Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wake Up You Sleepy Head!

There are those teenagers who never need a wake up call, god love em! But for most parents mornings are traumatic. The pit in your stomach feeling of here we go again. the abuse, the yelling, the cajoling, the threatening, none of which really works. Here's the thing, your kids will eventually get up. They know that, and you know that. But as long as your are a willing partner and enabler, they will depend on you to make sure that happens! Works for them!!! But starting your day this way every day, does not work for you!!

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. DO NO LET THEM CALL UBER UNLESS THE ACCOUNT USES THEIR DEBIT CARD AND MONEY!!! (SEE NOTE BELOW)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
NOTE: I have recently been made aware that teens are using UBER as their own private limousine service. Thanks mom and dad for making it so easy for me to be entitled and lazy!! I know driving kids hither and yon is a pain in the ass, but that is just part of the parenting job description. Allowing your kids to get rides on demand feeds their already entitled little egos that "I want what I want when I want it!!!" DON'T DO IT. Trust me you will regret it. I will write further about this in a blog next week.

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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving: Join The Clean The State 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. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Puberty's A Bitch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEcZmT0fiNM
Watch this video first!!! Now laugh your ass off!! And then watch it again, and watch it with your daughter again. Great for ages 10 and up! Girls get their periods early these days. Don't you be unprepared, and don't let your daughter be unprepared. Have a good laugh! And don't expect that the flood gates will open and your teen will be so thankful to you for understanding!!!! Probably she'll cover her eyes, turn beat red with embarrassment, and run for her room. And let her. It just might take some time and distance from it to be able to talk about it. But she will if you will. Who knows, maybe she will want to talk right then, but don't be offended, worried or otherwise anxious that you did the wrong thing if she doesn't. Sometime, maybe later in the day, in the car, on an errand, you might say: "oh my god, just had a visual of bobbing for ovaries!!! That was such a crazy video, what did you think was the funniest?" Get a good laugh going, and then maybe share your own puberty story. Oh yes, we all have a story. I hadn't thought of mine literally until I watched this video. And it happened, I am embarrassed to say....50 years ago. But honestly, it feels like it happened yesterday...seriously.

So I was at my first sleep over camp experience, I was going into 5th grade. I hated it! Towards the end of the torturous 8 weeks, the head counselor Rayna (and yes that is her real name,and though sometimes I can't remember my husband's name, her name was totally avail in my unconscious.) So Rayna takes me aside one day, and with her arm around me says: You know Joani, when you get home from camp I think you should talk to your mother about buying you a training bra. Your breasts are starting to develop and they are showing through your tee shirts!" I....WAS......MORTIFIED. Breasts! Don't talk to me about that! And maybe she said something to my mom, because as soon as I got home from camp, off to the bra department we went, for my little stretch training bra. Which of course I refused to wear because NO ONE ELSE had one.

And that right there is the theme of puberty. Whether you are a girl like me who got those cute little breast buds before anyone else, or like the girl in the video that was the last to get her period, or the boy who is called the "jolly green giant" in fifth grade because he towers over all his peers, all young teens have their "lightening rod." The change that is or is not happening and that they think everyone around them notices and cares about. That is the teen brain for you. That new sense of everybody is looking at me, and this stupid body of  mine. It is torture!

So use this video to acknowledge how hard this all is to have a body you can't control and you can't predict. Don't minimize with a "don't worry it will all turn out OK." cause honestly maybe it won't. MY boobs just continued to grow out of control. My tiny boob envy still haunts me today as I watch those with tiny boobs wear beautiful strapless dresses, or carefree tiny tee shirts. Not me, not ever! Be in their moment with them, and a "I get how hard this is to have your body do things you don't like." Some days will feel worst than others, and the good news is that some days you won't think about it at all!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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.

PS: Contact me at joani@joanigeltman.com for information about parent coaching by phone or in-person or having me come to give one of my seminars at your school or company.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Homemade Teenage Porn...A Dangerous Pastime!

