Thursday, June 14, 2018

Giving Your Kids The Chance To Get To Know The Real You..It's A Gift!


Two months ago, my husband and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. We were going out for a nice dinner and to a concert. Before I left the house for our evening out, I printed out an article from the New York Times I had read called The 36 Questions That Lead To Love.  Now let's assume my hubby and I are in love, after all 38 years is not nothing. And this questionnaire was written to help new couples learn about each other and explore areas of their life that might not enter their conversation without direction, and that might ultimately help them decide their  compatibility. I just thought it would be fun to talk about more intimate subjects than our usual daily conversation. BTW this is not about SEX!! Questions like: What would be your perfect day? or If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be??  Honestly it was one of the most beautiful and intimate conversations we had had in years. We only got to 3 questions during our 1 1/2 hour dinner as each question took us in many different directions. It was a special and wonderful anniversary.

Two weeks ago we returned from a glorious vacation to Italy. Neither my husband or I had traveled to Europe since college. Our amazing daughter rented a villa in Umbria and invited my husband and I and 8 of her closet friends to join her and her boyfriend in this magical place. Our last night there I again pulled out the 36 questions and as a group of 10 we spent hours sharing our stories with each other. Truthfully one of the most special evenings of my life, and I think the group would say the same. (I have linked you to the NYTImes article below. You don't have to wait till your 38th wedding anniversary)

OK , so here's the connection to you. Recently Huff post published two similar kinds of questionnaires. Questions to ask your mom, and Questions to ask your dad! They are wonderful. and with Fathers day this Sunday I encourage you to print out these questionnaires and invite your kids to ask any or all that interest them.  Questions like: What was your relationship with your parents like? What kind of trouble did you get into? Giving your kids permission to really get to know you is an invitation to intimacy and connection. Giving them an opportunity to see another side of you, you at a younger age. This less perfect you gives them permission to be OK with who they are right now. We don't always know how to really share our true feelings. Maybe you're not a "sharer" by nature, but trust me on this, your kids want to know about you, and most especially they want to know what you were like when you were their age. You will create a special family moment, as well as a chance for your kids to get to know you in a different way. Hey there may even be some tears!! And plenty of laughs as well. There is no better gift for Fathers Day or Mothers Day than the gift of honesty and communication. Let me know how it goes!!! Joani@joanigeltman.com

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/questions-to-ask-your-mom_us_5af32a3ee4b09bb419e45432

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/interesting-questions-to-ask-your-dad_us_5b158672e4b014707d2717a8?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063&utm_campaign=hp_fb_pages&utm_source=main_fb&utm_medium=facebook

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When Your Teen's A Night Owl

Your teens stay up 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, and late night outdoor adventure 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!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Answers To The 20 Most Important Questions Part 2

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

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


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

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


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

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


What inspired you – or rather, what events necessitated you to pen A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens?

I can’t tell you how many parents come up to me after one of my parenting seminars or email me with a “can you just tell me what to do about….? So much of parenting a teen is going from crisis to crisis, and a tomb on the psychology of adolescence is useless in that minute. I wanted to give parents their own “parenting coach” for those moments when they just need a game plan. I think the 80 tips in the book cover most situations parents of teens face daily and need a quick go-to. 


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

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

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

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


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

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


How has parenting a teen, circa 1984, changed from raising one today?

As teens, this generation of parents experienced much of what their teens are experiencing; teen angst, puberty, alcohol, drugs, sex, so at least that gives them some perspective. But technology was not a part of their teen years. Unfortunately we have all jumped in the pool together and parents and teens are sharing in the excitement of all this new technology simultaneously. But teenage use and adult use are not the same, and no one was prepared for how all this technology could and does impact a teen’s life. Who knew teens would  be sending naked pictures and using language fit for 1-900-SEXY as just part of the normal teenage experience, or that the family TV would become a dusty relic as teens hunker down in their caves watching movies, playing games and getting naked away from the prying eyes of mom and dad.


With the recent spate of school shootings by disgruntled teens, are there preventative measures parents can take so as not to raise someone who one day just explodes?

First it is important for every parent to step back and take a long, hard, honest look at their teen. What is the nature/temperament their child was born with and how does his/her nature interact with the parent’s inherent nature. Is there a disconnect there that has made parenting this child a challenge from day one? Is there anger and resentment within the family, and if so, it needs to be addressed. “I get we are family where there is a lot of anger, that must be hard sometimes, what can we do differently?” Does your teen isolate themselves from both family and friends? This can be a red flag. Sometimes there are obvious signs, but they can get chalked up to normal teen angst. When a parent sees a pattern emerging, they should pay attention to it!


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Answers To The 20 Most Important Questions About Parenting Teens

  Four years ago when my book first came out, I was asked to do a lot of radio and TV interviews. In the course of those interviews I was asked these 20 question. Today I give you answers to the first 10, and Thursday will finish up with the second 10 questions. I think these questions and answers will pretty much sum up your life!!


