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!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Answering The Curfew Questions!

Here is a Q&A I did recently about curfews. Enjoy!!!

What are some behaviors a parent should look for before deciding their young teen is ready for a curfew?

As long as parents are in the driver seat, literally, there is no need for a curfew. When your teen has started to do the “walk and hangs” sans parental supervision, It’s time for a curfew.

Why do teens need curfews?

Teens live in the present. Wherever and whatever they’re doing in the moment causes them to lose track of time. They are not thinking: “oh I need to get home to do my homework, or my chores, or for dinner with the fam!” They need help in setting limits, and help in taking responsibility for their time. For some teens, this comes naturally, for most teens it does not. 

What are the benefits of a curfew -- for the teen and for the parent?

Curfews can keep teens safe. Too much time out with no time boundaries can put teens in riskier situations. Knowing that there is an end to an evening makes teens more aware of their behavior, and may help they to say no to situations that involve risky behaviors. For parents they are teaching their kids the concept of accountability. This is a life skill and one that will be important as they move into adulthood. 

What’s the best way for a parent to go about instituting or establishing a curfew?

This absolutely should be a joint venture between the parent and the teen. Curfews handed down from “parent on high” have the potential for “curfew abuse” This happens when a parents sets an unreasonably early curfew, which the teen is then driven to manipulate. For example if there is an 11 PM curfew which a teen feels is unfair, the parents will get a call at 10:59 PM with a fantastically wonderful excuse from their teen why they can’t be home at 11 PM. Parent gives in and says, fine be home by 11:45 PM. Teen has just learned a bad lesson; my parents can be manipulated, and I can get what I want. If instead the parent had said to the teen, “what time do you think will work for you tonight.” The teen would probably say 11:30 ish. Parents can than say “fine, and what will be the consequence if you are late?” Because the teen has had a say, they are much more likely to take ownership of the curfew and come in on time. 

How long should a child have a curfew before a parent considers making it later?

I am not a fan of a rigid set curfew time. I don’t see it as an age question. I think that curfews do depend on what the activity is. I think curfew setting should be a fluid process. If for example a teen is going to hang at a friends house or going to a party, maybe an earlier curfew. If going to a concert or a movie, it may be a later one. 

What’s the best way for a parent to handle it when their teen breaks curfew? See below

What’s a parent to do when their teen chooses to ignore/disregard the curfew?
If a parent has used the process I described above by including the teen in curfew and consequence setting it makes this issue very clear and easy. The teen would have already decided what his consequence would be if he was late. This way when this teen screws up all a parent has to say is “sorry this didn’t work out for you, I guess we’ll be hanging next Friday night together.”



When a teen does ignore or disregard, obviously there would be a consequence of not going out one night the next weekend or docking time. But more importantly parents should work with their teen on strategies to be “curfew successful” There should be a conversation on what would help them the next time. Maybe they did lose track of time, and just were having too much fun to leave. In this case, maybe suggesting to their teen they set some kind of alarm on their phone that gives them a heads-up on the time. Or another strategy is that parents can give teens an hour window to call them for a curfew change. Perhaps a teens curfew is at 11:30. Parents may say if you call me by 10:30 for an extension I will consider it. But anytime after that will always be a NO. Again this makes teens take responsibility for time management. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Denial...A Teenagers Best Friend

"What, it wasn't me!" "It isn't mine!" "I don't know how it could have gotten there!" I didn't know what time it was, my phone died! I didn't know the parents weren't going to be home! You never said I had to be home at 11!!! "Famous last words of teens. A great way for teens to avoid taking responsibility, and a sure fire way to frustrate parents to the point of apoplexy!

The truth is your teen is not at all motivated to take responsibility, cause if they did they either wouldn't have done it in the first place, or they would have owned up and paid the price. Also, they absolutely do not care that their shoes are strewn all around the house...except when they can't find them, then of course it becomes your fault: "Where are my shoes? What did you do with them," they scream at their loudest decibel. Because of course, it is one minute before their ride is coming to get them, and they did not think about these shoes, jacket, etc until just that minute, and now that they are missing they obviously can't blame themselves, so you're up!

My best advice, don't bite!!! There is nothing you need to say, nothing you need to do, it is not your job to keep track of their things. Sometime, they will figure it out, but your lecture of "if you only put your things in their rightful place this would not happen every single god damn day!!"will definitely not change their behavior. Either they'll figure it out themselves or they won't. And eventually they will move out, and you will never have to deal with it again. Make yourself unavailable for the search and rescue. And when their crap is in your way, have a basket for each of your teens in which any stray item that is making you crazy gets thrown. Think of it as your family's lost and found. If they can't find something, they can always take a gander at the lost and found and see what's there. It will be like Christmas every day!

