Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Do You Expect Too Much: An "A" Student Does Not Translate To Success!

I read this letter in my morning paper in the Ask Amy Column:
Dear Amy: I am a sophomore in high school. Last semester was terribly stressful. I have many amazing friends who care about schoolwork and grades. We often study together at lunch. However, chemistry was really a struggle.
My father does not accept grades below a solid B. I ended up with a B in the class, but I did not do well on the final. I understand that I should have done more to save my grades during the semester, such as go to tutoring.
Every day when I come home from school he screams at me for my grades. This semester, I will try harder to get good grades and concentrate, especially on chemistry. I don't know how to fix this problem, because I get super anxious and start having trouble breathing. One time I started crying in class.
Any advice on how to be more independent about my grades? I want dad to care about how I do in school, but I don't want a bad relationship with him.
— Trying

Could this be your teen? When you see that B without a plus next to it, do you hyperventilate and worry that your teen is screwing his/her chances for college, or do you think in your head, they just didn't work hard enough. 

Here's the truth, most people are not only NOT good in everything, but they are also NOT interested in everything.   If your teen is a nice kid, works hard, is engaged and involved with friends and school, has a few subjects that really turn them on, and is not only NOT an all A, B+  student and might occasionally even get a C every now and then, they are absolutely NOT a slacker! 

In an Op Ed in the New York Times over the weekend titled: " What Straight A Students Get Wrong", the author states that "academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence." See link at the bottom.
it turns out being a well-rounded kid is a much better predictor of success later in life. And lets face it "later in life" is really most of our lives!!

When teens feel this kind of grade pressure from a parent it actually can lead to the opposite affect. When a teen feels anxious and pressured to please, that anxiety can actually interfere with learning. So a grade that doesn't meet with your expectations can actually be your fault!!!  So lighten up if your teen is like this girl. If your teen puts in effort, is conscientious, and engaged, change up your expectations. Getting an honor roll report card does absolutely NOT correlate with success as an adult. Being engaged fully in ALL that life has to offer does!
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/college-gpa-career-success.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

PS Joani's Parenting Tips will now post only once a week on Tuesdays! Enjoy

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If You Have a Son in Sports This Is Mandatory Reading!

A week ago two news stories broke about  high school football teams in Maryland where disturbing hazing incidents took place. The incident at Damascus High School was particularly heinous. The alleged hazing involved wrestling 9th grade players to the floor, while older fellow players, beat kicked and digitally penetrated their anuses with a broom stick. Sorry if you are reading this with your morning coffee. Disgusting, humiliating. This is not hazing, this is sexual assault. The boys said, oh, it's been going on for generations, as if that makes it all OK. Of course, no adults seemed to know anything about it!. Could the message these newbie football players have been given was to "man-up" during these initiation rights!.

I know boys will be boys, but really! The school superintendent have expelled these students and 4 out of the 5 will be charged with serious crimes..They are investigating not only this incident but the culture of athletic and activities of the entire system.

I feel bad for everyone. I feel terrible for the victims who were underclassman, who must have been elated to make the team,  and looked forward to playing for their high school team. Now that has all been tainted. I feel bad for the older boys who were responsible for the assault. I truly believe that they really didn't think there was anything that wrong with what they were doing. According to Michael Thompson, a psychologist specializing in the psychology of boys and who has written extensively about the culture of cruelty present in "boy culture", explains that is how you show you're a man! These are learned behaviors, not something you are born ready to do.  Who is teaching them that this OK.

Recently I showed my college students the documentary made by Michael Thompson called Raising Cain. It is available on youtube and I advise those of you with sons watch it with them, and then discuss this recent news story. (see link below) My students were given the option to write a reflection paper on this film connecting to their own experience. With permission of the student, I share this story:

From a young age playing hockey, we got the message that toughness and hard work will beat talent and skill. This was drilled into our heads at every practice for years. We cared more about hitting other players more than we cared about scoring goals. When people would get hurt, the coaches and teammates gave them little to no sympathy. For example, when I as 12 I blocked a shot during a game and fractured my foot. When I got back to the bench, I held it in as best as I could for a 12 year old. When the coach saw me wincing he asked what happened. I replied that I thought I broke my foot. His response was "suck it up", the foot's a long way from the heart...don't be a pansy." So I finished the game and afterwards played the following games since my coach and mom thought it was a bruise. The following week I went to get x-rays and found out it was fractured. My coach did not apologize and was actually proud of me for "playing through the pain."

I played with the same ice hockey team for almost 10 years. we were a very close knit group to say the least. However looking back now I can see that we enjoyed our own "culture of cruelty." When a player was scared to get hit and the rest of the team found out, it was an assault of name-calling from players and even coaches. Perhaps the fact that coaches often chimed in and in some cases led the charge made us think it was OK. 

What are the messages that coaches, staff  and maybe even the parents whose kids are on the team giving these kids?  Somewhere along the line, these kids are just not getting the message that hazing is serious business. Hazing, in this case, was not only physically damaging, but it sure as hell is psychologically damaging. When someone, especially a teenager, who is literally at the most psychologically vulnerable time of their life is humiliated in front of their peers, it can do real harm. I get that teenagers don't get this and don't understand this. But the adults do need to get it.

If you have a son or daughter who is on a sports team or a cheer leading squad it is your job to talk about this issue with them. You might tell them about this incident, and then say: " I get that upperclassmen/women feel sometimes that it is their right to "induct" new team member into the team through some traditional rights of passage. Unfortunately those "rights of passage" are illegal if they humiliate or put someone's safety at risk.  This is serious stuff, and I know you might be in a situation someday where you will be the subject of or be asked to be the perpetrator of hazing. Lets figure out what you can do, should you ever find yourself in this situation."

Though all schools now have very strict rules and regulations about hazing, I don't think the communicating part to the kids is happening. This is where you come in. Never expect that someone else will take care of it. Take care of it yourself!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/hazing-incident-reported-at-another-maryland-high-school-officials-say/2018/11/11/c2a0daf6-e15e-11e8-8f5f-a55347f48762_story.html?utm_term=.0c0dbce90fd5

FYI: I wanted to let you all know that I will now be posting once a week on Tuesdays!! Thank you to all my readers I will continue to write about those pressing and not so pressing issues of raising teens in today's world!!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Understanding Your Teen's Temperament

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, November 27, 2018

Deflection: A Teen's Go-To Defense!

