why can't they just put their damn laundry away?????? It is this question that has plagued parents since the concept of clean clothes was born. The answer is that kids don't give a s**t about their laundry. They just like the magical laundry fairy to deliver their clean laundry all folded up nicely to their room. They don't really think about the real person who has done it,  or that putting away this beautiful folded laundry would make the laundry fairy happier than almost anything else. The Laundry fairy, however, is being driven quietly insane by this basket of nicely folded laundry that is emptied out on the floor as their teen scrounges through it looking for their favorite white tee shirt, leaving the beautifully folded laundry in a heap either hanging off, inside or outside of the laundry basket. What's a laundry fairy to do?

    There are two easy possible solutions:

     First just do it yourself. It will take 5 minutes of your time, and it will be one less thing to argue with your teen about. Consider it a gift of parenthood. Also, and not of minor importance, it gives you access to your teens drawers where you might potentially find contraband of some sort or another that gives you insight into your teen's life!

    Second, if your teen won't put this beautifully folded laundry away, then STOP FOLDING IT! Do the laundry as always, and bring to your teen a basket of clean but unfolded laundry. If they aren't happy with this new adjustment, you can calmly say: " Since it didn't seem important to you to put your laundry away to keep it unwrinkled, I figured it didn't need to be folded at all. If you feel differently, I would be happy to fold your laundry when you decide that putting it in your drawers keeps your clothes they way you like them. Just let me know what you decide."

    Dirty Dishes and food wrappers
    This is another one of those issues that drives parents absolutely crazy. "Why can't my teen bring his dirty dishes, glasses, food wrappers etc up to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher????" Why, because they absolutely could not give a s**t!! It doesn't bother them, and as soon as they are finished with whatever foodstuffs they have consumed, it is out of sight out of mind!

    Here is a solution: Buy cheap paper plates and cups. New rule, any food consumed out of the kitchen is to be eaten or drunk from the paper products now available on kitchen counters everywhere. This includes bedrooms, family rooms, and basements. Your job is to provide ample trash receptacles in every location, strategically placed next to couches, chairs, cushions or other lounging areas. The more wastebasket availability the better. Don't just leave it at that. Have a training session. Bring some snacks to your trash toting teen using said paper products, and when they have finished eating, practice putting the trash in the available trash receptacles. 

    Sometimes it's better to problem solve than nag. If they can't, won't, don't, bring the dishes upstairs, then figure out other ways for them to consume. Many parents worry that if they don't "teach" their kids how to clean up after themselves than as adults they won't know how to do it. This is not true!!! If you have provided a good model from the get-go on a keeping a well-ordered home then that is the model that will be present for them when it is time for them to have their own home. Trust me I know this from my own experience with my daughter and all the young adults I have watched grow up. They all are wonderful keepers of their homes, but as teens they were just like yours!

    PS: I am now booking for my fall seminars. If you enjoy my blog, you will love my seminars, two hours of non-stop humor and problem solving. Why not give your principal or PTO presidents a heads up about the work I do with parents. Call 781-910-1770 or email joani@joanigeltman.com for more info. I will travel!!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    Cell Phone Addiction-Lets Work On It As A Family!

    Reading an article today in the New York times, I came across a new app called Moment. Here is the article. really interesting reading. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/style/joy-of-missing-out-summer.html?fb=1&recb=home-living.control&recid=17TEnCPiOPzng6dYaMF3rfhVf7S&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=smarter-living&region=second-column-region&contentCollection=smarter-living&mData=articles%255B%255D%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.nytimes.com%252F2018%252F07%252F12%252Fstyle%252Fjoy-of-missing-out-summer.html%253Ffb%253D1%2526recb%253Dhome-living.control%2526recid%253D17TEnCPiOPzng6dYaMF3rfhVf7S%26articles%255B%255D%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.nytimes.com%252F2018%252F07%252F12%252Fsmarter-living%252Fdifferences-perfume-cologne-fragrance.html%253Ffb%253D1%2526recb%253Dhome-living.control%2526recid%253D17TEnCPiOPzng6dYaMF3rfhVf7S

    This app is available in your app store on your phone. It is your own private personal cellphone addiction coach. I just downloaded it today and I am excited for the data to start coming in. This app tracks your daily phone usage, and what apps you spend your most time on. And then, if you are so motivated helps you to set both limits using the app and strategies that require discipline the old fashion way...self motivation!!!

