feeling bad for my senior

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

Episode #65 – It’s hard to watch my child be sad

Question of the Day:

“I feel so bad for my high school senior. We just found out there will be no school for the rest of the year. She had so many things to look forward to: dance recitals, prom, graduation and all the parties and celebrations surrounding the end of year. My daughter has worked SO HARD throughout high school, only to have it end so abruptly. She didn’t get to say goodbye or mentally prepare to never see friends, teachers, or high school again. The first week at home was great. She needed the rest and seemed to enjoy the break. But now, she has lost all motivation. Even when she has the opportunity to connect with friends online, dance or work on school projects, she does the bare minimum. 

She’s grumpy, laying around in her sweats, moving from bed to the kitchen to the couch and I feel so bad.”

I’m still exercising, getting outside, working from home and I would say my social life has actually improved as I now have more time to connect with friends I wasn’t seeing regularly. How can I help my disappointed, unmotivated teen, feel better?

Marlene

 

Parent Educator Answer:

If we set the Coronavirus aside and just take a look at what’s developmentally normal for 17-18 year olds, what we typically find is a fundamental shift in identity. You’ll hear parents talk about the dramatic changes their teens make during these years when it comes to maturity, responsibility, confidence, and social acceptance. 

Most of us go through about 4-6 major transitions in our lifetime. I’m not talking about a season of life, but a fundamental change in who you are and how you see yourself. The senior year of high school to the first year of college is very often the first major transformation. They are letting go of the old self: the child who lives at home and follows rules that someone else has set for them. 

This transformation into the responsible adult is not easy or pretty. It’s not uncommon to hear some parents complain about their teens “crapping in the nest before they leave it” or struggling so much the first year of college that they end up coming home.

 

Because we’ve been through a few transitions already, we know that there is a great and exciting life on the other side of this transformation. 

Think of it like a caterpillar transitioning into a butterfly. All through childhood, your baby is becoming a bigger, fatter, smarter caterpillar. Changing for sure, but fundamentally the same species, a kid. At some point, usually during the end of adolescence, your caterpillar starts to change. The first step in this transformation is the building of a cocoon. This helps them feel safe enough to fall apart. To dissolve the old self. If you break open a cocoon, you’ll find a liquid, caterpillar soup. The old self needs to completely dissolve in order to re-build into a newly formed adult. 

In Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck identifies the predictable stages we all go through when transforming from our old self to our new self. 

 

Square 1: Falling Apart – Dissolution of the old identity. 

Sometimes this happens slowly over time where we gradually outgrow our old life. People outgrow marriages and careers. We get 9 months to grow into our new identities as mom but even then there is a lot of falling apart that happens that first year we have a baby. 

Other times we get thrown into square one with no warning. A death in the family. A diagnosis. A global pandemic.

Your daughter has been thrown into square one without her consent. Her identity has been stripped 

 

away. The only choice she has is to let go of the old self. To say goodbye to the high school student, the dancer, the friends and acquaintances she will no longer see on a daily basis. Many of us fight and cling to hold on to the old ways because the new ways are so vague, uncertain, and confusing. 

The fastest way through square one is right through the middle of it. To feel all the feels. To mourn and grieve and be sad. To swear and complain and lay around in your PJ’s. The mantra Martha Beck offers that always seems to help is, “I don’t know what the hell is going on, and that’s ok.” 

The caterpillar doesn’t know why it feels the way it feels, why it doesn’t want to eat anymore, or why it’s spinning a cocoon. It just follows its instincts. Eventually, the grief, anger and disappointment will pass and she will move on to square two, dreaming about what’s next. 

 

Square 2: Dreaming and Scheming 

The caterpillar has imago cells; an image of the butterfly it’s meant to become. I believe we also have things imprinted in us; talents, interests, and proclivities we are meant to explore. We have places we are meant to visit and experiences we are meant to have. 

You’ll know your daughter is entering square two when she starts redecorating her room, changing her hair, clothes, or somehow trying on a new identity. You’ll hear her say things like, “I think I’ll join ____ club in college” or “I applied for a job at ____” .  The mantra for this phase is “There are no rules and that’s ok.” 

 

Square 3: The Hero’s Saga

This is the hard work we must go through in order to feel grounded in our new identity. In our caterpillar metaphor, this is becoming a butterfly. Once it is formed, the butterfly needs to push and kick and struggle to break free of the cocoon. If you were to come along and help free the butterfly, it would die. The struggle is an important part of becoming a fully formed and healthy butterfly. 

The struggle for an adolescent entering adulthood can look like: getting a flat tire, missing a deadline, washing a load of laundry with strawberry chapstick, having roommate conflicts, oversleeping and missing a test, SO MANY THINGS! 

The mantra to help get through square 3 is “This is harder than I thought it was going to be and that’s ok.” (Post this mantra near your phone during her first year of college!) 

 

Square 4: The Promised Land

The fully formed butterfly. The responsible adult. There are still minor things to learn and adjust to but you feel pretty solid in your identity. You no longer need your parents in the same way. You trust yourself to handle new and difficult situations. 

So the answer to “How can I help my daughter feel better?” is to be a compassionate witness. 

Allow her to feel as terrible as she needs to feel. Use emotion words and reflect back what you think she’s feeling and thinking: “It’s so disappointing. This quarantine is scary and frustrating.” 

Let her know she isn’t alone: “There are so many kids your age feeling isolated and frustrated about this whole situation.”

Mirror her body language and voice tone, but don’t “fall down the well” with her.

 

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way? Beware of “Falling down the well.”

 

It’s so hard to watch our kids suffer and not be able to do anything about it!  We have this strange cultural belief that says: “My job is to make sure my kid doesn’t suffer.” We think “suffering is bad” and “a good mom should be able to prevent their child from experiencing too much negative emotion.” When we think this way, we feel helpless. Nobody likes feeling helpless so we jump in and try to help by either telling them what they should do to feel better, or feeling bad right along with them in solidarity. 

