Thursday, August 27, 2015

Talking About Sexual Assault With Your Teen

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

Here are some strategies for opening up this conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

PS: Getting my speaking schedule up and running for the 2015-16 year. Email me at 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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Great Beginnings...Entering High School

As I gear up to start my rounds of presenting to parents of 9th graders for new student orientation this week, I thought I would repost this blog.  Enjoy!

Over the last three days I have presented my Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Seminar at three different high schools as part of the parent orientation for their entering 9th graders. Every fall when I do this, I am reminded of how exciting and how terrifying this experience can be for the kids.

At the first school, the newbies were at a dance in the cafeteria while I held the parents captive in the auditorium. Upper class students were stationed at the door of the cafeteria in two long lines facing each other as the 9th graders walked between them. Think walking a gauntlet. For some of these 9th graders passing between these cool older students was exhilarating. Being cheered on, these teens walked through with great confidence, laughing, and smiling and hi-fiving their way into the caf. For some of the kids, this was pure hell. I watched as a group of four boys, definitely on the awkward side of 14 searched for an alternative means of entry. For them, the thought of being under the scrutiny of these older students, no matter how positive, was excruciating. They huddled, spoke in whispers, and when they realized it was now or never, they kept their heads down, making no eye contact with anyone, and shuffled as fast as they could done the line.

At another of the high schools where I presented, the kids and the parents came in together for an introduction of the guidance and advisory staff. Kids sat in the back of the auditorium, parents in the front. What struck me was that though these kids had known each other during their years at the one middle school in this town, it was as if the boys and girls were total strangers. Being 8th graders together was one thing, but now as high schoolers, it seemed as if their history together had been erased. The girls sat on one side, the boys sat on the complete other side, with an entire section of seats between them. They just could not create enough distance. They were starting from scratch, as if to say:" I don't know you, maybe I'll get to know you, maybe not, game on!

The transition to high school for some is the culmination of a dream they have had since they were little, fantasizing about all the high school fantasies kids have. " I am a big kid now.' It's not just the newness of the building that can cause their palms to sweat, but all those fantasies may or may not be realized, and that is terrifying. Will I get a boyfriend or a girlfriend? The clothes I bought are all wrong. Will my old friends still be my friends, or will they think other kids are cooler? I was the best (fill in the blank) in middle school, now there are million other kids who are better than me! When will I ever grow? School used to be so easy for me, not the work is too hard! I thought high school would be the answer to all my problems, but it is just harder.

For some it is better than they expected, especially for 9th grade girls. All of sudden they are getting tons of new attention from boys that are finally taller than they are. Their fantasies have been more than realized. Tweets, texts, invitations to party, it is all so perfect. Except that they are still only 14, and mom and dad don't think all this attention from these older boys is as good as she thinks it is.

So if your 9th graders come home from school, and gives you the silent treatment, I can assure you it has absolutely nothing to do with you. And don't make it about you. Try not to feel hurt and shut out. Just know that a million thoughts, feelings,and worries are coarsing through their body and their brain, and it is just too hard to sort it all. And when you ask the dreaded questions like: How was school? Do you like your teachers? How was practice? Do you like the kids in your classes? Who did you eat with for lunch?  You many not get more than a grunt and a groan, and that is fine. You might just say: 'I get starting high school can be pretty overwhelming, I don't want to bug you with a million questions, but I am here whenever you need me." Also if you must ask questions, rather than asking yes or no ones, which leaves room for a "its fine" said in a grunting tone, and no real information, say "tell me about....." You might actually get some information.

Having realistic expectations and understanding that 9th is a transitional year can help get you through this year. Grades might fluctuate, social life may falter, but it's all just a moment in time. There is always next year.

PS: Getting my speaking schedule up and running for the 2015-16 year. Email me at if you are interested in having me come and present one of my seminars at your school, company, church, temple, community group or on a street corner in your neighborhood!!   Or book an Ask The Expert Party. Invite your friends, or the parents of your teen's friends to your house and I'll spend two hours giving you all tips and strategies, geared specifically to your needs.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

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

I am sure that many of you could complete that sentence, hearing you parents or elderly aunt's voice in your head..."It's not what you say dear, but how you say it." When you heard it, it was probably because you had talked to your elders in a tone that was unacceptable.