    I was thinking that this would be the most amazing app for families to do together. Next family dinner, everybody brings their phone to the table and downloads the app. Now you're all in it together. It's not you telling your teen they spend too much time on their phone, and you've had it!! It's a family affair.....WE ALL SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR PHONES!! Lets help each other. There is nothing teens like better than a little healthy competition!! Teens are always feeling criticized and judged by the adults in their lives, and often to them, it feels hypocritical! " Yeah, you're always telling me I spend too much time on my phone...what about you!!!" Which of course puts you in the defensive position of saying, "I'm an adult and you don't get to tell me what to do !!"
    But when the family takes ownership together for working on this, it de-emphasizes the, you're a child and I want to control you, aspect of it all.

    Getting your teen to buy in, might be a bit hard. But again do it all together so no one feels singled out, and let them know downloading this is a condition of having a phone. This is not a parent control, this is an app about self-awareness. Most people including teens, completely underestimate how much time they are spending on their phones and apps. It can be a rude awakening to see in living color that the actual hours you engage with your phone  are wayyyyyy more than you think. Adults and kids alike have magical thinking when it comes to self awareness about phone use. "Oh I'm not on it THAT much!!!" Until you find out that you are, there might not be much motivation to change.I'm guessing that many of you wear fit bits, and have now become more self-aware of walking and moving more. Using an app like this is akin to a fitbit!  Have a regular weekly family check in. How many hours did you use this week, or which app did you spend the most time on. This by the way does not supplant parental controls. This is a way to plant seeds for all of you about mindful phone use. This is a life skill. This is a way to counter denial, yours and your kids about how much actual time you are on your phones. Teaching self awareness skills translate to every area of our lives. It is as important as teaching them their ABC"s!

    Thursday, July 12, 2018

    How important Is "The Summer Experience" In College Admissions

    I am all for keeping teens busy in the summer. Too much time, and no structure is definitely a dangerous combination. But how much, and what and where this summer structure takes place has taken on epic proportions as parents and teens feint and parry in the game of college competition.

    The article below is a must read if you have been spending both time and money researching, investigating, and deciding what the impact of one program or another, one internship or another, or one super-sized academic summer program or another, will have on your teen's college acceptances. According to the colleges......not much.

    This is not to say that a summer spent building latrines in a small village of Indonesia isn't worthwhile, but if you and your teen's goal in toilet building is that it will provide fodder for the requisite college essay, than read on.

    As you will read in this article below, colleges are not stupid. If they see an application padded with "meaningful" experiences it might raise more questions than it answers. If your teen is interested in latrine building because for example they are passionate about sewage and engineering, and every summer is packed with experiences related to this passion, then OK than latrine building seems like a valuable experience for "that kid." Sending your teen off on any experience because it causes them to see the world in a new way, see themselves in a new way, and gain some much needed independence, are all worthy goals. But that should be the conversation and the motivation; personal growth, not how it will translate to a college admission's imagining of your teen.

    Intrinsic motivation is what gives those feelings of self satisfaction, and what in life motivates you to take on new challenges. Extrinsic motivation, doing something because it gets you somewhere or something makes these experiences become shallow exercises in creating persona, and rarely have lasting impact. In order to grow, experiences have to be real and meaningful in an internal way. Make sure that whatever your teen chooses for a summertime experience, it is because it has meaning for them....not for you. A summer job at McDonald's can be as meaningful as a summer building latrines in Indonesia. They both teach responsibility, self-reliance, independence and taking care of people other than themselves. Isn't that really what is most important?

    PS: Hey readers: I'd love to come and speak at your middle/high school. Have talks will travel!!!Call or email me for info about topics and pricing!!! joani@joanigeltman.com 781-910-1770

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    A Go-To Parenting Strategy

    Thank god for television, comic strips, news, and AOL or where oh where would I come up with all these blog ideas. I was watching a rerun of 30 Rock, it's hard not to since they seem to be on every channel. It seems "Jenna" (it doesn't matter if you don't know the show or the characters) was having a hard time dealing with her very manipulative, user mother. "Jack" who has experience dealing with his own manipulative user mother was advising "Jenna" on a foolproof strategy in dealing with her mother's outlandish requests of her. As soon as I heard it, I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget. Three perfect steps to "winning" an argument.

    SAY NO

    Perfection! So your teen comes to you with a request to do, go, or buy something. I think that covers all the bases. This is the kind of request for which there is no compromise. Its either too expensive, too unsafe, or too unrealistic. Your teen, unfortunately does not agree.  You state your case in a kind and clear manner, hoping to ward off an argument. Sometimes that works, but if your teen is extremely invested in a YES, I'm guessing you get put on the defensive after being accused by your teen for being overprotective, overbearing, too strict, and the worst parent ever. It's tough not to get hooked. After all you have to protect yourself. But here is the thing, once your teen has heard the word NO, and you mean no, it doesn't matter how loud or how long you argue to the contrary, you will not win. PERIOD! And it will only deteriorate into a place you really don't want to go with your teen. So here is the "Jack Doneghy" strategy.