If your teen walks in the door and immediately starts an argument for no reason, he/she may be using the art of deflection. Perhaps teachers have let their students know their grades for the term. So now your teen knows that the B you are expecting them to get in English is now a C, and report cards might be in today's mail. So to preempt the "discussion" about the disappointing grade, your teen might walk in the door with some non-sequitur argument to get the focus off the grade and onto something else less ego deflating.

This happened recently to a parent I talked to. Her daughter walked in the door, and mom innocently said:" Hi honey, how was your day?" Mom expected the usual grunt "it was fine," but instead was bombarded by an avalanche of anger about issues that had nothing to do with school, and that mom thought had been resolved weeks before. Not to mention, this all came out of nowhere! Mom, baffled, got completely hooked into an argument about.......nothing! They both went to bed angry, for no real reason, since the argument was about....nothing.

Next morning, the daughter acting sweet as pie, confesses to her mom that she found out her grades, and they are not as good as she thought they would be. ( the truth is, there is no way she should be surprised) Mom, appreciating her daughter's sweetness and her honesty, congratulates her on being so nice! What happened is that mom was not able to see the dots and couldn't help her daughter connect these two rather disparate emotional presentations.

So when your teen walks in the door and starts up with something, tries to push your buttons and you are left scratching your head. Keep scratching. This should be your clue that something else is going on. Rather than get hooked into an imaginary argument about nothing you might say: " I get you're angry about something, but I don't think it's this. If there is something you need to tell me about, and you're worried about how I will respond, I understand. I promise I will just listen, and not react. I'm here for you, but I won't be drawn into an argument because you are upset, or anxious about something else." At this point, an "I love you" and a "let's talk later," and I think you are done! Real arguments are hard enough, imaginary ones even harder!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving: Join The Clean The Slate Club

I think the fires in California, the mass shootings, and what feels like the fragile state of our world has given many of us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the power of something that is completely out of our control, and how it can affect the fabric of our lives. In my regular spot on the couch, I watch the nightly news, where they highlight the enormity of the after effects of the fires, coupled with the amazing community of neighbors and volunteers that have risen from the destruction. Though people have lost family members, pets,  their homes, and their possessions, they find strength in their love for each other and the community in which they live.  It does make me feel so thankful for the blessings of family, friends, satisfying work, and good health. Life isn't perfect, and there are many days I feel discouraged, or whiny about what now seem like such silly things in light of what those dealing with the after affects of these fires, that people are dealing with. So this Thanksgiving is a time for real thanks.

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

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

Treasure these days. Enjoy this break from routine, and I will "see" you next Tuesday as I enjoy time with family and friends on Thursday.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

It's Good Enough!!! Leave Me Alone!!

Do you have a teen that rushes through assignments doing just enough to get the job done?  I would normally chalk this up to the impetuous and impulsive teenage brain, but then what would be my excuse. I know my blogs are hardly perfect. There are many times when I go back a few days after I have published a blog and see missed words, words that don't make sense, and sentences that don't make sense. You'd think that I would know better, and honestly I do, it's just that old enemy of mine, rushing through.

It was only during the summer of writing my second book for a publisher and editor I respected and truthfully, was a little afraid of, that I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again and again until it was as perfect as I could make it. And honestly it worked, my manuscript got through editing and copyediting with very little change. But, man, it took a lot of f**king time and patience I really didn't think I had.

There are those of us who are built for speed. We sometimes race through life with imperfection. Criticizing and judging have little effect on us speed-demons. When I was in high school I had an extremely critical english teacher. Though I liked him personally, I felt like a failure in his class. And I had him for two years!!! Plowing through something without putting all the time in for perfection is a way of avoiding imperfection. Does that make sense??

As an adult, I figured it out that summer. Work on small increments, and in small segments of time.  Repeat!! It really did work, and the pride I felt at my accomplishment was enormous.

So if you have a student that is kind of like me. Don't call him lazy. Don't criticize her for not taking the time to do a job well. Understand with him/her that in some way this goes against their nature, and get how hard it can be to acknowledge mistakes and work through them. And maybe suggest that they work a paragraph at a time, or a problem at a time. Take a break and go back and start again. It worked for me!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The First Report Card Of The Year

Just like the first frost that appears on our last surviving plants on the deck announcing the end of summer, so do the first fall report cards appear, announcing another kind of reckoning. Parents hoping that this year will be better, easier, their teen another year older and wiser, having learned from last years lessons, open the envelope with trepidation and anticipation. Some glance quickly, scanning for standout grades in either direction, others take their time, each grade at a time, each comment at a time. Until...THE comment, THAT comment, that when parents read make their veins pop, and their hearts pound. " Johnny is a good student, BUT he is missing 3 homework assignments and because of that his grade is a C instead of a B.

For some parents this might be the first time they have seen this kind of report card from their teen. Perhaps in previous years their kid led a quieter, less social life than other kids, and studying hard and striving for good grades was their true mission. But what is this, where are the A's and B+'s they have grown accustomed to seeing? And then for some parents, who had been hoping for a fresh beginning, a new year full of promise, feel disappointed that its same old same old.

Though your first impulse might be to barge into your kids room, or start in on dealing with this as soon as they step into your car or into the house, I encourage you to take a moment, and take a deep and cleansing breath. You are probably feeling somewhat duped by your teen, having asked over and over and over again: "Did you finish your homework?", and the answer was "YES". You probably asked over and over, "did you make up those missing homework assignments? " And the answer was "YES!"
But here, in living proof is the evidence of that lie. You are storming.

Your kids are expecting the storm. They are primed and ready with excuses, and explanations, and promises for change. Consider this an opportunity to approach this in a new way. Rather than starting the conversation with: "This is what happens when you spend too much time on your phone, and on your computer and with your video games. In this house, schoolwork comes first!  Instead try this: "Hey honey lets go over your report card together. Let him/her read it out loud. After each grade and comment is read, say "so what do you think about what your teacher said and how she graded you?" Refrain and I know that this is really hard, but just let them talk. You might hear some complaining, some "its not my fault the teacher is mean",  and some denial, "I didn't know that was missing." The goal here is to use this report card not as an indictment on bad study habits but as a road map for moving forward.

Using an 'I get it" moment, you might say: "I get first terms are always hard. Getting back into a routine is hard after the summer, and I know keeping up with friends, and sports and all the stuff you like is important to you lets figure out a way for you to do both. If you don't put your teen on the defensive and focus more on I want you to feel successful, you will find them more willing to have a conversation with you, and figure out a plan of action.  This is not about the grades!!! This is about your kids mastering material and developing a curiosity for learning. And this goes for the kids who come home with the straight A report cards. If you focus on the "A" rather than, "I am so proud for all your hard work, and how much you learned this term," you have a kid who is motivated to learn because of the external motivator of making you happy, rather than the power of the learning itself.