When we see someone we love suffering, sometimes we do this by “jumping down the well” with them. Our kid has fallen down a well of despair and we commiserate. We feel bad WITH them so at least they feel like they aren’t alone. 

I used to do this with my husband. He’d come home from work complaining about how stressful his day was and I would find the most stressful parts of my day and share them so he’d feel supported. Nice idea, but it doesn’t work. Husbands want to come home to a peaceful, happy house. It’s the reason they work so hard in the first place, to provide a good home to their family. 

When he would come home stressed only to find me equally as stressed, it made him feel worse. 

When moms feel as bad (if not MORE devastated) than their teens, it doesn’t make the teen feel supported. Your teen doesn’t want a mom who is suffering. This is her pain, and her suffering. You don’t have to be happy that your daughter has fallen down a well of despair, but you can still enjoy the beautiful sunshine and throw her a rope once in a while. You can be compassionate – “that really sucks” and “I’m sorry your senior year got ripped away from you” – but still live your life with joy and optimism for yourself and for her future. It feels awkward to be happy when your child is suffering. You don’t have to be happy about her suffering, but you can help her find purpose and meaning in it. 

When you can’t be happy, making meaning is the next best thing. Inside your head, believe that this experience will make her more compassionate to others who suffer, more resilient to future upsets, more adaptable to handle this uncertain and ever-changing world. 

When a mom shows compassion and believes that good things will come from this bad experience, it provides a safe harbor from the stormy seas. Your teen may not be ready to move through square one as quickly as you’d like her to, but when she is ready, she will know where to go to find a safe, happy, and peaceful harbor.

 

Kryptonite – Mental Prison

At the end of the last podcast, I mentioned to the client I was coaching to make sure she doesn’t mentally imprison herself. During this “shelter in place” quarantine, it’s especially important not to feel trapped or stuck. 

I used to do this to myself when my kids were little. I would think things like, “I can’t leave the house.” “I have to stay here.” “I can’t do what I want.” These thoughts create the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness. 

Just like in the question above, thoughts like “I should be able to help my daughter and I can’t.” or “She shouldn’t have to deal with this (and she is).” create a helpless or powerless feeling.

Humans are meant to be free. When we believe we are powerless, it does terrible things to the human psyche. It is much better for our psychological and emotional well being to think, “I can leave the house but I choose not to because I love my family.” or “I want to stay home because I prefer it to the potential consequences of walking out.” 

If you’ve got a depressed, anxious, stressed, or disappointed person living in your house, you are not powerless. You don’t have to feel what they are feeling. You can feel peaceful, happy, grateful, or whatever you want to feel, even if no one else feels the same. 

Let yourself be that safe harbor where your family can come home after spending time on stormy seas.

 

Power Boost: Are you ready for an upgrade?

The other night at the dinner table (we’ve been having a lot more family dinners now that there are no sports), one of my kids asked what the difference is between a version 1.2 software update and a 2.0 software upgrade. My husband explained that a small software update (the kind which adds numbers after the decimal, includes small improvements, bug fixes, and minor enhancements. A Larger software upgrade means to improve something to a higher standard. It provides significant changes and major improvements. It’s an entirely new version of the same software program. 

As we grow up, we are constantly updating. But, about 5 times in our life, we go through a major, version 2.0 upgrade. Martha Beck talks about this in terms of our identity; a letting go of the old self to make room for the new self. 

For many of us, this Coronavirus has created too many bugs in our software. For high school seniors, athletes who play spring sports, parents who have lost their jobs, suffered economic blows, this Coronavirus may require a major version upgrade. For kids and parents who are LOVING this quarantine and don’t want to go back to their old ways, they may be ready for a major upgrade. 

Today’s Supermom Power Boost is to talk to your friends, teens, spouse, and parents about how many upgrades they’ve gone through in their life. Because of moving countries, states, cities, and schools multiple times before the age of 10, my husband says he’s up to version 9.0. I had a very stable childhood so my first upgrade didn’t come until I was 20. Living on my own, getting married, becoming a mom, overcoming anxiety, becoming a life coach, brings me up to version 5.2.or so. It was interesting to hear my daughter say she’s still on version 1 and my son say it was his senior year of high school that moved him from 1.9 to 2.0. 

What version of you are you on? Life coaching transforms my clients into new versions of themselves. If this Coronavirus is giving you too many bugs in your software and you feel like things aren’t working the way they used to, perhaps you are ready to let go of the old version and make room for a significant upgrade in your parenting, career, or relationships? 

Quote of the Day:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of those depths.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

 

  

How do I help my “differently wired” kid make friends

Today’s Topic: How Do I Help My “Differently Wired” Kid?

Here to help me answer this question is Debbie Reber, author of Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World

Differently Wired author Debbie Reber

 

Debbie Reber is a parenting activist, New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and the founder of TiLT Parenting, a website, top podcast, and social media community for parents who are raising differently wired children. Her newest book, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World, came out in June 2018. After living abroad in the Netherlands for the past five years, Debbie, her husband, and 15-year-old son recently moved back to New York City.

 

Words to Ponder on from Debbie Reber, Author of Differently Wired

  • Remember that there is no one right way to be a teenager or have a social life. Check your expectations and don’t compare to yourself at that age or other kids.
  • Play the odds. Try different interest-based camps and classes. They may not go well, but you never know what will click.
  • Focus on the long game.
  • There’s nothing wrong with socializing online.
  • One friend is all they might need.

I took the opportunity to ask Debbie about a few other common scenarios my Supermoms struggle with.