    Say NO in a calm but controlled voice

    Stay low, as in keep your voice in a low, soft, controlled register. Once you hit the high notes, you've lost. This means NO SCREAMING NO YELLING

    Let It Go: There really is nothing else to say after you have said no. Given that you have explained your rationale for the no.You might end with an "I get it moment. " I get you're angry with me, and don't understand and don't want to hear this answer. I'm sorry, I know how disappointed you are."  and you are done. Do not re-engage.

    Thursday, July 5, 2018

    My 4 year old...10 years later

    Teens are: unpredictable, aliens, explosive, risk-taking, and temperamental. So say hundreds of parents when I ask them to throw out adjectives that describe their teen at my seminar: Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Version. You ask yourself, who is this person? I don't know what's going to come out of his/her mouth next. This is unsettling to say the least because what has worked in the past to calm your kid down so you can have a civilized conversation seems to have flown out the window. Not to mention, the way he wants to spend his time, the kinds of kids she likes to hang with, and what about how school used to be the most important part of his life. This isn't my kid, who is this kid?

    Well actually deep down inside those tiny tank tops or baggy jeans and untied sneakers is the kid you raised, and all those characteristics you thought sweet or funny as a toddler, now in a taller, more filled out body...not so funny and sweet. For example, maybe you had that 3 year old who had fantastic verbal skills, and you thought it was so cute when they were able to talk you into reading just one more book at bedtime, or just one more cookie for dessert, or just one more episode of Sesame Street. After talking baby talk for 3 years, how refreshing to have these adult like conversations with your "little man". Well your "little man" has grown up and his verbal skills have grown with him, and he wants to share them with you! Now he understands that these verbal/negotiating skills can wear you down to the point that he is able to get exactly what he wants. And how about that adorable little 4 year old girl who had the energy of a rabbit, bouncing from one activity to the next. Running instead of walking, climbing the highest slide or jungle gym with you standing below, screaming, "honey be careful!!! Now at 14 she wants to run out of the house, hang with her friends, doing what and with whom..."Honey be careful"
    Or maybe you had that shy 5 year old, who clung to your leg and didn't want to go into the school, or to the play date or the birthday party, and now as a 13 year old seems overwhelmed with the expectations of the 8th grade social strata.

    See, they aren't really so different. What your teen brings to the table in terms of temperament and personality is biological, sorry,you can't change that. But you can be aware of it, and help your teen to see what their natural inclinations might be to keep them safe during this time in their life when their world is so inviting and exciting.  So if you have that risk-taking 4 year old all grown up now, it's important to have this kind of conversation; "You know honey, when you were little, you used to make me crazy with worry because you were always the kid who wanted to climb the highest tree, or ride your bike down the steepest hill, you were an excitement junkie. I loved how confident and fearless you were about things, always wanting to try something new. And I love that about you now, but because this is the essence of you, now as a teenager, you will also want to drive the fastest, party the hardest, take the biggest risks, and that worries me. We just need to make sure that you are safe, knowing that won't come naturally to you." Or if you have that verbal kid who has the skills of the slickest lawyer on TV, your job is to avoid getting into a verbal volleyball match. You won't win! Or maybe  you have that shy teen who has friends he wants to party with, and ends up going because he want to fit it. This shy 5 yr old grown up may be especially vulnerable to drinking or drugs because after the first experience with a few beers they feel the confidence and comfort in a group that they never felt before. That is a seductive feeling. So you need to say to this teen, "I know being in groups has always been hard for you, and now you have friends, which makes me so happy, and they want you to hang and go to parties where I know there is going to be alcohol and drugs. I worry that because those situations initially are hard for you, your friends might encourage you to drink to "loosen up" and that you might become dependent on alcohol or drugs to have fun in these situations.

    Embrace the person your teen is and is becoming. Recognize the strengths in their personality and temperament, and give them the tools to manage them. Your legs won't be there to hold on to, and you won't always be waiting at the bottom of the slide.  They need the confidence and know-how to do it
    "all by myself".

    Tuesday, July 3, 2018

    Fabulous New Summer Movies To Share With Your Teen

    "We're Having a Heat Wave, a tropical heat wave." What better excuse to go to the movies....every day.... and not feel like a loser!!!! That would be me! I love the movies and the heat gives me a good cover for indulging myself.