What is the most challenging part to parenting a teenager?

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



5.     Your daughter went on to star in a network television show.  Does this mean you did something right as a parent?

Ari’s success is totally a reflection of her hard work and talent; we take no credit for that. What we did do as parents was to know and understand who she was and what turned her on. We supported her passion which she exhibited at a very early age and found her opportunities to participate to her little hearts content. As she got older that definitely meant some job juggling for my husband and I. Because Ari was an only child, we were able to do that and she was able to take advantage of acting opportunities that required some significant chauffeuring and time management. But I think our real gift to her was staying out of her way. We were all very clear about boundaries; we were her chauffeurs, catering service and supporters, not her directors, managers and agents. 



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

What Were Your Teenage Years Like?

I've been thinking about the the standards parents set for their children as they grow up. I was a very average student in high school, but I surely did not want my daughter to be like me in that regard during her high school years. I wanted her to be better, to have more options, to exceed what I felt was my own mediocrity at the time. PS, I think I am doing fine now!

In my parent coaching lately, I have been struck by the disappointment many parents feel about their teenagers lack of perceived motivation and achievement. Sometimes it's academic, sometimes it's the lack of passion their kids seem to feel for anything significant, and sometimes it's the resentment for the time and effort their teens put into their friends and not their family. When I ask these parents what they were like in high school, they often say, rebellious, angry, social, party animal, disrespectful to their parents... and then we smile at each other. One parent said, she didn't much like her teen these days, and started to cry.

Projection is a defense mechanism we can thank Freud for introducing us to. We often "project" on our children those qualities, memories and characteristics we hate most about ourselves. We sometimes see our children in a light that unconsciously reminds us of that part of ourselves we least like, and then wonder "how did they ever get this way?" Hmmmm

I urged the mom who was feeling so negatively about her teen to tell him she totally understood how he was feeling. She had never really shared honestly with him about her own teen years, which were full of rebelliousness and anger..just like her son. She could see how her own parenting style was mirroring her parents, smothering, and overbearing. She worried that being honest with him might encourage him to throw it back in her face. In fact, just the opposite was true.

Sometimes your teen feels your expectations so keenly and worries that they will fail. So rather than disappointing you and not living up to your expectations, they will just stop trying, and then you can be angry with them rather than disappointed. Anger is a much easier emotion to deal with than disappointment. This mom remembers well how she continued to disappoint her parents, and frankly continues to disappoint her family, not because she isn't successful enough, because she is,  but because she isn't doing what they had expected her to do. She made choices to do what she wanted to do. The message that you are OK being who you are, is so much more loving and accepting than, you need to be how I want you to be. And they will be just fine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Helping Our Kids and Ourselves Face Our Fears

I was in LA for a few days and had the opportunity to hang out with a real live horse whisperer. A friend of mine owns an albino horse, which means that the pure white of the horse also extends to her eyes. Albino horses have some vision disability. As a result they can become quite fearful and skittish when they sense something they can't see. And that is why my friend hired a horse whisperer. To help this horse confront her fears and work through them.

Sounds like therapy to me. I watched this guy in action when the horse became fearful of something none of us could see or find an explanation for. The horse would become agitated, and refuse to move forward or backward. The "whisperer" calmly acknowledged the horses fear, but urged with control and calm for her to move forward. His efforts weren't instantaneous, but in time, without anger or frustration from the whisperer, the horse trusted him, and moved on. This process will need to be practiced and repeated by my friend, until her horse believes that with fear can come safety and comfort.

Isn't this a life skill we should try to teach our kids? Teens in particular are faced with so many new challenges and fears; Who am I? Who will I become? Where will I fit in? What will interest me? What is my future? What is my present? As parents we want them to take risks, the safe kind, try new things, meet new people, go on adventures, and get out of their comfort zone. If we give in to their fears, and leave them be, we don't give them our belief that though change is scary, working through it can bring eventual safety, comfort and growth, just like with that beautiful albino horse. Get that horse out of the barn and there is a world to run in and explore.

I worked with a couple once whose daughter's needs were to get out of her community where she felt like a square peg in a round hole. She had passions and interests that could not be supported in the town she lived, but could be if she could get on a train and go into the nearby city. The parents were homebodies, and never much left their community. It was time to get the "horse out of the pasture." In order for the daughter to feel that the bigger world was a safe and accepting place, the parents had to do it first, and show her the way. And because these parents loved their daughter, and "got" that she needed to experience life in a different way, they all became adventurers together, researching opportunities, figuring out transportation, and opening the door to adventure. They were all fearful, but with coaching, and persistence, these parents were able to help their daughter find a new way to feed herself. Once the pasture door was open, and she trusted those who urged her out,  she flew out the barn door!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

You Are So Annoying

Often after my seminars, parents come up to give me a personal greeting. Sometimes I meet parents who have been repeat attenders of my seminar. ( I love that). They tell me that after their first seminar with me they left breathing a sigh of relief. Their kid may have only been 11 or 12, and most of what I said did not apply yet to their relationship with their teen. They report leaving the seminar thinking, oh good, I think we've dodged that teen bullet, our teen doesn't behave at all like Joani said. We must be doing one helluva job!!! Little did they know, that a year or two later, once again sitting in the audience of another of my seminars they would nod their head in agreement and wonder whether I lived in their house as my descriptions of the teen behaviors rang so very true.....now.

