The one thing stressed teens need from Mom and Dad

How helping fix problems and focusing on struggle can make it harder for our teens.

I had a hard time when I first became a Mom. Besides the normal, new mommy angst of “Am I doing it right?” I had a difficult baby. He had a hard time eating and sleeping. He needed constant movement, would get easily overstimulated yet easily bored and cried constantly. I needed support and I needed it bad. I joined as many new mom support groups as I could. One day, I found myself sitting in on a cement wall, alone, in someone’s backyard, watching my child, finally happy, sitting and playing with little rocks. The house was too noisy or crowded for my sensitive baby so I sat, exhausted, angry and lonely outside with the garbage cans and the dog poop. All the other moms were inside sipping coffee and chatting while their babies played happily on the floor.

Every once in awhile, a well-meaning Mommy would come out to check on me “You should come inside. He just needs to learn to deal with it. I’m sure he’ll get used to it after a bit.” A few minutes later, another Mom would come out, “You know what I do, I sleep with my baby, that way she feels secure and comfortable in the daytime.” After that I got, “What if you came inside and just breastfed him, then he’d feel comfortable and you could visit with us.” All the advice was valid and helpful but it just made me feel angrier and more alone. What I really needed was someone to say, “It’s really hard isn’t it. Some days just totally suck but you are such a good mommy. I don’t know how you do it all. Here’s a cup of hot coffee.”

I think we do the same thing to our teenagers. We underestimate the amount of stress they are under and we offer helpful suggestions and advice when all they really need for us to say “It is so hard and you are doing a great job. I am so impressed at how well you are managing. Here’s a cup of tea and a cookie.”

The more we can offer this kind of compassion and support, the better chance our teens have of developing their own compassionate “inner best friends” that encourages them through the tough times. Adolescence is the age where we start to develop our own “inner mean girl” who says things like, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I get it right?” “Nobody likes me, I’m stupid, ugly, fat, lame”, “I’m going to fail”, whatever. This inner mean girl will take charge and steer our life if we don’t get a hold of her and cultivate an equally strong inner best friend.

Kids learn by imitation so the best way to help them cultivate a kind inner voice is to hear us say it to them. In order to offer compassion to our teens, however, we first need to offer it to ourselves. Think about it, these kids of ours used to light up when we walked in the door, now they close it on our face! They thought we were beautiful no matter what we looked like, now they criticize our outfits, our hair, our singing, our choice of words (or is this just me and my kids?). Our babies have turned on us and that totally sucks! We used to look to their joy and exuberance to cheer us up at the end of the day, now we have to work hard to not be pulled into their negative spiral. No matter what we say, we are wrong. Our babies have done a 180 and it’s ok to give ourselves sympathy and recognize this is a hard phase for us, too.

Once you are feeling heard and validated, we can take a minute to recognize that the teen years are inherently stressful. You have this body whose hormones are out of whack, that is highly tuned in to other people’s thoughts and opinions, who can spot a fake a mile away yet are surrounded by inauthentic teenagers. Our teens have brains and bodies that are wired to be outside, moving constantly, listening to their own internal voice, yet are sitting on hard chairs, between 4 walls for 7 hours a day, listening to other people’s ideas. Today’s adolescents are swimming in perfectionism and sometimes, all they need to get through another day is compassion.

Our teens don’t always need us to fix their problems or focus on the struggles with our helpful suggestions, sometimes they just need to know they can do it on their own. “You are doing an amazing job, I can’t believe how well you are managing.” “Do you know what a mess I was at your age?” “By the way, there is nothing you need to do today. The day is yours.” “I try to worry but when it comes to you, I just can’t think of anything. I just know your future is bright.” “You have such a good head on your shoulders, I know you’ll be able to solve any problems that come your way.” “How did I get so lucky to get such a great teenager?”

It’s not easy to let go of worry and control and start trusting our kids to figure things out by themselves. That’s why I created “Leading Your Teen” teleclass.

Would like some support figuring out whether it’s time to lean in or let go? Click here and I’ll tell you all about this 5-week class designed for parents who want to worry less, love more, and create a more peaceful relationship with their teens.

How to stop yelling at your kids

3 steps to stop yelling at your kids and end morning mayhem.

Do you know this scenario?