What advice do you have for a mom who is just starting on this journey? Her 5-year-old is getting into trouble in kindergarten and the (private) school is talking about asking him to leave? 

 

Do you have advice for moms whose child got through elementary school but now that in middle school, they are having difficulty. They’ve been diagnosed and have trouble managing the complex workload and now mom feels like she has to sit with them for hours after school to help them focus on homework?

 

 

Supermom Kryptonite:

Thinking that your son’s friendships should look like your own. Not only might there be a brain-centered difference, but there may also be a gender difference.

Boys, as they grow into men, tend to be more project-oriented. They might have one or two friends they get together with for certain activities: online games, working on a project, and that’s enough.

Girls and women can sit around and talk for hours without needing to have something to show for it. Be sure to check your expectations and realize there are many ways to feel socially satisfied and your son’s might be very different than your own.

 

Supermom Power Boost:

Go for a walk, learning and listening to (my suggestion) Debbie’s self care podcast!

Quote of the Day:

“I can predict that life with my differently wired kid will be unpredictable.” Supermom of an adult daughter with autism. 

My kids are staying up too late!

Today’s Topic: Kids Staying Up Too Late

Dear Torie,

“I am wondering what type of consequences to set for my 10-year-old daughter. She shares a room with her 12-year-old sister. I am having the toughest time with them falling asleep at night. From the moment my husband and I kiss them goodnight, it is almost an hour and a half before they are asleep. The repetitive getting out of bed and coming to us with all sorts of things: “I am scared about a show I saw or snakes under my bed”, or whatever! They have twin beds and will try to get in each other’s beds to “help calm each other down but rarely this works”. My girls are thinkers and thus when they lie down both of them are ruminating about the day, etc. 

I am getting to bed too late and unable to have downtime. This frustrates both my husband and myself.

I struggle as to either take away things (what would those be—don’t want to take away play dates as those are important for building social skills for her right now) or reward (marble jar, or no?). I like to intrinsically motivate my children but this is affecting the whole family and I’m unsure what to do.” 

I asked Andria what she has tried that worked or didn’t work and she told me what consequences her kids currently valued. She also added: 

“The 10-year-old wants to use my 12-year-old as a coping mechanism to help her fall asleep. My 12-year-old being the compassionate, nurturing person she is, will go and lie with her. And then….they start bickering about the stuffed animals on the bed, etc.”

 

Parent Education Answer: 

How to get kids to fall asleep at night? 

Let’s take a look at what you have control over, and what you don’t. 

You cannot make your children sleep. You cannot stop them talking, climbing into each other’s beds, or coming to find you. You cannot turn off their brains for them or make them feel tired and peaceful. 

Knowing What You Can Control

You can control what you do when they come to your bedroom asking for water, attention, etc. You can help them create an environment that is conducive to rest and relaxation. You can HELP THEM problem solve THEIR issue of busy, overstimulated brains and a sister who sacrifices her sleep to try and help her sister. 

This is such a classic Supermom question. I define a Supermom as someone who is very involved with their kids, loves mothering, and tries really hard to do everything right.

We tend to think every problem our kids have is ours to solve. If you find yourself banging your head against the wall, unable to effect the change you want, chances are, it’s because you are trying to solve something that is not your problem to fix. 

Anxious Environment

We live in an anxious, overstimulating culture, visual and auditory information coming at us all hours of the day, without enough physical movement to process, purge and rest in the non-verbal, creative part of our brains.

Generalized anxiety is highest in rich countries like the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

You could solve this problem by moving your family to a country with lower levels of anxiety, relaxed people, reduced mental stimulation, and an abundance of nature and watch your daughters drift peacefully off to sleep at the end of a day.

If that isn’t on your bucket list for 2020, let’s move to something else you have control over. 

Helpful Tips With Kids Staying Up Too Late

You could help your daughters create an environment that is more conducive to rest and relaxation. For example: 

kids staying up too late

-No media input an hour before bed. 

-Time for the girls to sit, talk, and process the day with each other. 

-Do yoga stretches together to get them out of their heads and prepare their brains for sleep. -Meditate together or listen to a guided visualization designed to help prepare the brain for sleep. 

When it’s time for them both to sleep, it sounds like having something for their brains to think about would help.

Because you mentioned your girls are “thinkers” you might try a bedtime story podcast like Be Calm on Ahway Island or the Stories Podcast. (Listening to things like podcasts and audiobooks doesn’t count as “screen” time because listening activates the areas of the brain that are good for us.)

The idea is to address the core issue of your daughters’ busy brains at bedtime, rather than seeing it as a discipline issue that requires consequences, and to empower THEM to experiment and figure out what works for them and what doesn’t.

Making sure they get enough exercise in the day time or doing calming yoga stretches before bed can help get us out of our brains and into our bodies. 

You might consider giving your 12-year-old permission to ignore her sister. Can she wear noise-canceling earphones and read a book in her bed? She is trying to be kind but her “helping” isn’t working. It’s teaching the 10-year-old to look to someone else to solve her problems instead of learning that she has the ability to calm herself down. Just like Momma thinks this is her problem to solve, older sister might be thinking the same thing. 

 

What else do you have control over? 

You get to decide what time YOU go to bed and how to handle it when they get up and come to you. You can model for your 12 year old what it looks like to ignore the 10-year-old. Not in a mean way, just a way that makes it really boring and unrewarding for her to get up and come to you. 

If your kids are getting back up after bedtime and coming to find you, the trick is to be non-reactive. You don’t want to be overly kind and affectionate, or overly annoyed and exasperated. If getting up to see mom is as boring as staying in bed, they will lose motivation.

Now if your daughter comes to you and finds your door locked, you taking a shower, reading, or sleeping, it’s going to naturally steer her away from getting up out of bed. If you say you prefer your children to be intrinsically motivated, this is how you help create it.