I think one of the hardest changes that parents experience with their teen is the abrupt change in their teens behavior towards them. Their teen literally goes  from being open and loving one day, to cold and secretive literally the next day. Parents feel puzzled by this,  questioning what they might have done wrong to ellicit this change. Answer: nothing.

Apparently your teen got the new memo, if you are acting nice to your parents, then stop. It is unseemly for teens to be nice to the "enemy. " Maybe your teen was sitting in the cafeteria, or on the bus, and a bunch of kids were slamming their parents..."man I hate my parents, they never let me do anything." Or maybe, "my parents are so nosy, always looking over my shoulder when I'm on the computer, they are such a pain!" So there your teen is, listening, and wondering, "gee I get along good with my parents, is that bad? And BAM they come home and practice being a "teen." So that may be one explanation.

Here is another. One of the major tasks of adolescence is separation/individuation. The work of developing a personal identity means stepping back from the people who have been the closest and most influential in their lives. How am I like my parents? How am I different from my parents? Where am I in all this? Unfortunately these questions are not consciously being asked in that teen brain of theirs. Instead this new brain is giving them new thoughts they have never thought before. "God my parents are so annoying, I hate the way they dress, eat, talk, think, ask so many questions etc." The truth is, it isn't really about you, it is more the process by which they are trying to figure out what they think, and what they feel. And for all of his/her life they have kind of depended on you to figure that out for them. Now they know that they have to figure this stuff out for themselves. Adolescence is after all, the training period for adulthood.

So when your teen tells you that you are annoying and gives you 'the look", try not to take it personally. A shoulder shrug, and an I love you, should say it all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Prom Proofing Your Teen

I wrote this article for the Boston Globe a few years ago, but it remains timely!! Proms are wonderful, but there are some secrets that might help you make it safer!! Love all the pictures I see on Facebook of this year's crop of prom goers. It makes me pine for my daughters teen years!!!


https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2016/05/08/prom-proofing-your-teen/9cTreAVO7ttNhuzaAp3wrK/story.html

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why Is It Important To You For Your Teen To Get Good Grades?

I just finished watching the 6:30 national news and one of the top stories was a new CDC study the found a  increase in teen suicide. This generation of teens face enormous pressure from social networking and from increased pressure to do and be better from school and parents. With the end of the school year, and exams looming I thought I would share this post I wrote a few years ago. It feels timely!

Why is it important to you for your teen to get good grades? This is a really good question for you to ask yourselves. Because often it is more important to parents than it is to your kids. Is it because you know that they CAN get good grades, and therefore they should? Is it because you were an exceptional student, and a strong academic record is something that you value in yourself and therefore want to see in your kids? Is it because it's nice to be able to say out loud and to the people you know; " My kid is an all-honor student." Is it because you know that the key to a successful life is going to an elite college, and to do that your teen needs to be an exceptional student. Or is it because this is a real goal your teen has stated is important to him/her and not just to please you. These are all very important questions to answer, especially the last one.

Below is an in-depth article in The Atlantic Magazine about the culture of academic excellence at two Palo Alto High Schools that may have inpacted cluster suicides of their high school students. As you might imagine this has thrown this community into overdrive to seek answers to why these teens wanted to die. One of the main premises is that the stress of the community and parents for academic excellence has thrown their teens into high anxiety, depression and hopelessness for their constant need to keep up the competitive edge to make it into the good schools and to have a successful life. My take is that this stress does and can affect students greatly, but that suicide is an extreme reaction for a teen who most likely had many other contributing factors for making this decision. It is a big leap to say that academic stress=suicide.

However I have spent a lot of time reading this article and the comments that hundreds of students wrote in reaction to this article. And what is clear to me is that learning and the curiosity for knowledge, for knowledge sake is missing from many teens lives. The excitement your 3rd grader felt from studying about birds and then going out into your yard beaming from his/hers' ability to label and understand what it meant for this bird to be living in your yard has all but disappeared. That makes me sad. If your teen truly loves calculus and is turned on by equations and loves the challenge of problem sets, then by all means this kid belongs in honors calculus. But if your teen just happens to have an aptitude for math, but takes absolutely no joy in it at all, will never use it again in his/her life, and is just doing it to get into a good college....... well I think you know what I would say to that!

