Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sleepover Scams

Summertime sleepovers are in high demand. Unless your teen needs to be up early for work or some summer program, you're not left with too many excuses about why they can't sleep at a friends after a night out or hang. During the school year when I teach college classes about Adolescents to Adolescents I ask my my college students to tell me what they argued about most with their parents, when they were in high school. They raised their hands with the usual; messy room, laundry, fighting with siblings, messy room, laundry, rest and repeat. But one student raised her hand and told me how every weekend she would fight with her parents to be able to take the car on the weekend nights when her evening would end up with a sleepover at a friends. Coming home to sleep, no problem, take the car, sleeping at a friends, no way. Turns out it wasn't even the family car, it was her own car.  I was intrigued, and puzzled. But then the real story revealed itself.

Hypothetically speaking here, if your teen brings your car to a sleepover with your permission, then the ease of sneaking out after curfew with those attending the sleepover is considerably easier. Because of course the sleepover host parents have obviously told their teen that use of the car is verboten after everyone is home and accounted for. Meaning you better not sneak out. Now technically speaking when another teen has brought a car to your house, and the sleepover crew sneaks out and drives away in the friends car, from their point of view they are not technically breaking a rule. After all it wasn't YOUR car they used for the getaway. Let me emphasize here that the teen rationalization for being out and about after curfew is well, "It wasn't your car." As if the car is the issue!

I surveyed the class to see if this was just one rogue ballsey student, but when I asked who else pulled this sleepover scan, almost the entire class of 30 hands went up! So where would you go at 1 in the morning? I asked naively. "To a boys house, to a party, to get a food. "But how could you just walk into someone's house that late, weren't the parents home? I asked again naively. "Through the basement door, through the front door. The parents were asleep or away for the weekend and just never knew!

So I don't think you want your teens driving around late at night, partying and trying to get home before you get up after a night of drinking! So please parents, supervise those sleepovers. Set your alarms, and get up and do a bed check at 2 AM and 4 AM. And most importantly, let your teen know that you will be doing this. If teens think they can get away with something, they will give it their all. How many times have you said your goodnights, and gone up your two or three flights of stairs none the wiser to what your night owl teens are up too. This is about temptation not trust. Don't set your teen up for failure or unsafe decisions.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Curse Of Summer Reading

OK, the summer is exactly one half over, and crumbled up summer reading lists are being found and resurrected by parents everywhere. Most kids have spent the summer avoiding your queries about the reading by saying, "I'll do it, I have the whole summer, just leave me alone!!!" Well the whole summer is now down to 4 weeks and the books have been bought, Kindled or Nooked depending on the summer bribe. "If I buy you a Kindle/Nook, will you do the reading?" Your kid, panting like a dog who sees a new treat coming his/her way has promised that yes yes yes I will do the reading if you buy me off, I mean buy me a Kindle/Nook. But listen, it doesn't matter what form the book is in, it is still reading and might/could be way less exciting than say sitting on the couch texting/facebooking/videogaming/tv or movie watching or studying one's navel.

So here are a few strategies to get the reading done before school starts before you have to resort to the threats of no phone, no computer no life until you finish your reading.
  • Sit with your kid and add up the number of pages that need to be read by the start of school. Get out the old calculator and number of pages from each book and add together. Divide that number by the number of days left before school and you now have a PPD (pages per day) your kid needs to complete. When you break it down this way, it is far less intimidating. Most kids avoid the summer reading because it seems daunting. Maybe they have 3 or 4 books to read, and the image they have is just hours and hours of reading to complete it, so pretending it doesn't exist is much easier. Having to read 20 pages a day may not seem as bad.
  •   Set aside a reading time. Not on your schedule but a time of day that your kid feels is do-able. Get your book, take your kid to Starbucks, get him/her a Mochachino and read together for 30 minutes or an hour. Pair the reading with something pleasurable.
    • If your kid continues to be resistant to follow-through, pair reading with favors. For example, if the PPD has not been completed and your kid asks for a ride, some money, clean laundry etc you can say: "I would love to help you out, but I noticed you haven't done your PPD today, and I don't really feel like complying with your request until you do. I get this reading stuff is hard for you, but it's just something you gotta do.
    • Get the reading list books on tape. Some kids might be more motivated if they were hearing them rather than reading them. Put them on in the car while you are driving. Put it on an old CD player and let them listen with earphones, bring it to the beach and they can tan and "read" at the same time.   
    Get creative.  Just hucking your kid to do the reading is not going to get the job done. You have to "understand" their resistance, rather than criticize it, and help them to develop a plan that makes the impossible seem possible. 

