Is sexting really so bad? A look at both sides of the coin.

soyougotnakedonline gif-2

Sexting strikes fear into the hearts of parents. Or does it? I heard a radio panel discussion on sexting. These people are ‘in the know’ and are also parents. (Listen to the discussion.) The opinions expressed are those of the participants. It will definitely get a strong reaction from some of you. It will certainly give you something to think about. Let’s dive in.

Q: What is sexting?
A: The sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone.

soyougotnakedonline gif-2Q: What are the legal issues around sexting?
A: For starters, the photo can be considered child pornography. It is illegal if sent by kids under the age of 18, or contains pictures of underage children. Sending these pictures can also be considered a form of harassment. It’s rare for minors to be prosecuted (17 states have legislation decriminalizing sexting or making it a misdemeanor).

Q: Who does more sexting, girls or boys?
A: Girls tend to take more provocative, sexually explicit photos of themselves than boys. Boys are more likely to forward them. Research shows that it’s only happening with about 2% of teens and tweens… but it’s still 2%. That’s a lot of kids.

Q: Are our kids getting mixed messages from society?
A: Yes. There are double standards about sexuality (movies, ads, clothing, and how teens are portrayed), “but when it come to them having a sexual identity, we freak out.”

Q: Should parents check emails and texts on their kids’ phones?
A: “We cannot be spies. His phone has a lock on it. I stopped going through his emails.”

A: “Don’t apologize for being a spy. It’s part of your responsibility as a parent.”

Q: Does finding a potentially shocking photo on your teen’s phone mean s/he is sexually active?
A: No. It means they are exploring sexuality. In theory, this isn’t much different from the Playboy magazine under the mattress. It’s a digital version of what our generation did.

Q: Does this mean that sexting can be seen as a normal part of teen development?
A: Yes; however, technology brings other concerns.

Q: What are the ramifications of sexting for teens? the concerns of parents?
A: It’s illegal.
It impacts your reputation. Kids can make mistakes. We made ours privately, theirs are public. Is it right to forward it? What about being on the receiving end? Are you (the teen) able to set limits with your friends? sexting

Q: How can parents be proactive?
A: Kids are already talking about their body when they’re eight, nine and ten. Many have smart phones at that age, too. Parents must begin the conversation at these younger ages. Ideally, you’ve already talked about it by the time a picture shows up on the phone. If not, seeing the picture is a great opportunity to begin to talk about sexuality and responsibility.  

Q: What should you say if you find a sexually explicit photo?
A: Tell them why you’re concerned, and why they need to learn to stand up for themselves when receiving a sext. “I saw this on your phone. This young lady sent it to someone. It wasn’t even meant for you to receive. It’s illegal. What if this had been your cousin or your friend or your sister?” (This dramatically changed one child’s reaction.) Another suggestion was, “Don’t harass other kids by resending this photo” because it might not be consensual.

Q: What else can parents do?
A: Take a proactive role in understanding what’s going on. Keep talking about who they’re dating and what the relationship is like. How are they treating each other and behaving? Share a little more about your own relationship with your partner. Your modeling of a healthy relationship is their best example.

Reactions, anyone? Let’s get a conversation going below. This is about more than pictures. Our kids are growing up in a culture very different from the one we experienced. We need to help them learn to cope with these challenges and make healthy decisions, where they come away respecting themselves.

Top 5 Reasons Teens Use Drugs

There are many reasons why teens abuse illegal or prescription drugs. Past studies used to point to “having fun” as the number-one reason teens used drugs, but more recent studies show that teens are using drugs to solve problems. This is important for parents to understand because most parents severely underestimate the impact of stress on their teens. By understanding what motivates your teen to use drugs, you can hopefully step in and help them find better ways to cope with their problems.
 
Stress – A recent study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America showed that 73 percent of teens report the number-one reason for using drugs is to deal with the pressures and stress of school. Surprisingly, only 7 percent of parents believe that teens might use drugs to cope with stress, showing parents severely underestimate the impact of stress on their teens’ decision to use drugs.