School is obviously so important, and having high expectations for your children is reasonable if they are capable of meeting them. But life is about balance. Is your teen overwhelmed with the need for perfection in school, on the field, on stage, in your home? Is there a recognition of who and what turns this kid on? And most importantly, are there realistic expectations in place so that your teen has a seat at the table to say what it is that is or is not important to him/her?

Many kids blossom when they get to college. They take random courses and find out about passions and interests they never knew they had. They don't have to know-it-all in high school!!! Many many people who are successful in life are not the kids who were the all A students, just look at me, I was a pretty solid C, and I'm pretty damn happy with my life!

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Power Of Parental Controls!

Recently I met with parents of a 15 year old girl who is addicted to her phone, her computer, her tablet...and her apps!! Parents had been noticing a spiraling down of grades, attitude, and spending as little time as possible in their presence. Anything sounding familiar here?  Previous to our meeting, the parents had tried to set limits, but as you all know, once your kids are in addiction mode, this can be unbelievably challenging and fraught with constant conflict and fighting. Not a pleasant home to live in!!!

At my suggestion, the parents signed up and installed Disney Circle, a popular parental control program that helps them assume control over their kids social networking life. Today I got call from these parents, explaining that after they installed this program, their daughter's behavior had deteriorated even further, and the anger and abuse she spew was mind-blowing!! But then the mom went on to explain, that she caved, just spent from all the fighting, she gave back most of what she had taken away, but with a caveat. You have a choice now, do what you need to do, complete all missing assignments, and stay up to date with daily homework, spend more time with the family, and basically be a kinder gentler self, OR we take it all away...again! Pretty tall order. Initially, I groaned when I heard that her daughter's antics had worn these poor parents down and that the lesson she had learned was, being my most terrible self gets me what I want. But....and there is a big but here, the outcome was actually really positive.

The daughter completed all her assignments. The parents know this because the high school she attends has records online for parents on a daily basis from all teachers about missing assignments. So the parents were checking daily and yup, assignments were being completed and handed in on time. Also attitude and time with family improved!! I was really surprised, until I thought for a moment, and here's what I think happened. I think when these parents actually followed through with the parental controls, and the daughter realized in fact, that they were, for the first time completely in control of her use of social networking and phone/computer. Cue rage!!!!This absolute control came as a shock to this kid who had been able to manipulate her parents through her anger. When parents gave in, they actually also acquired a new bargaining tool. And here is the new deal. If and when she chooses to be disrespectful, avoids homework assignments and bails on school work, which is information for which her parents have daily access, goodbye phone, good night text, goodnight snapchat and instagram! And now that she has actually experienced life without connection, she does not want to do it again!! For a teen who sets up everything as a power struggle, she is now being given control over herself and her choices. But now parents have control too, and the kid knows it!

Teens need structure, expectations, and a little bit of control! Parents need to feel that they have the ability to do what they need to do to make sure their kids are their best selves. Parental controls are really the only way to do that. Magically you are given the power to turn on or turn off, control time limits for apps that take up wayyyyy too much time like snap streaking and chat and instagram and group chats.

Try it you'll like it!! Here are some of the popular ones. They cost about $50  a year. Well worth it!!
Disney Circle
Verizon family
Netnanny
Netsanity

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Power Of Understanding Is Very Powerful

Recently I had two personal experiences that reiterated to me the power of understanding and forgiveness. One experience was for me to ask for forgiveness, and the other, looking for someone else to understand me.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"I Don't Want To Talk To You"

I was giving a seminar the other night, and one of the parent asked me what to do if your teen literally does not talk to you? She described her situation this way: "he walks in the house, goes to the refrigerator or cabinet, takes his food, brings it up to his room, shuts his door...gone for the night. He seems to be doing OK at school, since his grades seem fine when the report card comes in. Where he goes, what he does when he is not home or at sports seems to be a mystery. What can I do?"

OK if you have a teen who has completely shut down, there is a reason, and I am afraid the reason is not just that he/she is an uncommunicative teenager. Many teens don't sit down with their parents in the family room for long chats about life, but there are meals together, or an occasional meet ups in the kitchen. If your teen literally has cut you out of his/her life there is a more serious problem.

My first suggestion is to take stock of your side of the relationship between you and your teen. Last night I was giving a seminar on stress and teens and asked parents to go home, sit down with their teen and say: "I get your life can get pretty stressful, with school stuff, and sports or drama or your job, and I know your friends are important to you and that takes up a lot of room in your life. Is there anything we are doing that is contributing to your stress. What can we do differently to make your life less stressful?"