“COME ON, HURRY UP! It’s time to GO! Stop playing around, you’re going to be late for school. For the last time, GRAB YOUR DAMN LUNCH! You’d forget your head if it wasn’t attached to you! I’m LEAVING NOW. Get in the car already!”How to Stop yelling at your kids

The first five minutes of the car ride is angry and nagging, justifying our frustration, but by the time we get to school we’ve calmed down enough for the guilt to start creeping in. We might even squeeze out an “I love you” or “Have a good day” before they leap out of the car, happy to get away from such a cranky mommy. For the next hour, we feel like shit. “Why am I such a bitch?” “What a horrible way to start the day.” “What’s wrong with me and why can’t HE JUST HURRY UP so I don’t have to yell!”

The first step to stop yelling at your kids, is to understand why you do it in the first place. Yelling releases tension and energy. Keeping our feelings of frustration inside doesn’t feel good, so like steam escaping from a boiling pot, we release it by yelling. We feel better in the moment, but worse later on.

The second step to stop yelling at your kids, is to find the thought that causes your feeling of frustration. Emotions come from our thoughts. We can’t change our feelings but we can change the thoughts we think. If we find that a thought isn’t true, helpful or is resulting in something we don’t like, we can replace it with something more helpful.

Some of the more common thoughts Moms have that cause yelling are…
“He should move quicker” “He’s doing this on purpose” “Yelling is the only thing that motivates her.”
“We’re going to get in trouble” “This is embarrassing” “I can’t be late” “I’m never late” “I should have gotten up earlier” “You are trying to drive me crazy.”

The truth is, everyone is late sometimes. Some kids are naturally fast movers, and some kids naturally move slow. It’s human nature to move even slower when we don’t want to go somewhere. I notice that I move slower whenever I feel pressured. I don’t do it on purpose, but it explains why I was always chosen last in P.E.

To argue that kids “should move faster” isn’t helpful. It’s like arguing with human nature.

The third step to stop yelling at your kids is to accept things as they are. “My kid moves slowly in the morning.” “I get up later than I want to.” “Even when I try my best, sometimes I will be late.” How do you want to feel about these facts? You get to decide. You can feel frustrated, or you can choose an emotion that doesn’t lead to yelling, like peacefulness. Try the thought, “I want to be peaceful and efficient in the mornings” and see if it affects your emotional state in a positive way.

Once you are feeling calm and accepting about your mornings, your mind is more open to new ideas. Try these yell free life hacks to get kids into the car in the mornings:

Have a morning soundtrack. Play the same music set every morning so kids know that when Michael Jackson starts singing, it’s time to be dressed and eating breakfast downstairs. When Pharrell starts singing “Happy”, it’s time to get your shoes on and into the car. Practice on the weekend so they know the routine and reward them (and yourself) after three consecutive days of yell-free mornings.

Keep a “late happens” kit in the car so there’s no excuse to stress. This ziplock bag can contain a hairbrush, hair band, granola bar, sunscreen, deodorant, sugarless gum (for bad morning breath), a pen for signing last minute permission slips and a few dollars for buying lunch.

Have fun helping the kids create a morning routine poster. Include funny photos of them pretending to brush teeth, eat, or use the toilet. Encourage your kids to decide what would work best for them in the morning (maybe they need to go to bed earlier in order to take more time in the morning)? Buy them an old fashioned alarm clock so they can be self motivated and rely less on mom. Learning to switch your thinking will keep you plenty busy. 

Make the car a nice place to be. My daughter loved her chewable vitamin so I only let her have them in the car. A frozen waffle folded in half with peanut butter and a glass of milk makes for a quick & easy breakfast to go. Get the heater going, play some nice music and give your kids the happy, relaxed mommy you want them to have in the mornings.

If you want to stop yelling but haven’t been successful, schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

 

 

What’s your currency?

I was reading Amy Poehler’s biography, “Yes, Please!” and she talked about a moment of awareness in middle school that I loved and have been sharing with my summer camp girls. I’m roughly paraphrasing, but it was something like, “I realized I was never going to be the girl who turned heads, the girl all the boys wanted to be with, the most popular, the most athletic, or the smartest. But I was funny. So I decided my sense of humor would be my currency and I focused on building that.”

