Thursday, June 14, 2018
Two months ago, my husband and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. We were going out for a nice dinner and to a concert. Before I left the house for our evening out, I printed out an article from the New York Times I had read called The 36 Questions That Lead To Love. Now let's assume my hubby and I are in love, after all 38 years is not nothing. And this questionnaire was written to help new couples learn about each other and explore areas of their life that might not enter their conversation without direction, and that might ultimately help them decide their compatibility. I just thought it would be fun to talk about more intimate subjects than our usual daily conversation. BTW this is not about SEX!! Questions like: What would be your perfect day? or If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?? Honestly it was one of the most beautiful and intimate conversations we had had in years. We only got to 3 questions during our 1 1/2 hour dinner as each question took us in many different directions. It was a special and wonderful anniversary.
Two weeks ago we returned from a glorious vacation to Italy. Neither my husband or I had traveled to Europe since college. Our amazing daughter rented a villa in Umbria and invited my husband and I and 8 of her closet friends to join her and her boyfriend in this magical place. Our last night there I again pulled out the 36 questions and as a group of 10 we spent hours sharing our stories with each other. Truthfully one of the most special evenings of my life, and I think the group would say the same. (I have linked you to the NYTImes article below. You don't have to wait till your 38th wedding anniversary)
OK , so here's the connection to you. Recently Huff post published two similar kinds of questionnaires. Questions to ask your mom, and Questions to ask your dad! They are wonderful. and with Fathers day this Sunday I encourage you to print out these questionnaires and invite your kids to ask any or all that interest them. Questions like: What was your relationship with your parents like? What kind of trouble did you get into? Giving your kids permission to really get to know you is an invitation to intimacy and connection. Giving them an opportunity to see another side of you, you at a younger age. This less perfect you gives them permission to be OK with who they are right now. We don't always know how to really share our true feelings. Maybe you're not a "sharer" by nature, but trust me on this, your kids want to know about you, and most especially they want to know what you were like when you were their age. You will create a special family moment, as well as a chance for your kids to get to know you in a different way. Hey there may even be some tears!! And plenty of laughs as well. There is no better gift for Fathers Day or Mothers Day than the gift of honesty and communication. Let me know how it goes!!! Joani@joanigeltman.com
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Your teens stay up late. You have to stay up later. If you are an early to bed, early to rise kind of person, having a teenager will be pure torture. It may be torture in other ways as well, but if you need your beauty sleep, fagettaboutit! Get used to looking old. Pretend your teen is an infant, and you are on call 24 hours a day. You have no life, and no sleep. I think that sounds about right. Especially in the summer.
If your teen is home this summer, they want to be out of the house and away from you as much as they can. If they aren't working full-time or otherwise engaged 40 hours a week, they have become completely nocturnal. They sleep all day, and are awake all night, free of your constant watch over them. All the more reason for you to figure out a way to check in on your teen to make sure they are snug as a bug in a rug. If you are one of the many parents I talk to who go to sleep by 10 PM, WAKE UP! If your teen knows that there won't be any kind of evening sniff test before bed, you are leaving the door wide open to regular intoxication, and late night outdoor adventure If your teen knows you are dead to the world, and they have made it home in time to kiss you goodnight and put you to bed, they may be ducking out after your bedtime. Neither of these scenarios are safe. If you have a partner, take turns. If you are a single parent, I am sorry you have no one to share this burden with, but for all of you. make sure that your teen always, without exception, checks in with you on arrival back home, even if it means waking you up. Also drink a lot of water before you go to bed, so you will have to pee several times a night, thereby having an excuse to do a bed check. And finally, if you have a teen who is sleeping out at friends, more nights than he/she is sleeping home, there is cause for worry. He/she has probably found a house with little supervision. Not good. You want your teen to have a wonderful summer, but you want it to be a safe one. You can catch up on your sleep when they are 18 and off to college!
Thursday, June 7, 2018
What do parents need to understand about what their teen child is going through psychologically and physically?
Puberty absolutely sucks! This wreaks havoc in a teen’s life; too tall, too short, big boobs, no boobs, acne. From the second a teen wakes up in the morning and looks in that mirror, and sees live and in person their perceived inadequacies, the mood for their day is set. One pimple can ruin a day. Because of new brain growth, teens are now hyper-aware of what other people think about them. This self-consciousness can be paralyzing. Unfortunately parents get the worst of it. When teens are with their friends they have to be “all good,” but at home the stress of this new body and brain shows in sullenness, and attitude. The most difficult part of this puberty business is there really is no way of making it better; you just have to wait it out. Parents can’t “make it all better.” For the fix-it parent this is a tough slog.