Fall is a time for new beginnings. Maybe you can see that your teen has a really hard time settling in and developing good study habits. For kids 6th-9th grade, sometimes hiring a college student as a homework buddy/mentor can be very helpful. This is not a tutor, this is someone who grabs your kid, takes him to your library, helps him get his homework done, and then goes out for an ice cream. It reframes homework from being a lonely, isolating boring experience, to something more to look forward to. Hanging with someone cool, who helps them, and understands them. This also gets you out of the power struggle of getting them to settle down and finish their work. If you are worried that this homework thing is a chronic problem, make sure you communicate regularly with the teacher. E-mailing at the end of the week to find out about missing homework, gives you a leg up on the "I did it" avoidance technique many kids use. (Read post on the homework avoider for more suggestions).  The most important message is not to label your kid as lazy, or unmotivated, this does not change behavior. Providing them with motivation, structure, and understanding does.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Tale Of Two Siblings!

Those of you who grew up with siblings may have had the experience of being either the "perfect child" or the "black sheep" of your family. In either case you felt the pressure of having to maintain your role in the family. People expected you to behave a certain way, and you probably never failed to disappoint. Either by being provocative or by being just incredibly lovable.

I recently met with parents whose two teenage boys aged 12 and 16 fall into the good boy/bad boy trap. Their 12 year old son is the "perfect" son. Bright and successful in school, a talented athlete, sweet, even tempered, affectionate and a joy to be around. The 16 year old, not so much. He on the other hand, has some learning challenges, and therefore has found school to be a place that made him feel like a loser, and smartly enrolled in a vocational high school when he hit 9th grade, where he feels more successful. But still he is a mediocre student. He has no outside interests or passions and spends all of his non-school time playing video games or on his phone. His anger and attitude are impossible to deal with. He isolates himself from the family, and it seems his only contact with them is when he needs or demands rides or money. And to top it off he can very mean and abusive to his younger brother. Dad coaches the younger son's sports team, and both parents spend weekends at his games, leaving the 16 year old feeling a bit out of the loop I am guessing.

Mom and Dad are successful professionals. Both graduated from college, went on to get masters degrees and both have successful careers. Their older son feels like an alien to them. They admitted that when his school difficulties started they thought he was just being lazy, just not putting in the "work" he needed to do for school. In middle school he was finally diagnosed with learning disabilities and was put on a program through the school system for support, but by then, I'm guessing he saw himself as lazy and stupid.

It is hard to be "that kid" in the family that doesn't fit the family script. And the more you don't fit it, the more you become the opposite of it. In this family, being smart, athletic and and having a sunny disposition (sounds like Mary Poppins) is the character description, all others need not apply.  There is no doubt that these are loving parents, but they are stymied as to how to connect with their son. And he makes himself so unlikable to boot, that who wants to spend time with him anyway.

These parents described to me the attempts they make to include him in family outings, but unfortunately those family outings are built around the younger sons sporting events. If you felt like the loser in the family would you want to go and watch your nemesis being the shining "star"? I think not. Dinners out with the family become a fighting match, with the older son antagonizing the younger one at the table or he just becomes such a pain in the a** that the parents just don't do that anymore.

The good news is that this 16 year old has some good attributes. He is not a party guy, doesn't drink, or do drugs. Not an easy feat for a teen these days. He is a steady girlfriend and some good friends, all really good signs. What is missing for him is connection with his mom and dad.

In families like this where there are obvious differences between the kids, it is so important to make each child feel important. With this family, it turns out the dad and the 16 year old share a love for movies, but the dad being so involved with the 12 year old's sporting life doesn't leave him much extra time to engage with his older son. How hard it must be to watch watch his dad go off every weekend with the younger brother. I encouraged the dad to make the time, maybe a Sunday night when together, just the two of them, go off for a night at the movies. Or the mom, when dad and 12 year go off to practice every Friday night, get some take out and a movie and just hang together and enjoy each others company. 

Some kids do not make themselves lovable. They push you away, and tell you to go away. Ignore that!!! It's all a ruse to protect themselves from rejection. Never stop trying, drive them crazy with messages of "I love you". Do not buy them off with money or clothes or phones, or cars or doing their laundry, they love the stuff, but they are not stupid, and know that stuff is the easy stuff, the hard part, is for you the parents to keep at, not allowing their attitude and anger to push you away. It takes time for them to believe that in spite of not being "the perfect" kid they will always be "my kid", and that is enough, thank you very much!

How about sharing my blog with some friends!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I Don't Like My Teen's Boy/Girlfriend!!

A mom wrote me recently with this question:


My daughter has dated the same young man on and off again for about 2 years.  While he is not abusive and seems to genuinely care for my daughter, he is not exactly who I would choose. (low grades, not going to college, past history of drinking)  How do I know if I should  put my foot down and end the relationship?  I've had well intended mothers ask me why I don't.  Does forcing a relationship to end ensure that they stop seeing each other or does it force them into hiding?


If your teen has a boy/girlfriend, you must have figured out by now that it is the kiss of death to actually say what you really think about this person.  It is never the right thing.  Either you can't stand the kid because he/she is not nice enough, not smart enough, not polite enough, dresses in a way that makes you crazy, is a suspected drug/alcohol/sex fiend, likes to party too much, gets bad grades, and has a family right out of the sopranos, or he/she is so nice, so polite, so smart, motivated and responsible, and has a family right out of the Cosby Show. Either way, your opinion of this person and your sharing of it is likely to push your teen in the opposite direction of your actual desire to either break them up or commit them to each other for the the rest of high school so you don't have to go through this parade of boy/girlfriends for the next 4 years.

This boy/girlfriend dilemma is a complicated one for parents. When you see your teen with someone you feel can be a bad influence on them, pulling them into situations you think will be unsafe, emotionally unhealthy, and that potentially could have a detrimental affect on their future, your mama/papa bear claws come out. You share your "insights" about this person with your teen, expecting they will listen, learn, respect your opinion and do the right thing....break up with this bum!  However because your teen is now biologically and emotionally driven to think just the opposite of you, in a show of "well I'm not you", are now more motivated than ever to dig their own claws in to their new love as a show of independence. One of the major tasks of adolescence is what we call "separation". This is literally developing the ability to stand on their own two feet, in preparation for their future life as an adult. There are some things they are willing to admit you know more about, albeit reluctantly, like academic issues, but their friends are completely off-limits to you and your opinions.  This is an area of their life they feel is their birthright and expertise. Be damned with what my parents think?