I am sharing this saying with you not so you can teach it to your teens, but to teach to you.  Often as parents,  much of the "feedback" that we share with our teens is said either in a voice of authority as in " I know better than you squirt, so listen up," or in a voice full of exasperation as in "how many times do we have to go over this..," or in a voice full of judgement.."how could you have...." In all of these examples, most likely the response you get from your teen is to either ignore you, get defensive, or give you attitude. None of these pave the way for meaningful communication or closure.

As I have mentioned before, the emotional center of the teen brain is in overdrive most of the time, hence the roller-coaster of emotions you are likely to experience with them just in the course of a single day. Once that Amygdala is in activation and firing, it is pretty hard to shut it down. Think of a stove top burner that has been on high. Once you shut it off, it takes a good amount of time before you can touch it without being burned. Such is the Amygdala of the teenage brain. So one of the goals then, is to not get it activated, especially if you have an end goal in mind for a conversation you want to have with your teen.

If you blame your teen's over-reaction on biology, rather than on something they have much control over, it frees you up to not blame them, thereby avoiding the double whammy of the actual issue you are concerned over + the aforementioned over-reaction.  That is why arguing with your teen is so frustrating. Because you often never really get to discussing the core issue, too busy getting pissed at them for getting pissed at you.

So what to do. Listen to the sound of your own voice. Would this be THE voice that used to piss you off as a teen? If it is, can you work on saying it another way. Of course my suggestion is to use an "I get it" statement. Rather than starting with a lecture or accusation, think ahead of time of what might have motivated the particular behavior you are now needing to talk about with your teen.

For example:

FROM " Get off your damn phone and computer and finish your homework." TO; I get it's important for you to stay in touch with your friends, but we need to figure out a way for you to get work done, and stay in touch with your friends."

FROM: "If you talk to your brother again like that, I am taking away that damn video game. That kind of disrespect is unacceptable in our family." TO; I get how hard and annoying it is to have a younger brother who always wants to hang with you and use your stuff just when you want to use it. I know he pushes all your buttons, let's figure out a way for you to get your privacy."

FROM: "I am sick and tired of the absolute mess in your room, you are a slob and are disrespectful of the money we spend so that you can have all these nice clothes." TO: I get cleaning your room is absolutely the last thing on your mind. I know getting ready in the morning is stressful and finding the right outfit means trying on a bunch of stuff and just discarding what isn't right. We gotta figure out a better system."

At the least, you haven't antagonized your teen to shut down. You are showing him/her that you understand what might be going on, rather than just criticizing them yet again for not doing..x y z. Give it a try, you might be surprised at how well it works!

PS: Getting my speaking schedule up and running for the 2015-16 year. Email me at 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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Curse Of Being Misunderstood


Jeremy looking dejected and sad: " Nobody really gets me.
Mom, comforting arm around her son: "Oh honey, I get you!
Jeremy, looking even more dejected: "OK, that's even worse.

How many hundreds of times have you been in just this situation with your teen. Perhaps it's the Friday or Saturday night blues fest, when your teen is sitting at home, no plans in sight, no texts getting returned and feeling low, dejected and misunderstood. Or maybe, you notice that it is has been a fierce night of instagram and texting, and every time you walk by your teen's door they are flopped on the bed, staring off into space, and you just know that something has happened, some slight, some misunderstanding.

It is in these moments that the mama/papa bear or the lion/lioness comes out in you, and you get this powerful, primal urge to protect your baby cub from hurt. So you walk in with your sympathetic, loving, supportive arms and pronounce their friends are all a**holes (which was what I always did, and I admit was completely ineffective and backfired on me) and tell them when they get older they will find "real friends" who get them! Which may actually be true, but they do not want to hear that. The future is light years away, and has absolutely no meaning for them. And besides, it is these friends that they want and crave. No substitutions please. So when you go in and want to be that shoulder to cry on, and take pleasure in being that one person that gets them, it is in that moment for them that that is the kiss of death. The teen in them, the teen that is trying to be independent of you and that primal need of theirs to be love and accepted, will reject you. It is the acceptance of their peers that is the most important. Love and acceptance from mom and dad, not so much.

