Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Teens And Pot

 Teens and pot, not so good, Adults and pot, whatever turns you on. I have had a number of letters from parents recently worried about their teens use of pot. It seems that their teens have defended their use with a variety of rationalizations. Some of my favorites include; " I can think better, I can drive better, even the cops don't care, it relaxes me so I can concentrate better on my homework, you should be happy, at least I'm not drinking alcohol!" Unfortunately this is the drug talking. And thats the point, pot is all about distortion. That's what the 60's were all about, and why the lava lamp was invented! Today's pot however is nothing like the pot of my youth. Research shows that the amount of THC in boomer pot was 2-3%.Today's pot has 90% THC. That is a lot of high!!!!!  Luckily we adults who might want to indulge can go to a dispensary, describe the kind of hight we want and make an informed decision. They literally make pot now called Dad Grass, for people who want to get mellow without the high. Unfortunately not only do kids not have access to dispensaries, but most do not understand exactly what pot is, what's in it, or if it is safe....cause mostly they don't care, and probably would be to afraid to come to you for info cause they know you might not like to have a deep dive on the varieties of pot on the market. I mean would you?

Adolescence is all about new experiences and experimentation. It is a cruel law of nature that tempts teens to try all sorts of new things just at a time in their lives when their brain is engaging in a major growth spurt. Teens live in a world of what you see is what you get. With alcohol you see the fruits of your labor literally in the toilet bowl if you're lucky, otherwise in someone's car or basement. You worship the porcelain temple and then you pass out. With pot the effects are less obvious and more hidden. Pot gives you the illusion of feeling in control but what you're teen is missing is what is going on in the depths of their brain. As with all experimentation, some kids might try pot and see it as a treat every now and then, and others will begin to use more regularly. In either case it is important to talk with them about it.

A little science lesson here. There are receptors in the brain that just love THC, the chemical in pot. These receptors are connected to two very important parts of the brain. The Hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, and the Cerebellum that controls balance and coordination. In short, regular use of pot can cause problems with thinking and problem solving (the hippocampus) and distorted perception of sight, sound and loss of motor coordination. (the cerebellum) So much for the driving rationale. Responding to lights, sound and reaction time are all distorted.

Pot is especially attractive to teens because it relaxes them, mellows out their stress, and if they are someone who struggles with anxiety, pot can be a wonderful new best friend. There is nothing more uncomfortable than feeling anxious, and once a teen who suffers with anxiety tries pot, a love affair begins.

Talking with your teen about pot requires finesse, and the power of understanding. Here is your I Get It moment. You can say to your teen" I get how pot would be attractive to you. I know you are stressed out, and it makes you feel relaxed and mellow. But here is what you don't know." At this point instead of sermonizing and lecturing, either read these articles to them or have them read it in your presence. 

The first is a link to a very straight forward Q&A about pot. If you choose to lecture, your teen will think this is your opinion and probably just stop listening, thinking that they know more than you about this particular subject. So real science is always good in this situation. Now I am sure that you will get resistence here. And here is how you might handle this. " I am worried that you don't feel that pot affects your judgement, driving etc. You need to read this article and talk with me/us about it before we will allow you to drive our car. It is important to us that you have the facts here. If we see a change in your grades, or your ability to concentrate on getting your work done, we will have to drug test you every now and then. We love you and want to make sure that you don't unknowingly jeopardize your health and your future.

The second link talks about new medical/psychological/cognitive issues they are seeing as a result of the increased amounts of THC in today's pot. Really portent (haha) information.

PS: Sometimes you just need a phone call worth of  help!!! A situation with your has arisen and you're not sure how to handle it. This is why I created: A Quick Question.  This is a one session strategy session designed to give you the help you need when you need it. Call me at 781-910-1770 or email me at: to set up your consultation

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Summertime And The Living Is Easy.....Or Not!

The pandemic is easing, and you are aching to "get out of dodge."  Trips to see family you haven't seen for a year, vacation spots you've been waiting to visit, and just getting out of your damn house and see something besides your yard and your local supermarket!! I get it!!!! But unfortunately just when you can see and taste freedom, what your teen maybe thinking is OMG I HAVE TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH MY FAMILY!!!!!!

When your teens were younger, the "family" vacation was mythical. Something to look forward to, something to get your kids though the winter doldrums and that last month of school when you can taste summer but can't experience it yet. Fast forward to the teen years, coupled with a year of "family togetherness, you may not get the enthusiasm you are hoping for! "We're going to the cape again....Europe!!!! who wants to spend my summer looking at churches and museums. Wah wah wah, I'll miss my friends."

