Do you struggle to understand your teenager?

Understanding your teen

Try this exercise to figure out what your teen (or child of any age) is thinking, feeling, yearning for and needing from you.

Sometimes teenagers act in ways that truly mystify us. We want to help them, ask something of them, or appeal to their sense of fairness or logic, but nothing seems to be working. If you’ve tried to put yourself in your kid’s shoes and still can’t understand them, this exercise is for you.

1. Pretend like your kid is a funny zoo animal. You are looking at them in their cage, totally curious and perplexed, but without emotion. You decide you’d like to study this animal like a Scientist would. (This won’t work if you are in worry, frustration, self-pity or any emotion other than neutral curiosity).

2. Ready?  Ok, Scientist, the next step is to EMBODY your teenager. Like an actor getting into character, you are going to BECOME your child. Think about his posture, his voice tone, volume and articulation. Think about the words he chooses. Imagine you are in his bedroom (or wherever he spends the most time.) Look around as though this is your room, your books, your backpack, your clothes, etc. Imagine looking at his phone as though it’s your phone, what’s on there? Who is contacting him? What does he look up when he’s bored? Think to yourself “I am (my teenagers name)”

3. BE your teenager and name 3 adjectives to describe YOU as your teen. For example, “I am tired, I am stressed, and I am lonely.” or “I am uncertain, I am nervous, and I am happy”

4. Then think to yourself this sentence, “What I yearn for the most is _______” and see what pops into your head. Then do, “I am _____ (teen) and the message I’m trying to send my Mom is………”.   (If you hear your own voice coming in or any of your negative emotions, go back to step one.) 

5. Finish this next sentence with whatever shows up in your mind, “What I need most right now from my Mom is ………” Try it again with Dad, siblings, etc. If this is working and you are learning from it, try adding on “When I look ahead to my future I feel ……”

This is exercise is easy for me because as a life coach, my empathy dial is always turned up very high. Not all of us practice tuning into others on a regular basis so be patient with yourself if you find your own thoughts and feelings don’t go away that easily.

Remember that the primary need for all of us, including our funny, teenage zoo animals, is to be SEEN, HEARD and FELT. When all else fails, stop talking, look them in the eye and just listen. There’s a lot of information coming through those howls and growls. 🙂

Is your kid not acting in line with your expectations?

It can happen at any time: 4 weeks, 4 years, or 14 on up.

The child we’re parenting, doesn’t match with the one we expected to be parenting.

Ida’s* story….

Ida thought she had the ADHD thing under control. She adapted her parenting style, adapted his diet, bedroom and after school activities to allow him to be his best self. This Supermom worked with the school teachers and counselors to make sure they understood what his challenges and strengths were. Ida worked hard to help him fit in with the school system and peers, while helping him appreciate his unique gifts. And then he turned 14 and the sh*t hit the fan. Nothing seemed to be working. He was emotionally out of control, stubborn and rebelling against everything she’d worked so hard for. This was NOT what she was expecting. 

Emma’s* story…

Emma was a quiet, gentle, loving mom. She could be content to stay home all day, reading and tinkering in her craft room. Co-sleeping and baby-wearing made her feel closely connected with her daughter. She imagined doing puzzles and art together, quietly co-creating beautiful things. By the time her daughter was 4, Emma was exhausted. Her sweet baby turned into the bully of the playground: pushing, pulling hair, biting, you name it. She would climb anything she could, using furniture to build towers to access higher and higher places. Her art activities lasted about 20 seconds and resulted in huge messes in the house. Emma’s relationship with her daughter was more about keeping her alive than creating beautiful things. 

So what does a Mama do when her expectations are different than her reality?