Recently I heard this disturbing story. An 8th grade girl, who I'm guessing is dealing with some self-esteem issues, offered to give a blow job in the woods to a boy from her class. He was a willing partner. Another group of boys, aware of this sexual liaison decided to video this sexual encounter. No way were they keeping this "tasty tidbit" to themselves, and before you know it, it had been sent to the entire football team, and from there it went viral to most of the town's  teens. and beyond. One parent reported that her young teen on the receiving end of this teen porn video of kids she knew, was sickened and upset, and can't now un-see this video. Sex had not been on the radar of this young teen. Imagine then how if felt to watch this. There is so much wrong in this incident. This young teen girl's need for attention, the boy taking advantage of that, the decision that filming and sharing the humiliation of this young girl and the cruelty of thinking it was funny, and of course the illegality of the whole thing. It is illegal to video someone without permission and it is illegal to disseminate child pornography. Obviously these boys had none of this in their brain when they CHOSE to undertake this serious breach of human decency.  Yes I am mad!!! And at the same time, I get how the runaway nature of the teen brain is primed for just this kind of possibility.

Found these interesting statistics, share them with your teen.


The percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves:
  • 20% of teenagers overall
  • 22% of teen girls
  • 18% of teen boys
  • 11% of young teen girls ages 13-16
The percent of teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:
  • 39% of all teenagers
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys
15 Percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.
48 Percent of teenagers say they have received such messages
71 Percent of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent or posted this content to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
21 Percent of teenage girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.
44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
36 Percent of teen girls and 39 % of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
51 Percent of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18 % of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.
66 Percent of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious”; their most common reason for sending sexy content.
52 Percent of teenage girls used sexting as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend.
44 Percent of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent sexually suggestive messages or images in response to such content they received.
40 Percent of teenage girls said they sent sexually suggestive messages or images as “a joke.”
34 Percent of teen girls say they sent or posted sexually suggestive content to “feel sexy.”
12 Percent of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually suggestive messages or images.


So now what? Teens unfortunately do not think there is anything wrong, clearly if 40% think it is just a joke. What they need you to help them with is that the "joke" could be on them!

An outrageous video. text or sexy picture will for sure be shared amongst friends. See above story! I can hear the conversation now: "Hey guys look at the picture Sally sent of her tits!" Or Hey guys, Sally said she'd blow me" Now Sally is not only going to have to answer to the one guy she "flirted" with but 10 of his best friends who will probably now corner her at school, the mall, at a party and ask for her to make good on her offer to them as well. If it's good for one it's good for everyone.

Even if a teen shares a sext or sexy picture with a boyfriend or girlfriend, it is more than likely that this couple will split up before too long, and someone will be the injured party looking for revenge. Hello naked pictures. 

These are scenarios it is important to talk about with your teen. Using and I get it statement: "I get that kids think sending sexy videos, pictures and text messages is no big deal. But I do need you to understand that it is a big deal and that what you send to someone will for sure get passed around. If you wouldn't say in person what you write in your texts, it shouldn't be on your phone. Would you go up to a boy and say "I want to suck your dick", or a girl and say "suck my dick" I don't think so, unless I don't know you very well. Would you go to a party and start taking your clothes off, and parade around in your underwear, if not, it should not be on your phone. Just because you don't feel the embarrassment or humiliation because you aren't present when the viewing party happens, doesn't mean you should share your body with the world. This is a safety issue. People make assumptions about your willingness to participate in sexual situations based on what you put out there. I would never want anyone to take advantage of you, or put you in a situation you can't handle because they misunderstood your intentions. " I love you and want you to be safe" 

Parents, especially those with middle school kids, you must monitor their phones. It is not an invasion of privacy, it is a physical and mental health safety issue. Teens are impulsive, and conforming. If "everyone" is doing it they will want to do it too. You don't need to get angry with them about that, just understand with them, that it is hard to not do something if all their friends are doing it. You should surprise them every now and them with a phone check, done together. This is NOT about punishing them if you find this stuff, it is a time to help them strategise a solution with you about how not do it. Yelling and taking their phone away will NOT solve this problem, educating will!





Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A High School Senior Tells It Like It Is!! Listen Up

 I saved an article from the Boston Globe that I wanted to write about. It is by a young woman who was a senior in High School at the time, who wrote this piece to give her perspective of the college application process, especially addressing parents of seniors. I would like to share her article with you. You might want to read it to your High School senior at dinner one night, and ask him/her if they agree, and if there is anything you might do to make their journey through this process any easier.


So in the words of Laura Detwiler.......