Middle school is the time kids start turning to the world around them and noticing what’s in, what’s out, how to blend in and not get made fun of. Kids 11-14 are trying to figure out who they are and who they are “supposed” to be and they look to peers and media for the answers. This often creates a perfectionistic image of the ideal look (height, weight, hair, skin, clothes, etc.) to the ideal friendships (outgoing & extroverted but a deep connection with a best friend, constant fun activities surrounded by friends, published on social media) to the perfect intelligence (smart but not too smart, confident but humble, get good grades but don’t work too hard). Yuck!

When kids buy in to this perfectionistic ideal they spend all their time and energy striving towards something impossible and exhausting.

This is why I loved the idea that kids could just chose their currency. Choose ONE THING they are going to focus on, expand on, and take pride in. Instead of trying to be perfect in every area, kids could decide they are already good at this one thing, and not worry about everything else.

What I found at my Launching Girl Leaders camps is that this was a really hard thing for the girls to reflect on. It was SO EASY for ME to identify their special skills, gifts and talents but it was hard for them to see in themselves. 

Here’s an example of some “currencies” these girls came up with

  • I’m really good at telling stories.
  • I like to ask questions and answer questions and am the first to volunteer, this seems to put other people at ease and helps them feel comfortable.
  • I’m really good at trying new things and physically pushing myself to the limit.
  • I love children and think I’m good with them.
  • I’m super determined. When I decide I want something, nothing will get in my way.
  • I really love animals and am inspiring my family to eat less meat.
  • I’m a good listener. People like to open up to me.
  • I’m nice to everybody. When someone’s friends are being mean, they know they can always sit with me at lunch.
  • I love playing games: board games, sports, video games. If I turn homework into a game, it makes it so much more fun.

Here’s your homework Mamas: I want you to help your sons and daughters, identify their currency. Give them some suggestions and ask them, “Which of your personality traits are you most proud of?” “How does this trait benefit others around you?” “Which of your talents would you like to focus on this year?” 

Then identify your own currency. I know that you have lots of traits that make you amazing. Pick one that comes so naturally to you, it’s like breathing. Think about what your friends and family praise you for. How does it feel to focus on this one thing that you already good at, instead of any shortcomings? Remember that without even trying, you are already good enough.

Would you like a career that is more in line with your natural currency? Schedule a free discovery call and lets talk about some new possibilities for you.

Teens and Funerals

You are going to think I’m weird

You are going to think I’m weird but since I just talked with my Launching Girl Leaders about your weirdness being an important sign, coming from your essence, I figure I should let my freak flag fly and tell you, I actually like going to funerals. I have two this week and I love the opportunity to come together and collectively celebrate the essence of this person. There may be a detail or two about their accomplishments but mostly, people speak about who they were: their unique personality, loves, joys, their weird and wonderful ways. Instead of putting on a social facade, there is a vibe of authenticity and genuine emotions. It’s also a great chance to reflect on our own lives and make sure we are living aligned with our highest values. I always come away appreciative of the life I have and inspired to make positive changes. With so much positivity, who wouldn’t like going to funerals?

Teenagers and pre-teens.

Teens don’t always tell us what’s going through their minds but they can get nervous in environments they haven’t experienced before, like a funeral. Some of the concerns teens may have are:

“What if I’m not sad?”

“Can I sit with my friends?”

“I don’t have anything black to wear”

“How long will I have to stay dressed up?”

“What if I see the dead body and freak out?”

“What if I can’t stop crying and embarrass myself?”

“Will have to talk to relatives I don’t know?”

“How am I supposed to sit that long without eating?” 

Because our kids look and talk so grown up, sometimes we expect them to act like grown ups. Most adolescents haven’t attended a funeral before so their pre-conceived ideas might be coming from movies, TV, or their own imaginations.

If you are taking your teen or pre-teen to a funeral, explain a few things to them ahead of time to engage cooperation, appropriate behavior and social etiquette.

 Express these to your kids and help set them up for a successful day:

  1. You do not have to wear black. Unlike TV, people wear patterns, prints and a variety of colors. It’s more important to dress modestly and formally, than to wear all black.
  2. You do not have to feel sad. It’s ok to just listen and learn about that person’s life. Being happy celebrates their life.
  3. It’s ok to be sad. Sometimes watching other people cry, makes us cry. Don’t be embarrassed if you are crying, but didn’t know the deceased, it’s good to be empathic.
  4. You do not have to look at the dead body if you don’t want to, it’s ok to stay in your seat. If you want to look, that’s ok, too. Just know that if you touch or kiss the body, it will be cold.
  5. You will want to eat before you go. The length of time funerals take can vary. There will be food after, but it’s ok to put a granola bar in your pocket if you need to sneak away and eat something.
  6. Grown ups will come up and want to talk to you. They will mention how much you’ve grown and ask you what you are up to. Fill them in on a few details of your life and ask them how they are doing. You might have to repeat the same thing multiple times and hug people you don’t know. It’s good practice for adult life and you can handle it.
  7. Funerals are a great time to talk about happy memories you have of the deceased, funny stories or special moments you shared with them. You don’t have to be sad in order to show respect.
  8. You will need to sit quietly and listen during the service. AFTER, you can hang with your friends, talk, climb trees, eat, but NO CELL PHONES! Posting pictures and #funeral on social media is not yet considered polite behavior.

Helping kids set goals

and goal setting for parents, too!

Last month I got to spend 10 days traveling around England with my teenage son. It was so great to have that one on one time with him, exploring castles and cathedrals, seeing historical sights and beautiful architecture, and visiting wonderful friends. This trip was my son’s dream come true and I’m going to use it as an example of how to turn a dream into an accomplishment.

Before you start helping your kids’ accomplish their goals, make sure you are a living example. Do you give yourself permission dream? Are you setting goals that inspire you? When we become parents, sometimes our kids’ dreams become our own. Children need to see us creating lives that inspire us, not just living our lives through them.

Whether it’s your dreams, or your kid’s, follow these 6 steps to setting and achieving your goals.

  1. Make sure it’s YOUR goal, aligned with soul’s calling. If your kid sets a goal to get straight A’s, but he’s doing it for you or for his teacher’s approval, it’s not the right goal. If your kid wants to “be rich”, she’ll need to be more specific about when, why and how much. One way to tell if the goal is coming from your essence and not your ego is to ask yourself, “If nobody knew I accomplished this goal, would I still want it?”
  2. Make sure the goal scares you a little. We have an innate drive to grow and expand who we are. Setting and accomplishing goals are important because it helps us become a different, more expanded version of ourselves through the process. When I first suggested to my son that he start saving up to travel to England, he was full of doubts. “It’s too expensive” “I don’t have enough money”, “My volleyball team needs me”, “Dad and sister don’t like museums or historical tours, they’d rather go to a beach resort.” The doubts are a good sign! It means you have to grow! Write down all of them and question their validity. Are they really true? How could you solve these problems? It is a hugely valuable life lesson to learn that just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.
  3. Believe in your ability to accomplish your goal. In my son’s case, family members started giving him travel books, maps of England, advice on where to stay. They asked him when he was going, encouraged him. I bought him England T-shirts and watched travel shows and documentaries with him. He was so surrounded by positive peer pressure that it became hard for him to believe this goal would not happen.
  4. Get specific. What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? NUMBERS. Put a date on the calendar. Find out how much you’ll need to save. (My son paid for his own plane ticket and some spending money). This will trigger more negative thinking, “I’ll wait” “I don’t know” “Maybe I should save for college instead”. Write down your doubts, notice how it detracts you from your goal, and recommit. Accomplishing goals is about commitment, focus and belief. Instead of wavering, start using the word HOW. How can I make more money before June? How can travel during off season without missing school?
  5. Go to your future self for advice. Imagine you have already accomplished your goal. You are yourself a year into the future and you did it! Ask your future self, “how did you make it happen?” “What steps did you take?” “What did you do when you got side-tracked and lost focus?” Have your future self write your action plan for you. What research do you need to do? How much money do you need to make? Who is a good person to share this goal with and who isn’t?
  6. Stretch yourself. Setting goals helps us discover new things about ourselves and benefit from “strategic byproducts” that we couldn’t have imagined before. Your goal might be to lose weight but in the process you find out you are allergic to dairy and you love doing yoga. I had a client “hire me to help with her career, but ended up saving her marriage.” When we do things outside our comfort zone, that feel aligned with who we are meant to be, all sorts of good things can happen. As little sister watched big brother accomplish his goal, now she is saving up to visit her friend and travel through Costa Rica.

I am working to turn my dream into a goal. Saying it out loud was scary at first (another good sign!) but here it is. My goal is to live in Lake Tahoe for a month next summer. If you know anyone who needs a house sitter, let them know I’m flexible on dates!

Want help setting goals turning your dreams into reality? Schedule a free discovery call at www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me