And for those moments when you know that the excuses are free wheeling and obviously have no bearing on the truth, no need to lecture and yell, a shoulder shrug, a consequence, and I hope things work out for you the next time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The March For Our Lives, And It's Many Lessons

I never made it into Boston, though I had every good intention to be a part of the March For Our Lives. However, I sat down in front of the TV at noon on Saturday, and did not leave my chair for the next three and a half hours. I watched as teen after teen shared their feelings and thoughts and hopes for the future, as they fight for what they know are their rights as citizens of our country. Their passion, their authenticity, their honesty, and their personal stories, moved me like nothing else I have experienced in my life. Without the cynicism of adulthood, and perhaps the feelings of hopelessness that many adults feel about the future, these kids now show us the way.

These kids are why I am so passionate about my work with parents of teens. So often misunderstood, teens carry within themselves the seeds of the future. Unbridled from self censorship, and full of pure emotion they help us reconnect with our more authentic selves.

Because our world has become so crowded and full of distraction from horrible news cycles, technology, worry for our teen's safety and future, as well as our own, we have lost that essence of childhood where emotion, passion and excitement live.

Join with your teens in this journey of self discovery. These Parkland kids didn't take months to formulate a plan. Five weeks, was all it took to get a million+ plus around the world to join together to start a movement. Sometimes we think too much, plan too much, analyze too much, as moments pass us by. Not these teens, not a second to lose, not a moment to waste, just action.

Feeling, being, doing, and connecting, that's what these teens have taught me. Here are a few moments from Saturday that stay with me. The girl with bullet fragments in her face, reading her poem with such passion and emotion throws up on stage from anxiety and fullness of feeling. Takes a moment, rights herself and goes on!!! The almost 6 minutes of total silence in a crowd of thousands. Such respect for this young woman and the deaths that brought them together. An eleven year old 6th grader already ready to take action by organizing her class to walk out in support of gun safety. Two black kids from Chicago suffering the loss of brothers to gun violence bring an audience to unity with rhythmic clapping.. So many moments to share with your kids. Just for the moment!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDEc4ImIVHk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5ZUDImTIQ8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP2pAMifYBI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw6hbACrP38
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrYFbrOuGqc

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Are You On The Lecture Circuit?

Are you a lecturer quiz?

1. Y N Do you feel like you absolutely know what is best for your teen?

2. Y N Do you regularly expound on this to your teen?

3. Y N When your teen comes to you with a problem in his/her life to you jump into problem solver mode?

4. Y N Do you find it hard to take questions from your "listening audience"

5. Y N Do you like to be right?

I am guessing that we all got 100% on this quiz. Only this 100% probably won't get you an applause and a congrats from your teen. Problem solving comes very naturally to parents. We see our kids making mistakes, we see our kids in pain, we see our kids about to do something that is unsafe and it feels natural to want to protect them from all of it. Unfortunately your teens do not want your protection, they actually want the opposite of your protection. Which is weird, because they come to their parents with their problems, and as soon we go to give them our worldly advice, they respond with a rejection and a "you never listen!" And that is the crux of the matter. Your teens come to you because you love them, and know them better than anyone else. Their fantasy is they will tell you something and you will just listen. That's it, just listen. Here is the miscommunication. You think that when they come to you, they want you to tell them what they should do. But really they just want you to listen, maybe show some empathy, "oh honey, that must be so hard, or I'm sorry that must be so frustrating." But instead they get a "here's what I think you should do....!" And their eyes go dark.

Giving your teen the gift of listening is maybe your greatest gift to them. Unless they actually say the words, what do you think I should do?Go for a good nod, a hug, and some words of comfort. They are probably doing the work of figuring it out, and just need someone to bounce the words off and reflect back. Don't we all? This work of figuring it all out is what gives them the confidence they will need as they move into adulthood. If you do that work for them, they will never be prepared for they future that most assuredly is ahead for them.

PS: For anyone who lives in the Wellesley metro west area I will be interviewing The Boston Globe Love Letters/entertainment/columnist and author Meredith Goldstein about her new memoir "Can't help Myself" at Wellesley Books on April 11th @ 7 PM. Come have a glass of wine and some cheese and hang with me and Meredith!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Becoming Our Children's Moral Compass



“Boys will be boys, you know those hormones!” “I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing!” “She wanted it!” This is what is often said by and about young men caught in the act of sexual assault. The case of Brock Turner, the Stamford student who several years ago brutally raped a young woman, was sentenced to the minimal sentence of 6 months in county jail and probation. In all actuality, he will probably be out sooner. He used these excuses to rationalize his violent attack on this unconscious woman. But as heinous as this attack was, the reaction of Brock’s dad Dan was equally as atrocious. In a statement to the court on the day of his son’s sentencing he said: “ This is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

Parents are supposed to provide the moral center for their children. Human beings are not born with a moral compass, they must be taught, and it must be modeled. There is no other way. In my work as a parenting coach, I have come across many situations in which teens have made bad and unsafe decisions. Some parents react with appropriate anger, and provide reasonable consequences as well as a roadmap for their teen to grow and learn from the experience. But there are also many parents, Like Dan Turner who do the opposite. Rather than holding their kids accountable for their actions, they look for ways to manipulate the system, becoming confrontational and on the offensive. They look for any way possible for their teen to avoid assuming responsibility for their actions.