Social Acceptance and/or Low Self-Esteem – A 2007 PATS Teens study reported 65 percent of teens say they use drugs to “feel cool.” Teens’ self-worth depends on the approval of others, and their desire for social acceptance can drive them to engage in destructive behaviors, even if they know it could harm them. The same study found that 65 percent of teens use drugs to “feel better about themselves.” Teens who have low self-esteem are more likely to seek acceptance from the wrong crowd by using drugs.

Self-Medication – The teen years are rough, and many teens who are unhappy don’t know how to find a healthy outlet for their frustration. These pent up emotions can take an emotional toll and can even lead to depression or anxiety. A 2009 study reported an estimated 70 percent of teens suffer from undiagnosed clinical depression at some point in their life. Many teens are unaware that they have an underlying mental or mood disorder that is causing them to use illegal or prescription drugs to self-medicate and cope with their symptoms.

Misinformation. Studies show that teens are widely misinformed about the dangers of drugs. Did you know that 40 percent of teens don’t perceive any major risk with trying heroin once or twice? While abuse of serious drugs is steadily declining among teens, their intentional abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications remains a serious concern. Many teens, 41 percent to be exact, mistakenly believe that it’s safer to abuse a prescription drug than it is to use illegal drugs. Nearly 1 in 5 teens have already abused a prescription medication or prescription painkiller in order to get high or deal with stress.

Easy Access. One reason teens use drugs is simply because they’re easy to get. Nearly 50 percent of teens report that it’s easy for them to get marijuana; 17 percent say it’s easy to get meth; 14.4 percent say it’s easy to get heroin; and more than half of teens say that prescription drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs.

Teen Drug Abuse: Prevention and Help
Research consistently shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs than kids who do not learn about the dangers of drugs at home. Unfortunately, only 32 percent of teens report that they are getting this vital message from their parents.

If you know a teen who is abusing drugs, don’t wait to intervene. The sooner your teen gets help for drug abuse, the more likely they’ll be able to avoid the long-lasting consequences. Fortunately, there are many different teen drug rehabs to choose from. The most effective teen drug rehab, however, may be a residential treatment program. Here your teen will have access to 24/7 supervision and care, detoxification, dual diagnosis treatment and a variety of holistic treatments based on their individual needs. Talk to a medical doctor about your teen’s symptoms and determine which type of drug abuse treatment is best for your teen.

 

“I demand that you get me a car.” How to deal reasonably with an unreasonable teen.

Listen to the audio HERE.

It’s a true story.  Eighteen-year old college freshman Jen wants her own car because:

a) mom’s car isn’t often available to her.
b) taking the bus is not cool and takes longer.
c) she and her boyfriend broke up, so there
goes that ride, too.

We talked about Jen’s needs versus her wants, her participation in the search and purchase of the car, and her contribution towards maintenance and insurance.  The car isn’t in the budget.  Even if it was, Traci, a single mom, wouldn’t give it to her outright, and at some level, Jen already knew that.

The biggest hurdle for Traci was overreacting when her daughter was demanding.  Her buttons were pushed, big time.  She wanted to stay calm, but what she felt was anger and defensiveness.  Traci just wanted to explain to her, reasonably and rationally, the reasons why it couldn’t happen the way Jen wanted:  the cost of an additional car, the right safety features, high insurance cost, etc.  Unfortunately, a demanding and unreasonable 18-year old won’t respond well to not getting her way, and it all came out sounding like a lecture.

A key to any healthy and respectful relationship is in how you communicate.  Too often what you say is impacted by your emotions.  When they are strong, difficult emotions, watch out!  Traci was living proof of that during the ‘car’ episode.  So how did we work with that?

1)  Be prepared.  I suggested that Traci have a cheat sheet, an essential tool for parents to say what they mean without being hijacked by their emotions and their kids. In it are the talking points, as well as any words and phrases that help her introduce the subject and avoid drama.  Although Jen has been giving her the silent treatment for a few days, the subject of the car will come up again.  Traci’s going to have a plan and the words she needs to be calm and neutral, while getting her point across.  And, if necessary, she will excuse herself to find her cheat sheet and use it.