So when you see your teen with the "Jeremy" look, say a simple "bad night" huh, and leave it at that. If they look up to you with an invitation to talk, great, otherwise, as always, this too shall pass.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Teens And Cellphones...Help Is On The Way

I've made a video tutorial for you on tools that put you back in the drivers seat around your teen and their cellphone use. Enjoy

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Love You...I Hate You

So did you feel this way this weekend, yesterday, today???? This is so par for the course, and like Jeremy you're teen may barely register you feelings of this momentary contempt. I love how his mom did throw a positive in there, just to keep things balanced. 

The summer is starting to feel really really long. In the beginning it was refreshing to have your teen hanging around, maybe having some spontaneous moments of connections and fun. But now with the summer winding down, your teen is feeling the "summer crunch." Only a few weeks left of sleeping in, no structure, no homework, sleepovers and parties galore, hanging with friends every waking moment and few responsibilities. You feeling you're own "summer crunch" trying to get them out of bed to DO SOMETHING!!! Get their summer reading done, sick of being the endless ATM, and tired of being the summer nag, you are holding on for dear life till school starts, which at this point feels like nirvana!

Tips To Stay Sane:
  • Make your own life full, so you don't have to focus all your attention on theirs
  • Lower your expectations. What is the minimum you can expect that will keep you sane, and focus on that.
  • Don't let yourself be taken advantage of. If you feel you have bent over backwards this summer to accommodate their sleeping, waking, food, and friends habit, set a limit on what you just don't want to do anymore. Don't argue about it, just say NO, shrug your shoulders, and walk away!
PS: This next section has nothing to do with what's above. I just watched John Oliver's show on HBO and he did this amazing segment on Sex ed for teens. Here is his version of a great sex ed video for teens. Some of you may be offended, and If so, I'm sorry. I love the honesty and the humor, and think that this is something your teen might really resonate with. Show it to them or not..just a resource to share.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Enabling Our Teen-age Drinkers

Just wanted to share a few "drinking stories" so that you can keep them in mind as your teen is out and about on the summer party circuit.

# 1:
Many kids in high school have been accessing fake IDs through mail order. This used to be a college thing, but now the younger kids are getting in on the action. This means unlimited ability to purchase alcohol. Keep your eyes out for unmarked packages coming to your house or money going in and out of your teen's bank accounts. One parent found out when he noticed in his teen's bank account $500 going in and coming out. These ID makers want kids to buy in groups so there is less mail coming to them and less suspicion cast. So usually one teen is the responsible party, collects the money and then sends the money through western union. College fake ID's don't scare me nearly as much as 15 and 16 years with access. FYI

50 kids are invited to a party which is held in an upstairs party/playroom. Parents are home, but sitting 2 floors down watching tv. It seems that earlier in the day, the host kid and friends got the booze and hid it up the playroom prior to the party. Parents not getting you need to do reconnaissance prior to kid's home get togethers end up with at least 3 kids completely wasted and drunk (on a 3rd floor with steps). Luckily they found them before the kids tried to make their way down the stairs. Here is the lesson, if your teen is going to have friends over, an hour before do a walk inside and outside to see if kids have stashed alcohol in bushes, garages, backyard sheds, under beds, get the picture.

#3 One parent told me about parents who not only buy their kids their booze but than give them expert advice on how to run from the police should they be called to the scene, lest they get caught and have to face any embarrassing consequences. This parent also told me about a parent who had moved to a new house, but hadn't sold the old one, and let her teen and friends party there so they would have a "safe" place to party.

Remember that just because a parent is home or says they are going to be home does not mean supervision. Your work is to talk and plan with your teen every single time they leave to hang with their friends. You say to your teen " What is your safety plan!!!" Ignore the eye rolls. Just maybe it might save their  life.