Here is what you can't and should never do. Never, ever say to your teen;" I don't want you to, you are not allowed to go out with that person! Remember Romeo and Juliet, this is a set up for lying and sneaking behavior. The bottom line is you have no control over who they see. Unless you lock them in their room and home school them (only kidding, don't run out and buy a teaching manual), you no longer have control over their play dates. They see this person at school, after school and on weekends. Again unless you have a nanny cam attached to their person, there is no way of knowing when and if they are hanging around with this object of your disaffection. Also directly giving your assessment of this person to your teen can only serve to shut off communication rather than keep it open. If they know you already can't stand this person, why would they come to you if they actually need your advice or consolation. "I told you so's " do not contribute to open communication.

Here is what you can do: You can use "I Get It" starters. Rather than directly expressing opinion start with something like this: "Honey, I can see why you like Romeo, he's a cutie, and funny, and a little bit wild. I get it, he's a fun guy. Tell me what you like about him. " Give her the opportunity to tell you about some of the things about this person you may not know. Maybe his standoffishness is shyness for example. When you ask open ended questions, you are showing real interest in the people that interest her, and also trying to find out what this relationship really means to her. Try not to be judgemental or critical, this will not serve you well. After she has shared something about Romeo, you can say " I am happy that you are hanging with someone that is making you happy, but what do you think I am worried about in your relationship with him?" Your daughter/son knows what you are worried about, but if they say it rather than you saying it, they will be less likely to get defensive and evasive. After they say all the things you would have said, you can say:"Yes I do worry about those things, what do you think you can do to make me feel OK about them, so that we don't need to fight so much about this? I love you, and I just want you to be safe, and do what you need to do to get on with your life."

Ultimately your kids want your approval. However if you push them into the corner by trying to control their natural impulses to stand on their own two feet they will let you know in a clear and direct manner to "stay out of my life". So the work here is to help them articulate what relationships mean to them. Relationships in adolescence are a training ground for relationships in adulthood, and experience in all kinds of relationships will serve them well in the future. They need your counsel not your control.
PS if you have a question you would like me to answer here on the blog please send it to joani@joanigeltman.com

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Teens And Money...Your Money!!

Unless you are comfortably wealthy, most parents these days are using up their retirement portfolios, giving up restaurants, vacations, new cars and any other perk that one usually looks forward to in mid-life, to pay for their kids to go to college and have the freedom from debt as they start their young adult life. And most parents I know who do this, do it freely and with love.  It is only when the semester grades start coming in, or the epidemic of changing one's major multiple times, that requires students to take additional courses (read more money) for their interest of the year, that parents start to wonder about the return on their investment. Many students I know are now on the 5 year plan due to flunked classes, need to make up credits or change of heart in what they want to study or do with their life. And because they have not been a part of the financial planning for their college career, and because they live in a fantasy world when it comes to money, and because many parents are afraid to talk money with their kids, they are not taking much responsibility for these decisions. Kids seem to want more, fancy phones, expensive video games, unlimited supply of clothes, and parents work hard to give them more. We aren't doing them any favors. Before they go to college is when they need to learn the meaning of money.

How many of your kids have any idea what their phone bill is, or their computer or cable bill that allows them to order movies on demand without regard to the extra $6.99 that appears on your bill.
How will your teens ever develop an appreciation for what things cost unless you teach them. I am a big advocate whether you are a family of means or a family where you need to count every penny, that you have a monthly date to go over the bills. Let them see just how many movies they did order and what the cost was. How much their portion of their cell phone cost. Dollars and cents, they need the reality. So much of teens lives in this 21st century make it easy to live in lalaland. They can say things without consequence through impersonal devices, they can order things without using the old fashioned greenback, and so it is no surprise that when they go off to college with a car full of new clothes and comforters that it feels magical. They absolutely need to know that college can cost up to $50,000 a year, and that is a sh**load of money.

Start teaching them now. They may not have to pay the bills, but at least let them know that it all costs the real deal...money. Maybe there is a limit on downloads and uploads, and scanning the bills together you develop some budget items. And NO UBER use unless it's an emergency and you really can't get them. I know that uber has become an easy way to ditch the late night pick-ups, the I don't feel like picking you up at so and so's house. But I have seen kids use uber because they don't feel like walking the 1/2 mile home from school, or they want to move to another house on a Saturday night where there are no parents, and think this is a sneaky way of doing it.  This is enabling your teen to be, go, do whatever they feel like it, whenever they feel like it.  Parents be damned!! Because truly, how many of you really check your credit card for uber charges specifically from your teen. This is a 21st century issue for entitled teens who are impatient, sometimes lazy and a bit sneaky, and for parents who finally have a secure way of moving their kids around when they don't want to! Lots of great stuff happens in the car with your teens, observing them with their friends, spontaneous conversation or trips for coffee or ice cream, and TIME!! Time is a very precious commodity these days. Don't outsource your time with your teens.

If you find yourself becoming your teen's personal ATM  it might mean that your teen has lost awareness for how much and how he/she spends your money. So much of a teens life is magical. Using cell phones, computers, mom and dad's generosity, everything they want is literally in their fingertips. How about saying to your teen; "I am willing to give up to $$$ a month and then it's up to you if you want or need anything over and above." Just because your teen wants to go shopping every weekend that doesn't mean you have to shell out 40 bucks so they have some spending money. They may buy another T-shirt or video game, but because it was just a meaningless buy, no skin off their teeth, it ends up in a pile of other impulsive boredom buys. Do not just mindlessly buy or give your teen money. Make them work for something.  Don't deprive them of that feeling of pride when earned money is what buys them something. Maybe it's a job, maybe it's money for chores, but teaching them that you don't get something for nothing is a valuable lesson.

This recent article from the New York Times offer some really interesting new options for teaching teens about money using prepaid debit cards. Maybe this might be a solution for you, but whatever you do...do something!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Did You Know There Is a Parenting Award For Being A Good Mom!!!

I just returned from a quick trip to LA where I was honored to receive the Judy and Hilary Swank Award for Parenting given by the Actors Fund Looking Ahead Program, which serves young actors and their parents. When I was called and told I would be receiving this award, I thought every parent should receive this award in recognition of the hard but rewarding job of being a parent! So I share this award with all parents!!! The first thing of course I did was to cry! This award recognizes a parent who has raised a young actor who has gone on to become an exceptional adult actor and all around wonderful person, which my 35 year old daughter certainly is!! I wanted to share with you my acceptance speech. Though geared to raising a child heading towards a professional career as an actor, I think it applies to raising any child with a passion whether it be sports or music, or art or leadership or academics or community service or for being a great friend and all around wonderful kid!  I hope you enjoy!! Here goes...