What are four typical mistakes or assumptions parents make about their teen children?
1. Parents think that their teens do not want to spend time with them. WRONG. In a survey I did with teens 9-12th grade, almost all the kids said they wish they could spend more time with their parents. Just don’t do it on a weekend night!
2. Labeling their teen. Many parents see their teens doing bad things, and label them as bad. Not true!! There is a huge learning curve during the teen years. Part of the process of leaning is making mistakes, and making bad choices. Making these learning opportunities rather than just punishing “bad behavior” is what changes behavior.
3. Over thinking and over problem solving. Many times teens come to their parents to just vent about a situation they are having trouble with. They aren’t looking for a fix, just a shoulder to lean on. Parents like fixing, and go right to the “here’s what I think you should do…” Teens then react with anger, and “you just don’t understand.” And the lovely moment has gone ugly.
4. Unrealistic expectation. Not all teens are meant to be honor roll students. Some have strengths in other area that as life goes on will be equally if not more important in the long run of adulthood.
For blended families or single parents, how much harder is it for the parents to raise teenagers?
Blended families can be extremely stressful during the teen years. It’s hard enough to do the job of “separation/individuation” from your own parents, but then to have to deal with another set of people you don’t know, may not care about, and did not choose to join your life can be unbelievably stressful. For single parents, there is of course the stress of having to do it all, but also the reality of not having another person to share the physical supervision that teens need. Also the relationship between parent and teen can be intense without another adult as a buffer zone.
What inspired you – or rather, what events necessitated you to pen A Survival Guide to Parenting Teens?
I can’t tell you how many parents come up to me after one of my parenting seminars or email me with a “can you just tell me what to do about….? So much of parenting a teen is going from crisis to crisis, and a tomb on the psychology of adolescence is useless in that minute. I wanted to give parents their own “parenting coach” for those moments when they just need a game plan. I think the 80 tips in the book cover most situations parents of teens face daily and need a quick go-to.
What do parents of teen boys need to watch out for vs. parenting teen girls?
Boys are much better at masking emotions than girls. They tend to be more closed-up, especially if the men in their life do not provide a model for using emotional language. Boys face the same issues of body image, social standing, crushes, etc as girls. Girls feel permission to rant and rave about this stuff where boys often keep those feelings of insecurity hidden and may be prone to depression because of them. I am extremely worried about boys and pornography. Because most kids get smartphones in middle school, boys now have easy access to porn away from any prying adult supervision. Research has shown that this early introduction to sometimes violent and misogynistic sex has given boys unbridled permission to sexually harass girls they know. Parents need to be extremely proactive in discussing this issue with their sons.
How do parents manage a teen’s amount of screen time, not to mention the specific activities or type of content accessed by their children?
First, parents have to stop being afraid that their kids will get mad when they start to set limits on this. Teens will get mad, very mad, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. Iphones, Ipads, Itouch, laptops without supervision equal addiction. Most smartphone companies now offer plans that put parents in the driver seat. Parents should be the only person allowed to download apps, no devices at bedtime and phones should be shutdown during school. There are many social networking apps that are just time sucks. Teens spend hours posting on multiple sites, and responding to other peoples posts. There are too many sites that encourage bullying, and sexting. Teens DO NOT have the controls to be smart and disciplined….yet. It is a set up to expect teens to shut off and shut down on their own.
Let’s face it. Parents cannot monitor everything and don’t have the time or energy to get involved in every aspect of their child’s life. Should parents just trust their child and give them independence and be free to make mistakes?
Making mistakes is a good thing, when it comes to natural consequences. Not getting up on time for school and getting detention; waiting till the last minute and failing to get a paper or project in on time and getting a bad grade; staying out past curfew and missing out on going out the next weekend; forgetting homework and leaving it at home and getting a zero; these are all things kids should and can be responsible for, and yet these are the things that most parents rescue their kids from, worrying that it will affect their grades or chances to get into honor classes. Monitoring technology until a teen brain has matured enough to manage dangerous impulses is worth that energy. Serious mental heath issues, and legal consequences, these risks are just too steep,
How has parenting a teen, circa 1984, changed from raising one today?