This can happen at school when parents confront teachers when they are not happy with their child’s grade in a class. They blame the teacher for being unfair, rather than looking objectively at their child’s performance. It happens when teens are caught at a party with alcohol and drugs. Rather than making their teen face the music, which might mean losing the ability to continue playing sports at their school, or having to do community service, parents often “lawyer up” and look for legal loopholes to get their teen off.

Mistakenly, parents fear that owning up, means giving up, on the imagined future success their child has ahead of them. The truth is actually the opposite.
Growth and success in life comes from overcoming and working through the hardest and scariest challenges in life.  Make sure that you practice and teach that lesson to your children.




Thursday, March 15, 2018

College Acceptances and Rejections: It's That Time Of Year

Tis the season.....For all of you who have high school seniors, the college acceptance and rejection season is upon you. You are in high anxiety, and your teen is in higher anxiety. This feels like a defining moment for everyone, even though truly....it is not. Admission to college is a little like a shell game these days. Sometimes kids get into the colleges they did not expect, and sometimes they get rejected from a school they thought was a sure thing.  Sometimes kids get into what they thought was their dream school, and by the end of the first semester they are miserable, disillusioned, and can't wait to transfer somewhere else.

Your first job is to monitor your own emotional temperature, and manage your own expectations. Where your senior gets in or doesn't get in does not define him or her or YOU. It does does not make them a genius or a loser. It is a moment in time. I have seen kids go to the school of their dreams and fail miserably, and I have seen kids go to their bottom of the list choice and end up happy, and very successful. Once the initial shock, excitement, or disappointment wears off, as it does by summer when you are in buying for the dorm mode, all will be forgotten except for the excitement of starting college...any college!  If you are more excited than, or more disappointed then your teen, you need to tone it down. Your teen is not in the business of having to meet or not meet your expectations and dreams for them. They have enough to contend with dealing with their own feelings. Talk to your partner, talk to your mother, talk to your friends, but don't impose your emotional agenda on your child. That will truly be the best gift you can give them for graduation!

What you can do is that will be helpful to your perspective college freshman is validate whatever feelings they are having. You don't need to try to make it all better, or tell them what you think they should do or go, you just need to understand and be in THEIR moment with them. As In: "I get this must be exciting for you, or disappointing for you,or frustrating for you, etc, etc" Remember that your teen lives in the emotional part of their brain. So whatever the outcome of this college decision process is, your teen will feel first, think later. Give them the time to do that. There are alot of factors that weigh in on the college decision, $$, location, course offerings, distance from home, but there is time to think about all those things later. Give your teen the time to process, and sit with the results. Maybe even a few weeks before you even start talking about it. You might say;" I get how hard this decision will be for you, I know you have a lot to think about. I want to give you time to just digest before we have to really get on the decision making stick. I am happy to talk with you anytime, but I want you to know that I respect your need to think on it. Let me know how I can help."

And finally, please respect your teen's privacy when it comes to sharing the acceptances or rejections. Maybe your teen could care less who knows and will give you permission to tell the world. But some kids are VERY sensitive about this whole process and absolutely do not want their business shared with the masses. Case in point: I was at my gym last week and over heard a discussion between two moms who were spin class acquaintances, not best friends. Both were going down their teen's list of where they were accepted or rejected. I wondered why that seemed so important to two women who didn't even know or care about each other's kids. I know parents are proud when their kids get into schools that make them proud. Often I see those parents starting off the conversation, just so someone will ask them about their kids. Try not to get into the " My kids better than your kid" state of mind. All of our kids are wonderful, and where they get in or don't get in will not change that!

This is a wonderful op-ed Frank Bruni wrote for The Times this weekend about this subject:


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-how-to-survive-the-college-admissions-madness.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Secret To Fixing A Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

You might be surprised to know that according to the theory of the worst offenders in the stress category, it is the "daily hassles" rather than a major life crisis that causes one to feel the most stressed on any given day. Traffic, being late, pop quizzes, demanding bosses, irritating teens, irritating parents, lines at the supermarket, no parking spaces, speeding tickets, parking tickets, dirty laundry, over scheduled, being rushed, etc, etc, etc. I am sure that you and your teens can build on this list forever. It's not that the big things like report cards, college stuff, financial difficulties, family illness or crisis, marriage and partner issues don't cause us stress, that would be a ridiculous thing to say, but it is the smaller stuff that happens on a daily basis that makes us the most crazy.