When Ari was a little girl, we introduced her to an array of activities, but what captured her heart was her first grade play.  She had found her passion at age 6.  There was no question that we were in 100%.  Finding our role in all of this wasn’t always easy. We had no roadmap and we had to figure out how to manage and balance our own lives with the demands of Ari’s busy career. 

We took our cues from Ari.  There were boundaries, unspoken but abided by. We were NOT her managers, her directors, or her agents; We were her parents. We were her uber drivers, chaperones, food service workers, appointment secretaries, and her most ardent supporters. We did not coach her on scripts, give feedback on her performances, or tell her what project she should do; that was not what she needed from us. She had her own mind, and eventually, “her people” for that. What we could do, as her parents, was to give her the freedom, opportunity and commitment to follow her dream.

Sometimes we were faced with decisions and dilemmas that challenged our roles as parents. Like when Ari was 13, she was lucky enough to be cast as the fool in an all women’s Shakespeare company production of King Lear. Ari was the only child and non-equity performer. They were to be in residence at Smith College for the summer and then go on the road for several weeks with the show. Because Ari was not equity, there was no place for me, both literally and figuratively.  But we figured it out. I slept on the floor of her tiny room and stayed out of the way until and unless Ari needed me. As the cast became a family and Ari felt ready to take on some independence, I took my leave. All that she learned that summer as a 13 year old is still very important to her. Just 2 years ago the company reunited in Scotland to perform together. Relationships and the work families she has become a part of had their beginnings in these early experiences, and I am so glad I didn’t let my own anxiety get the best of me. 

When Ari was 15 she was in a production at the Huntington Theater in Boston, where we live.  As often was the case, Ari was again the youngest in the cast by many years. Again she became part of her stage family. Her stage brother then 25 most especially. After the production ended, Michael invited Ari to New York City to stay with him and his then boyfriend. So I put her on the train, and off she went. My friends were aghast. "You’re letting her travel alone on the train?" "You’re letting her stay with two 25-year-old men, what are you thinking?" Here’s what I was thinking,. My only child now has a brother, an amazing man who loves and cares about her enough to invite her into his life. And now here we are 20 years later, Michael, here in the audience, is one of my most cherished friends, and is still, and will be forever, Ari’s family. Now she is Auntie Ari as Michael and Brian’s family has grown by two beautiful babies. The Power of relationship!!

In the summer before Ari’s senior year in high school we were in LA auditioning, and she landed a test for a pilot to shoot immediately. I really didn’t understand and was clueless that this meant she would need to sign a contract in 24 hours that might determine her life for the next 5 years. I felt strongly that you only get one senior year of high school. Ari was engaged in and loved her school, had amazing friends, and wanted some college experience. This opportunity could potentially erase this year of that life. Ultimately I had to make the call, Ari WOULD be going back for her senior year- no pilot! I felt no ambivalence about my decision.  But I understood completely and my heart broke for the pain and disappointment Ari was feeling.  I think in the end the lesson Ari took away from this experience was to really understand what is most important in life, and sometimes that means making really hard decisions. 

I have been so inspired by those kinds of hard decisions Ari now makes about her career and her life. She has stayed really true to herself about the work and the art she wants to put out into the world, even when it is not the most popular decision. If even a little bit of this came from that hard day almost 20 years ago in LA, I will be grateful.  

This is a tough business, so much of what an actor has to cope with are decisions made about them beyond their control. As a parent this can feel absolutely excruciating, unfair and yes, sometimes even cruel. Our instinct is to want to protect our children and fix it!  Over the years I have learned from Ari that what she needs from me in these moments is not advice, but instead a safe and loving space to be understood, with the freedom to experience and express her feelings. This lesson has probably been the hardest (still working on it) but honestly it is the most valuable and powerful one for me as both a mother and a professional.

As a parenting expert and writer, I am as passionate about my work as Ari is about hers, and I know that my experience raising my dedicated, and extraordinary daughter informs much of who I am and what I teach parents today. I have learned so much from her. She continually challenges herself to live a life full of integrity, purpose, passion, and authenticity. To learn, to experience, to take risks, to love and most importantly to find the power within herself to live a fulfilling life as both an artist and a woman.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The "Liking" Epidemic Of the 21st Century

Below is a link to a PBS Frontline show that I found both illuminating and disturbing. There is a new kind of "popularity" in town, and you don't have to have the coolest clothes, be the cutest, or hang with the right people. You can become popular in the comfort and privacy of your own home, or in the back seat of your parents car, at the dinner table, doing your homework, anywhere, as long as you have your trusty smartphone, ipad, or laptop.

The new popularity can happen in a click. Put up a photo, click you're liked. Write something silly, click, you're liked. Say something sexy or provocative, click you're liked. Make a youtube video in your room and talk about yourself or other people, click, you're liked. Get enough likes and you are not only popular but the newest sensation.

Is your teen caught up in the endless cycle of "liking and being liked." Maybe you are caught up in it too. You just posted a video of your family on your recent vacation or family outing, or, your dog just did the cutest thing, and you posted it on instagram or twitter and facebook, and waited patiently for the likes and comments to come pouring in. Face it, it feels really good. I get it, I love it too! It's addictive, and it makes us feel acknowledged and yes "liked."

As adults, we have perspective. We get it's all a little self-serving, but it brings joy and fun into our lives, and who doesn't need a little of that from time to time. But hopefully, we can set limits on ourselves and the time we give to this public pursuit of "likeness." We have had years to develop competence and confidence in who we are and what we have accomplished in life, and that is the real stuff that feeds our self-esteem. Teens, on the other hand are in a time in their life when they may not be feeling confident or competent in much of anything. And getting 50 likes for saying something or posting something a little outrageous can provide them with a much needed boost in their confidence, even if it is given for no real accomplishment. And that is the real issue. Confidence and self-esteem that lasts is built on a foundation of real accomplishments. Confidence and self-esteem that is built on accumulation of "likes" and "followers" and "friends" has no real lasting effect, and can actually hinder the development of an identity.