 

Life Coaching Answer: What to Do with Kids Staying Up Too Late

What will get in the way? 

End of the day fatigue and the feeling of losing control. 

At the end of the day, we are TIRED. All we can think about it is “When am I DONE?” 

We want to have nice, quality time with our precious ones, give love and cuddles, and then pay attention to ourselves for the first time in 23 hours. 

It is REALLY HARD to implement these strategies at this time of day. 

Under stress, we regress. Most of us default to either overly authoritative or overly permissive. 

When Andria is tired, her default seems to be to look to consequences, “What can I take away” which is another way of saying, “I want there to be an action I can take to feel in control.” If we think, “There’s nothing I can do, I have no control over when they go to bed.” isn’t going to feel good either. 

We think, “I just need to get them to sleep and then my husband and I can relax.” 

We put our ability to feel relaxed and enjoy the evening in the hands of our ruminating, chatty children. This doesn’t work very well. Any time we try to control something that we don’t have control over, we will get frustrated. 

Focus on the things you DO have control over. 

What time you go to bed.

How you feel.

How you respond to their problem.

Whenever a mom is wanting to change up a bedtime routine, I suggest practicing it early in the day. Make a game out of it.

Walk through the steps of the new routine before everyone is exhausted. Take pictures of the kids: brushing their teeth, getting their jammies on, doing yoga, etc.

When night time comes, you just have to remind them of the new routine that they already have a positive association with. 

Supermom Kryptonite – Thinking every problem is ours to solve.

It is so easy to get stuck in the habit of fixing our kids’ problems. When they were younger, it seemed like everything fell on our shoulders.

This is too much weight for one person to carry, especially since problems will increase as life becomes more complex. When kids’ adolescence starts, it’s good to practice letting go of trying to fix things. 

You might notice moms start to lose their status as the one and only “She who must be obeyed”. Kids give more credence to teachers, babysitters, coaches, YouTubers, often even Dad’s status gets elevated over Moms.

You might give your daughter the same advice as her gymnastics coach, but your words fall on deaf ears while the young, pretty teenager’s words get put on a pedestal. 

Trying to maintain that “mother knows all” status can drain your energy when, developmentally, your kids are more interested in guidance from peers, older teens, young adults, or relatives who aren’t so involved in their daily lives. 

In Andria’s case, she can encourage her daughters to solve their own problems (ask an older cousin or babysitter for suggestions). She can also delegate to an external resource like an app or podcast designed for tweens.

There are many: Calm, Insight Timer, Simple Habit, Headspace, that have bedtime stories, progressive relaxation, or other auditory ways to facilitate sleep. The goal is to cultivate your children’s resourcefulness, and show them that many people can help them accomplish their goal. 

 

Supermom Power BoostDelegate!

Want to know how to get your kids to eat broccoli? So did social scientists.

They discovered one of the most effective ways is to sit your child down at a table and have them watch an older teenager (of the same gender) sit across from them and happily devour a bowl of broccoli. No talking, just role modeling. 

You can use this natural tendency kids have to listen to outsiders to your advantage. 

Email your pediatrician before an appointment. Ask her to mention the importance of vitamins, sunscreen, or exercise or whatever you are tired of nagging about.

Email your child’s teacher or coach.  Ask him to please praise your son for making mistakes and trying new things because you are working on developing a growth mindset. 

Ask your friend to compliment your child on something her new haircut if he is feeling insecure. 

Find a YouTuber or “influencer” who preaches self-love and care. 

Ask your niece to come over and help your daughter organize her bedroom. 

Have an uncle you trust, talk to your son about safe sex and respecting women. 

You do not have to be all things to your children! Utilize your village and expand your child’s circle of trust. This encourages independence, resourcefulness, and a feeling of safety as your child grows into adulthood. It also frees up your time and energy, helping you feel supported by your village.

 

Quote of the Day:

“Embrace it. Especially because of the lives we live, a lot of times other people have to care for our kids and you have to have that mommy time. Get your sleep!” Jennifer Hudson

Teenage sugar addict

Teenage Sugar Addict

In Episode 49, I answered a question from Tina about her pre-teen daughter possibly dealing with sugar addiction. This topic isn’t talked about much in parenting circles. Hence, I thought it would be good to dedicate another episode to it. This comes after the last two weeks of chocolates, candy canes, gingerbread houses and cookie decorating. So, let’s start the new year off with a teenage sugar addict.

Mia is a 17 year old who realized sugar was affecting her negatively and completely gave it up in middle school, ON HER OWN!

I wanted to know if there was anything her mom said or did that helped her come to this conclusion. Tune in, or better yet, have your sugar-crazed kiddo tune in, to learn HOW and WHY Mia completely stopped eating sugar.

You’ll learn….

-How she realized sugar was causing her problems.

-What it was like to completely go off and what it taught her.

-How she copes with peer and family pressure to eat sugar.

-What her parents did that was helpful, and what didn’t help at all.

Happy New Year!

Is my child a sugar addict?

This episode’s topic: Sugar Addiction in Kids

sugar addiction in kids Is My Child Addicted to Sugar?

I’m struggling with my daughter (age 14) being so ungrateful and unwilling to help out.
I’m thinking I need to stop making nice meals for her since she’s not willing to make so much as a piece of toast for herself. She’d rather sit on her phone and, if I let her, she’ll go without eating or grab whatever sweet snack she can find.

It was important for me to teach my kids how to prepare healthy meals for themselves and my son will do it on occasion. We give him lunch money because when he buys lunch it’s healthy. My daughter, however, will just buy rice crispy treats and pirates booty or won’t eat at all.