2)  The facts. Just the facts.  This is Traci’s opportunity to teach, to give information without lecturing and defending.  She wrote down what Jen needs to know, from how to choose a car, to routine expenses, to how much she, Traci, was willing to subsidize.

3)  The words and the tone.  How she says it is just as important as what she says.  And this includes the ever-important acknowledging feelings.  Here’s a sample script.  “Jen, I hear how important it is to you to have a car. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m willing to look at the possibility with you. There are some things you should know to help you make an informed decision.  When you’re ready, I’d like you to look at these points, and add to them if I missed something.”

4)  It’s a collaboration, not an ultimatum (unless you’re planning to give your child a car, no strings attached. See last week’s article about teens and money.) Traci has to be clear that this will happen only with Jen’s participation and financial contribution.  It’s up to Jen to choose.  Jen needs to know how much she earns, how far it will go, and how she wants to spend it.  She must prioritize.  Will she use the money she earns from her part-time job to finance the car and its expenses? Or will she opt to find other ways to go from point A to point B, and spend her earnings on other wants and needs?

5)  Time to process and make choices.  Decisions can be made at a later date.  Ideally, Jen will take some time to do the math and figure out what’s most important to her.  In the meantime, Traci has given her opportunity, information and choices.

This is a process, one that most teens and young adults take years to learn:  how to think through a problem, gather information, make a choice and make a plan.  You have myriad opportunities to guide your children through the problem-solving process.  Along the way, you are also modeling how people can communicate about subjects they don’t agree on, with respect and love.  I encourage you to seek out these opportunities, and improve the odds of success by being prepared.

Help! My kid maxed out my credit card!

Listen to the RECORDING here.

A college student puts all her expenses on her dad’s credit card — ALL her expenses, in addition to the tuition he paid with it.  The card is maxed out, charges are being declined, and his credit score is plummeting.  The solution?  Now he gets reports from Experian so he can keep track of expenses and limits.

Don’t get me wrong.  You do have to protect yourself. There’s nothing wrong with it, as long as it’s not the only solution.  I’m looking at the places where things could have gone wrong, and will continue to go wrong if a more proactive parenting approach is not taken.  Here we go.  (Look out for recurring themes.)

1)  Budgeting and finance.  Many young people have what they need and what they want, without understanding the hard work that went into providing it for them.  They need to know how money is earned, saved, invested and spent in reasonable ways.  It’s time to teach them about creating a budget. *

Ask yourself:  What’s your money story? What message have you given your kids over the years, through words and deeds, about money matters?  Ask them, too. You may be surprised to learn what they think.

2)  Communicating calmly and effectively.  Can you imagine the frustration, maybe the explosion that came when he got the news? It’s completely understandable… and not the way to produce long-lasting positive results.  This requires some cool-down time and a quiet fact-finding discussion before you can work on solutions.

Ask yourself:  Besides the money and credit score, what else is really bothering you?

3)  Putting an end to enabling and entitlement. 
This is tough.  It can be difficult to say ‘no’ to them.  Maybe they aren’t used to hearing it from you because you’ve been able to provide it all for them. It bears repeating:  Just because you can afford to give them what they want doesn’t mean you should.  Kids who learn to expect everything to be provided, without restriction, are not being prepared for real life.

Ask yourself:   Why is it difficult to say ‘no’, whether it’s about money or or other decisions involving your kids?  What fears are showing up?


4)  Setting clear expectations and limits.  Once you’re calm and have had time to think clearly, you’re ready to discuss what you   are and are not willing to do for them.   If you’re paying for it, you have the right and responsibility to make decisions about how your money is spent. (See #3)  How much funding will you give? Will they have to supplement with a job? Will you provide for some expenses and not others? (See #1)

Ask yourself:  What expectations did my parents have for me?  How have they served me? How will I feel when I create money expectations and limits and follow through with my own children?