    PS. I am now booking for this upcoming school year seminars. Have Joani will travel..anywhere!! Last year, I spoke in California, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Below are the seminars I offer. Talk to your PTOs, religious organizations, community groups or businesses about presenting one of these to your community. I promise it will be fun and informative! Contact me for pricing and availability

    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

    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!

     Joani Geltman MSW     781-910-1770    joanigeltman.com

    Tuesday, July 24, 2018

    The Two Most Annoying Teen Behaviors: Solutions!!!!

    This might be one of the major hurdles that parents and teens just can't get past. Forget drugs. alcohol, sex, cellphones, computers; why can't they just put their damn laundry away?????? It is this question that has plagued parents since the concept of clean clothes was born. The answer is that kids don't give a s**t about their laundry. They just like the magical laundry fairy to deliver their clean laundry all folded up nicely to their room. They don't really think about the real person who has done it,  or that putting away this beautiful folded laundry would make the laundry fairy happier than almost anything else. The Laundry fairy, however, is being driven quietly insane by this basket of nicely folded laundry that is emptied out on the floor as their teen scrounges through it looking for their favorite white tee shirt, leaving the beautifully folded laundry in a heap either hanging off, inside or outside of the laundry basket. What's a laundry fairy to do?

    There are two easy possible solutions:

     First just do it yourself. It will take 5 minutes of your time, and it will be one less thing to argue with your teen about. Consider it a gift of parenthood. Also, and not of minor importance, it gives you access to your teens drawers where you might potentially find contraband of some sort or another that gives you insight into your teen's life!

    Second, if your teen won't put this beautifully folded laundry away, then STOP FOLDING IT! Do the laundry as always, and bring to your teen a basket of clean but unfolded laundry. If they aren't happy with this new adjustment, you can calmly say: " Since it didn't seem important to you to put your laundry away to keep it unwrinkled, I figured it didn't need to be folded at all. If you feel differently, I would be happy to fold your laundry when you decide that putting it in your drawers keeps your clothes they way you like them. Just let me know what you decide."

    Dirty Dishes and food wrappers
    This is another one of those issues that drives parents absolutely crazy. "Why can't my teen bring his dirty dishes, glasses, food wrappers etc up to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher????" Why, because they absolutely could not give a s**t!! It doesn't bother them, and as soon as they are finished with whatever foodstuffs they have consumed, it is out of sight out of mind!

    Here is a solution: Buy cheap paper plates and cups. New rule, any food consumed out of the kitchen is to be eaten or drunk from the paper products now available on kitchen counters everywhere. This includes bedrooms, family rooms, and basements. Your job is to provide ample trash receptacles in every location, strategically placed next to couches, chairs, cushions or other lounging areas. The more wastebasket availability the better. Don't just leave it at that. Have a training session. Bring some snacks to your trash toting teen using said paper products, and when they have finished eating, practice putting the trash in the available trash receptacles. 

    Sometimes it's better to problem solve than nag. If they can't, won't, don't, bring the dishes upstairs, then figure out other ways for them to consume. Many parents worry that if they don't "teach" their kids how to clean up after themselves than as adults they won't know how to do it. This is not true!!! If you have provided a good model from the get-go on a keeping a well-ordered home then that is the model that will be present for them when it is time for them to have their own home. Trust me I know this from my own experience with my daughter and all the young adults I have watched grow up. They all are wonderful keepers of their homes, but as teens they were just like yours!

    PS: I am now booking for my fall seminars. If you enjoy my blog, you will love my seminars, two hours of non-stop humor and problem solving. Why not give your principal or PTO presidents a heads up about the work I do with parents. Call 781-910-1770 or email joani@joanigeltman.com for more info. I will travel!!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    Cell Phone Addiction-Lets Work On It As A Family!