I’m worried about her addiction to sugar and have thought about her seeing a nutritionist but, with the attitude, I’m thinking family counseling could be useful. Could sugar addiction be the cause of so much negative behavior? Tina

Episode 49: Sugar Addiction in Kids

Parent Educator Answer:

Let’s talk about sugar addiction. Many people might minimize it or laugh it off, but it can be a real problem for many people. This isn’t just “OMG I’m addicted to peppermint mochas,” It is a physiological addiction that affects the brain.

I am not a nutritionist nor an addiction expert but my son had an experience with sugar addiction so I’m happy to talk about it in simple terms, from a mother’s perspective.

The way I understand it, sugar releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that floods the brain and creates cravings. When the dopamine high from sugar wears off, withdrawal symptoms set in.

Understanding the Brain

The brain requires even more sugar to bring the same good feeling, creating a craving for sweet foods. Without the dopamine inducing substance, sugar addicts feel tired, restless, anxious or depressed, making the craving even stronger to alleviate the unpleasant feeling.

Signs of sugar addiction can be: headaches, lethargy, fatigue, craving sweet and/or salty foods, insomnia, hiding sweets, making excuses or deals regarding sugar, avoiding foods without sugar, turning to sugar when feeling negative emotion, going out of your way to get sugar and feeling guilty about sugar intake.

Could Tina’s daughter’s negative attitude be a result of sugar addiction?

Absolutely.

But being ungrateful and unwilling to help, could also be a normal teenage state of mind. If you are seeing that she is constantly negative, fatigued, lethargic, fighting with her brother, avoiding emotions, and seeking out sugar to the exclusion of other foods, the root of the problem might be sugar addiction.

In a way, we were lucky. When my son was 12, he had a QEEG done of his brain and they told us he had the marker for addiction, meaning his brain was wired similarly to the brains of people who struggle with addiction.

We thought this was good information to know before he goes off to college and gets exposed to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Later, when he developed a terrible sugar addiction, we had already prepared ourselves and could spot the signs of addiction.

Predisposition

I learned that some people have a predisposition for addiction but you don’t really know what will trigger it. Whether it’s sugar, alcohol, video game addiction, gambling, or porn, it’s all coming from the same place: dopamine.

Different brains react differently. It is not a character flaw nor a sign of bad parenting. Getting frustrated with your child for not being able to manage her sugar intake is like getting mad at your child for having dyslexia.

I found a quote about addiction by Luke Davies. He defines it like this: “When you can stop, you don’t want to and when you want to stop, you can’t.”

In the case of my son, my husband and I sat him down and told him, “We recognize this is a real problem.  We love you, we are on your side and we will help you.”  I remember his Dad saying, “It’s the three of us, against the addiction.”

Once he was able to experience life without sugar and noticed how much better he felt, he felt motivated to manage it and his eating habits more.

Life Coaching Answer:

It can be agonizing to watch our teens struggle with a problem. We want them to change their behavior so that we can feel better and stop worrying so much! We think, “If you could just DO better, then I could FEEL better.”

Step 1

The first step to helping you get out of your own way is to acknowledge your maternal instincts or intuition.

Thank your higher self for alerting you to the fact that something isn’t right.

What happens is our maternal instincts start sounding an alarm bell. We try to shut it off by changing our child’s behavior. This doesn’t work, so we try to make peace with an alarm bell constantly ringing in our heads.

Instead of that, thank it for doing its job. Acknowledge that your instincts are picking up on something that needs addressing.

Step 2

Accept reality. Instead of saying, “She shouldn’t be acting this way”, accept that this is exactly what’s supposed to be happening.

Allow your teen to have problems. The reason you haven’t been able to solve this problem is that it isn’t yours to solve.

Your daughter needs to be involved and motivated. She needs to experience the problem as hers, with you and Dad there for support, love, and guidance. Find the facts of the situation and deal with them head-on.

Step 3

Drop the Rope. Right now you and she are on opposite ends of the rope, playing a game of tug of war.

She wants sweets. You want her to eat healthily.

The more you pull in your direction, the more she will pull in the opposite. It’s hard, I know, but it is so helpful to drop the rope and walk around to her side of this tug of war game.

Let her know you are here to support her. Her guilt, although invisible, is a big part of the problem.

Once she knows you are on her side, and that it’s not her fault she has this predisposition, she can start releasing the guilt that is keeping her stuck.

Think about how you would handle it if you found out she had dyslexia. You wouldn’t be mad or expect her to fix it on her own.

You would help her find resources, outside experts, encourage her to be patient with herself.

Once you thank your intuition, accept this as HER problem that might be with her for the rest of her life, and get on her team, then you can move to step 4.

Step 4

Hold a higher vision. It is really easy to see problems our teenagers are dealing with and catastrophize and futurize.

It feels to us like an immediate problem we need to fix or else bad things will happen.  This intensity, however, will only make your daughter pull harder in the opposite direction.

Parents can help their struggling teen by imagining that their struggle has a purpose. I found it very helpful to believe that my son would use his challenge to help others.

Imagine she will overcome this someday. Communicate this belief with her.

Tell her that overcoming this will deepen her compassion for others and give her a broader understanding of the world.

Let your daughter know that you believe in her ability to do hard things, ask for help, and prioritize her health and happiness.

We aren’t meant to go through life without problems, but we are meant to grow because of them.

Let her know those good things wait for her on the other side, and you are there to support her every step of the way.

Supermom Kryptonite – “Putting on the cape”

Many of my clients are excellent at “putting on the cape.”

They see their child suffering in some way and they “put on their Supermom cape” and fly to the rescue.

We love feeling capable and saving our children from problems; we were made for this! But sometimes we don’t have the resources necessary to help our kids solve all their problems.

Expecting to be able to solve any problem your child ever has will drain your energy. You will know if this is your situation because everything you tried hasn’t worked.

It could be that it’s your child’s problem to solve.  All you need to do is drop the rope and join her support team.

It could also be that your child isn’t capable of fixing the problem on her own. It’s time to add outside experts to the panel. Just make sure it’s all of you, against the issue.

If we are dealing with addiction, we are dealing with a brain that has been hijacked. Getting professional help can be life-changing.

“Putting on the cape” and trying to do everything FOR our teens will drive us both crazy and exhaust us. Instead, hang up the cape, step into your daughter’s shoes and try to see things from her perspective.

Supermom Power Boost – Do something impossible

When my son’s Naturopath described the cleanse she wanted him to go on (no sugar, no gluten, no dairy), my first thought was “There is no way I could do that”.

Of course, there is nothing like the health of your child to motivate you. My husband and I didn’t feel right asking our 12-year-old to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves so we put ourselves on a cleanse. No sugar, gluten, dairy, no coffee, no alcohol, NO FUN!

But it was FASCINATING.

I learned so much about my eating habits. Something about the hormonal change made me feel weepy and wacky. I didn’t miss sugar at all, which surprised me, but I missed corn of all things.

My husband LOVED how he felt: clear-headed and energized.

My favorite thing that came from this experiment was doing something I never thought I could do. When you have the belief “I could never do that,” and then you do it, it makes you wonder “What else am I saying I could never do, that I’m fully capable of doing?”

If you want a boost of energy, try a cleanse. Or bungee jump, take a vacation by yourself, start a blog, something where you currently think, “I could never do that”. Do whatever crazy thing strikes your fancy just to prove to yourself how capable you truly are!

Quote of the Day:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous

Teen alcohol party

Our topic for this podcast: teen alcohol party

Episode 45 – Dealing with a teen alcohol party

“Last night was Halloween and my daughter (age 16, straight A, athlete, good kid) invited some friends over for a Halloween party in the basement. There were about 10 teens, boys and girls, hanging out, playing party games, watching Stranger Things. My husband and I were home and keeping a distant eye on them. We heard happy sounds coming from the basement.

One of the parents must have pulled up to our house and texted “I’m here” because two kids came upstairs and said goodbye as they walked out the front door. They reeked of alcohol as they walked past! I ran downstairs and found the kids had snuck one of our bottles of liquor and mixed it with their sodas! They had all been drinking! It was a school night! One girl even drove herself so I had to drive her home, leaving her car at our house. I’m so livid I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to say to my daughter, to the other parents who trusted me to supervise their kids! My husband doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He says it’s totally normal, and I’m sure it is, but for some reason that is not helping me. I want to do the right thing but I don’t know what that is.”
-Ashley

teen alcohol party
Group Of Teenagers Drinking Alcohol In Bedroom

Parent Educator Answer:

I’m sorry that you feel duped by your daughter and grateful nothing bad happened as a result of your unintentional Halloween party. As I’m sure you are aware there could have been some pretty dire consequences from hosting a teen alcohol party.

It sounds like a good time was had, no one was puking or getting in trouble. I can’t tell from your question if the other parents are aware that drinking occurred but it sounds like knowing what to say to them, as well as your daughter, is what you’d like help with.

Your daughter needs to experience consequences for her actions but since nothing bad actually happened, you’ll want to impose some consequences of your own.

My parent educator answer is for you and your husband to sit down with your daughter when everyone is calm and talk to her using these four steps.

Step 1 – Calmly and clearly explain the problem:

Give your daughter some factual information why an alcohol party for teens is not allowed.

It is against the law to serve alcohol to minors. The reason the drinking age is 21 is that the brain is in an active growing period during the teen years. Whatever substance you introduce during this time can cause the brain to form around it, building a dependency. Around 25, the frontal lobes of the brain are fully formed and therefore is a better age to introduce any mind-altering substance.

Explain that an alcohol party for teens have more serious consequences.

If one of your friends had driven home intoxicated, they could have lost their license, been arrested, paid a fine, hurt or killed someone else or themselves. The consequences of your simple act of stealing and drinking alcohol could have been tragic. It is also possible that your Dad and I could have been arrested, sued, pay fines, and have this incident permanently on our criminal record.

When people drink alcohol, they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors. It impairs judgment and leads to making poor decisions.

 

Step 2 – Explain the real and current problem.

Continue talking to her about the current problem and listen to her side of the story.

We are very grateful none of those things have happened. So the biggest problem facing us today is that we lost trust in you. Trust is something that takes a long time to build but can be lost in an instant. Even if you apologize and say you will never do this again, we can’t trust that. You will need to earn back our trust by showing us, through actions over time, that you are telling the truth.

We would like to understand what was going through your head last night. What motivated this action? What were you thinking and feeling? Please tell us your side of the story so we can get a clearer picture from your perspective.

 

Step 3 – Impose Consequences

You can ask her what consequences she thinks would be appropriate or decide on some yourself. Just make sure you and your husband are on the same page.

We would like you to write a letter of apology to the parents of each friend who was at our house on Halloween. You don’t need to say they were drinking, as you really don’t know. Just let them know that alcohol was served and you now understand how serious the consequences of this could have been. They trusted you to be a positive influence on their teen and you violated that trust. Your Dad and I will also be calling the parents to let them know what has happened.

The liquor cabinet will remain locked from now on and you won’t be allowed to attend or host parties for the remainder of the school year.

Depending on your daughter’s version of the story, you may want to restrict access to certain people or revoke driving privileges, things like that.

 

Step 4 – Follow through

Make sure you follow through on the consequences you impose or she will learn you don’t mean what you say. You want to trust her again. Model that for her by showing her what trust looks like: meaning what you say and saying what you mean.

 

Life Coaching Answer:

Before you can do ANY of that, you need to give yourself some much needed TLC and compassion. You’ve got a whole bunch of negative emotions spinning around: anger, fear and the big daddy of all sucky emotions….shame.