"It's not just the nagging pressure of getting everything done in time. People want to know about my "top choice." Sure, I know plenty of kids who know exactly where they want to go and have that dream school that they've been hoping for since birth. But I don't have one school that screams "YES" every time I hear its name. I'm just not ready to make that commitment. Plus, it opens up a flood of heartbreak. Setting out dreams and aspirations about my top choice is as good as pinning myself to a target. The second that letter comes and its one of those notorious thin envelopes, you have to face everyone you've spoken to and own up to the fact that you didn't get in. Bull's eye-right in the gut.

I don't have a top choice; I don't want to discuss my top choice; I just want to be left alone. We seniors are vulnerable and raw under all this apathetic attitude we front. Don't get me wrong, I am pumped about college.  But that doesn't mean I'm not absolutely terrified. I don't want to talk about where I'm going or how much work I've done on my apps because every time I see that submit button I freak out and go watch  reruns of "The Office." I can't bear to think of being apart from my friends. I don't want to acknowledge that I won't be eating dinner with my family every night.

I'm scared, and I don't know how to handle it.  We all are. But preparing ourselves for college is something each of us has to do alone.Because when we actually get to this school, we're only going to have ourselves to rely on. That's a pretty big deal,  if you ask me. If you really want to be encouraging, ice cream will do just fine."

Below is a story I heard on NPR. It was with a  specialist on college admissions with advice about what to include in a college essay, and even more importantly, what not to include: The 4 D's Death, Divorce, Disability or Disease. His words not mine. Great information.

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/10/29/perfect-college-essay

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Out Of The Mouths Of Teens

I would like to thank my college students for allowing me to share these excerpts from recent papers they wrote on "My Teenage Years." I have been assigning this paper for almost 25 years and I am always touched by my student's honesty and insight as they reflect on their adolescence now that they have some distance.
So in their words I give you their thoughts on:

EMOTION AND FRIENDS:
"During my teenage years I felt emotions worse and more extreme than I ever had in my entire life. Everything hurt worse than it ever did before and everything was dramatic. I had my heat broken so many times I lost track. Often these heart breaks didn't come from boys. The worst heartbreak I ever felt was when my closest friend told me she didn't want to be friends with me any more. Her reasons didn't make sense to me and I felt horrible. We had spent all of high school there for each other with no arguments or problems. She made me hate myself because I felt rejected. I became crazed over it and analyzed every part of our friendship and all my other friendships to see what made me such a horrible person in her eyes. There are many differences between who I am now and who I was when I was thirteen. I no longer care as much how people perceive me or think of me. I no longer feel emotions as strong as I did. I actually look back at some of the things that once made me cry and laugh because they seem so ridiculous now.

I realize that as a teen my friends helped define who I was and who I wanted to be, and so I sometimes wanted to  be friends with people that saw the person I wanted to be. She is not the person I am today."

ON FAMILY:
"During Adolescence I thought I was too cool to be seen with my family. My mother would always get mad at me when I would not talk to her while we were in public. For some reason I was embarrassed to be seen with my mom. When I step back and look at the fact that I did that, I have no idea why it was such a big deal. With a completely 180 degree flip, I love to hang out with my mom now, sometimes more than with my friends!"

ON PUBERTY:
"I used to be the bigger kid in my group, but than I realized I wasn't getting any taller. I kept waiting for the growth spurt I heard about from my pediatrician. It never happened. I never had a year where I grew more than two inches. I have been 5 ft 6 in since the seventh grade. Although I never talked to anyone about my height bothering me, I would come home and mention that my once shorter cousin or friend was now taller than me. My friends teased me bad."

" The one thing I couldn't accept about myself was having a flat chest. In seventh grade, a lot of girls were starting to develop breasts but I was not one of them. At first it was something I was only mildly insecure about because other girls were in the same boat. I didn't think I was getting sized up or people examined my body as closely as I did. But when I got my first boyfriend that made me far more doubtful of what was normal for breast size. I was raised with very good morals and didn't want to put my body out for anyone to have. When I didn't do sexual things with him, he cheated on me with my very busty best friend. After a few weeks of people finding out and bashing the couple for doing something incredibly harsh to me, he lied, and said we fooled around, but I was boring since I didn't have big boobs. For the rest of the year, I was mocked by his friends for not being developed.

A BIG TAKEAWAY:

Adolescence is hard. Because teens are naturally so self-involved they can be hurtful and mean. The fragility  and vulnerability of teens, due their changing bodies and changing brains can contribute to emotional highs and extreme emotional lows.