5)  Shifting responsibility to your teen or young adult.  This is the result you’re going for:  letting go enough to let your children be responsible for themselves. This is where they learn self-control, to make choices, to think before making those choices, and to live with the outcomes… in other words, preparation for life!

Ask yourself:  Where do you need to let go, and your child to take hold? How will this contribute to your well-being? To his or her growth? (They will most likely struggle.  It’s inevitable and necessary.  See #3.)

* For specific strategies and teaching points, read “Three skills to teach your teen about money.”

Again. The bath towels are on the floor again.

Again.  The bath towels are on the floor again.

My son, 28, moved back home several years ago when he lost his job.  The good news is he found another job, and is darn good at it.  The bad news is, he has a few habits that drive me up the wall. One of them is leaving towels on the floor after a shower.  It looks messy, you can trip over them, and they start to smell, too.

This morning I found the towels on the floor again.  The conversation in my head began like this:  “How many times have I asked you not to leave towels on the floor?  How difficult is it to pick them up? It only takes a few seconds.”  Nag, nag, negative language.  If someone talked to me that way, I’d shut down and tune out in a flash. It’s a good thing that those words stayed in my mind, and didn’t come out of my mouth.

Do you have a tendency to express what you don’t want instead of what you do want?  It’s fairly common, and not very effective.  Which would you rather have your child focus on, the ‘do’ or the ‘don’t'?  They already know what the problem is, and know what’s coming after your first sentence.  When you approach them with a ‘don’t’ you’re setting both of you up for resistance and a negative attitude.

Here’s a more productive way of dealing with the towels.  “Please hang up the towels or put them in the laundry.”  (My son already knows what needs to be done, so this isn’t teaching for him; however, it is non-confrontational and says what needs to be said.)  This technique of teaching and stating things in a positive way really works, and it works for children (and adults) of all ages.

Parents often tell kids what not to do, when the goal is actually for them to do it differently, or better.  Here are some other examples of turning nagging into teaching, and resistance into cooperation:

Don’t leave your jacket on the floor.
   Your jacket belongs on the hook.

Why are there dishes in the sink?
√   Dishes go into the dishwasher.

You’ve spent enough time on video games.
√   When you’re done with your homework you can play for a while.

Don’t be late coming home from the party.
√   I’ll see you at 11:00.

Even better is when you can say it in a word or two.  Age two or twenty-two, they’ll get it.  Jacket.  Dishes.  Homework.  11:00.

Keep it short and sweet.  Tell them what you expect.  Reinforce what you want, not what you don’t want.

 

How raising kids is like doing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

photo 1

The puzzle starts out in 1,000 tiny pieces, and all you have is a small picture to help you navigate the confusion.  Take a look at the puzzle I finished, and the new one just started.

Having kids is like doing the jigsaw puzzle.  You have a picture in your mind of what their life and yours will look like (the picture on the box).  The thing is, no matter all the advice and warnings, you have no idea how challenging it will be to help them be safe, healthy, and prepared to leave the nest (imagine all the variations in colors and shapes, the reflections, the pieces that should fit, but don’t).

photo 1I have a system of sorts for doing jigsaw puzzles.  First I pull all the outside pieces and create the frame for the picture.  Then come sections with words, unusual colors and patterns.  Everything that is clearly identifiable is done.  Then comes the hard part – filling in the other 60% or more of what feel like odds and ends. It’s no wonder that the French and Spanish words for ‘jigsaw puzzle’ translate to ‘head-breaker’.

Did I have even that tiny bit of a plan for parenting?  In the beginning it wasn’t much beyond holding that baby in my arms and eventually sleeping through the night. Later on it felt as if we did a lot on the fly. We read a lot of books, listened to the ‘experts’.  The fact is there is no substitute for the real thing – raising them in real life, real time.

photo 3Do you have a plan?  Most parents don’t. Yes, there are developmental benchmarks, rites of passage, measurements to gauge certain kinds of progress.  Then the push to prepare for college and the world beyond, which begins earlier than ever, earlier than is healthy.