This can be a go-to discussion for your alienated teen as well. Something has gotten in the way of your relationship, and it is possible that unknowingly you have said or done something that has turned your teen off to you. You must find our what that is, before you can close the chasm. This is a chance for your teen to "give you a report card." It might be hard to hear, but hear it you must. The hardest part of this conversation is not the hearing but the not responding. Your job is to listen.....period. It is not to defend yourself, or over-explain why you parent him/her the way you do. Your gift is your opening yourself up to feedback. As parents we give "feedback" to our teens all the time. "if you would just .....", or "you never...." or "why can't you......?" Now it is their turn. Sometimes as parents we operate on automatic, using our go-to lectures to get our kids to do what we want them to. But guess what, those lectures go in one ear and out the other, and your teens aren't listening anyway.

So if you have a teen who has shut you out. Let him/her know that you miss them, you love them and that you want to figure out what you might be doing that has changed the way they feel about you. You might hear something that hurts, but honesty in a relationship is good. Honesty can sometimes be painful but it can also be a healer.

Maybe your relationship with your teen is good, but this is still a good conversation to have with your teen, cause it can only get better!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What To Do About Summer Planning

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

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

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

It is important to let them know that if there don't seem to be any jobs, then volunteering or interning is the fallback, that you will provide them with some kind of stipend. But, and this is important, if they choose to be idle, and do neither, then you will choose  not to provide them with any summer spending money or phones to keep up their snap streaks. Being on their phone day and night or 24/7 fortnite is not gonna happen without some kind of engagement in something! Sitting around with both nothing to do, no phone, no video games, and no money is not fun, and will get old really really fast. So provide incentive and reward for those idle minds, and keep that devil at bay.

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What To Expect From A Graduating Senior!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Why Kids Need Their Parents To Change!

Recently I read a sweet article called Dad, Can You Put Away The Laptop.  Its seems that our younguns, and I mean the 4-10 year old set do not like this new fangled technology. Why? Because it seems mom and dad spend more time on their "stupid" phones and laptops, and not enough time playing with them. Now if I was one of those parents, I would feel such guilt and sadness that my kids felt ignored by me that I would immediately shut off my phone, close my laptop and give them my undivided attention. What was so interesting about the parents interviewed was that was absolutely not their response. Their responses were loaded with a good dose of rationalization. Hello defense mechanisms!!!!  Here's is what one of them said: " If I didn't have a smart phone I wouldn't be able to do both. My kids can't really appreciate that if I spend 15 seconds (oh come on, you know its more than 15 seconds) to respond to an e-mail, than no ones' waiting for anything from me and I can be at the school play or concert." OK so what if someone is waiting for you. Unless you are on a suicide hotline, or a doctor saving a life, I honestly can't see how waiting till your kids are asleep to answer your e-mails will make much difference. But that's just me. Life is about setting limits. Modeling for your kids on how to set limits on yourself is an important life skill. Certainly work is important, but we work at home now, because we can. One 10 year old,who was sick and tired of having dinners with her family constantly being interrupted by parents who would "take a few bites of food and then open their phones finally told them: " You shouldn't always be on your phones because we barely get to see other. I only really see them in the morning when we're rushing to get to school and at dinner I felt kind of ignored!" Good for her!

Parents, you reap what you sow. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot constantly be on your phones and laptops, and then get mad at your teens for taking too long to get their homework done. Monkey see. monkey do! You are the most important model in your child's life. Whether its driving and talking on your phone, or being on your phone while at their games and concerts, or at a family dinner; or having a glass of wine at a family party, or at a restaurant out with your kids, and then getting behind the wheel of a car to drive, your kids are watching every little thing you do. And when it comes time for them to make these decisions for themselves that will ultimately affect their safety, you will be the model they look towards for common practice. "Why should I disconnect when you don't, they will argue, or "you drink and drive," or you talk/text and drive. And honestly, there is no retort that isn't completely hypocritical.

 Showing your family that they are priority #1 is the most meaningful gift you could ever give them. Much cheaper than giving them IPhones. Have a technology free family time, that everyone commits to. Even though it feels like forever, you don't have your kids with you for that long. Make that time count!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Balancing The Work-Family Equation

Do you and/or your partner sometimes leave for work in the morning, knowing that the return home might be days later from a business trip, or late at night after long hours on the job? This is never easy. It is not easy for the kids who don't see one or more of their parents very often or for any length of time, and who seem out of the loop about what's going on in their lives.  It is also not easy for the parents who feel conflicted about not giving enough to their job, or conflicted about not giving enough to their family.