The good news, nothing lasts forever. This is lesson that older teens learn, and a lesson that you should learn as well. What you see now is not what you will see in a few years. This is a moment in time when drama, attitude, and feeling dismissed as parents feels acute and painful. But fear not, with age, and growth, maturity, and a move home after college, these feelings will be a distant memory.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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

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 2019-20 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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Arguing 101

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

SAY NO
STAY LOW
LET IT GO

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

Say NO in a calm but controlled voice

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

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

PS:
Did you know I do very short term (one session) parent coaching by phone! Maybe there was an incident that happened over the weekend and you're not sure how to handle it, or you see a pattern emerging with your teen that is concerning. Let's talk it over!!! I'll send you on your way with a concrete plan. call 781-910-1770 or email joani@joanigeltman.com for more info.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Your Teen's Personality and Temperament: A Key To Understanding Drug and Alcohol Use

Understanding your teen's personality and temperament can be a key to understanding their vulnerabilities when it comes to drug and alcohol use  At the end of the post is a great article about from the New York Times that reinforces this .


When we are born, we bring into the world our temperament and our personality. It is our parent's job to understand what we bring to the table, our nature, and then help us to develop to our fullest. If our parents misunderstand or don't want to accept this part of our nature, we can forever feel misunderstood and at odds with them. Your kid's too bring their temperament and personality to the table. It is what drives their choices, their interests, their emotional reactions, their motivation,  and their ability to connect with you and people outside the family. Understanding your teen's personality and what drives their behavior will be the key to keeping them safe as they navigate all the scary, risky choices that present themselves during Adolescence.

I have targeted 4 major personality styles and how these interact with all the temptations that teens encounter, specifically drugs and alcohol. Who is your teen?