As they get older, you and your kids need that ‘frame’ more than ever.  That puzzle border, consisting of perfectly linked pieces, holds it all together, and allows the other pieces to connect and become a complete picture.  Ideally, your frame is a guiding set of core values by which you hope your children will live. Without them, there is nothing that can contain and manage the messiness that describes all growing children and families.  You also need a good dose of patience and flexibility, and a sense of humor.

A few weeks ago I told you about the Values Assessment, a tool that helps you hone in on your most important guiding principles.  Truth, a positive attitude, courage, generosity, integrity – these are the foundation of a framework for excellence.  When these are in place, all the pieces come together.  And what a beautiful picture it is.

 

“Mom, I lost my new backpack again” and 8 reasons not to replace it.

I’m on rant.  Are you ready?

Again?  He lost his backpack again?  And he expects mom to buy him another one because…  he’s cute, he has that plaintive little boy tone in his voice, because he exists?

The fact is he’s going to get a new backpack because this is a commercial for Ebates.  Mom is getting rebates for all the shopping she does ( let’s save that for another time) and has money to burn, sort of.

Where do I begin?  Here’s what came up:
– enabling
– not taking responsibility for self and possessions
– entitlement
– over-consumption
– inability to set limits
– fear of child’s reaction
– the value of money and hard work
– making assumptions

This one line said all of that.  Admittedly, it pushed my buttons because he said “again”.  But let’s face it, it isn’t just about a backpack.  It’s about attitudes, expectations, fears and values.  It’s what I write about and what I teach.  Let’s dive in.

1.  Enabling (parents)  Whose problem is it when the child loses his backpack, again?  His, of course.  It’s time for mom to step back and let him experience the inconvenience of not having one.

2.  Taking responsibility for yourself and your possessions (kids)   (See ‘Enabling’) – Knowing that someone will replace a lost or damaged item means you never have to worry about taking care of it, or living without it.   That doesn’t bode well for this kid’s future.

3.  Entitlement (kids)   It’s an attitude that says, “I am, therefore I deserve.”  When you indulge that, you feed the attitude and starve the growth of your children.

4.  Over-consumption (kids and parents)   As a society, we are accustomed to replacing things, whether it is warranted or not.   Obsolescence, carelessness, or instant gratification, we do it.  We also complain about finances, so there is a real disconnect here.

5.  Inability to set and enforce limits (parents)   You know kids need limits because a) the experts and research tell us so and b) you see and experience what happens when there are no limits.  It’s not pretty.  So what keeps you from doing it?  See #6.

6.  Fear of kids’ reactions (parents)   Fear is the greatest motivator for, or hindrance to, doing what needs to be done.   Perhaps you fear your child’s anger, a tantrum or explosion, or the dreaded “I hate you!”  In other areas of your life you may be fearless.  Tap into that courage and use it where it counts the most, with your kids.  Remember, “I hate you” is a strategic maneuver on their part, and, unpleasant as it is, you will both live through the tantrum.

7.  The value of money and hard work (kids and parents)   You work hard for your money.  Many of you remember working for what you had as kids, that things weren’t just handed to you.  My parents provided what I needed.  Sometimes what I wanted just wasn’t in the cards.  So what changed?  Is it really as simple as buying for your kids because you can afford it?  You can’t guarantee their financial future, and they need to be prepared to make choices.  Start preparing them now.

8.  Making assumptions (kids and parents)   In this commercial, the son has assumed (understandably) that mom will replace the lost backpack.  Mom has also made some assumptions:  that this is normal and how it’s going to be, that her son is incapable of functioning without the backpack, and that he’s not competent and she has to jump in and fix it for him.  On a personal note, I’ve been the fixer, too. My son set me straight:  when I lowered expectations (or asked to have them lowered for him at one time), what he heard was that I didn’t believe he was capable of achieving on his own.  Instead of building self-esteem, I contributed towards lowering it.  Some of you know what I’m talking about.  Please spend a little time with this idea.  Do it for your kids.