There have been a confluence of situations with families this week that gave me pause for thought. For one single mom, she has had to turn over most of the parenting responsibilities to her mom, who luckily lives in the same complex. Her job demands now that she travel 3 or 4 days a week, and as a single mom, with full custody of her teen, this is a situation fraught with ambivalence. She has to earn her living, and her daughter needs to be supervised, but together they have little time. Another single dad with 3 kids, has a team of nannies looking after his elementary and teen aged kids. He too, must travel, knows his kids are well cared for, but not by him. And finally, I was watching a documentary about the life of working in an advertising agency, and the toll long hours can wreak on families. One particular scene showed a young dad receiving a phone call from his wife, reminding him that he hadn't seen his kids for 4 nights running. Feeling guilt and sadness, the father secretly leaves his office to steal a bedtime ritual with his kids. The kids run to their dad, climbing all over him like a jungle gym, until a call from the office demands he return to deal with an imminent deadline. The kids burst into tears, not understanding why their daddy can't just stay home. They do not understand deadlines! The pain on this guy's face, having to leave his children, and the pain on his wife's on being left with the children was palpable. Real life, real conflict!! Sound familiar?

Young children can be bribed, reasoned with and cuddled. Teens, not so much. Entering in and out of a teen's life is not easy. They are apt to be angry that mom or dad is unavailable when they are needed and resent the parent for wanting to bud in on a life they are not much a part of. Such was the case with this single mom. The daughter's life is unlike any of her friends. She lives in a wealthy suburban town where her friends live in large comfortable houses. She lives in an apartment. Her friends can go home after school to houses where a parent is present, she has to go to her grandmother's. She often has to sleep at her grandmother's. She loves her grandmother, but misses the comfort of just being able to hang in her own room, when she wants. She and mom are not in a good place. There is unspoken resentment and anger from the daughter. The mom feels awful, and guilty most of the time.

If you have a partner, or you are the parent whose hours at work outnumber the hours at home, you have to work hard at letting your teen know you understand that this can be difficult. You do not need to  apologize for your work, cause that is what you have to do to provide for your family, but understanding how this might be a difficult for your teen, and communicating them to them is vital.

Here is a conversation I suggested she have with her daughter, one she has never had. '' You know honey, I was thinking the other day while I was sitting on the plane that your life is so different from your friends, and how hard that might be for you sometimes. I admire you so much for your ability to be so flexible, and to often have to give up your own comforts and routines just because of my schedule. I don't think I have ever told you how much I really appreciate all you do and all you often have to give up because of the kind of life we have. I love you, and think you are amazing for putting up with all this. "

Most times a teen just needs to be validated that its OK to feel that their life isn't they way they wish it was,  and that they wish their parents didn't have to work so much, and were away so much. You don't need to buy them expensive gifts to prove your love. Making your teen feel important can be as easy as having the conversation above, and a quick daily text saying, "I miss you", or, "hope you had a good day", or a nightly bedtime ritual call when you are away. No need to feel guilty or defensive, just loving. That can go a long long way!






Thursday, April 19, 2018

A brilliant Strategy


I found this gem posted on Facebook this weekend. One of the biggest frustrations I hear from parents is that they feel like they have little or no control, when it comes to their teen's electronic devices. Since teen's are wayyyyy more savvy and smart when it comes to tricks of the technology trade, this clever strategy does the trick. However it does mean that you will have to change your wifi password regularly,  when you feel taken advantage by, dissed or pissed by, or just would like your teen to follow through on something you deem to be important. Obviously they can go out of your house to get on wifi, but while they are at home this could be useful.

Also this works very well in tandem with more traditional parent controls on the market, especially to curb late night cell use. What has been a conundrum for parents is though they can, through verizon and other carrier parent controls, shut off the cellular use of their teen's phone, teen's just move on to wifi. This trick enables you to shut this option off as well, without having to physically shut off your modem, thereby having to shut down your own use as well. As keeper of the password, you are in the driver's seat. Now if you're like me, some of you may have no idea how to change your modem password. So clearly there maybe a bit of a learning curve!! Find a smart technology person to teach you how to do this....other than your teen!

Who knows if this really works, but isn't Facebook always right???

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It's Not What You Say.....

I am sure that many of you could complete that sentence, hearing you parents or elderly aunt's voice in your head..."It's not what you say dear, but how you say it." When you heard it, it was probably because you had talked to your elders in a tone that was unacceptable.

I am sharing this saying with you not so you can teach it to your teens, but to teach to you.  Often as parents,  much of the "feedback" that we share with our teens is said either in a voice of authority as in " I know better than you squirt, so listen up," or in a voice full of exasperation as in "how many times do we have to go over this..," or in a voice full of judgement.."how could you have...." In all of these examples, most likely the response you get from your teen is to either ignore you, get defensive, or give you attitude. None of these pave the way for meaningful communication or closure.

As I have mentioned before, the emotional center of the teen brain is in overdrive most of the time, hence the roller-coaster of emotions you are likely to experience with them just in the course of a single day. Once that Amygdala is in activation and firing, it is pretty hard to shut it down. Think of a stove top burner that has been on high. Once you shut it off, it takes a good amount of time before you can touch it without being burned. Such is the Amygdala of the teenage brain. So one of the goals then, is to not get it activated, especially if you have an end goal in mind for a conversation you want to have with your teen.