  • The Risk-Taker: Those of you with these teens will have memories of your teen as a 3 year old running instead of walking. These were the kids that showed no fear. A big slide, can't wait. Climb to the highest rung of the monkey bars, race you! Gets on a sled or puts on a pair of skis, the faster, the steeper, the better. Roller coasters, scary movies, you name it, they are always game. That's what makes being around them so much fun, and of course terrifying. Your parent mantra...BE CAREFUL!!! Now as teenagers, with a brain tuned into risk-taking, the drive for dangerous fun is a powerful motivator. But now it's not steep slides, but fast cars, and power drinking, and being up for trying and doing just about anything. Obviously this "nature" puts them in a vulnerable position. You can't tame this beast but you can teach them. Here is your "I Get It" conversation: Honey, you know what I love about you. I love that you are always up for a new challenge, you're always game for anything. And in life, that can be a wonderful quality, it means you will have an exciting challenging life. Unfortunately right now as a teen, that "up for anything" could put you in a lot of unsafe situations. You really need to understand this about yourself, so that you can put the brakes on before whatever you are "going for" gets out of control. I do worry about how you will manage drinking and driving and drugs and sex. All those exciting things that can get unsafe really fast if you get caught up in the awesome-ness of it all. Lets come up with some ways that can keep you safe."
  • The Shy and Anxious Teen: Those of you with teens like these will remember them as being very cautious children. They had difficulty in new and unfamiliar situations. They stuck to you like glue in group settings, feeling uncomfortable around a lot of people. They probably spent much of their time at home with their siblings rather than out on play dates, and needed encouragement to make friends. Over the years you might have seen this child grow more comfortable through involvement in activities like sports where the activity gave them a purpose. But now as teens, the expectations to be social, and chatty, and charming can be overwhelming. These teens are usually well liked. They are easy to be around and make great loyal friends, especially when they are with the kids they feel the most comfortable with. But now there are new expectations, dealing with romantic feelings, flirting, acting cool, these do not come naturally to the shy and anxious kid who lives in their head. Add to that the normal hyper sense of self-consciousness that all teens feel, exaggerated in the shy and anxious teen. This makes these teens very susceptible to drugs and alcohol. Pot mellows them out, and alcohol gives them a false sense of confidence in the situations where they may feel lacking. Your "I Get It" conversation. "You know honey I get that when you are in large group situations where you are least comfortable, you might feel that drinking will make you more comfortable. That worries me, that you might feel that to fit in and be relaxed you will have to drink or smoke pot. That can be a dangerous precedent to set in your life. It is more important for you to learn some strategies to make yourself comfortable rather than relying on alcohol or drugs to do that for you. As an adult, you will be in many situations through work that will stress this part of you. I have confidence that you can figure how to be in groups and be comfortable. Things like finding one person to hang with in the beginning that you feel good with, or be the designated care taker, it gives you an important role to keep your friends safe, and they will really appreciate that. There are lots of things we can come up to help. Lets work together on this."
  • The Fun Loving Teen Who doesn't love this kid. This is the kid everyone wants to be around. They are fun, easy to talk to, gets a crowd into action, a leader, loves to have a good time. These are wonderful qualities, and as an adult will help them to be extremely successful. This is a kid with high emotional intelligence. Getting along with people is her/her specialty. As a teen, this kid will ALWAYS be up for a party!!! Your "I get it" conversation. "You know what I love about you honey, everybody always wants to be around you, including me. You are one hell of a fun person. I only worry about that now, because you are always up for a good time,and I know that sometimes can mean alcohol and drugs, whatever enhances that "good time." We are going to need to come up with some strategies to keep you safe, when your party hearty head takes over."
  • The impulsive teen These teens as children were the kids you had to remind a thousand times to "look both way before you cross" or they would have bolted across the street to chase a lost ball, or, your shoes are untied, don't run unless you tie them. This teen interrupts, shouts out in class rather than raising her/his hand, and has little patience for waiting around for anything. As a teen being asked by a friend: "Hey you wanna.... will always garner an immediate yes. This teen will not want to take the time to think much through. Now this is on top of the already teen impulsiveness that all teens have due to a developing frontal cortex. This teen is faced with a double whammy. Not only the nature he brings to the table, but also the nature that is part of his newly developing teenage brain. A potentially lethal combination. Educating your teen about his/her nature potential is extremely important here. Criticizing them over and over again for not thinking things through will not be productive. Understanding with them how this can be for them is comforting. Your "I get it" conversation: You know honey " I totally get how hard it is for you to put the brakes on something when you want to go full force ahead. You mind and your body just say GO. This worries me because now that your life is presenting you with lots of choices, your natural tendency is not think it through before acting. Maybe we can start at count to ten rule. When someone says: "hey lets do....." rather than just going for it, you take a second, take a deep breath and literally count to 10 before you act. This may truly save your life one day!"
The last category I want to mention here is what happens when teens are facing a crisis. Maybe there is a divorce or separation that is weighing on your teen, maybe a death in the family, or an ill grandparent, maybe family financial problems or a parent's job loss. Maybe a recent break-up with a beau, or a feeling that he/she has disappointed you yet again with low grades. There could be a million things that your teen might be good at masking, making you think that they are handling it. Trust me, they are probably not handling it, and low grades, nasty temper, low energy, room hibernation, never home, all can be signs that whatever the stress is, has consequences. This can be a particularly vulnerable time for a teen and drug and alcohol use. They feel bad, and booze or drugs makes them feel better, end of story. Your job is to help label the feelings given the behavior you are seeing. Making observations, not asking questions. " You know honey, I'm guessing that (fill in the blank here with your guess) that this divorce is really hard for you. I notice you spend more time in your room, and want to avoid hanging with me. You seem to be sleeping a lot. I really get that this is a tough time. I know sometimes when people go through tough times they might find some comfort from drinking or smoking pot, and I worry that when you are out with your friends, that this might become a way for you to cope with this all. I get that can be an easy way to feel better, but ultimately you have to deal with what is making you feel bad. You know you can always talk to me, but that might be hard for you right now, so I am going to set you up with some counseling to get you through this crisis. "

The bottom line here is you have to give voice and words to the underlying motivators that make your teen vulnerable to teen temptations. Just saying don't do it or else, is not a game changer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/04/well/family/the-4-traits-that-put-kids-at-risk-for-addiction.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Bad Day Or Depression, With Teens It's Hard To Tell

I have had a number of calls recently from parents worried about their teen, trying to figure out whether their teen is just having growing pains, or is in a real depression. Teens love to dump on their parents, giving them their most angry, their most sad, their most anxious and fearful feelings. This is the good news. Think of it as colic. When the bad stuff gets expelled, then sleep and peace can come...until the next time.

