Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My Teenage Clone

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Potty Mouth Posts!

Read and then we'll talk



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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Teens and Parents: Finally Something You Can Agree On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Five Quick Tips

Some Quick Tips

  • Find something that your teen has done over the last week that left you with some good feeling and share it with him or her. It might be relatively small, often its the littlest recognitions that have the biggest and most lasting impact!!!

  • Make a date with your teen to get coffee, get an ice-cream, get a manicure, go to a dinner and movie-mid-week; invite them to meet you at your office and then go for dinner somewhere new and different. In short,  break the daily routine and in some way  show your interest in spending some time with your teen. Many teens have never seen or even know what it is their parents do. That is always a great eye opener to see their parents in a new way. Whatever you do, do something they would love to do, not something you would like them to do with you!

  •  Do not rule with an iron fist. This may have worked when they were younger and liked rules and regulations. Your teen needs to be a part of the rule making if you don't want them to be a rule breaker. Teens will easily resort to lying when they feel you have left no room for negotiation and conversation. Most kids are actually pretty reasonable, and when given the opportunity to have some control will rise to the occasion, and conversely if they feel too over controlled will try to take it.

  • Try to refrain from going on the "lecture circuit." I know you have a lot of wisdom and life lessons to impart, but when you see their eyes roll up into their head, you have probably lost the moment. A good speaker always reads their audience. If you are living a life filled with purpose, and model for them what it means to be a good person, then you won't need to tell them what it means to be a good person. They "get it.

  • Practice using a neutral tone of voice. Remember what your grandparents said: "It's not what you say, but how you say it!!!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How Much Is Too Much Bedroom Time?

I have a research study for you to conduct about your teen's hours spent in their bedroom. For the next two days just strictly observe bedroom time. This includes after school time, after dinner and before bedtime. Now compare that to time spent in common rooms. If you still remember fractions, make it into a fraction:
                                         time spent in room
                                        time spent in family spaces

I bring this up because of a recent article in the New York Times. See link below. It seems the amount of time, girls especially spend in their room is proportional to the amount of anxiety they are experiencing. If only they were spending all this time doing their homework, but most likely they are obsessively on their phones, checking for likes, and reposts, and looking through a metaphorical magnifying glass at their selfies, their friends selfies, selfies that are friends of friends of friends....and judging how they measure up. Who's thinner, who's prettier, who has more friends, more likes, more reposts, and how do I measure up??? This does cause great stress and anxiety. And though girls may subject themselves to this kind of scrutiny more, boys can be just as bad. This is not emotionally healthy. It can be destructive to self-esteem, self concept, and the work of developing the all important task of identity. Read this article for great tips on how to counter this.

PS Do you know that I offer a service called "A Quick Question" Bank an hour's worth of time so that when all you need is a 15 minute coaching you call we talk!! email me at joani@joanigeltman.com for more info!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Promise You Won't Tell Anyone??

Remember those days when you were a teen and you and your friends made "talking behind another friend's back an art form. You pinky swore, you promised complete confidentiality, and god forbid when the word got out about what you said, you could always deny, deny, deny. You were clean, no proof, no record of that conversation, someone just made it up, after all you would never talk behind your friends back!!! She's your best friend!!!

Well those were the olden days of yore. Nowadays, the gossip is not only a text away, but it's also a screen shot away from being caught. So teens will send private messages on snapchat, instagram, twitter or just write a plain old text to their "best friend." The "best friend" just covering her/his ass takes a screenshot of the "I'm only telling you this" text/message for that, just in case moment, when some drama in a friendship requires payback. And that payback is in the form of the previous screenshoted confidential, promise you won't tell X what I just said! ready for pubic consumption.

Oy!!! I have had many calls about this dilemma from parents recently. Their teen, either the gossiper caught in his/her web of talking behind someone's back, or the teen who has been gossiped about and now feels angry, hurt, humiliated, and betrayed. ( even though a few weeks previous they were also called on some "private gossip.") Honestly, the whole thing makes my head spin. What can you do? You can warn your teens to gossip in person, not on their smartphone. Let them know that even though they "trust" their friends till the ends of the earth, shit happens. When teens feel betrayed, excluded, and hurt, they want to lash out and hurt the person who hurt them. You can't stop the gossip, but you can teach your teen to watch his/her own back. A good friend is only a good friend until they aren't!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

So What... Who Cares?