It is only a commercial.  If you look below the surface, it’s a ‘teachable moment.’  There are so many messages we unknowingly send our children.  Some are inspiring, others are not.

Look at the list again.  What resonates with you?  Which one makes you uncomfortable?  Pay attention to it. Do it for your kids.  My tag line is “helping parents raise responsible, respectful teens who are ready to launch” and I sign off on my messages with “Be well, be strong, be a courageous parent.”  If you need some help with that, you know how to find me.

Do as I say, not as I do. Now there’s a mixed message.

 

(Do you prefer listening to reading?
Click here to listen to the audio.)

 

Do as  I say, not as I do.

As a child, I heard this phrase a number of times from my parents.  At the time I thought it was great advice.  Now I recognize it for what it is — an admission that actions don’t always meet the high standards of the words we speak.

A coaching tool I use with clients is the ‘Values Assessment’.  There is a list of words representing a variety of values or principles we hold dear (persistence, curiosity, honesty, compassion, creativity, cleanliness, good health, etc.). If you were doing this activity, you would rate them two ways, on a scale of 1-10:

      1) How important is this principal to you?
      2) How well are you living it? Do you walk the talk?

Some numbers match up, some don’t.  And for the ones that don’t, it’s either a wake up call to take that value more seriously, or else it’s recognition that maybe that principle is not quite as important as you thought.  Finally, you’d identify the five values you feel are most important for your children to have, and live by.

It’s a useful exercise.  The assessment can identify areas where you’re not walking the talk, when what you say and what you do are not in sync.  When it comes to parenting, it’s critical for these numbers to be as close as possible.   One thing I know for sure:  your kids can spot a double standard a mile away and will never take you seriously if you have a different (lower) expectation for yourself than you do for them.

Where are you on the scales?  How about the cleanliness scale?  I complain about my kids, but the truth is that ‘neat and tidy’ doesn’t come easily for me. While it’s okay for me to light a fire under them, I have to light it under me, too.

What about the ‘truth’ scale?  That’s a tougher one.  The truth seems to come in multiple shades of color, and things are rarely black or white.  And it’s not as if you work towards being open and honest and voila!  One day you are as truthful and honest as you’re ever going to be.  This includes the big area of emotional honesty, something we all grapple with.  The truth of a situation when you’re happy can feel very different from when you’re tired and overwhelmed.

Let’s face it:  your kids are watching everything you do, noticing the good stuff and the inconsistencies.  They learn things from you that you’re not even aware of.  You are their most important teacher and, like it or not, aware or not, you’re always in teaching mode.  Give your best, conscious effort to teaching what you really want them to know, and you’ll be high up on the integrity scale.  (Yes, that word is most definitely on the values list!)

 

This mom’s story will shake you up and inspire you!

 

Laura and I had our third coaching session just two days ago.  She came to me because she was worried about her 14 year old son who was slacking off in school and in danger of failing classes.  There were also problems at home with getting cooperation and respecting limits.  At our last session, together we came up with some strategies and wording.

1)  Shifting responsibility back to her son by offering choices.  That ended up sounding something like this:  “You can either put your things where they belong or you can leave it to me… only you’re not going to be too happy with my solution.  The choice is yours. How would you like to handle it?”  Laura wasn’t going to do the picking up anymore, but she didn’t want to be in a power struggle, either.  With this approach she was calm and clear about what was expected and what the choices and outcomes could be. No surprises. No wheedling.  And I know Laura well enough to know that she would be able to follow through.

2)  Acknowledging feelings.  This is big.  In most situations, when we acknowledge our kids’ feelings, they end up being more receptive to learning and self-correcting later on.  Laura practiced applying the skills to a few situations and agreed that there was great potential in them to improve their relationship and her ability to help him through tough times.

3)  Take five.  When you’re angry or confused, step back and think about what you really want to say.


Here’s the part you really want to read. 
  Less than 24 hours later Laura called.  She was out the night before and received a phone call that her son, and a couple of friends, had been picked up by the police for vandalism.  You can imagine what it was like when they returned home… or can you?