  1. Take time and recognize that it’s your expectations that are causing you to struggle. When you think thoughts like “She shouldn’t behave this way” or “He should have figured this out by now!” you are making things harder. A better thought to think is “This isn’t what I was expecting and that’s ok.” 
  2. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of the dream or expectation you had for your kid. Another way to say this is “Be kind to yourself”. Allow yourself to be sad that things aren’t easier and forgive yourself for wanting things to be better. It’s our job to hold a higher vision for our kids but we can do this WHILE accepting they aren’t there yet, and that’s ok.
  3. Hold a higher vision for YOURSELF. What if you’ve got the exact kid you need to help you fulfill your destiny? What if these challenges you are dealing with, are teaching you something you couldn’t learn any other way?  Could it be possible that this crazy kid of yours is growing a side of yourself you didn’t even know you needed to grow?

Ida’s teenage son helped her break out of her belief that “the only path to success is to follow the rules”. Watching him carve his own path through adolescence taught her to let go of expectations and and control and trust in a greater plan. She realigned her values, let go of her people pleasing addiction, and learned to prioritize the things SHE loved doing. By following her son’s example, she made time for mountain biking every weekend, and yoga every day.

Quiet, gentle Emma learned to set clear and consistent boundaries with her daughter. For a long time, she tried to avoid taking the leadership role but once she got the hang of it, she got hooked! She started setting appropriate boundaries in all her relationships, built up so much confidence and self pride that she started selling her art online. She gives herself plenty of breaks from her high energy daughter so she can still be her introverted self. Even though her daughter is still a challenge, she appreciates the lessons she’s learned from her and loves the person she has become because of it.

If you are struggling with a kid who isn’t acting the way you think he/she should be behaving, schedule a free life coaching call. Let’s find out where you can let go, find acceptance, and see if there is a divine lesson in here for you?


*names have been changed to protect the exhausted

Boys need sex education talks with mom and dad

I have a problem.

Once again, I’ve got more girls with their moms signed up for my Time for The Talk class than I have boys.

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why, but I would love your ideas figuring out how to encourage more parents sign their 10-12 year old boys.

This class is so valuable, not just because boys have fun and love spending this time with their Mom, Dad, or Grandpa. It’s always telling when they say things like “Everyone in my class needs to hear this.” and “I’m so glad to know what everyone has been talking about”. 

These are 5 IMPORTANT reasons boys need Time for The Talk, or another parent/child sex education class, as much as girls do.

  1. Just like girls, boys deserve to know the truth about puberty and the changes their bodies will go through. When boys learn about the changes girls go through, it helps them be more compassionate and respectful of the opposite sex.

2. Boys can learn what sex is from a quick google search but they will only learn that sex is for pleasure. What they need to know is that sex is about intimacy, love, trust, and commitment as well as bringing new life into the world. This is immediately implied once parents enter the conversation.

3. Boys need to know what sexual harassment is, how to handle it, and that middle school is the number one time in a person’s life when they are likely to experience sexual harassment.

4. Boys need to understand that emotional intimacy is worth the risk. The number of teens who date has dropped dramatically and is being replaced with casual hook ups and online porn. Boys can have their sexual needs met by themselves with their cell phones. When parents talk  to kids about private subjects, get embarrassed, laugh, share facts and jokes together, kids are getting an experience of emotional intimacy. They see how much closer they feel to their parents and this openness feels good. Parents demonstrate the benefit of being emotionally vulnerable and the bond it creates.

5. Middle school boys are surrounded by sexual content through shared videos, texts, vines, snapchat, and degrading comments made about their peers. Boys need to know how to handle it in a “cool” way when they are put in positions where they feel uncomfortable.

Learn more about Time for The Talk

Are smart phones good for teens? What parents need to know.

The introduction of smart phones to an entire generation of children has made some very significant changes that all parents should know about.

Are smart phones good for teens? Or are they causing significant problems?

Here’s some good news! 

The number of fatalities by car accidents involving teen drivers has dropped in half from 2005 – 2015.

Teen homicides have dropped about 40% since 2005.

In fact, mortality rate for teens is down 20% from 1999.

The number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40 percent since 1991.

The average teen now has had sex for the first time by the spring of 11th grade, a full year later than the average Gen Xer.

The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2016, down 67 percent since its modern peak, in 1991.

and some more changes…are they positive or concerning?