First don't get hooked into that argument or come back with a "Do you know how lucky you are?" lecture. In this moment, being separated from friends, and possibly missing out on some amazing party, concert, or hang session is all they can focus out. You don't need to argue or convince, just listen, and then say " I get that this feels hard and I know that you're worried you might miss out on something fun." And then just stop there. You know they are going, and that this is not an optional trip. If you allow yourself to get hooked into an argument they will never stop hoping that if they wear you down, you'll leave them at home with a friend. Just let them vent.

In addition to the venting strategy, do try to include them in the planning. If they feel included in the decision-making you will get much less resistance. Maybe the dates aren't flexible but the what of the trip is still open to discussion. Maybe it's to visit family, or go to a vacation destination that you have been going to for years, or maybe you are lucky enough to travel to some exotic location. Make sure that the activities you choose to do where ever you go, take into account who each of your kids are, and their personal interests . If they love sports, then find a local soccer/tennis/ baseball game that might spark their interest. Or if they like amusement parks, or shopping malls, beaches, pools, zoos, you get the idea. Your idea of what to see and do, may be the antithesis of what they like to do. Ask them to look on the Internet for something in the location that they might like to do. Including them in the planning is a sign of respect. And respect leads to accommodation. Just don't expect smiles and gratitude. You'll get that in 10 years as they look back on their youth and tell you how amazing that trip was that you took when they were 16. As you think, OMG you were a pain in the ass on that trip. Now you tell me you had fun!!! Go figure!

Ps. I am available all summer for Parent Coaching. Before the little arguments get too big, schedule a one time only session and get a strategy that can diffuse a potentially explosive situation. ZOOM ME!!
Also booking now for school year 2021-22 seminars available to businesses, community groups, and schools and private parties! In person or on Zoom

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  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


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 

  • 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




Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Teens, Racism and Anti-Semitism


Recently there has been a rash of school related racist and anti-semitic incidents; football plays being named using holocaust language. Rascist and anti-semitic graffiti in bathrooms, and school walls. The good news is that there is a long overdue heightened awareness and community involvement in addressing it. Does this mean that teens are racist, anti-Semitic? Not necessarily.

There is no excuse for these hurtful words and actions. It is the job of

families, schools, and communities to teach and model compassion, and to help children understand the affects that words have. For every thing said, someone is affected. But just because teens say it, doesn’t mean that they believe it. And before we start putting detrimental life long labels on teens that may have acted without thinking, it’s important to understand where they’re coming from.

Research has shown that the teen brain is much more activated in the amygdala, (the feeling center) than in the frontal cortex, (the thinking center). This is why teens feel first and think later! The brain’s natural edit button, letting us know when to keep our thoughts to ourselves, is not yet fully operational. Teens can say and do things that can be hurtful and even dangerous. Just ask any parent of a teen!! 

Adding to this over-reactive and emotional brain is the hyper-self-consciousness that all teens feel. David Elkind, author of the book: All Grown Up and No Place To Go, calls this the “imaginary audience.” In adolescence, a new level of thinking emerges, resulting in a hyper-awareness of what other people are thinking about them. This results in the influence of peer pressure, and worry that not conforming to the group norm presented to them, might result in the dreaded exclusion and humiliation. This can cause teens to behave in ways contrary to what they know to be right. If your crowd at a school’s sporting event starts chanting, “You killed Jesus,”regardless of your own beliefs, the need to be invisible and a part of the crowd, can trump the measuring of right and wrong. Better to be bad than to be shunned! This is powerful stuff to a vulnerable teen.

Teens are also naturally self-centered, narcissistic, and egocentric due to this excess of emotion, and self-consciousness. (Don’t worry, they outgrow this) Often their ability to see and/or care about another person’s perspective no matter how much they have hurt, disrespected, and maybe even threatened them, can be clouded. 

And finally, as teens seek to develop their identity, they are bombarded with incoming new perceptions of the world. Certainly family and community are big influencers, as is the media. The presidential election is a perfect example of highly emotional, name-calling, racial stereotyping, bullying, and physical altercations, sanctioned by adults! (So be careful how you talk about this at home.) All this is tailor made modeling for the drama teens crave. Most teens won’t read the full article in the Boston Globe, analyzing the intricacies of the political game, but instead will see the attention that bad behavior receives. Bring it on, consequences be damned!

So, a highly emotional brain; a hyper-sense of self-consciousness; a lack of experience in the world, developmental narcissism; impulsivity, a sense of invincibility, and a culture that loves bad behavior, that’s a loaded deck for a teen! As I say, these are not excuses, just explanations. Simply telling teens to be better, be kinder, respect differences, and then meting out consequences when boundaries are crossed, will alone not change behavior. What changes behavior, is to provide strategy and experience. Most teens stay close to what is familiar. So much of their life feels out of control; their brain, their body, their feelings, and their future, that they don’t venture much out of their comfort zone. Kids stake out their territory whether in the school cafeteria, or in their communities. This can make people who are different from them seem more threatening. 