The good news is that there is an anecdote to these daily hassles. It is called "uplifts." An uplift is an unexpected pleasant surprise (for me, after a crummy day of hassles, it is stopping by my favorite frozen yogurt store for my fix and finding out that Black Raspberry is the flavor of the day. Honestly that changes everything for me.) Or, an uplift can be something that you know will change the course of your day, and availing yourself of it.

Uplifts can be powerful stuff in the stress relieving department. It can be especially effective to lift your teen out of a particularly bad mood. Two reasons this is important. First, if your teen is in a crummy mood, they will make your life miserable. Just being the supportive, "hey honey, what's wrong" parent usually backfires with a "just leave me alone!" Secondly, it is a good way to teach your teen about managing stress.

So here is how it might work. When you "get" that your teen has had a crappy day, for whatever reason they don't feel like sharing, think about what might be an "uplift" for them and surprise them with it. Maybe it is stepping out to Starbucks at 8:00 PM and bringing them a mochachino latte that you know might put a smile on that face. Or maybe their room is a disaster area, and you surprise them when they get home from an evening practice with a nice cleaned up space. Maybe after a particularly stressful day, you gift them a stay home fake sick day to mellow out and veg. Don't ask what they want, and don't expect anything in return. Those are the rules. The whole point of an uplift, is to give an unexpected "gift" that breaks the negative mood, and then lets them move on.

PS: Do it for yourself too!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Learning From A Teen Survivor Of Sexual Assualt


Chessy Prout, the victim of a 2014 sexaul assault at St Paul's school, has just pubished a very brave and honest book about her experience as a naive, vulnerable 9th grader. I have attached the interview with the Boston Globe about her new book. I think this is a must family read. What better to address this very real and present danger than to read and talk about this book with your teens. Below is the blog I wrote when this assault first came to light and strategies for parents to use to keep both their teen sons and daughters safe from engaging in or protecting them from sexual assault.


https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/06/new-book-chessy-prout-describes-culture-paul-school-that-allowed-sexual-assault/A2rWh2WlMdAPTzKy3b4ivI/story.html


Over the last week, an alleged sexual assault case has been the one of the top news story. A 15 year old freshman girl has accused a then 18 year senior of rape. Graduating senior boys at this school have a tradition called Senior Salute, where the goal is to bed a freshman before graduation. Feeling flattered by the attention this girl agreed to meet up with this boy. I think she expected to do some fooling around, but she alleges that he become intent on having intercourse, despite her saying no quite clearly. He says they did not have intercourse. And now they are in court in a very public trial that has been picked up by the national media, and two young lives have been altered forever. Talking about sex and sexual assault with your teen is a delicate matter. As a parent you want your teen to understand the moral, legal and emotional consequences of participating in a sexual encounter that may or may not be consensual. But if you present your lecture on the “Moral, Legal and Emotional Consequences Of A Non-Consensual Sex Act” to your teen, you will have lost a valuable opportunity for opening communication on a subject that is uncomfortable to talk about especially with your parents. Your teen will clam up, roll their eyes, and tell you that they would never ever do anything like either of these two teens. End of conversation!!

Here are some strategies for opening up this conversation:

1. Start from a place of understanding not judgment: “ I get that this girl must have been flattered by this attention from an older boy.” And I get how this boy could get caught up in his school tradition of seniors hooking up with younger girls, even if he knows on some level that it is not right.”

2. Don’t lecture: In theory your teen understands that this boy took advantage of this girl. They don’t need you to tell them that. What they need is a safe haven to explore their own feelings. You might say to your daughter: There may be a situation that you’re in when you’re getting attention from a boy you have a crush on. I totally get flirting, but lets figure out how you can flirt without sending out the message that sex is on the table.” And with your son you might say: “ Understanding and knowing how far a girl really wants to go can be really hard to know sometimes, but it’s really important that you think about this. Lets come up with some cues from a girl that you should really pay attention to.”

3. Help them to develop the scripts and language that will help them out in situations that make them feel uncomfortable and/or unsafe. Most teens end up doing things they don’t want to because they don’t know what else to do. They can always use the “I need to go to the bathroom” excuse. It gets them out of the room without getting into a whole thing. Or, check the time, and say” my friends are waiting for me, and if I don’t show up, they’ll think something’s wrong.” For boys who are getting pressured by their friends to do something they don’t want to do: “It’s just not my thing!”

4. Remember that your teen is being led by their emotional brain, not their thinking one. Before they leave to hang out with friends, your parting words to them should always be: “What is your safety plan for tonight?”

5. Download circle of 6 app on your teen's phone: I know I'm usually telling you to delete apps, but this app is a must. It allows your teen to program 6 people, you should be one of them, so if they find themselves in an unsafe situation, any unsafe situation they can press one button which will send text and location to all 6 people, who can then get to her or him.

PS: Getting my speaking schedule up and running for the spring. Email me at joani@joanigeltman.com or call 781-910-1770 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.


Do You Know The Apps Your Teen Is Using, And Who They Are Talking too??