    Reading an article today in the New York times, I came across a new app called Moment. Here is the article. really interesting reading. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/style/joy-of-missing-out-summer.html?fb=1&recb=home-living.control&recid=17TEnCPiOPzng6dYaMF3rfhVf7S&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=smarter-living&region=second-column-region&contentCollection=smarter-living&mData=articles%255B%255D%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.nytimes.com%252F2018%252F07%252F12%252Fstyle%252Fjoy-of-missing-out-summer.html%253Ffb%253D1%2526recb%253Dhome-living.control%2526recid%253D17TEnCPiOPzng6dYaMF3rfhVf7S%26articles%255B%255D%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.nytimes.com%252F2018%252F07%252F12%252Fsmarter-living%252Fdifferences-perfume-cologne-fragrance.html%253Ffb%253D1%2526recb%253Dhome-living.control%2526recid%253D17TEnCPiOPzng6dYaMF3rfhVf7S

    This app is available in your app store on your phone. It is your own private personal cellphone addiction coach. I just downloaded it today and I am excited for the data to start coming in. This app tracks your daily phone usage, and what apps you spend your most time on. And then, if you are so motivated helps you to set both limits using the app and strategies that require discipline the old fashion way...self motivation!!!

    I was thinking that this would be the most amazing app for families to do together. Next family dinner, everybody brings their phone to the table and downloads the app. Now you're all in it together. It's not you telling your teen they spend too much time on their phone, and you've had it!! It's a family affair.....WE ALL SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR PHONES!! Lets help each other. There is nothing teens like better than a little healthy competition!! Teens are always feeling criticized and judged by the adults in their lives, and often to them, it feels hypocritical! " Yeah, you're always telling me I spend too much time on my phone...what about you!!!" Which of course puts you in the defensive position of saying, "I'm an adult and you don't get to tell me what to do !!"
    But when the family takes ownership together for working on this, it de-emphasizes the, you're a child and I want to control you, aspect of it all.

    Getting your teen to buy in, might be a bit hard. But again do it all together so no one feels singled out, and let them know downloading this is a condition of having a phone. This is not a parent control, this is an app about self-awareness. Most people including teens, completely underestimate how much time they are spending on their phones and apps. It can be a rude awakening to see in living color that the actual hours you engage with your phone  are wayyyyyy more than you think. Adults and kids alike have magical thinking when it comes to self awareness about phone use. "Oh I'm not on it THAT much!!!" Until you find out that you are, there might not be much motivation to change.I'm guessing that many of you wear fit bits, and have now become more self-aware of walking and moving more. Using an app like this is akin to a fitbit!  Have a regular weekly family check in. How many hours did you use this week, or which app did you spend the most time on. This by the way does not supplant parental controls. This is a way to plant seeds for all of you about mindful phone use. This is a life skill. This is a way to counter denial, yours and your kids about how much actual time you are on your phones. Teaching self awareness skills translate to every area of our lives. It is as important as teaching them their ABC"s!

    Thursday, July 12, 2018

    How important Is "The Summer Experience" In College Admissions

    I am all for keeping teens busy in the summer. Too much time, and no structure is definitely a dangerous combination. But how much, and what and where this summer structure takes place has taken on epic proportions as parents and teens feint and parry in the game of college competition.

    The article below is a must read if you have been spending both time and money researching, investigating, and deciding what the impact of one program or another, one internship or another, or one super-sized academic summer program or another, will have on your teen's college acceptances. According to the colleges......not much.

    This is not to say that a summer spent building latrines in a small village of Indonesia isn't worthwhile, but if you and your teen's goal in toilet building is that it will provide fodder for the requisite college essay, than read on.

    As you will read in this article below, colleges are not stupid. If they see an application padded with "meaningful" experiences it might raise more questions than it answers. If your teen is interested in latrine building because for example they are passionate about sewage and engineering, and every summer is packed with experiences related to this passion, then OK than latrine building seems like a valuable experience for "that kid." Sending your teen off on any experience because it causes them to see the world in a new way, see themselves in a new way, and gain some much needed independence, are all worthy goals. But that should be the conversation and the motivation; personal growth, not how it will translate to a college admission's imagining of your teen.