As teens, this generation of parents experienced much of what their teens are experiencing; teen angst, puberty, alcohol, drugs, sex, so at least that gives them some perspective. But technology was not a part of their teen years. Unfortunately we have all jumped in the pool together and parents and teens are sharing in the excitement of all this new technology simultaneously. But teenage use and adult use are not the same, and no one was prepared for how all this technology could and does impact a teen’s life. Who knew teens would be sending naked pictures and using language fit for 1-900-SEXY as just part of the normal teenage experience, or that the family TV would become a dusty relic as teens hunker down in their caves watching movies, playing games and getting naked away from the prying eyes of mom and dad.
With the recent spate of school shootings by disgruntled teens, are there preventative measures parents can take so as not to raise someone who one day just explodes?
First it is important for every parent to step back and take a long, hard, honest look at their teen. What is the nature/temperament their child was born with and how does his/her nature interact with the parent’s inherent nature. Is there a disconnect there that has made parenting this child a challenge from day one? Is there anger and resentment within the family, and if so, it needs to be addressed. “I get we are family where there is a lot of anger, that must be hard sometimes, what can we do differently?” Does your teen isolate themselves from both family and friends? This can be a red flag. Sometimes there are obvious signs, but they can get chalked up to normal teen angst. When a parent sees a pattern emerging, they should pay attention to it!
How do parents teach kids about money management when they are in debt or living paycheck to paycheck?
Parents rarely share the nuts and bolts of the family financial situation with their kids. With teenagers, this can be a really useful life lesson. Teens do a lot of magical thinking, and nuts and bolts bring them back to earth. I would sit down monthly with teens and set out the family budget; money in money out. This is a good reality check for teens who think they are entitled to what everyone else has. Where there is a shortfall for things the teen may want or need, than it can become a team problem-solving event. Also equally as important is for a parent to understand that their financial situation is hard for the teen. Teens are very self-conscious and may be embarrassed about their family’s financial situation. Parents should acknowledge, and understand their teen’s perspective, but never apologize for the family circumstances, life is what it is.
What are the rewards to investing time and attention to your child’s well being during their tumultuous teen years?
The most exciting part of raising teen is watching this new person develop, like seeing your baby walk for the first time. They are now capable of seeing all that the world has to offer. They are at the buffet of life, and they will need to try out different offerings to see what is right for them. Everything a parent has taught, and nurtured up till this point is all in the mix, and parents need to trust that. A parent’s greatest gift to this emerging adult is to let go of their own expectations of what they want their teen to become, and let their teen become who he/she is meant to become.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Four years ago when my book first came out, I was asked to do a lot of radio and TV interviews. In the course of those interviews I was asked these 20 question. Today I give you answers to the first 10, and Thursday will finish up with the second 10 questions. I think these questions and answers will pretty much sum up your life!!
What is the most challenging part to parenting a teenager?
What is the most challenging part to parenting a teenager?
For most parents, trying to understand why their teen does so many “stupid” things, makes so many “stupid” decisions, and doesn’t want to listen to their advice gained from so many years of experience is crazy making! Without understanding what drives their teen’s behavior, parents just go from one crisis to the next, throwing around consequences and punishments hoping that something they do will stick and change their teen’s terrifying ways. But alas, just saying don’t do it or you better not, and then grounding them when they do, does not change behavior. Many parents of teens feel an enormous loss of control. “Because I said so” is no longer an effective parenting tool. You cannot parent a teenager the same way you parent a younger child. It is this redefining of parenting style that most parents of teens are unprepared for.
2. Which subjects freak parents out the most – discussing sex, alcohol and drugs, social media, school, or issues like depression?
I think the issues like drugs/sex/social media are front and center because parents are forced to deal with them on a daily basis. They are “in your face” kind of issues. Many many teens are dealing with depression and anxiety these days, but they are good at masking them with…. drugs/alcohol/sex and social networking. Parents then are dealing with symptoms of possible depression and anxiety, doing too much of all those other things which are avoidance behaviors. Also parents worry that drugs/alcohol/sex and social networking will negatively impact their kid’s success in school. PS, it will!
3. What can parents of pre-teens do to prepare for what will be required of them, as parents, to help and control their children that will turn into teenagers?
Take the blinders off. Many parents assume that because their kids were easy and obedient during the elementary school years that they will dodge a bullet heading into the teen years. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard; “ I never imagined that MY kid would ever…”from parents of newly minted teens doing the things teens do. As ALL teens enter adolescence they are faced with an amazing number of “firsts” for which they have absolutely no experience. They have a new brain and new body to boot; so all bets are off thinking just because their kids were easy, they will continue on that path. When you can anticipate rather than be surprised by some of the normal teen behavior there is more opportunity to use thoughtful strategy rather than be reactive, and in crisis mode.