A true story: A Parent shared with me recently a scary social networking story about her 16 1/2 year old daughter. It seems her daughter left her phone on the kitchen counter open to the app she was on. The app is called Hot or Not. Basically it is tinder for teens. That it is a dating type app for those of you not familiar with Tinder.  The mom was shocked to see that her daughter was giving out personal information to total strangers! Here is the description of the app from my favorite site: protectyoungeyes.com

WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW: 

Per its own website, “Hot or Not is the original game that lets you check people out, be checked out, and see the Hottest people around. Hot or Not will show you how popular you and your friends are, as well as a list of the hottest people nearby, wherever you may be; at a music festival, on college campus, or hanging out in the city.” Therefore, the risk of a middle or high school teen becoming overwhelmed by the popularity aspect of this app is very high. Plus who can really trust the pictures you see online?
Once an account is created, there really isn’t anything parents can monitor and control, other than creating an account of their own and following their own child.

Another true story: A dad knew that his daughter had been using askfm, a popular and dangerous site/app that teens use. For those of you who aren't familiar with askfm, here is how it works. You can either go to askfm.com and sign up or you can download the app. The appeal of this for teens is the ability to post on people's profiles completely anonymously. Here is how it works. I post a profile and ask a question; Do you think I am a good parenting coach?? Some people may write, oh yes your the best or some may post, you suck!!! Whatever is posted I will not know who you are. Sometimes kids ask silly questions and sometimes not. You can post on someone's askfm even if they haven't asked a question. So if I don't like you, I can go to your profile and post all the things I hate about you. As you can see, it is ripe for bullying. Also ripe for complete strangers to post on your profile. That is the story I will tell.

Back to the dad. He had learned about askfm and knew his 7th grade daughter had a profile on it. He made her go on when he was there and delete her account. Done, right??? No way. Of course his daughter could go right back and put up another profile as soon as her dad left the room, which of course she did. This savvy dad had a suspicion that this might happen, so a week later, he goes on ask fm and looks for his daughter's profile. He finds it!! He decides to teach her lesson. He posts to his daughter 's profile: (remember his name and profile do not appear)"hey, you're cute, where do you go to school?" She writes back with the name of the school. He asks, "oh where is that school?' She tells him the town. She has now made herself easy to be found! Then he asks her if she has an instagram account, and she says yes. Then he says"hey I am a really great photo editor, give me your instagram password and I can do some really cool things with your photos." SHE GIVES HIM HER PASSWORD....A TOTAL STRANGER WHO DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A NAME!!!!!!!!!  And if this wasn't bad enough, this whole askfm conversation took place during the time she was in school. The dad was curious to see if he posted during school hours would she respond. And yup...she did. Good case for shutting off your teen's phone during school, and making sure that if his/her school uses phones or tablets during school that they are monitoring what the kids are during. This girl was in a class, not a study when she responded to this!!!!

When the dad confronted his daughter, at the least he expected her to be embarrassed, upset, something to show that indeed it was scary how easily she shared her personal info....lesson learned!!! Instead what he heard from his daughter was: "its no big deal, everybody does it!! Why are you such a worry wort!!!"

I have to admit, I was surprised, I thought what a great way to teach his daughter this lesson. Our teens are immune to fear. We are not getting them to hear the dangers of sharing information with complete and total strangers. This is your job, to regularly educate your kids. Go online, (I found these articles by googling dangers of instagram or dangers of askfm. As part of the PRIVILEGE of having a phone or laptop or tablet, your teen should be responsible for spending time with you REGULARLY to learn about the dangers of over-sharing. They will not learn through one conversation of a "you are not allowed to.....) Learning takes repetition, repetition, repetition!!! And you will have to be their teacher, since there is literally no one else!

http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/News_12_On_Your_Side_162121545.html


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Teaching Your Teen About Privilege

Remember when you were little kids and you wanted to stay up later, or you wanted to get your ears pierced, or get a bigger, fancier bike, or wear certain kinds of clothes or see certain kinds of movies, your  parents would say: "When your older you will be able to ........"  As children we looked forward to those "markers" that would signify a move towards "being old enough". Rites of passage, and markers that suggest maturity are important to growth. These markers are becoming fewer and fewer. Just 10 years ago, buying your child their own computer was the high school graduation going to college present. It was a gift that signified achievement and moving forward. It was an important psychological marker. When a teen got their license, it used to be that getting the first car was a symbol of this new move into independence. Just happy to be driving something of their own, the clunkier the better, Grandma's old car was perfect. Now I am still surprised as I drive around the college campus where I teach to see kids driving around in cars I still aspire too, the hottest, newest models on the market. See I am a fuddy duddy, maybe I'm just jealous. Will you be my mother??