So here is what you can do:

  • Challenge teen’s thinking in stereotypes. Provide teens with structured opportunities to get to know people who differ from them. At the 22nd Annual Youth Congress, students suggested  “mix-it up dinners where students sit with “classmates they don’t know.” As a family, seek out experiences where your children can interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs.

  • Model inclusion. The adults in children’s lives are the most influential in transmitting values of acceptance. When I was a fresh out of grad school therapist, I was seeing a couple that were experiencing difficulty with their teen. In a predominately catholic town, their daughter had befriended a Jewish boy. The parents used phrases like “those Jews” in describing their worry about this relationship. With fear and anxiety about ruining my tenuous therapeutic connection, I timidly said, “I am one of “those Jews.”

  • Anticipate and strategize: Help your teen to be prepared for situations that might challenge them. Because of their inexperience, many teens end up doing the wrong thing because they don’t know what else to.

    Adolescence is a messy stage. Teen behavior is layered. Good kids do bad things; caring and kind kids can be cruel and insensitive; and sensible and smart kids can beimpulsive and reckless. As teens move through this stage from childhood to adulthood,they are confronted with new feelings, new thoughts, and new impressions of their world.They are without precedent and experience and often react with emotion, not thought.But teens and adults alike share so many common, human experiences, regardless ofclass, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Let these be the bridge to mutual respect.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Looking Forward And Letting Go!! Living With Your Teen In A Post Pandemic World

 I've said this before and I will say it again!! All your kids will be fine in the end, even with a year of pandemic isolation, loss of normalcy and no real school.  Unless there is severe mental illness or severe family trauma, by the time your teen hits their 20's, this year will be a blur, and they will adore being at home, desirous of your input and advice about their life, and unbelievably fun to hang out with. So take a deep breath, pleeese!

The way I see it, in my experience, after 40 years of working with families, and raising one of my own, there are only three real parenting mistakes that can change the outcome of your child's life.

First is the too strict or rigid parenting style. If you are the party of NO, my way or the highway, or you have a ton of rules way past the time that kids need rules for everything, and you have extremely high expectations for your teen's academic performance, you run some risks.

Risk #1: Adolescence is all about independence. If you continue to write the script for your teen's life they will react in one of two ways. If they feel over-controlled, over-managed, and have to answer to too many rules, some kids will be forced to act out to get the freedom their brain and their body are telling them they should have. By acting out I mean lying, hostility and anger, deliberate school failure, drug and alcohol use or abuse and avoiding you at every turn. This can feel like armed warfare. These teens need to learn how to make decisions on their own. These are the kids that often bail on college. As soon as they hit campus, and experience that first taste of freedom, all control and discipline, no matter how much you have drilled it in to them is gone. They have never actually learned how to be self-disciplined, or internalized the rules and structure that you imposed. As young children structure and control is good, as teens you need to share and encourage with supervision your teen's innate drive to be independent. After a year of suffocating closeness to your kids, this will feel weird, also a relief! You have had to worry about school, getting sick, depression, anxiety and loss. These are extremely weighty issues, that often you only have had to deal with one at a time. This year all at once. It will feel weird to let go!!

Risk #2: Some teens who are over controlled and over-managed become extremely passive. They have developed what is call learned-helplessness. What they integrate is a lack of complete confidence in their ability to make decisions, and look to you for direction in all parts of their life. This is not healthy. These teens are lovely to have in the home because they never fight with you, and come to you often for help. For a parent, there is nothing like it. However in life, you will not always be available.  When it comes to adult relationships whether romantically, with friends,  or with bosses or colleagues they will rarely speak up for themselves, and open themselves up  to be taken advantage of, thinking that they don't know better. These kids need to learn to have confidence in their own ability to make decisions, and that what they want matters. I have learned through my college students that they have felt a lot of worry about their families and wanting to make sure they literally don't die. Because of this and most importantly because of the pandemic, they have ventured out very little except for school. These kinds of kids, if you have one of them, may need a real push out of the nest!