This is why I feel so passionate about parents needing to be really on top of how much time their teens give in the pursuit of "likeness" Life is about balance. Take a good long honest look at your kids. How much time do they spend in the endless cycle of posting and re posting and commenting, and "liking. " Like some of the kids in the Frontline story, sometimes this pursuit of popularity takes the place of actually living a life full of real living. If your teen's life seems out of balance, they will need help from you to create some. They will not "like" it. So be it, you can get your "likes" somewhere else for now. Watch this video with your kids, and talk to them about it. It is a discussion worth having! If you "like" this post, and want more parents to understand this phenomenon so that your teen can't say to you, "nobody else's parent is worried about this" than please share this post with  five friends who have teens!
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Is Really On Your Teen's Mind!

Tweets from a 15-year-old

"Sometimes when I really like a person I act like I don't like them because I don't know how to express my feelings properly."

"I'm sitting by myself at a party and I'm scared to get up because I don't have anywhere to go and I don't want to wander around alone. "

"It's hard to support your friends who aren't supportive or even pretend to be supportive of you."

Don't you just love this kid? I do. I know this teen and I think she is the honest voice of a generation of teens. From what I can gather about her, she is adorable, smart, has tons of friends, and seems ridiculously confident. But what you see is very often not necessarily reflective of what is going inside a person. And that goes for your teens as well. When they come home from school, or a night out with friends, or a dance or rehearsal or practice, there is a good chance that they are dealing with the kinds of feelings Maude is expressing; insecurity, embarrassment,  and disillusionment. Teens encounter these feelings many times daily. And because the relationships they are now experiencing as teens are new to them, they are obsessed with thinking about them. Learning to deal with intimacy based relationships rather than activity based relationships is a whole new ballgame. The worry is not whether they have someone to "play with," but instead, does this person(s) I'm hanging with like me? What do they think about me?

So when your teen walks in the door with a sour puss expression, it may be that something felt bad in the friend department, and unless they ask, it's probably something they don't want help with. They may need to be a sour puss for the night, and saying "whats wrong with you?" in an accusatory voice, after they have been unresponsive and grumpy towards you, probably won't help.

Read these tweets to your teen.  Maybe it will generate some interesting discussion. Or not!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Wake Up You Sleepy Head!!

So how are your mornings?? Is your teen a member of the "I'm getting up!!! Leave me alone club!! Do you dread getting out of bed, knowing that your early morning will be fraught with cajoling, yelling, and threatening? Once you have become your teen's personal alarm clock, you have let them off the hook. They actually don't care about all the yelling, you have just become like their personal ringtone!! They have absolutely no motivation to to get themselves up when they know that you will do it for them. Before you take the steps below, first look around for any physical/environmental issues that need to be addressed. Is your teen's room outfitted with black out shades that make it feel like the middle of the night? If you have a teen with a wake up problem, get rid of those shades immediately!!! Like these lyrics from the musical Hair, 'Let the sunshine in"! If you go to sleep before your teen, is he/she on their phones late into the night, or watching Netlfix/Hulu/Itunes until they fall asleep. Do you learn nothing from the early sleep training you did with your baby? Remember all those books you read telling you not to rock your baby before you put them in the crib because then they will never be able to self-sooth to get to sleep. Think of Netfliz/Hulu/itunes as you rocking them to sleep. First their phones/ipads/laptops should be shut off using  parental controls, or you take all tech toys out of their room at a time decided on by both of you. After you have done these checks follow the directions below!

Let them know today what you will and won't do to help them with the new morning wake-up.

YOU WILL NOT:
1. Spend the first hour of the morning making it your mission to get them up.
2. Listen to their usual morning abuse as you continue to update them about how much time they have left before the bus/ride/walk to school is approaching.
3. Give them a lateness excuse because they just couldn't get their ass out of bed.
4. Give them a ride if they choose to stay in bed and miss their bus/ride/walk to school

YOU WILL:
1. Let them know that you understand that this transition to early AM's is really hard. You understand that they do not want to get up this early, and that they hate it.
2. Share with them what you are not willing to do with respect to getting up on time.(use above list)
3. Share with them what you are willing to do:

  • Work with them to come up with a plan. Perhaps you are willing to give them two wake-up calls. But if they choose to ignore those reminders you will NOT continue to shake, scream, or otherwise annoy the hell of them until they get out of bed.
  • Be happy to drive them to school or bus stop at the appointed time. But if they choose to not to get up in time to make the ride, they will be responsible for their own transportation that day. You will not wait around for them to get up and out!
  • Buy any new required clocks or alarms they might need to rouse them out of their deepest sleep.

Your teens have got to learn to be responsible for getting up on-time. My college freshman tell me that this is their biggest challenge when they get to college. Most of them report that they sleep through most of their first classes because they never developed their own plan for wake-up, instead relying on their annoying parents to do it for them. This is your practice time. It takes years to develop good AM rituals that work. This will take some trial and error. But please stick with it. You both deserve a better start to your day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Why Does my Teen have To Act So Teenagery?

I am on Twitter. I don't post much, just my blog, but I love reading other people's tweets. Especially tweets from teens. Here is one I particularly love: "Dad keeps saying that I am acting like a cliche of a teenager and I don't understand why that's surprising."

How brilliant is she? How many times have you thought that same thing about your teen. When the stereotype behavior of eye-rolling, snide comments, laziness, messy room, distracted by technology to the max, etc etc etc just get to you, and you think those exact words, why are the so much like a teenager? Why can't they act more like an adult?  Because....they ARE teenagers. Everyone of those behaviors is completely normal. They roll their eyes, and speak with a snarky tone, because you are probably unbelievably predictable. Your kids know exactly what you are going to say to them, how you are going to say it, and what you want their answers to be. The eye-rolling is the, "here we go again" short-cut. If you look at yourself honestly, you probably do repeat yourself a million times a day, because, they just don't seem to be listening, cause if they were..THEY WOULD JUST DO WHAT YOU ASK!!!! Right?  The laziness, and technology is a teenagers way of showing you what is the most important thing in their life right now, and it isn't a neat room. It is doing everything they can to stay in contact with their beloved friends, or the friends they are hoping to have, or dissing the friends they don't like anymore. Anything to do with friends is definitely their number one priority. You have got to accept that, and understand that, but you still have to set limits around it, but I'm just saying, they will never wrap their arms around you and thank you for saving themselves from their friends.

So how to survive all the annoying traits of a teenager. First it is just a stage. They truly will not be like this for the rest of their lives, Really I mean that most sincerely. Just remember how your terrible two year old turned into the sweetest human being on the earth around 7, and couldn't show you enough love, so will this terrible teenager. This too shall pass. Try not to judge, set the limits you need to and when the eye rolling and sarcasm gets the better of them, just give them a smile, a hug, and know that in just a few years they will turn into the sweetest human beings on earth.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

So You're Kid Wants To Go To College!!