We have left few things for our kids to aspire too. We used to have clothing markers, privilege markers, music markers, etc. Now sex and music, clothes and technology, alcohol and drugs all start with kids too young too appreciate and understand their significance. We are raising a generation of youth who expect and feel entitled to the newest and the best. There is value in understanding that we don't get everything we want when we want it. Somethings are worth waiting for and when they do come are more appreciated and valued. Remember teens live in the moment. It is the adults in their life that need to help them to look towards the future. That old-fashioned work ethic that our forefathers and foremothers taught our parents that nothing is just given to you, if you want something you have to work hard for it, seems to have gotten lost in translation. It is OK to say no to your kids. It is OK to say these things cost a lot of money, and that is not how we choose to spend it. It is OK to say, what you have is enough!

Below is an essay written by a college senior that was chosen by the New York Times as one of the 10 best college essays a few years ago. She articulates quite meaningfully how she sees a sense of entitlement and privilege that her classmates seem to have. Not everyone comes from monetary privilege, as this young woman describes. Some teens come from what I call emotional privilege. Lucky enough to have parents who love them and want to do everything they can to assure their success in the world. Unfortunately, like monetary privilege, emotional privilege gives teens the idea that someone will alway be their ally. Do you find yourself getting your older teens internships or summer jobs with your connections. Do you speak on their behalf to coaches or teachers or principals? Do you "over help" with homework and special projects? When kids don't have to do the work themselves to get what they want, then they never figure out how to do that.... ever. And that is why we have so many young adults suffering from the "failure to launch" syndrome. Make your kids do the hard stuff, put themselves in the position to take responsibility, learn the social skills and the good kind of risk-taking that they will need in the future. If you always do that for them now, they will never learn to do it for themselves in the future!


Erica Meister
High School: Northville High School
College Plans: Stanford University


In 2015, Northville, the place I consider to be my hometown, was named the snobbiest city in Michigan. I prefer to describe Northville as reckless. 
The more enterprising students of Northville High School specialize in the selling of three goods: marijuana, Adderall and test answers, all goods many of my peers don’t think twice about using. We’re from Northville. Most of us know nothing of consequences or responsibility for our actions, because our fathers can cover for us with cash and connections. We’ve been raised in such privilege that we feel enabled to say and do whatever we want, thoughtlessly. 
Several years back, when the rap aesthetic was particularly prominent, most of the males came to school in ill-fitting jeans that sagged below their designer boxers, sporting T-shirts and necklaces that likely cost more than the weekly income for the average person, in imitation of their favorite rapper. They carried themselves like Eminem and spewed out Jay Z verses about being raised in extreme urban poverty and racism, before parroting their parents’ views on the “communist” welfare programs. 
Derogatory terms for gays, the disabled and people of color are shouted in the hallway, right over the heads of people to whom those refer. From experience, I can certify that the administration does little besides halfheartedly admonish reported bullies and send them on their way to continue their reign of terror. 
To my chagrin, I have occasionally fallen into a similar mindset. I once asked a friend, whose family I knew was struggling, what AP tests she planned to take. She replied that her family couldn’t afford any. I had forgotten how bad her circumstances were and had asked my question without thinking. I found myself victim to the disease that infiltrates Northville, the same carelessness I despise. Northville’s gilded bubble caused me to forget that some don’t have the luxury of affording even the reduced price of standardized tests. 
Aside from being potentially harmful, this recklessness creates a sense of emptiness for me. Superficial, materialistic and shallow, we’re all too busy going on to the next thing, focusing on getting an A and not about learning the material, and getting our rib into a conversation without listening to what was actually said. Our sole aim is to keep moving. Where, how and at what cost are irrelevant questions to us, and thus we manage to remove all trace of purpose from our actions. 
My most prominent goal has always been to leave Northville behind, to find a world in which people act consciously, aware that their actions affect others, and choose to delve deeper by asking questions and seeking legitimate answers that may differ from their limited understanding. In the meantime, I aspire to prepare myself by being more thoughtful, informed and, most of all, careful.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My Teenage Clone

Why does your assertive, unique, confident eleven year old suddenly turn into a clone of all the other eleven year olds in their class, in your town, in the world? After all, you have worked so hard lo these last eleven years to teach your child to think for themselves, not care what anyone else thinks, and  encourage them to wear/do/read/play/act ways that feel true. And guess what? They follow your advice....until they turned 11 or 12 or 13, then they don't! When they ask to buy an article of clothing, or go to a movie you don't approve of, or want to listen to music that you know is only because "all the other kids are listening to it, " you preach the "be yourself" sermon, which in the past has worked like a charm. But suddenly you get "you just don't understand." You feel rejected, and for the first time feel worried that all the values you have worked so hard to develop in your child have vanished in the blink of an IPHONE.