These four words could be the most irritating words spoken by your teen. They refuse to do what you ask of them, or they flout some rule that you thought had been agreed upon, or the report card comes in the mail with less than stellar grades even though they had sworn up and down they had pulled their grades up.  You give then a consequence that you hope will mean something and teach them a lesson, so that the next time XYZ happens they will think first of the consequence that will be meted out, and not do the wrong thing. You hope and expect to hear anger and moans and groans. That at least means that you have "gotten" to them, and perhaps have taught them a lesson. But when you hear the "So what, who cares?" your well-laid plan goes off course. Your buttons get pushed, and off you go to the land of "argumentamia." Your teen has played the game well, and seemingly taken away all your power.

It may be that your teen responds in that way, because they know you, and know that the consequences you put into play are often forgotten about or reversed easily if a good argument can be made. Or perhaps they are just trying to goad you into a bigger argument, knowing how best to push your buttons. Or perhaps they really just don't care. I had a mom recently tell me of a situation with her 12 year old son whose attitude was out of control. At her wits end, she took away his X-box, expecting an instant apology and promises to change. It turns out he coulda cared less. "Fine, take it away...I don't care!" And I guess he didn't much care, cause he still hasn't asked for it back.

Remember that when you give a consequence, expecting that the consequence alone will change the behavior, is unrealistic. If it is a kid with an attitude, you have to show him what you need him to do differently. If you take away your teen's cellphone when he has an attitude towards you, and expect that he will not have an attitude with you again because he/she is worried they will lose their cellphone, you will be disappointed. Just saying..."change your attitude, and if you don't, I'll take your .....away!" will not change an attitude. When teens are in their emotional place, in the moment of frustration and anger, they can't and don't stop and think: "Oh I better tone it down if I don't want to lose my phone again." Perhaps you need to model the kind of behavior you are looking for. Maybe say: "Want to try saying that a different way, so I can hear it?' said calmly and in control! If your teen chooses the "I don't care, do what you want" thing, rather than get mad, throw out a coy smile, a shrug of the shoulders, and you are back in control.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Get A Life!!!!

A Zits Comic Home run:

Jeremy is busy writing a journal he was supposed to be keeping for the last 4 months, and is busy writing about what he thought he was doing 4 months ago. To his mom he says:
Jeremy: Mom what was I thinking about around October 13th?
Mom: That was when your van started idling funny and you were worried about that rash on your leg.
Jeremy: perfect, thanks. (Jeremy walks away, leaving mom thinking...)
Mom: Maybe I do need a job outside the home.

Does this feel familiar to you? Do you remember verbatim conversations you had with your teen months ago that seemed too important to forget, and when you remind your teen about that conversation they look at you like you are an alien from another planet,and say "Ma...Dad...Get A Life."  You might hang on every word, remember every detail from the quiz they took in French, what they got, right, what they got wrong, and then remind them of that when the next quiz comes up. Or maybe you remember a fight they had with their "so-called" best friend. You remember every horrible thing that friend said to your daughter, the sobbing on the bed, and the wailing that now she has no friends. You try to remind her of that conversation when yet another fight occurs, and yes, she looks at you like an alien saying, 'nooooo, that never happened before."

Here is the disconnect. Teens live in the moment, and what happens in the moment, stays in the moment. This is why they can let go so fast of events that to parents seem momentously important. Adults live in the future. We look at each present moment as a potential future moment, and therefore have a very hard time letting go.  And because your kids and their lives are the most important thing in your life, and you pay wayyyyy to much attention to every detail of it, you will likely feel very unfulfilled a good deal of the time. Because what's important to you about your teen and his/her life, has ceased to be important to your teen.

So if you find yourself, obsessing about every detail of your teen's life, find something else to do! Your relationship with your teen might depend on it!