    This weekend I saw three movies I absolutely loved. Two of them, Hearts Beat Loud and Leave No Trace, though extremely different and each very unique, explore similar themes.

     In Hearts Beat Loud, a single dad with a teenage daughter struggles to let go and recognize his daughter's need to define herself and her future. Both dad and daughter are musicians, and this bond has been something that has given each of them a means of expression for both their individual and collective deep wells of emotion, as well as a shared connection. Sam an 18 year old young woman now finds herself torn between her father's expectations and her own dreams and aspirations.

    In Leave No Trace, a single father dealing with war related PTSD chooses to raise his daughter off the grid, living in the wilderness of Oregon. They are a well-oiled machine and team as they survive and thrive living in the wilderness. With quiet and solitude and enormous love and respect for each other they move through their life together, until the "real world" intervenes and challenges them both to decide what's is best for their "survival." Tom, a 13 year old girl, just discovering her "self" as separate from her dad, and in the throes of developing her own identity finds herself having to make difficult life choices. For those of you in the boston area, there will be a special screening on July 6th at the Coolidge theater in Brookline with a Q&A with the producer of the film Linda Reisman and Boston Globe columnist.Meredith Goldstein.

    Both of these movies are powerful, emotional and absolutely exquisite, and address a fundamental element of Adolescence. A major task of Adolescence is to develop a personal identity; what are my values, my interests, my passions, what are the qualities I look for in friends and lovers, what is my sexual identity, what are my goals? etc.  Part of this process is also to look closely at the people who raised them, and analyze how they are both different and the same from them. I always say that having a teen in the house is like having your own personal therapist. With this new brain of theirs, they are able to really look at you without the cloud of perfection that hovered over you in their childhood. Why the hell do these kids have to grow up?????? They are now free to share with you their thoughts and ideas about you! Unfortunately much of what they share is the stuff we already don't like about ourselves. Having them be so honest can be very uncomfortable. But if you can listen without hurt or defensiveness, you might learn something new and potentially useful about yourself. More importantly it is part of the process of figuring out who they are.

    As teens start thinking for themselves, they might start to go down paths that parents aren't comfortable with. I'm not talking about unsafe or risky behavior, but life choices about what they like to do, where they might want to go to college, and ultimately what they want to do with their life. Most parents have dreams for their kids. In healthy families, parents keep those dreams to themselves waiting to see what path their children seem most interested in, even if it means parents giving up their own dreams for their kids. In some families, parent's dreams for their kids is more of a requirement than an option. We call that Identity foreclosure, when the option of choosing one's own identity is taken away from them.  Both of these movies look deeply at this issue. I think it would be heaven to go with your teen and share these movies with them. As always they may or may not choose to talk about them afterward, but sometimes just sharing special moments and experiences is just fine, no heavy sharing required. If your teens seem resistant, then please, you go see them. Grab your partner, your friend, your parent and allow these movies to envelop you.

    The third movie I absolutely loved was Won't You Be My Neighbor. For those of you raised on Mr. Rogers or used him as an in-house babysitter this will resonate. I literally was crying so hard at the end that I had to lock myself in a bathroom stall and let it all out!!! But then again, I am a bit of a crier!!! I never really understood what the mission of this man was. I just remember plunking my daughter in front of the tube hoping his sickly sweetness would keep her occupied so I could do whatever. But, it turns out that Mr. Rogers was a teacher, a philosopher and a lover of humanity. What he really wanted to do was make all children feel understood and accepted. He addressed difficult feelings and life issues like divorce and death and bullying, 9/11, segregation...you name it. He was a man so ahead of his time and so misunderstood. There are many many many powerful moments in this movie, and it left me thinking, that literally, if every person in the world saw this movie we would have world peace!! Yes this movie is that monumental.

    So OK, we're in a heat wave,  go buy some popcorn and a soda and lose yourself in these films. They are guaranteed to move you!!!!

    Thursday, June 28, 2018

    Must Stay Awake!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now that it's summer, your teen's normal sleep/wake cycle is heading for a shake-up! Your teens will stay up and  out late. You have to stay up later. If you are an early to bed, early to rise kind of person, having a teenager will be pure torture. It may be torture in other ways as well, but if you need your beauty sleep, fagettaboutit! Get used to looking old. Pretend your teen is an infant, and you are on call 24 hours a day. You have no life, and no sleep. I think that sounds about right. Especially in the summer.