First let me say...STOP WORRYING!! All those values you have been promoting and modeling have not disappeared, just gone into hibernation for the next 5-7 years. I promise, they are all still there and when they get on the other side of adolescence, and they have had a chance to choose to make them part of who they are, you will be brimming with pride. Choose here is the operative word. Up until this point in their young life they have relied on you to orchestrate their life. You have been their #1, and they have counted on you to watch their back. Now they are literally biologically driven to watch their own back. Their new brain is showing them ALL the possibilities of life, not just the ones YOU choose to share with them. Part of raising a teen is trusting that you have already done a wonderful job, and now it's their time to experience the world as they see it. Think of it like a buffet table. In the past you chose their foods for them, knowing what you think they would like, and not wanting to waste any food. Now, they walk down the buffet line and maybe see the sushi and say: " hey, this looks cool, how come you never let me eat this."And off they go, trying new foods you never dreamed they would like.

So seeing all the possibilities of life is one part of what's driving this change in personality. The other part is the hyper sense of self-consciousness that is ever present especially in early adolescence. There is a constant worry that everyone is looking at them, and judging them. And if they don't wear the right clothes, have the same phone, listen to the same music, talk the same talk, then everyone, and I mean everyone will think they are completely and utterly uncool. This is where the clone-like behavior comes in. Its not about values, and I know it drives you crazy that they are making choices based on what other people think of them. But relax, it is only a moment in time. It is not a character flaw in your child, it is developmentally normal! This new brain of theirs is just realizing that other people think things about them, and feel that if they look/feel/ and think like their peers that all their flaws will be invisible. As they begin to develop a sense of their own identity (when they have traveled down the buffet enough times and tried it all before settling on some favorites), they will have renewed confidence.Come on, I know you drank the kool aid too when you were their age!

But beware, if you take the high road here, and continue to preach the sermon, your teen will feel judged/ criticized and never quite good enough for you. This doesn't mean that you don't have a say, it just means you have to take a circular route to get there, if you want to maintain the relationship you have taken the time to build. So when your tween comes to you with a request that you know is cause "all the other kids..." Here is what you can do. If it is unsafe, or truly inappropriate (like getting a smartphone..don't get me started on this one) you can use this "I get it moment": I get how important this is to you, and I know all your friends have it. And I know that not having it,  will make you feel different from your friends, and I am really sorry about that, I know how that feels, but it just isn't safe and I am willing to take the heat from you to make sure you are safe.

So relax, all is not lost cause they want to look like every other kid on the block. You know they're special and unique and that is all that matters.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Potty Mouth Posts!

Read and then we'll talk

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/02/10/texas-teen-tweets-herself-out-pizza-job/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?hpw&rref=magazine&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

Ah the unexpected consequences of trying to be funny. Social networking has turned us all into aspiring stand-up comedians. And it's not just teens!!! One important lesson though is you gotta know your audience!

"Nearly 80% of employers research job applicants and 70% have rejected candidates because of their online profile." Let the parent lectures begin!!!

If your teen is starting to think about getting a job or internships they need to beware. Or how about looking to become a camp counselor? Perhaps that camp director is social media savvy, and goes on your teen's twitter, or instragram. (you know how teens are so selective about friending people)  If your teen has been posting obscenity laden quips, sarcastic rants or drunken exploits or sexy pics, you better tell them that might not look so good to that pizza store owner or to a camp director, who is looking for a wholesome camp counselor. Or, how about that highly competitive internship, looking for Mr or Ms responsible? I don't think they want to read that "man I got wasted and ....."

Perhaps your teen is waiting to hear from colleges. This is a tough college market. And sometimes that decision might come down to what admission officers have found during their social media sleuthing!

This is definitely not something that is on your teen's radar. Someone has to put it there, and it is you!!! As Crosby Stills Nash and Young sing...."Teach, your children well."

You might have them read this article, and say: You  know honey, I get that posting outrageous stuff on inststagram,  is fun, and reading all your friends crazy stuff is also fun, but the reality is that it makes your life an open book to college admissions people, potential jobs and internship employers. I wouldn't want something silly like the stuff you put out there in internet world to get in the way of doing what you want. I think it's time to do some "housecleaning." As you go through all your postings, think like a potential boss, or admission counselor, and ask the question: "What impression am I getting about this student, employee from their sites?" You wouldn't want them to say:"wow this kid seems to party a lot, that would probably affect their ability to work, or they use a lot of foul language and sexually explicit language, they don't show much respect for woman or men, I wouldn't want them interacting with my staff, or they seem kind of sarcastic and mean" Help your teens to ask the right questions and send them on their way with a Mr Clean power eraser!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Teens and Parents: Finally Something You Can Agree On

This Murder of 17 students and teachers has me crying almost daily as I listen to the horrific stories of survivors and parents of those teens who were killed. I am not alone! Everywhere I go, everyone i talk with is sad and angry and frustrated with the inaction that our leaders continue to exhibit even when presented with the most common sense and no-brainer solutions. Thank god, the students of Douglas High School have had enough and have united in their action to force the hand of our politicians who up until now have seemed disinterested in the safety of its citizens.  They are our inspiration and our role models! Walks outs, demonstrations, marches, yes to all of them!!! But the issues of bans on all assault weapons, and a more comprehensive process for background checks also need a long view and a plan that doesn't end with protests and placards and chants.