Teens are feeling their feelings in ways they have never experienced them before. The intensity comes from an adolescent brain that is over activated in the area responsible for emotion, and literally from having some of these feelings for the first time. Without experience and a history that would have given them a game plan to deal with these feelings that are overwhelming, they are vulnerable to feeling like they might never go away. The first break-up, a humiliation on a soccer field, or a stage, the embarrassment of doing something or saying something impulsively stupid in front of your peers, the disappointment that someone you like doesn't like you back, the worry that they are disappointing you in some way, or any one of a million other things can feel like a catastrophe.

So your kid comes to you in a rage, in a tantrum, sobbing uncontrollably and you feel helpless. But they are coming to you. Like a sponge, you absorb every drop of emotion. You can't sleep, you can't eat, you live with a pit in your stomach that your kid is in pain. But here is the thing, now that they have dumped it all on you and you have so graciously sopped it all up, they are free to go out and enjoy life again. Rinse and repeat!

When is it time to worry? The dumping is a good sign. The emotion is a good sign. They are working it out.  It may be hard on you, but at least they have an outlet. The worry should start, if they are not talking, isolating themselves, and really seem to have lost the up and down nature of teen life. Up and down is good. Staying down is not.  If you see your teen spending increasing amounts of time alone, in their room, avoiding family and friends, you might say something like this: " I have noticed recently that you seem more down than usual. You seem to be spending a lot of alone time in your room away from us and your friends. I get life can be complicated and difficult and sometimes overwhelming, and you might like just getting away from it all. I used to do that to sometimes. But I worry that you are not giving yourself a chance to talk about it. If you don't want to talk to us, I understand, maybe it would be helpful to talk to a counselor. I don't want to bug you, but I love you, and want you to work out what seems to be bothering you. I'll check back in with you in a few days, and we can talk about a plan." You will probably get a "leave me alone!" but don't let that deter you. Keep checking in, and letting them know that you are concerned. Eventually, you may just have to make an appointment and make them get in the car.

Seeing your teen be in pain is the worst. Giving them a safe haven to express it is a gift.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Social Media Made Me Crazy...Literally!

Read and watch and them we'll talk:
http://time.com/4096988/teen-instagram-star-essena-oneill-quitting-social-media/

It was heartening to read and watch this young woman come to terms with how destructive this social media game can become, and to take steps to turn her experience around and help younger teens avoid falling into the kinds of popularity traps that she did. Having said that, I have mixed feelings about having young teen girls especially, watch this video. My fear is that they will pay more attention to how beautiful those photos/videos are, and how many likes/attention/money/popularity/celebrity she did get for posting them. Older teens, like Essena may have the maturity to see through the addictive qualities of Essena's life, and weigh the issues of popularity VS anxiety and depression. Younger teens like her own "12 year old self" might not. So think about that before you show this to your teen. Older teens 16 and up developmentally have the ability to be more self aware and introspective and might heed Essena's message.

Regardless of whether you choose to watch this with your daughter, heed the message she shares!!!
The only way to curb the obsession with popularity is to limit the opportunity to make it one in the first place!!!! If I've said this once, I've said it a million times, your younger teens DO NOT need access to their phones 24/7. Treat the phone/ipad as you would have done with TV when they were four years old. " No you can not watch cartoons all day!!!!  Addictive behaviors develop when the brain chemical dopamine surges when you do something pleasurable, and you seek to replicate that pleasurable feeling over and over again until the brain stops producing the dopamine and lets the outside stimuli do the work. Getting that "high" takes more and more effort. Hence the need to obsessively check instagram for likes. As Essena described quite accurately, 100,000 likes wasn't enough, she needed 200,000 for that "high," or taking 100 selfies to get just that perfect shot!!

Please use parental controls either directly on your teen's phone/ipad or go to this website for information. No phone during school; a few hours after school; and an hour in the evening. Anymore than that, and you will be aiding and abetting the possible kind of addiction you see this articulate 19 year describe.http://www.bewebsmart.com/parental-controls/comprehensive-list-phones-computers-tablets/

I am booking my presentations for this school year. I'd love to come and talk at your school or company!
Joani’s Top Ten Parenting Tips 

The secret to parenting is to keep it simple. Learn 10 simple, concrete practical tips useful in those daily moments of stress as a parent when you wish you had the "right thing to do and the right thing to say!
Audience: All ages

Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version 
·     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.
  • Develop effective strategies for keeping your teen safe as they explore the new world of teen life.
  • Learn how to teen-proof your home and cell-proof your teen

Sexting. Texting and Social Networking: What’s A Parent To Do? 
·     Understand how the “emotional brain” of a child gets “turned on” by social networking.
  • Understand how the “Imaginary Audience” influences your child’s performing on social media.
  • Learn which apps are safe and unsafe
  • Learn strategies to monitor and set limits around phone and internet use
  • Learn how your own behavior with phones and computers can positively and negatively influence your teen.
  • Understand the addiction of gaming
Audience: parents of 4thgraders through High school

Drugs and Alcohol: How Does Your Teen’s Personality Style, and Your Parenting Style impact their experimentation with drugs and alcohol? 
  • Identify your teen’s personality style and risk-factors with drugs and alcohol
  • Identify your parenting style and how it influences your teen’s drug and alcohol use
  • Learn effective strategies and scripts to keep your teen safe
College Bound:
  • Understand the emotional journey of your college bound high school student
  • Understand the emotional journey of a parent of college bound high school student
  • Learn strategies for making this process successful and positive

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

Joani Geltman MSW     781-910-1770    joanigeltman.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Vaping and Juuling: "My Kid Would Never" Is Not An Option

The news about vaping and Juuling is now downright terrifying. Kids are dying!!! There is no time to waste. Whether you have found Juuling evidence or not ,you're pre-teen and teen need to be educated...OFTEN! This is not a one and done conversation. The news is ripe with videos and articles with recent stories about kids diagnosed with serious lung disease following regular juuling. It seems the oil in the vape pen can leak into the lungs on inhale and then can reek havoc in the lungs. not to mention nicotine addiction. This is a blog a wrote recently, it's time for a repeat posting!

Read this article with your teen!!!! Read this article with your teen! Read this article with your teen!!!   Download and share at the dinner table.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/health/vaping-juul-teens-addiction-nicotine.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

How is this happening? I thought your kids had dodged the bullet with the whole smoking issue that plagued my generation. We all worked so hard to teach the next generation of the ills of smoking and it worked!!!! Just like teaching a new generation to wear seatbelts and that worked!!! Now we have to work really hard again to teach our kids that vaping and juuling is bad!!!

This is a really really tough one. No smelling cigarette breath or smokey clothes. No hidden packs of cigs in their coats or backpacks. This juul thing is a tiny, harmless looking piece of hardware that looks like a zip drive which you may think holds your kids final project for chemistry!

This is going to have to be one of these conversations that you have to have regularly with your teen, ignoring the eye-rolling and sarcastic grunts and annoyance that will be directed towards you.
Did you know that kids are ordering their juuls and vape pens on Amazon and then having them  delivered to the Amazon lockers at Whole Foods away from parents prying eyes! Oh yes they are!!!

You may have to monitor how your teens are spending their money. These smoking devices don't come cheap (see article). Someone has to pay for them. Beware of giving your kids cash, get them a debit card and if it seems like they are going through a lot of cash withdrawals start asking for receipts and limit the amount of cash they can withdraw.

The conversations you have with your teen must always start with" I Love You and this julling and vaping thing is scaring the hell out of me!!! I know you don't think it's dangerous, and the fruit taste and vape is cool but honey this is massively addictive!! (see article) I get many of your friends may already be addicted, and who knows maybe you are too, please please let us help you to strategize how to be with your friends and choose not to take a hit. I get that that will be really hard. But lets' work on it together."

You must read out loud this article with your teen. The story of this young man is compelling and I think in the short term they will be interested. But this is going to be one of those conversations that happens over and over again. The bug you put in their ear about this has to be constant so that when they are in situations when juuling and vaping is present they will hear your very loud voice in their head. It's the only way!!!

If you have friends with teens, chances are they have tried juuling and vaping, please share this blog and help them help their kids!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Gift Of Independence


I found this wonderful comparison on facebook. I am older than almost everyone being a baby boomer so the "moms then"  was my absolute childhood! Probably not for most of you Gen Xers, but  you probably did not grow up with the moms now column either. I'm guessing you grew up with parents somewhere in the middle. Anyway have a good laugh!