Anger is a quick and easy default emotion for most of us. In its healthiest form, it’s a signal that an injustice has taken place. Your daughter violated your trust and that sucks.

Fear is future thinking. Worrying about what could have gone wrong, what the other parents are thinking about you and your daughter.

Worrying about things you don’t have control over. You can apologize and inform the other parents, but then you can let it go.

Fear and worry are a waste of energy and don’t serve anyone.

Shame is the emotion we all dread feeling. Nobody likes feeling shame but we all have it so it’s worth getting to know it. The way I think about it, embarrassment means “I did something wrong”, shame means “I am wrong. Something is wrong with me. I’m a bad person.”

Resisting it and running away from shame, will make it last forever. If you can allow it, say hello, and confess it to a compassionate witness, it will go away.

Just because shame is common, doesn’t mean it needs to stay. Shame is an emotion that is coming from a thought in your mind. Your daughter snuck alcohol and served to her friends, this doesn’t make you a bad person.

But my hunch is you thinking some pretty bad things about yourself: “The other parents are going to think I’m a bad person” “The other parents won’t trust me with their kids.” “I’m untrustworthy and irresponsible.” Something that is coming from a perfectionistic part of your brain that says “I’m either a good person or a bad person”.

Your husband doesn’t share this black and white thinking. He’s not worried about what other people will think and he doesn’t see it as a mark against his character.

He might be mad that she violated his trust but he’s not making it mean that HE has done anything wrong.

It’s very common for parents to enmesh with their kids and feel shame when their child does something wrong.

Your daughter made a mistake, but you didn’t.

When you recognize that you didn’t do anything wrong, you are a good person and worthy of trust, then it will be much easier to problem solve this situation with your daughter.

 

Supermom Kryptonite – Shame

According to the dictionary, “Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.”

What this means is that shame, this horribly toxic emotion, comes from our beliefs about ourselves, that we are disgraceful and not worthy of compassion. When it sits in us unnoticed, it causes us to act desperately.

The reason I presume Ashley is spiraling in shame is because of her level of desperation. Shame causes us to act desperately, craving acceptance because we are unable to give any to ourselves.

The most self-destructive behaviors: addiction, violence, bullying, eating disorders, all have an element of shame to them.

If Ashley was to try and talk to her daughter, and the other parents, from shame, it would not come out the way she wanted it to. When we act from negative emotion, we get a negative result.

The good news is that shame can only live in the dark. Once we shine a compassionate light on it, it cannot survive. Telling your story to a compassionate witness, as Ashley did by writing this question, will help her find compassion for herself. When she can feel like a loving, caring mom, despite her daughter’s alcohol party, she will find the courage to have the necessary conversations from a calm and peaceful place.

Supermom Power Boost: Understanding your shame spiral

There are days when you just feel HORRIBLE for no reason. You get mad at your husband, you complain to your sister, you vent with a girl friend and you take it out on the kids, but it doesn’t go away. You keep beating the same drum, looking to feel better. Chances are you are in a shame spiral.
A shame spiral is continually thinking negative thoughts about yourself that isolate you from others. “I’m not worthy” “I’m not good enough” “I’m a bad person”. Complaining and blaming is our attempt to connect, looking for forgiveness and acceptance.

Understanding how you act when you are in a shame spiral will boost your energy next time you find yourself in one. Sometimes, just putting a name on something makes a crazy, out of control emotion feel manageable.

How do you act when you are in a shame spiral?

Mine is a two part response: First, I get mad and blame everyone around me for making me feel bad. Then, once I realize I’m in a shame spiral, I call people that I know love me and ask them to tell me why they like me and why I’m a good person.

Shame is a natural human emotion (and a sign that you are not a sociopath) so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. When we can understand how we act in a shame spiral, and what to do to makes us feel better, we can bring it out of the dark (where it controls us) and move into compassion. When we have empathy and compassion for ourselves, it’s easier to act courageously and in ways that we are proud of.

Quote of the Day:

“If you put shame in a petri dish, there are three ingredients it needs to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” Brene Brown

What if you don’t like your kid?

Our topic for this episode: do you have an annoying pre-teen?

Episode 44: Annoying Pre-Teen: What if you don’t like your kid?

“My daughter is a pre-teen, and already immersed in puberty and the mood swings and irritability that goes with it. Getting her to do anything is a battle: homework, chores, coming to the table to eat, putting her device away, going to bed, you name it. It takes every ounce of patience I have to get through the week with her. By the time the weekend rolls around, I. AM. DONE.

This weekend, as my husband is heading out the door, he says to me: “Don’t let her sit on her phone and watch Youtube all day. Find something fun the two of you can do together.”

It sounds like a great idea. I used to love being around her and would like nothing more than to have something fun we both enjoy doing. The problem is, she doesn’t like doing anything I like and when I try, it becomes another battle. She complains, argues, insults, and criticizes everything I do. I would not want to spend time with anyone who treats me this way. Yes, I love my daughter, but she treats me like the enemy.

I feel so guilty, but I really don’t like my being around my pre-teen right now.”

 

Parent Educator Answer:

From a parent educator’s perspective, nothing has gone wrong here. The situation you are describing is exactly what is supposed to happen.

Pre-teens are supposed to start separating from their parents, especially their moms. Mother-daughter identities get enmeshed with each other. We feel proud when our child excels, we feel happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad.

Does your child ever get embarrassed by your behavior?

“OMG Mom, you are not going to wear that.”
“Don’t you dare dance or sing in the car, EVER.”

Have you ever been embarrassed by your child’s behavior?

“Don’t talk to your friend like that! She was trying to be nice.”

“Your grandma is coming over so please be on your best behavior and for God’s sake, clean up your mess before she arrives!”