    If your teen is home this summer, they want to be out of the house and away from you as much as they can. If they aren't working full-time or otherwise engaged 40 hours a week, they have become completely nocturnal. They sleep all day, and are awake all night, free of your constant watch over them. All the more reason for you to figure out a way to check in on your teen to make sure they are snug as a bug in a rug. If you are one of the many parents I talk to who go to sleep by 10 PM, WAKE UP! If your teen knows that there won't be any kind of evening sniff test before bed, you are leaving the door wide open to regular intoxication. If your teen knows you are dead to the world, and they have made it home in time to kiss you goodnight and put you to bed, they may be ducking out after your bedtime. Neither of these scenarios are safe. If you have a partner, take turns. If you are a single parent, I am sorry you have no one to share this burden with, but for all of you. make sure that your teen always, without exception, checks in with you on arrival back home, even if it means waking you up. Also drink a lot of water before you go to bed, so you will have to pee several times a night, thereby having an excuse to do a bed check. And finally, if you have a teen who is sleeping out at friends, more nights than he/she is sleeping home, there is cause for worry. He/she has probably found a house with little supervision. Not good. You want your teen to have a wonderful summer, but you want it to be a safe one. You can catch up on your sleep when they are 18 and off to college!

    Tuesday, June 26, 2018

    Tips For Surviving Summer With Your Teen

    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.

    Also, if your teen is looking for some good summer reading, my friend Meredith Goldstein who is the love letters columnist from The Boston Globe, and author of her memoir Can't Help Myself has another new book out, for young adults/teens called Chemistry Lessons. IT IS FANTASTIC!!!, This is not my genre and I couldn't put it down. A wonderful read to read with your teen. https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2018/06/21/meredith-goldstein-growing-love-lab/un17nYqrwGrh5u6vbHXWDN/story.html?event=event12

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    Fortnite, Snap Streak, instagram and Other Summertime addictions

    Yay!!!!! School's out for summer!!! I was shopping at my little neighborhood grocery today and bumped into one of my neighbors. I asked when her kids were done with school, and she exclaimed TODAY!!! I asked if she was in the store to buy her kids a last day of school special food treat, and she said, NO, I'm buying myself a bottle of wine!!!!

    After a summer of policing fortnite, snap streaking and snap chatting, you too might be on the way to your local wine store!!! But policing you must. In the mind of your teen, any limitations that may have been present on video gaming and social networking were only there to make sure they got their homework done. Now that there is no more homework, they will be assuming that phones and video gaming can now be a full time pursuit.  Oh how wrong they are!!! Getting their homework done was actually less important than turning your teen into a full out addict!! Did you know that video gaming and social networking releases the brain's natural high-dopamine, which is the same chemical that opiates mimic. Once you start, you can't stop!!

    Summertime and all the unstructured time it provides will not be easy for you. Your usual arguments for maintaining some semblance of sanity around fortnite and social networking will fall on deaf ears.  It will be your job to put on the brakes. If you don't,  you seriously will have a kid who will become even more addicted to their gaming and their phone, and then in 2 months from now when school starts this will come back to bite you in the ass!!!

    This has become such a huge mental health issue that the World Health Organization has now added video game addiction as an official mental health condition. Soooooooo, if your teen has hours of unstructured time this summer while you're at work, or they are between work shifts or SAT classes, or internships that only require 20 hours of time, that leaves them with hours and hours available to play fortnite or snap their little hearts out!! If you have a teen whose friends are away or isn't particularly social, this is of particular concern. Just because they CAN play or instagram or text now all day, doesn't mean they should!!!

    The only way you will be able to deal with this is to get some form of parental control software. Your teen will not be happy, they will yell at you, they will scream at you, they will tell you that they hate you!!! So be it!!! It's only a tantrum with loud noise. If it becomes more than a tantrum, your teen is already in trouble! Disney Circle, Verizon Family, Net Nanny and Net Sanity are some of the software available for parents. You download software on your computer and from there you get control of your teens devices. Remember to input their phones, iPads, laptops and home computers. Teens are smart and if there is a will there is a way. Limit the number of hours of play they can have. Your teens will also learn the value of time management. If for example you agree that he/she can play fortnite or use snapchat or instagram 3 hours a day, and they choose to use up all their time from 9AM -12 PM. oh well, that's life. The software will just shut off the app or video game after 3 hours. They will just have to learn how to allot their time.  Hours of video gaming and social networking can be socially isolating and increases anxiety and depression. Experts know this, parents know this, but kids will NEVER get this. So don't expect any buy in from them.  Go to my old stand by: " I get this feels unfair, and nobody else's parents are doing this, and you hate me right now. But I love you and I can take you hating me if I know that I am doing the right thing to keep you safe and emotionally healthy.

    Happy Summer!!!

    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    Summer Traveling With Your Teen

    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!