If you blame your teen's over-reaction on biology, rather than on something they have much control over, it frees you up to not blame them, thereby avoiding the double whammy of the actual issue you are concerned over + the aforementioned over-reaction.  That is why arguing with your teen is so frustrating. Because you often never really get to discussing the core issue, too busy getting pissed at them for getting pissed at you.

So what to do. Listen to the sound of your own voice. Would this be THE voice that used to piss you off as a teen? If it is, can you work on saying it another way. Of course my suggestion is to use an "I get it" statement. Rather than starting with a lecture or accusation, think ahead of time of what might have motivated the particular behavior you are now needing to talk about with your teen.

For example:

FROM " Get off your damn phone and computer and finish your homework." TO; I get it's important for you to stay in touch with your friends, but we need to figure out a way for you to get work done, and stay in touch with your friends."

FROM: "If you talk to your brother again like that, I am taking away that damn video game. That kind of disrespect is unacceptable in our family." TO; I get how hard and annoying it is to have a younger brother who always wants to hang with you and use your stuff just when you want to use it. I know he pushes all your buttons, let's figure out a way for you to get your privacy."

FROM: "I am sick and tired of the absolute mess in your room, you are a slob and are disrespectful of the money we spend so that you can have all these nice clothes." TO: I get cleaning your room is absolutely the last thing on your mind. I know getting ready in the morning is stressful and finding the right outfit means trying on a bunch of stuff and just discarding what isn't right. We gotta figure out a better system."

At the least, you haven't antagonized your teen to shut down. You are showing him/her that you understand what might be going on, rather than just criticizing them yet again for not doing..x y z. Give it a try, you might be surprised at how well it works!



PS: Getting my speaking schedule up and running for the 2015-16 year. Email me at joani@joanigeltman.com if you are interested in having me come and present one of my seminars at your school, company, church, temple, community group or on a street corner in your neighborhood!!   Or book an Ask The Expert Party. Invite your friends, or the parents of your teen's friends to your house and I'll spend two hours giving you all tips and strategies, geared specifically to your needs.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Misunderstanding Of The Misunderstood

ZITS COMIC

Jeremy looking dejected and sad: " Nobody really gets me.
Mom, comforting arm around her son: "Oh honey, I get you!
Jeremy, looking even more dejected: "OK, that's even worse.

How many hundreds of times have you been in just this situation with your teen. Perhaps it's the Friday or Saturday night blues fest, when your teen is sitting at home, no plans in sight, no texts getting returned and feeling low, dejected and misunderstood. Or maybe, you notice that it is has been a fierce night of instagram and texting, and every time you walk by your teen's door they are flopped on the bed, staring off into space, and you just know that something has happened, some slight, some misunderstanding.

It is in these moments that the mama/papa bear or the lion/lioness comes out in you, and you get this powerful, primal urge to protect your baby cub from hurt. So you walk in with your sympathetic, loving, supportive arms and pronounce their friends are all a**holes (which was what I always did, and I admit was completely ineffective and backfired on me) and tell them when they get older they will find "real friends" who get them! Which may actually be true, but they do not want to hear that. The future is light years away, and has absolutely no meaning for them. And besides, it is these friends that they want and crave. No substitutions please. So when you go in and want to be that shoulder to cry on, and take pleasure in being that one person that gets them, it is in that moment for them that that is the kiss of death. The teen in them, the teen that is trying to be independent of you and that primal need of theirs to be love and accepted, will reject you. It is the acceptance of their peers that is the most important. Love and acceptance from mom and dad, not so much.

So when you see your teen with the "Jeremy" look, say a simple "bad night" huh, and leave it at that. If they look up to you with an invitation to talk, great, otherwise, as always, this too shall pass.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Sneaky Syndrome!

I got a wonderful e-mail recently from a parent who is struggling with "sneakiness" from her teenage son. Do I hear a chorus of "me too". This is a classic parent-teen struggle. You work hard to set reasonable rules, and your teen works just as hard to wrangle him/herself around them. Here is what this parent wrote: "I believe he senses me becoming "paranoid" and questioning things because I don't trust...and he then becomes sneakier. How do I break that cycle and how do you convey confidence and trust when they have broken that trust?"

Let's play this out. You make a rule. This mom had a rule about no food in the basement. She goes down the basement and finds cans and wrappers stashed behind furniture. This a relatively minor infraction but a great example of how these small things build up, create niggles of doubt, until full out distrust and paranoia develop. Fill in the blank here with the smaller rule breakers that your teen challenges you with. 

Here is your "I Get It" moment: "Hey honey, I just found (fill in the blank) wrappers and cans in the basement. Clearly you think this is a rule worth breaking. Give me an alternative. I'd rather we come up with something together, that we both can agree on, rather than you disagreeing with something and sneaking around to do what you want anyway." The work is always to encourage truth-telling. When you include your teen in the rule-making, at least you get them to have partial ownership of the problem. Here is how you can do this. Using the above example, 

Your teen will probably say: "its stupid that I can't eat downstairs where I hang out."