The leaves are starting to change, the air is turning crisp and fall like, and that means that we are upon the annual weekend ritual of visiting colleges with your high school junior or senior. If you seem way more excited to visit colleges than your junior or senior, I think I can help you understand why.

For parents the anticipation of their child all grown up and ready to go off to college is both exciting and terrifying. Remembering their own college years, they can't wait for their kids to experience all the wonderful things they did, which may even have included finding the love of their life and marrying them. Hello mom and dad! But there is trepidation as well, two years full of what if's? What if my kid doesn't get the grades, and SAT's that will get him/her into the college I want, I mean they want to go to? What if they don't write their essays on time, or worse, they are bad?  What if they don't get their applications in early? What if we don't have enough money to send them to the school of our I mean their dreams?  What if my best friend's kid has better grades and better SAT's and gets their essays and applications in before mine, and they get into the school I want my son/daughter to get in? And what if........ This is the stuff ulcers are made of.

So you become the college Nazi's. You vill get your essays done this weekend, or you won't go out!!!! You vill go with us to visit colleges on the weekends we want you to go! You vill go to SAT tutoring or you are grounded!  And for all this commitment and time and money you give to your teen in support of this college journey, what do you get in return "leave me alone, I'll do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

 Here are the questions your teen is asking. What if I don't get in anywhere? What if I disappoint my parents? What if my SAT scores suck, I will be humiliated.  How do they handle their anxiety, they avoid, they procrastinate, they miss dates. Why, because once they put themselves on paper in an essay, in an application, on an SAT score, it is out in the world for people to judge. And when they don't get into the school of your, I mean their choice it will be an affirmation of what they knew all along, I am just not good enough! Your teen does care about this process. Way more than they are showing you. So if you are only paying attention to their outward displays of attitude and avoidance you are missing the boat, and may actually be exacerbating the problem.

Use some " I get It moments" to crack the code. You might have this conversation; " I get this whole college thing is really hard. You have a lot on your plate this year, just keeping up with school stuff, your sport/theater/job, your friends, and now on top of all that, you have to deal with all this college stuff. I was wondering whether you feel like we are putting too much pressure on you, and you're worried you might disappoint us?" ( Now wait for their answer) After you get their take on that, assure them: " We have total confidence in you. There are a lot of things in this process no one can control, like who colleges accept, and that really seems like it is a crap shoot anyway. We just want to make sure that you don't unknowingly shoot yourself in the foot, by not doing the things that you are in control of. How can we help you do those things without making you crazy. We are willing to help you in anyway we can, setting up some date guidelines, reminding you that deadlines are coming up, getting you help with the essay stuff, whatever, but we don't won't to spend the next one or two years arguing with you constantly about this. We want you to take ownership. That will be a sign to us, that you are really wanting to and ready for college. If you choose not to wholly participate in this process, that will be sign to us that you might not want or be ready for the independence of college. What do you think, are you up for this, or are you feeling you might want to take a year off after high school to get yourself ready? Whatever you choose is fine with us, but commit to one or the other."

Just thought I would also throw in a few college visit tips. Remember this is your teen's opportunity to jus soak in the atmosphere. This is not the visit where they are worried about what the biology labs look like, or course selection. I know that's what you are interested in, but for these first visits, you really need to zip up, and let it be about them. They are looking at the students and wondering, are there kids here I could imagine being my friends? Does the campus feel like a place I feel comfortable and safe in? Could I sleep in this dorm and imagine myself feeling at home? This is what interests them. So walk along side them, keep a low profile, and if you have questions ask them another time. There will always be the second visit if they like and most importantly, if they get in!!! Many kids avoid the college visits prior to acceptance, because they worry that if they "fall in love" with a school and don't get in, it would feel devastating. So keep that in mind.

On the drive home, try to refrain from sharing your impressions the second you get in the car. Often parents are way more enthusiastic about a school than their teen is, and that shuts them down from talking to you. Give them time to digest. Some teens will start talking right away, others need to process. Remember that visiting colleges makes everything about the college process feel really real and maybe scary, and they might need some time to just sit with it all. So if they immediately put their earbuds in, just let them be. And then, on your way home, stop for a bite to eat, an ice cream, a coffee, and maybe ask a, "so what did you think?" in a calm neutral voice, and see where it goes.

Here is the thing, if your kid wants to go to college, this will work itself out. Maybe it won't be your first choice or their first choice, but if I have learned anything over the last 30 years it is that kids are amazingly adaptable, and whereever they end up becomes the place they want to be, and if it isn't they can always transfer, and you can do this all over again...yay! And by the way, heed the advice of this college admission officer regarding "helping" your prospective college student with their application essays!!
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/well/family/how-i-know-you-wrote-your-kids-college-essay.html?action=click&module=Discovery&pgtype=Homepage

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Teaching Your Teens To Live In The World When They're All Grown Up

First I want to say, that all your kids will be fine in the end. There I said it! Unless there is severe mental illness or severe family trauma, by the time your teen hits their 20's they will adore being at home, desirous of your input and advice about their life, and unbelievably fun to hang out with. So take a deep breath, pleeese!

The way I see it, in my experience, after 30 years of working with families, and raising one of my own, there are only three real parenting mistakes that can change the outcome of your child's life.

First is the too strict or rigid parenting style. If you are the party of NO, my way or the highway, or you have a ton of rules way past the time that kids need rules for everything, and you have extremely high expectations for your teen's academic performance, you run some risks.

Risk #1: Adolescence is all about independence. If you continue to write the script for your teen's life they will react in one of two ways. If they feel over-controlled, over-managed, and have to answer to too many rules, some kids will be forced to act out to get the freedom their brain and their body are telling them they should have. By acting out I mean lying, hostility and anger, deliberate school failure, drug and alcohol use or abuse and avoiding you at every turn. This can feel like armed warfare. These teens need to learn how to make decisions on their own. These are the kids that often bail on college. As soon as they hit campus, and experience that first taste of freedom, all control and discipline, no matter how much you have drilled it in to them is gone. They have never actually learned how to be self-disciplined, or internalized the rules and structure that you imposed. As young children structure and control is good, as teens you need to share and encourage with supervision your teen's innate drive to be independent.

Risk #2: Some teens who are over controlled and over-managed become extremely passive. They have developed what is call learned-helplessness. What they integrate is a lack of complete confidence in their ability to make decisions, and look to you for direction in all parts of their life. This is not healthy. These teens are lovely to have in the home because they never fight with you, and come to you often for help. For a parent, there is nothing like it. However in life, you will not always be available.  When it comes to adult relationships whether romantically, with friends,  or with bosses or colleagues they will rarely speak up for themselves, and open themselves up  to be taken advantage of, thinking that they don't know better. These kids need to learn to have confidence in their own ability to make decisions, and that what they want matters.