    Intrinsic motivation is what gives those feelings of self satisfaction, and what in life motivates you to take on new challenges. Extrinsic motivation, doing something because it gets you somewhere or something makes these experiences become shallow exercises in creating persona, and rarely have lasting impact. In order to grow, experiences have to be real and meaningful in an internal way. Make sure that whatever your teen chooses for a summertime experience, it is because it has meaning for them....not for you. A summer job at McDonald's can be as meaningful as a summer building latrines in Indonesia. They both teach responsibility, self-reliance, independence and taking care of people other than themselves. Isn't that really what is most important?

    PS: Hey readers: I'd love to come and speak at your middle/high school. Have talks will travel!!!Call or email me for info about topics and pricing!!! joani@joanigeltman.com 781-910-1770

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    A Go-To Parenting Strategy

    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

    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.

    Thursday, July 5, 2018

    My 4 year old...10 years later

    Teens are: unpredictable, aliens, explosive, risk-taking, and temperamental. So say hundreds of parents when I ask them to throw out adjectives that describe their teen at my seminar: Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Version. You ask yourself, who is this person? I don't know what's going to come out of his/her mouth next. This is unsettling to say the least because what has worked in the past to calm your kid down so you can have a civilized conversation seems to have flown out the window. Not to mention, the way he wants to spend his time, the kinds of kids she likes to hang with, and what about how school used to be the most important part of his life. This isn't my kid, who is this kid?

    Well actually deep down inside those tiny tank tops or baggy jeans and untied sneakers is the kid you raised, and all those characteristics you thought sweet or funny as a toddler, now in a taller, more filled out body...not so funny and sweet. For example, maybe you had that 3 year old who had fantastic verbal skills, and you thought it was so cute when they were able to talk you into reading just one more book at bedtime, or just one more cookie for dessert, or just one more episode of Sesame Street. After talking baby talk for 3 years, how refreshing to have these adult like conversations with your "little man". Well your "little man" has grown up and his verbal skills have grown with him, and he wants to share them with you! Now he understands that these verbal/negotiating skills can wear you down to the point that he is able to get exactly what he wants. And how about that adorable little 4 year old girl who had the energy of a rabbit, bouncing from one activity to the next. Running instead of walking, climbing the highest slide or jungle gym with you standing below, screaming, "honey be careful!!! Now at 14 she wants to run out of the house, hang with her friends, doing what and with whom..."Honey be careful"
    Or maybe you had that shy 5 year old, who clung to your leg and didn't want to go into the school, or to the play date or the birthday party, and now as a 13 year old seems overwhelmed with the expectations of the 8th grade social strata.

    See, they aren't really so different. What your teen brings to the table in terms of temperament and personality is biological, sorry,you can't change that. But you can be aware of it, and help your teen to see what their natural inclinations might be to keep them safe during this time in their life when their world is so inviting and exciting.  So if you have that risk-taking 4 year old all grown up now, it's important to have this kind of conversation; "You know honey, when you were little, you used to make me crazy with worry because you were always the kid who wanted to climb the highest tree, or ride your bike down the steepest hill, you were an excitement junkie. I loved how confident and fearless you were about things, always wanting to try something new. And I love that about you now, but because this is the essence of you, now as a teenager, you will also want to drive the fastest, party the hardest, take the biggest risks, and that worries me. We just need to make sure that you are safe, knowing that won't come naturally to you." Or if you have that verbal kid who has the skills of the slickest lawyer on TV, your job is to avoid getting into a verbal volleyball match. You won't win! Or maybe  you have that shy teen who has friends he wants to party with, and ends up going because he want to fit it. This shy 5 yr old grown up may be especially vulnerable to drinking or drugs because after the first experience with a few beers they feel the confidence and comfort in a group that they never felt before. That is a seductive feeling. So you need to say to this teen, "I know being in groups has always been hard for you, and now you have friends, which makes me so happy, and they want you to hang and go to parties where I know there is going to be alcohol and drugs. I worry that because those situations initially are hard for you, your friends might encourage you to drink to "loosen up" and that you might become dependent on alcohol or drugs to have fun in these situations.

    Embrace the person your teen is and is becoming. Recognize the strengths in their personality and temperament, and give them the tools to manage them. Your legs won't be there to hold on to, and you won't always be waiting at the bottom of the slide.  They need the confidence and know-how to do it
    "all by myself".