Risk #3 is the too permissive parent. This parent maybe has an unspoken rule, do well in school, and I will ignore everything else. Or maybe, your philosophy is that your teens should be able to manage their own lives, or maybe the parent's life is in chaos with a divorce, or other family crisis, and takes their "eye of the ball" being too involved in their own life events. Rather than too many rules, there are no rules, no expectations, no supervision. These are the parents with the blind eye. A blind eye to what goes on in their own basements with their teens and their friends, a blind eye to where and what their teens are doing when they are out and about, and a blind eye to their teens safety. Teens are by nature risk-takers. Sometimes those risks can be life-threatening, either physically or psychologically. Teens need to know that someone is looking out for their welfare, even if they fight you tooth and nail when you do. When these kids move into adulthood, they are often entitled, irresponsible young adults, who look towards you to bail them out when they act badly, perhaps its is financially, or legally. These now grown up kids, can't or don't feel like managing the mundane of life, and will constantly look to you to do it for them, even well into adulthood.

So these are the three biggies. Everything else in between, usually works itself out. Parenting a teen is about setting enough limits to keep your teen safe, and give enough leeway for them to practice decision making, knowing that they will make mistakes, that they will hate you some days, and knowing that underlying it all is love. Your love for them, and their love for you. It really is as simple as that.

This is a very interesting article about the consequence of "over-parenting" when your kids hit the real world.

Did you know that I do one session parent coaching? Yes that's right. We get right to it, and by the end of that one session you have a plan and strategy for whatever issue you are facing! To set up a zoom appointment call
 781-910-1770 or email me at

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

It's Been A Long Time Coming!

 It's been a long time since I posted my last blog. This has surprised me, as have many things about living through a pandemic! I have always been a high-energy, forward thinking, glass-full kind of gal. My blog has never been a choice for me about whether to write or video, it was just something I did....until I didn't. For the last 10 months, with MORE than enough time on my hands, I would have thought that I would have been writing more, not less. In fact, I would have expected my blogs to be epic and inspirational, and guide parents through this unprecedented time, and who knows maybe I would have even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. You know, like  Jared Kushner. But alas, I have done just the opposite, and that has been a huge surprise to me, and I feel both a disappointment in myself, and also a curiosity about where and how we find our motivation.

Which of course leads me to all of you. It is you that have inspired me! It is you who should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It is you that has brought peace to your families, your children, your parents, your community. You don't have the narcissistic luxury like me of deciding "whether of not." You just do, you just keep on going, buying your groceries, provide sustenance to your family, teach your children, adapt to a new work environment, help older people like me get vaccinated. ( I am proud to say I am half vaccinated and did it 'all by myself!" I have worked with many parents over the last year either though coaching or webinars, and one of the things that stood out for me was that for all the amazing work of juggling and problem solving that they and you have been doing, there has been an overriding feeling of not exactly failure, but of not being good enough. There have been so many times parents have described the feeling of losing control. Fights with kids blowing up, fights with partners blowing up, and complete exasperation with systems you can't control and blowing up. Blowing up being the actionable word. Seriously how could you not blow up!! You must be tired, and feel depleted at times. And I hope at other times feel a sense of pride that you have coped and that your kids have coped, and that your partner has coped, and that your community and school has coped. 

We will look back on this year of covid and take stock of how sustained stress takes its toll on individuals, on families, on schools, on business and on communities. Some of us...yes me has suffered with a major drop in motivation. Maybe your kids, after a year of zoom schooling are feeling this lack of motivation,  and a lack of desire to engage, not only with school, but with the family and maybe even with friends. I know that feeling well. Without the energy and fuel of living life normally, I have too easily dropped out. My circle of connections has become quite small, and my energy to get out of the house and do more than the absolute minimum is low. 

But here is what I truly believe. I truly believe that we will find our new normal. I say new, because we have all changed over this year. We have learned things about ourselves, our resilience, our creativity, our connection to family, discovered perhaps new things about ourselves, both bad and good. I took up making candle holders from concrete ( I know so random), I learned to build Adirondack chairs from scratch, and refinish old ones. All of this is to say there have been the yin and yang of this year, and whatever it has been, it will now be a part of me.

Your kids will take away so much from this learned experience that will truly last a lifetime. It will become part of their personal story and history in a way that doing a calculus problem or term paper won't. The life skills they have learned and integrated, will serve them quite well as they move into adulthood. So when you get frustrated and worried for their future. I will tell you not to be. Look at me, I thought I would never write another blog, and here I am blathering endlessly to you. What got me to write today, truly I think I felt I was losing a little bit of myself that I needed to find again. The time just felt right, and that is what resilience is all about. A belief and innate need for self preservation. We all have it, sometimes  we lose it for a time, but it is always ready to be accessible when we are ready! Trust in your children, and most importantly trust in yourselves. 

I am getting back in gear here. If there is anything you would like me to write about, please put in comment section. Also I have been doing small group zoom groups that have been a lot of fun, except I have to put make up on. If you have a group of friends who are all dealing with the same issues. Pour a glass a wine, and we can meet at our local zoom bar! 

Take care