The percent of high school seniors who work during the school year has dropped 20%. The number of eighth graders who work for pay has dropped in half.

Only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; down 30% from previous generations. In fact 2015 seniors were going out less often than

eighth-graders did as recently as 2009.

The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day, dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently.

Fifty-seven percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. In just the four years from 2012 to 2015, 22 percent more teens failed to get seven hours of sleep.

By the end of high school, more than one in four teens today still don’t have their driver’s license.

Forty-eight percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys.

The more time eighth-graders spend on social media, the more likely they are to say they’re unhappy.

Here’s the big concern…

Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology and author of iGen, says, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.”

For the first time in history, suicide is the second leading cause of death, closing in on car accidents.

Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.

Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much.

Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.)

Three times as many 12-to-14-year-old girls killed themselves in 2015 as in 2007


Here’s what parents need to know about smart phones and depressed teens:

Smart phones seem to be playing the biggest role in these positive and negative changes. Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”

Here are Jean Twenge’s important findings, as published in the September 2017 article, “Has the smart phone destroyed a generation” of The Atlantic,

“If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen. There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.  The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.”


Don’t forget to give back, TO YOURSELF, this holiday season

You’ve heard the saying “It is in giving, that we receive” and I know you get this.

You live it every day. You work hard so your kids are fed, clothed, clean, kind, warm, educated and happy. At the end of the day, you get to feel satisfied in a job well done and valued by your family. You love buying the perfect gift to see your kids faces light up. Doing for others, gives you joy. Up until a point.

If ALL you do is give, and you don’t do enough receiving in return, you fall out of balance. Falling out of balance shows up differently for different people: resentment, jealousy, overeating, overdrinking, for me, it’s recurring illness and chronic pain.

If you’re waiting for your family, co-workers or mother-in-law, to appreciate all you do for them, you are going to be waiting for an awfully long time.

Instead, follow these holiday hacks to start giving back to yourself this holiday season. They will help you feel appreciated and balanced after a season full of giving.

  1. My favorite Christmas tradition is checking into a hotel room BY MYSELF for two nights after Christmas. There is nothing quite as wonderful as a day where 100% of the decisions are based on what YOU want to do. Where shall you go? What do you feel like eating? What are you in the mood for? How long do you want to stay? LUXURY and a great way to make sure you still remember what your own inner voice sounds like.
  2. If you can’t take an overnight, take a day. Sun up to sundown. Get a good book, explore a new area, check into a day spa. The key is to not DO anything, just to BE, and enjoy being yourself in this beautiful world we live in.
  3. Buy yourself a present. If you are out shopping for others and you find something you really love, BUY IT and wrap it up!  Who says gifts have to come from others? You were very good this year and you deserve something beautiful. Put it under the tree and get creative with the tag. Sign it “Your #1 fan” “Your favorite admirer” write a nice note that says “for all you do”.
  4. Say thank you. If you work and work but never hear ‘thank you’, it’s easy to slip into resentment. Learning to thank yourself for what you do is an incredible life skill. “I thank myself for putting wrapped gifts under the tree for my children .” “I thank myself for upholding our family and religious traditions.” “I thank myself for donating toys and food.” “I thank myself for cleaning my house and cooking a great dinner.”
  5. Make a brag board. Write down all the things you did that you are proud of and post it on the refrigerator for your family to see. “Bought red shirt for the school assembly.”, “contributed to teacher gifts”, “drove on field trip”, “swept the kitchen floor”, “made chili for dinner”, “hung lights”, “folded laundry”. Doesn’t matter how mundane, it just feels good to write down all you’ve done and post it like a trophy on a shelf. Revel in your accomplishments and appreciate yourself.
  6. Celebrate your accomplishments! You made through the crazy holidays! You only lost one present, you didn’t burn the turkey, you remembered to water the tree, so many victories! Get together with your girlfriends and raise a glass to yourselves.

So if you are likely to overdue the giving and doing this time of year, create balance by giving yourself the appreciation, solitude and recuperation time you need.

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” 
― Parker J. PalmerLet Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation