Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Parent Teen Communication: Is There A Translator In The House?

Zits comic:
Mom and Jeremy in a typical parent teen standoff. Each with arms crossed and sneering at each other. Dad looking on.

Mom: Yelling: ALL I SAID WAS "HAVE A NICE DAY"!

Jeremy: Yelling back: YOU'RE ALWAYS TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!

Dad: I think I hear a glass of wine calling my name.

Are there some days you feel like you and your teen speak different languages? You say something simple and maybe even nice to your teen (at least you think it's nice) but the response you get is completely incomprehensible. Let me explain how that might happen.

The first disconnect is that adults live in a thinking brain, and teens live in a feeling brain. And I mean that literally. Brain research has shown that when teens and adults are shown the exact same photo of a human face expressing an emotion, their brains respond in very different ways. An adult brain uses the frontal cortex (the thinking brain) to interpret the emotion, and the the teen brain uses the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) to interpret emotion. This is a set-up for constant miscommunication between teens and parents. Teens literally see things in the human face that adults don't see, and hear things in human voices that adults don't hear. It's kind of like dogs that hear the high pitch sounds that no human can hear. Dogs...teens..

I am sure you have had the experience of saying something to your teen in a neutral voice and with a neutral expression. It may be something very inconsequential. But the reaction you get from your teen is crazy! Maybe something like "are you mad at me? They have heard something in your voice or saw something in your face that no one else apparently can see or hear...just like the dog.

A compounding problem is that teens carry every teeny tiny emotional experience that has happened to them over the course of their day in that amygdala of theirs. Perhaps they posted something on instagram and they didn't get enough likes or maybe they said something embarrassing in class and their fellow students laughed at them. Park it! Maybe they wore the wrong outfit, or did something stupid at a partyl and felt like everyone was judging them. Park it! Maybe they saw their crush talk to another boy/girl and feel dejected. A thousand things may have happened that day, or in the morning between when they woke up and you pass each other in the kitchen before school or out with friends. Basically their parking lot of a brain is always full. You know how frustrated you get when there is no place to park. Times that by a hundred, and that is your teen.

So when you get a response to a simple question or comment that seems crazy and completely incomprehensible, assume that their parking lot is full. Probably best to just walk away with a let's talk later. This is one of those times that it just isn't about you.

Booking now for speaking engagements this school year. I would love to come to your community. email me for more info: joani@joanigeltman.com
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, August 7, 2019

Consequences Of Parenting Too Hard!!

This provocative article "ripped from the headlines" caught my eye: Overparented and underhappy. To summarize, the article cites a study done with  college students who were asked how much they agreed with with the following statements: "My parents supervised my every move growing up. It was very important to my parents that I never fail in life" The study found that the students who agreed most with these statements, also felt less psychological well-being and needed more medication for psychological well-being.

The work of parenting is to raise children into adults who are; resilient and able to recover from life's challenges; are able to sort through options so that they can make decisions that are healthy and growth promoting; and can build strong, loving relationships that can sustain them through the ups and downs of life. This is a tall order.

This study supports what my college students share with me. Many feel unprepared for life on their own as they start college. The first day of my fall semester,  I always ask them what they think their biggest challenges are going to be as they start this new journey as independent college students. Almost all of them say that they are worried they will not be able to get their work done without mom and dad telling them to do it, afraid that their phones, their computers and that the distractions of friends around 24/7 would take precedence over getting to class, getting to sleep and getting to work.

It's not that college students overwhelmed as freshman is a new phenomenon. I remember feeling the same way. Its just that I didn't have as many distractions as students do today. Hall phones, and TV in the student lounge took care of that piece. But I still had the kids in the dorm, walks into Harvard Square for coffee and muffins to distract me. I think the most important piece for me was that my mom had given me increasingly more responsibility for my own life as I worked my way through the experience of high school, and ultimately I knew that I was responsible for me by the time I left for college.  I was ready to take that  on, I wasn't afraid of it, and I was excited for it.

I think this study underscores this point. Parents who take on the responsibility of making their decisions for their kids rather than with their kids risk raising young adults who feel terrified of making their own decisions. Parents who rescue their kids from failure, risk raising young adults terrified of going into unfamiliar territory and instead rely on the familiar even if it makes them unhappy.

Of course we want our kids to be happy, healthy and successful. But making decisions for them, protecting them from failure, and not making them responsible for their behavior in the long run is not protecting at all.

So when it comes time to making rules about social networking and social life, or decisions about what classes to take or activities to join or where to get a job, or consequences for their actions, make them a part of the discussion. Instead of  saying: "if you don't do X , or I think you should, start with a "what do you think should happen if you don't....?, and what do you think you should do.....? Put the ball in their court, it might take longer, you might get more frustrated, your teen might get more frustrated, but the confidence they will begin building will make them a stronger, happier more confident adult.