Parent says;" What do you think I am worried about when you ..........." 

In this case kid will say: "that I will trash the basement." 

Mom can say: "Yes that's right, so what will you do to assure me you won't trash the basement, and get rid of your trash."

 Now the owness is on the teen to come up with a plan that makes you happy.

Final question from parent: "What will the consequence be if you don't follow through on your plan."

The consequence is in place. If you aren't satisfied with the consequence your teen comes up with, offer one up yourself. Maybe in this case, you are banned from the basement for 24 hours if I find trash down there. 

As your kids get older, they will disagree with you more and more. Your choice is to set your rules, and watch your kids dance around them, or engage them in the process so they feel a part of the process. They want to manage their life, they are driven to manage their life, even if they don't do it well. It's called practice! It is up to you to give them opportunity to practice, by including them in the process. They will screw up. But I think it is less about trust, and more about temptation. Teen''s are impulsive, and don't think things through for very long. They need help in that department. So when you find the beer can in the basement, what you want is use that to open conversation. So rather than getting angry, and going with a "how can you betray my trust like this" You might say" I was surprised to find this beer. I know we don't have any in the house, so either you or one of your friends brought it in. What are you going to do to make me feel OK about being in the basement and sneaking in beer or booze.?" Again, using the words trust can be loaded. Teens are tempted by all the fun stuff teens want to do and try. They need your help to stay safe and trustworthy, not just your anger.  

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The juuling And Vaping Teen Trend Is Growing..Take Action Now!

I very rarely re-share a blog post that I posted a mere 4 months earlier. But the research about vaping juuling is starting to build up, two articles just his week in the New York Times, which I have linked to below. This is starting to feel a little to familiar to me as a member of the teenagers of the 60's who started their smoking career at 13 years old. Today's teens truly do not believe that vaping and juuling is dangerous. The research disagrees. This is a an issue parents need to jump on immediately! Don't just lecture, make sure you read these articles together. Research is harder to argue with than you telling them it's bad for them. I totally understand their attraction, it tastes good, it looks so cool, and it feeds into their need for risk-taking and "hide it from the parents" game teens like to play Impulsiveness is in the driver seat, but nicotine addiction is in the passenger seat ready to take over.

So here is the blog I wrote in November with this weeks NYtimes articles. Make this a family table read!!

 Juuling and vaping two more things teens do that parents didn't do as teens but have to know about!!! The article below does a great job of explaining what this is and how teens do it, so I won't be redundant, I'll let you read for yourself. But talk with your teen you must!!! This will be another example of something teens think is NO BIG DEAL!!! Juuling is wayyy more potent than smoking a cigarette. The nicotine is much stronger and more dangerous. It actually can give you a high!! It can also be used, along with a vape pen to smoke pot. Vaping is old school, but Juuling is new to me too and I work with parents all the time. It look like a zip drive so your teen may be using it and you think they just have a bunch of new zip drives, being so responsible and saving all their school reports. NOPE

Why do kids juul: To look cool, just like you wanted to do when you smoked your first cigarette, to get a buzz, and maybe to to hide smoking pot. Many kids are buying these on-line since you have to be 18, but I have heard from parents that they are pretty easy to get in local convenience stores who see a new source of revenue now that not many people are smoking ciggies these days. Sooooo if your teen seems to be going through more cash than usual, you might want to check for vape pens and juuls.

Read this article aloud to your teens. Understand using an " I Get It" statement: "I get that kids don't think that this is any big deal, and that it is kind a fun to do. Who doesn't like to do something a little sneaky and bad, I know I did when i was a teen. But this is much more dangerous than you might think, and I know that kids are also using these to smoke pot which though legal is not safe for a growing brain. Tell me what you think about it?"

Remember,  start talking with a tone in your voice that communicates understanding and interest in their point of view. If you come in with a lecture, you'll go out with an eye roll and a shut down teen!


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/health/vaping-ecigarettes-addiction-teen.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-newshttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/opinion/formaldehyde-diacetyl-e-cigs.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region


If any of you live in the metro west area, please join me on April 11th at Wellesley Books @7 PM as I interview friend, author, Boston Globe advice columnist Meredith Goldstein about her new book
Can't Help Myself.  I just read it last night and it is an extraordinary book. As Meredith talks about her life as a single woman, caring for her mom after her diagnosis and death from cancer, and what it's like to give advice when you own live feels less than perfect. It is hilarious and laugh out loud funny, and sad and real when life sucks! Meredith is warm and authentic and so brave to share her life with us. If you are a daughter, a mother,  a dad, a friend, divorced, married, single, pretty much everyone will relate. We'll have wine and cheese and have a great hang. Come join us!