    Tuesday, July 3, 2018

    Fabulous New Summer Movies To Share With Your Teen

    "We're Having a Heat Wave, a tropical heat wave." What better excuse to go to the movies....every day.... and not feel like a loser!!!! That would be me! I love the movies and the heat gives me a good cover for indulging myself.

    This weekend I saw three movies I absolutely loved. Two of them, Hearts Beat Loud and Leave No Trace, though extremely different and each very unique, explore similar themes.

     In Hearts Beat Loud, a single dad with a teenage daughter struggles to let go and recognize his daughter's need to define herself and her future. Both dad and daughter are musicians, and this bond has been something that has given each of them a means of expression for both their individual and collective deep wells of emotion, as well as a shared connection. Sam an 18 year old young woman now finds herself torn between her father's expectations and her own dreams and aspirations.

    In Leave No Trace, a single father dealing with war related PTSD chooses to raise his daughter off the grid, living in the wilderness of Oregon. They are a well-oiled machine and team as they survive and thrive living in the wilderness. With quiet and solitude and enormous love and respect for each other they move through their life together, until the "real world" intervenes and challenges them both to decide what's is best for their "survival." Tom, a 13 year old girl, just discovering her "self" as separate from her dad, and in the throes of developing her own identity finds herself having to make difficult life choices. For those of you in the boston area, there will be a special screening on July 6th at the Coolidge theater in Brookline with a Q&A with the producer of the film Linda Reisman and Boston Globe columnist.Meredith Goldstein.

    Both of these movies are powerful, emotional and absolutely exquisite, and address a fundamental element of Adolescence. A major task of Adolescence is to develop a personal identity; what are my values, my interests, my passions, what are the qualities I look for in friends and lovers, what is my sexual identity, what are my goals? etc.  Part of this process is also to look closely at the people who raised them, and analyze how they are both different and the same from them. I always say that having a teen in the house is like having your own personal therapist. With this new brain of theirs, they are able to really look at you without the cloud of perfection that hovered over you in their childhood. Why the hell do these kids have to grow up?????? They are now free to share with you their thoughts and ideas about you! Unfortunately much of what they share is the stuff we already don't like about ourselves. Having them be so honest can be very uncomfortable. But if you can listen without hurt or defensiveness, you might learn something new and potentially useful about yourself. More importantly it is part of the process of figuring out who they are.

    As teens start thinking for themselves, they might start to go down paths that parents aren't comfortable with. I'm not talking about unsafe or risky behavior, but life choices about what they like to do, where they might want to go to college, and ultimately what they want to do with their life. Most parents have dreams for their kids. In healthy families, parents keep those dreams to themselves waiting to see what path their children seem most interested in, even if it means parents giving up their own dreams for their kids. In some families, parent's dreams for their kids is more of a requirement than an option. We call that Identity foreclosure, when the option of choosing one's own identity is taken away from them.  Both of these movies look deeply at this issue. I think it would be heaven to go with your teen and share these movies with them. As always they may or may not choose to talk about them afterward, but sometimes just sharing special moments and experiences is just fine, no heavy sharing required. If your teens seem resistant, then please, you go see them. Grab your partner, your friend, your parent and allow these movies to envelop you.

    The third movie I absolutely loved was Won't You Be My Neighbor. For those of you raised on Mr. Rogers or used him as an in-house babysitter this will resonate. I literally was crying so hard at the end that I had to lock myself in a bathroom stall and let it all out!!! But then again, I am a bit of a crier!!! I never really understood what the mission of this man was. I just remember plunking my daughter in front of the tube hoping his sickly sweetness would keep her occupied so I could do whatever. But, it turns out that Mr. Rogers was a teacher, a philosopher and a lover of humanity. What he really wanted to do was make all children feel understood and accepted. He addressed difficult feelings and life issues like divorce and death and bullying, 9/11, segregation...you name it. He was a man so ahead of his time and so misunderstood. There are many many many powerful moments in this movie, and it left me thinking, that literally, if every person in the world saw this movie we would have world peace!! Yes this movie is that monumental.

    So OK, we're in a heat wave,  go buy some popcorn and a soda and lose yourself in these films. They are guaranteed to move you!!!!