Risk #3 is the too permissive parent. This parent maybe has an unspoken rule, do well in school, and I will ignore everything else. Or maybe, your philosophy is that your teens should be able to manage their own lives, or maybe the parent's life is in chaos with a divorce, or other family crisis, and takes their "eye of the ball" being too involved in their own life events. Rather than too many rules, there are no rules, no expectations, no supervision. These are the parents with the blind eye. A blind eye to what goes on in their own basements with their teens and their friends, a blind eye to where and what their teens are doing when they are out and about, and a blind eye to their teens safety. Teens are by nature risk-takers. Sometimes those risks can be life-threatening, either physically or psychologically. Teens need to know that someone is looking out for their welfare, even if they fight you tooth and nail when you do. When these kids move into adulthood, they are often entitled, irresponsible young adults, who look towards you to bail them out when they act badly, perhaps its is financially, or legally. These now grown up kids, can't or don't feel like managing the mundane of life, and will constantly look to you to do it for them, even well into adulthood.

So these are the three biggies. Everything else in between, usually works itself out. Parenting a teen is about setting enough limits to keep your teen safe, and give enough leeway for them to practice decision making, knowing that they will make mistakes, that they will hate you some days, and knowing that underlying it all is love. Your love for them, and their love for you. It really is as simple as that.

This is a very interesting article about the consequence of "over-parenting" when your kids hit the real world.
http://www.fresnostatenews.com/2014/07/university-profs-find-that-over-parenting-can-damage-future-job-prospects/

Dear Blog Readers
I am looking to hire free-lance booking agents!! Do you work in a large company that cares about work/family issues and might be interested in having me do a lunch time seminar and has a budget for this?  Do you have friends or family that work in large companies that you could tap as potential seminar resources? How about your school system, are you connected to your PTO reps or have a relationship with your principal or superintendent. Perhaps they would be interested in having me speak. I am available to travel and will compensate you for this important work with 10% of my negotiated fee, plus one hour of parent coaching, which can be done by phone for those of you who don't live in the Boston area. Call or email me if you are interested in working with me to give parents the kind of information and strategies I provide in my blog to as many parents as I can reach. 781-910-1770  joani@joanigeltman.com

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Teens and Pot: The News Is Not Good

The news on Teen pot use is not good. A new study published in the American Journal Of Psychiatry says so!!! Read and then we'll talk!  https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45732911

Teens and pot, not good, Adults and pot, whatever turns you on. I have had a number of letters from parents recently worried about their teens use of pot. It seems that their teens have defended their use with a variety of rationalizations. Some of my favorites include; " I can think better, I can drive better, even the cops don't care, it relaxes me so I can concentrate better on my homework, you should be happy, at least I'm not drinking alcohol!" Unfortunately this is the drug talking. And thats the point, pot is all about distortion. That's what the 60's were all about, and why the lava lamp was invented!

Adolescence is all about new experiences and experimentation. It is a cruel law of nature that tempts teens to try all sorts of new things just at a time in their lives when their brain is engaging in a major growth spurt. Teens live in a world of what you see is what you get. With alcohol you see the fruits of your labor literally in the toilet bowl if you're lucky, otherwise in someone's car or basement. You worship the porcelain temple and then you pass out. With pot the effects are less obvious and more hidden. Pot gives you the illusion of feeling in control but what you're teen is missing is what is going on in the depths of their brain. As with all experimentation, some kids might try pot and see it as a treat every now and then, and others will begin to use more regularly. In either case it is important to talk with them about it.

A little science lesson here. There are receptors in the brain that just love THC, the chemical in pot. These receptors are connected to two very important parts of the brain. The Hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, and the Cerebellum that controls balance and coordination. In short, regular use of pot can cause problems with thinking and problem solving (the hippocampus) and distorted perception of sight, sound and loss of motor coordination. (the cerebellum) So much for the driving rationale. Responding to lights, sound and reaction time are all distorted.

Pot is especially attractive to teens because it relaxes them, mellows out their stress, and if they are someone who struggles with anxiety, pot can be a wonderful new best friend. There is nothing more uncomfortable than feeling anxious, and once a teen who suffers with anxiety tries pot, a love affair begins.

First read this article with your teen, if you know that your teen is already using it, and especially it they haven't tried it yet! Talking with your teen about pot requires finesse, and the power of understanding. Here is your I Get It moment. You can say to your teen" I get how pot would be attractive to you. I know you are stressed out, and it makes you feel relaxed and mellow. But here is what you don't know." At this point instead of sermonizing and lecturing, either read the article above and this one to them or have them read it in your presence. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuanaThis is link to a very straight forward Q&A about pot. If you choose to lecture, your teen will think this is your opinion and probably just stop listening, thinking that they know more than you about this particular subject. So real science is always good in this situation. Now I am sure that you will get resistence here. And here is how you might handle this. " I am worried that you don't feel that pot affects your judgement, driving etc. You need to read this article and talk with me/us about it before we will allow you to drive our car. It is important to us that you have the facts here. If we see a change in your grades, or your ability to concentrate on getting your work done, we will have to drug test you every now and then. We love you and want to make sure that you don't unknowingly jeopardize your health and your future.

Unfortunately with the invention of vape pens, it can be really hard to detect the tell tale scent of pot on your teen. Ahhh the good ole days when they were just rolling and smoking joints. You may find vape pens in closets or backpacks. Be very suspect if they tell you they just like smoking the vape with the fruity cartridges!!Most kids use vape pens to smoke pot!!

Talking with your teen who you already suspect is using pot is not easy. Expect them to be resistent, defensive, and in a lot of denial about this. Try really hard to not get mad, this will not serve you well in helping them to understand why this worries you so much. Information is power!

As I have mentioned before, I present seminars to parents and companies and community organizations. Here is a list of the seminars I have to offer. Talk to your PTO chairs and your principals and "introduce me to them." I am passionate about what I do and am trying to reach as many parents as I can to give them as much information and strategies as I can to help with this challenging stage of their kids lives. I can't wait to meet you!

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!
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Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version
·      Understand teen stressors and anxieties
·      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.
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Sexting. Texting and Social Networking: What’s A Parent To Do?
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Drugs and Alcohol: How Does Your Teen’s Personality Style, and Your Parenting Style impact their experimentation with drugs and alcohol?
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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