4. Doesn’t every stage of parenting present hurdles and roadblocks? What’s so different about the teen years?
Teen brains are experiencing enormous growth. This means that they are literally seeing the world through a new lens. Additionally in adolescence, the emotional part of the teen brain is in higher activation than their thinking brain, which is completely opposite from the way an adult brain functions. This means teen behavior is driven by emotion and impulse rather than by the rational and the thoughtful. Except for the first 18 months of life, there is no other time in life when there is such extreme brain change. It’s biology baby! For parents this is scary because just as their teen’s brain sees the “awesomeness” of it all, they are exposed to experiences that carry tremendous risk.
5. Your daughter went on to star in a network television show. Does this mean you did something right as a parent?
Ari’s success is totally a reflection of her hard work and talent; we take no credit for that. What we did do as parents was to know and understand who she was and what turned her on. We supported her passion which she exhibited at a very early age and found her opportunities to participate to her little hearts content. As she got older that definitely meant some job juggling for my husband and I. Because Ari was an only child, we were able to do that and she was able to take advantage of acting opportunities that required some significant chauffeuring and time management. But I think our real gift to her was staying out of her way. We were all very clear about boundaries; we were her chauffeurs, catering service and supporters, not her directors, managers and agents.
6. Let’s discuss real-life issues. How do you advise parents of teenagers who are being bullied online?
The first issue is availability. Teens can be gluttons for punishment. Get them off the sites and apps where bulling occurs and block the kids who are taunting them from those sites. If a bully doesn’t have access to his/her victim than that can take all the fun out of bullying. But in order for that to happen parents have got to be on top of what apps and sites their kids are on in the first place. Many parents stay way to hands-off with their kids phones and computers. Monitoring a teen’s phone and computer use is a necessary evil. There may always be some trash taking between teens, but when the line is crossed by threats and serious emotional abuse, transcripts should be presented to school administrators.
7. How should a parent talk to their child about sex, sexting, and dating?
With understanding and honesty. Parents should really try to stay off the lecture circuit. Telling teens how they should behave will fall mostly on deaf ears. Saying: “ I get you are going to be interested in sex. I know I’ll have to get used to thinking about you in this new way. I know you will be in situations that you have never been in before with boys/girls. I also know kids talk to each other in very sexy language, and I’m guessing that can be pretty fun, but it can also get you into real trouble. Here are some of the things I do not want to see on your phone or computer.” Parents should say all those “dirty” words they do not want on their kids phone. Saying “inappropriate language” just won’t cut it. Kids need to hear what “suck my dick” sounds like out loud!.
8. What can a parent do to keep the lines of communication flowing with their teenager, to ensure honesty, openness, and forthrightness?
The biggest barriers to open communication are words that criticize and judge. For example when parents see their teen wasting time online and texting when they are supposed to be doing their homework, they are more likely to say: “Stop being so lazy, and get off that damn phone.” Rather than: “ I get how important your friends are to you, and how important it is for you to check in with them, but homework is important too, and we need to find a strategy that gives you time for both.” Now, instead of teens feeling like they have a character flaw, which pushes them into arguing and defense mode, they can work on solving a problem.
9. How can parents keep their kids focused on excelling in school and preparing for college?
Contrary to what most parents think, it is not to focus on the grades. Sometimes parents set up unrealistic expectations about the grades they expect from their teens. Starting in middle school parents start saying: “if you want to get into a good college, you better start working hard now.” Talk about getting on the worry train too early. Anxiety inhibits learning. Instead parents should focus on the learning part of school, not the report card. When parents engage with their teen about what they are learning, by reading the same books, and sharing insights; or engage in discussions about subjects their kids are studying; the message given is that being a curious learner is what is valued not the grade. Good grades will happen naturally when the process of learning is valued. And of course provide structure and get them off their phones for 2 hours every night, even if they have no homework!
10. Some teens just give off a lousy attitude – defiance, laziness, entitlement – what can a parent do to combat this?
Teens give off that attitude because they could care less about the things that most parents think are important. Teenagers are by nature narcissistic…just temporarily thank god! Friends are #1, chores, cleaning their room, laundry, those don’t even make the list. Every request from a parent to a teen then becomes a power struggle. My best advice is to stop yelling and badgering. When there is a demand from a teen a parent can say: “Is there a question in there?” Or if a teen needs a ride and a chore isn’t done: “I’d be happy to drive you to X’s house, let me know when you’ve emptied the dishwasher and we will be on our way. Attitude should not beget attitude!