Though teens and parents mostly have separate lives and agendas, here is an agenda that crosses all boundaries between parents and children. We are on the same side! Parents are terrified, kids are terrified, and most of us feel helpless to effect real change. Here is what I propose for the long game.

1. If you are involved with your parent organization at your child's school, propose teaming up with the student government organization for a brainstorming session for actions, protests, etc

2. Organize with the school administration, faculty, parent organization and students a variety of teach ins. Invite lobbyists and legislative experts to teach your school community about lobbying, how bills are introduced and passed, and how your community can engage in that process to enact law. Reading history from a textbook, or living in the moment and experience and making change...which do you think contributes to real learning???

3. Engage your entire school community to identify those members of congress that have taken huge amounts of money from the NRA and have A+, A, A- B+ B B- ratings from the NRA. This may be the only time you will hear me say that grades matter!  Identify elections and candidates who support these issues. Contact their election headquarters. What kind of help do they need. For those members of congress not supporting changes in gun laws, contact, call, visit their offices in Washington., hold them accountable.  Hold bake sales and fundraisers to pay for bus trips to Washington to let those members of congress know how you feel. Make sure that all 18 year old students are registered to vote. Bring someone to campus for voter registration.

4. This is the time to teach your children that they have power! As a college student during the protests of the Vietnam war, and a child during the civil rights movement, I learned that yes....citizens when united can make a huge difference. Teach your kids that! It is as important if not more important than chemistry or calculus! It can save their life!!! If you have school age children, you have a community action group ready to go. Your school, whether public or private is at the center of your kid's life and yours! No need to reinvent the wheel, use what you have and what you already know! Call your principal, your PTO president, your student government leadership and ask.... What are we doing and offer to lead! Anyone can do it!!

Below is some motivation. The first is link to a poet who wrote this piece right after the shooting. Watch it with your kids. I am still thinking about it!

And the second is a letter from Jaime Guttenberg's uncle. Jaime was a 14 old victim of the shooting. She could be anyone's daughter, or sister, or friend or neighbor or niece or grand daughter! 



Dear America,
We buried my brother, Dr. Michael Guttenberg, this past October. He was a 9/11 hero and 16 years later he died of a 9/11 related cancer. Our country came together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to overcome evil. We fought 2 wars, we subjected ourselves to onerous changes in air travel security, and we willingly gave up civil liberties to give ourselves the illusion of safety. 
But we are not safe. This weekend we will bury my niece. Her name is Jaime Guttenberg and she was the 14 year-old daughter of my brother Fred and sister-in-law Jen. She was Jesse’s younger sister. Yesterday, she was murdered by a gun at her high school in Parkland Florida.
Jaime was in the 9th grade. She was a pretty girl with the world’s best smile and her soul was sensitive and compassionate. She was intelligent and feisty and she danced with beauty and grace. She always looked out for the underdog and the bullied and she probably had been kind to the student who shot her. She planned to grow up and become a mommy and an occupational therapist. 
Fred and Jen are the world’s most loving and over-protective parents but they could not protect Jaime from the sickness that has gripped our country. Unless we change, nobody can protect us. My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids.
Why is your hunting hobby more important than my niece’s life? Don’t you see that your “second amendment” rights have been twisted and distorted beyond any rational interpretation? Why should my niece have been sacrificed at the altar of your “freedoms?” Why don’t you trust our police to protect us from crime? Don’t you realize that mental illness has been and always will be a part of the human condition and that weapons of war should not be available to those among us who dream of mayhem and death? Don’t you see the blood on all of our hands?
I don’t care that Nikolas Cruz did this. If it had not been him, it would have been some other sad sick young man. I do care that he was able to legally purchase an assault weapon. I do care that the NRA and our so-called political leaders enabled him. 
I don’t care if Nikolas spends the rest of his life in jail or gets the death penalty. That will not bring back Jaime and it won’t stop your kids from being the next victims of a “versatile, customizable” deadly weapon of war. I do care that the NRA is dismantled. I do care that our Congress and our President outlaw these technologically sophisticated tools of murder just like every other civilized country on this planet. Failure to act will make our politicians complicit in Jaime’s murder. I want them to face charges and I want them brought to justice.
My family does not want your hopes and prayers. We want your action. Join us in fighting the NRA. Join us in deposing any politician who cares more about campaign contributions than my beautiful Jaime. Join us in supporting leaders who will bravely fight for our children’s lives.
Don’t tell me not to politicize this. Jaime would want me to. This is political and now this is personal. If not now, when? If not us, who? If we don’t finally ACT, the sickness of gun violence will kill us all.
Sincerely yours, 
Abbie Youkilis MD