I know the world can be a scary place. God knows we are bombarded with it these days by bombings, and opiod addiction and vaping and politics and climate change and scary stories about teens.  These are crazy making for parents. It makes us want to hold tight to our kids and keep them as safe as we can. Sometimes that holding tight for safety has mixed messages. Often parents say no to giving their teens the independence to safely navigate the world that will soon become their life when they leave home for college. But they give them access to drugs and alcohol in the house and technology that can potentially create addiction, contact with questionable people and way way too much access to cell phones, media and distractions with no supervision. But when their teen asks to take public transportation to go into "the city" parents quake in their shoes and say no.

I am always so shocked when I ask teens to describe their "world" to me. It is a world of being chauffeured by parents or UBER to friends houses, activities and parties because many teens now show little interest in getting their license. It is a world of houses and hangouts that never change from week to week. Rarely do I hear teens talk about getting on the "T" to go to "the city." I have talked to a lot of college students who go to schools on suburban campuses who never leave their campus to investigate the wealth of culture and energy that a "city" can provide, even when colleges provide shuttles to the closest public transportation. Somewhere along the way we have scared our teens.

Taking risks, safe ones mean doing something new and challenging. It means figuring out directions, destinations, and making decisions without knowing the outcome. When is the last time your teen came to you for permission to do something like that. When my daughter was a senior in high school her group of friends wanted to go on a vacation after graduation together. My daughter asked if she could go. My answer was if you have the money and the will, go for it. I remember many of the parents wanted and did take over the planning of the trip for these girls, suggesting destinations, getting them the best price, finding the best airline etc. There was even a "parent meeting" to discuss the trip. Always the rebel, I refused to go. What is the point of an adventure, or can you even call it an adventure, if mommy and daddy do all the planning.What lessons are learned?

I remember my own post-high school graduation vacation I took with my 8 best friends. The planning was actually more fun than the week we had in Hyannis. Looking for the cottage, doing comparative pricing, and deciding which cape destination had the potential for the most boys took months of planning. And when we opened the door that June day to our very own cottage rental we felt euphoric. We had planned and talked and argued for months, and now here we were.

Open the door and send them out to play! Encourage your teen to take safe risks, to venture out of their comfort zone without your help. The confidence and competence they will feel and take away is worth it....for both of you.

PS If you work for a large company or corporation perhaps you'd like to talk to your HR or work/family department and investigate whether they would like me to come and do one of my lunchtime seminars for their employees. Here are some of the seminars I offer to companies!!

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

Is your child:

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

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

 Audience: Parents of all ages

Sibling Rivalry 
Learn the development impact of age differences in sibling relationships and rivalry
When to intervene and when to let nature take its course
Strategies for healthy sibling relationships
Audience: all ages

Positive Discipline
·      Use the Power of Understanding to get your children ready to listen and accept.
·      Learn when and how to use "I get it" moments. No more arguing, no more fighting!
·      Learn how to be clear and consistent and manage your own frustration.
·      Learn how to set a limit and make it stick
·      Learn to Use a variety of techniques to manage troublesome behaviors.
Audience: all ages

Joani’s Top Ten Parenting Tips 

The secret to parenting is to keep it simple. Learn 10 simple, concrete practical tips useful in those daily moments of stress as a parent when you wish you had the "right thing to do and the right thing to say!
Audience: All ages


 FOR PARENTS OF TEENS

Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version 

·      Learn how the brain affects your teen’s behavior. It’s the battle of the thinking brain VS the feeling brain.
  • Learn Effective strategies for arguing-The Four Ways Of Fighting.
  • Develop effective strategies for keeping your teen safe as they explore the new world of teen life.
  • Learn how to teen-proof your home and cell-proof your teen


Sexting. Texting and Social Networking: What’s A Parent To Do? 
  • Understand how the “emotional brain” of a teen gets “turned on” by social networking.
  • Understand how the “Imaginary Audience” influences your teen’s performing on social media.
  • Learn which apps are safe and unsafe
  • Learn strategies to monitor and set limits around phone and internet use
  • Learn how your own behavior with phones and computers can positively and negatively influence your teen.

Drugs and Alcohol: How Does Your Teen’s Personality Style, and Your Parenting Style impact their experimentation with drugs and alcohol? 
  • Identify your teen’s personality style and risk-factors with drugs and alcohol
  • Identify your parenting style and how it influences your teen’s drug and alcohol use
  • Learn effective strategies and scripts to keep your teen safe


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

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