Her first impulse was to do what many parents do in a pressure-cooker situation like this:  yell, cry, accuse, question, threaten, wring their hands.  After two sentences, Laura stopped herself, remembering what we had discussed just that morning.  She told Jared that she was upset and didn’t want to say things that were hurtful and would not go anywhere good.  They would talk again later.

And they did. A lot was said, and here’s what you need to know.  She asked him how he felt about what happened.  Embarrassed?  No.  Worried?  No.  Ashamed?  Yes.  Laura offered him the words until he found one that fit.  She helped Jared identify the emotion, and he continued talking.

Laura made it clear that he would take the consequences, and find a way to help pay the fine.  No argument from him.  Jared also agreed to go for counseling.

While this family’s story is distressing, I consider it a success story, too.  I don’t know how things will be one month or six months down the road.  What I do know is that this week Laura took a big step.  And having done it once, she’ll be able to do it again.

Laura:
a) stood her ground and put responsibility where it belongs.
b) stayed calm.
c) applied what she learned to a tough situation.
d) helped her son process what was going on within and without.
e) created trust between them (in spite of what happened).
f)  saved a precious relationship that could have been seriously eroded by anger and fear.

You are an inspiration, Laura.  Thank you for letting me share your story.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You don’t need to be in a crisis with your child to benefit from the skills and attitudes that Laura put into practice this week.  The real question is, why would you wait?  Unfortunately, it’s human nature to avoid change, and not take action until you have to, until you have no other choice.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Why shouldn’t you and your children have a more calm, peaceful and satisfying life now?

This process works.  While our stories are different, we all face similar challenges and feel the same emotions.  There are basic, universal skills, words, attitudes and approaches that work.  They help me every day, in all my relationships, especially in my family.  As I practice what I teach, I see changes in them, too.  I worry less.  I am more confident that each of us is better equipped to meet the challenges of the day, and to appreciate life more.

I invite you to create a brighter future for you and your children.  Read my story, browse through the blog, check out the programs. Know that anything is possible… when you take the first step.

Name it to tame it: 4 steps to teach teens to describe their feelings so they can manage their stress.

 

Before you can deal with a problem or emotion, you have to be able to name it and describe it.  This goes double for teens.  The problem is that their vocabulary for describing what they’re feelings is seriously limited.  When was the last time you got more than happy, mad, sad, angry, upset or p***ed-off from them?

Let’s go back to Emotional Intelligence (EQ) again.  “Self-awareness is the ability to recognize emotions as you feel them.  When kids tune in to their feelings, they can learn to understand and manage them.”  So they need to be aware that they’re in an emotional state and recognize what they’re feeling, before they can do something about it.

It’s critical to ‘name it to tame it.’  Since teens and tweens are more reactive than reflective, you’re going to have to help them through this process.  They believe that everything happens ‘to’ them, and that they have no power to control anything in their lives.  Here is where you become a teacher, and you can do it simply by teaching by example.

1)  Brainstorm a list of words that describe difficult emotions.  (There are more than 100 of them.)  Write them down and say them out loud every day so they are there when you need them.  Here are a few to get you started:  frustrated, lonely, annoyed, cranky, outraged.

2)  Be honest in expressing your own feelings.  Rather than being emotional, express what you’re feeling.   Don’t be the emotion, talk about it.  You are showing your kids healthy, productive responses and how they improve relationships. Use the list from #1.  Kids learn from you how to speak, act and react.

3)  Listen carefully to what your kids are telling you and pay special attention to the feelings underlying their words. Don’t take what they say at face value.  You will miss important information, and the opportunity for more trust and respect in your relationship.

4)  Reflect back what you think you’re hearing.  Now they are hearing new, hopefully more accurate, words that they can start to use themselves.  And you get extra points for being a great listener!

You are the most important teacher your child will ever have.  When you follow these steps, you teach without nagging, lecturing and controlling.  There’s no better way to get your message across than by just doing what you want them to do.

* (I borrowed this expression from a fascinating book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Dr. Daniel Siegel.)