These are signs of enmeshment, where our ego identifies with our child’s behavior and vice versa.

Understanding Your Teen

Teens and tweens will criticize, insult, argue and reject our ideas as a way to individuate. It’s a sign that your daughter is ready to see herself as different, unique and competent. Through bickering, girls can affirm that they are separate individuals from their mom with their own tastes, personalities and preferences.

It is developmentally normal for pre-teens to reject family activities or parental ideas of fun, (unless a friend can come along with them). When they reject our suggestions of fun things to do, it’s as though they are saying “I’m not a baby anymore”.

Child development experts suggest holding tight to participation in family activities such as holiday dinners with grandparents, going to church, chores and other family rituals. Let them complain and argue all they want but hold tight to these things.

They may start to seem like an annoying pre-teen. You cannot make your child be nice or enjoy spending time with you.

Instead, encourage them to develop a “group identity” separate from you. Many tweens will do this naturally by adopting a best friend or tight group where they dress alike, talk alike and do everything together.

These days, group identity can take place online. Following certain YouTubers or face-timing with friends helps the tween feel safe while learning to stand on her own. Tweens benefit from a transitional bridge between being one with their family and feeling confident enough to be independent.

When we see our kids rejecting our ideas of fun to sit on their phones all day, we see it as a terrible waste of time. But when kids play online games, Facetime, YouTube, Netflix, vsco, and tic toc, it’s really more about understanding the culture of their peers, identifying as someone who is socially “in the know”, and exploring interests separate from mom.

annoying pre-teen

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from viewing this as normal tween behavior instead of an annoying pre-teen?

The circumstance you described is completely neutral. But it doesn’t feel neutral because of what you are making it mean.

You feel guilty so you must be making it mean something like, “Something is wrong with me”, “I’m a bad mom”. “If I were nice, I would like her.” “I should want to be around her.” or “She shouldn’t want to be on her phone all day.”

Notice how you feel when you think these when you start looking at them as an annoying pre-teen? Guilty. Awful. Heavy.

How do you parent when you feel terrible? You suck it up. Try harder. Get annoyed with yourself and her.

When we feel guilty and annoyed, we tend to parent inconsistently and have trouble sticking to rules around phone time and family obligations.

What is the result of parenting this way? You feel like a terrible parent. This reinforces your belief that you are doing it wrong and you are a terrible person.

Changing Your Perspective

In order to see your daughter’s behavior as normal and a sign of healthy social development instead of an annoying pre-teen, you’d have to give up the belief that you are bad and wrong.

Sometimes we hold onto beliefs like “I’m bad” or “I’m not a nice person” as a way to motivate ourselves to be better.

It’s like this: “At my core, I’m bad and mean. I need to remind myself of this in order to motivate myself to be nice.”

This might work for a little while but the long term effect of this is exhaustion and irritability.

You don’t like being around someone who complains, criticizes, argues and insults you, SO WHAT?

Let’s imagine for a minute that you didn’t think this was a problem. If you believed that you were a good person, and felt neutral about your daughter’s behavior, what do you think you might do?

You certainly wouldn’t let your husband’s parting comment bother you. You’d probably leave her alone, which it sounds like is what she’s wanting. You might drop her at a friend’s house and enjoy your own company, guilt-free.

If you believed, at your core, that you were a kind and loving mother. You would look for ways to prove yourself right. This might involve paying attention to your own needs. Spending time with people who uplift you instead of insult you. It might mean cooking her food or buying her a gift or whatever felt kind and loving to you.

Believing we are kind and loving, makes us act kind and loving. No guilt. No drama. Just unconditional love. Where your pre-teen can say or do anything and it doesn’t take you away from feeling loving.

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Motivating yourself out of negative emotion

Many of us use negative emotion to motivate ourselves to do something. We think telling ourselves “I’m a bad person” will make us act nice.

We used this in school: We’d tell ourselves we’re going to flunk a class to motivate us to study for a test.

For instance, if we want to lose weight so we tell ourselves how fat and lazy we are in order to motivate us to exercise. We think this will make us go to the gym and eat healthily, and it might once or twice, but over time it just makes us feel bad about ourselves.

Even if we do lose weight, we don’t feel any better because we are still thinking mean things about ourselves. What’s the point of losing weight if you feel terrible either way?

Motivating yourself with negative emotions will give you a negative result. Telling yourself, “I’m going to flunk if I don’t study” might get you a good grade but it will increase your stress and make you dislike school.

Believing, “I’m a bad person if I don’t like spending time with my ornery pre-teen” might motivate you to make an effort and do things together, but leave you feeling guilty and resentful.

When we motivate ourselves out of positive emotion, it’s easy to keep going. We don’t get burned out or resentful because feeling good is its own reward.

 

Supermom Powerboost: Liking your own child.

Of course, we all want to like our own children. But sometimes the best way for us to do this is to not be around them so much.

When my son was 13, I used to think maybe there was a reason families would send their 13-year-olds off to apprentice for an uncle.

I would love to send my daughter to be a live-in nanny for another family so she can be more appreciative of what she has and learn some skills.

My husband pointed out that I always talked about having another baby when we were away from our children for the weekend. Apparently, I never mentioned at the end of an exhausting day!

What thoughts can you think about living with an ornery teen, that help you feel like a kind and loving mom? I would start with “I love her, but I don’t enjoy this phase and that’s ok.” or “I’m not supposed to like this behavior.”

How much time can you spend with your child and still think kind thoughts? It may be easier to like her when you aren’t spending so much time together. Certainly it’s easier to like her when you aren’t telling yourself that she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing, and you shouldn’t be feeling what your feeling.

You don’t want to convince yourself something is true if you don’t believe it. If you say, “I love this phase of her life” and that feels like a lie, it will not work. We want to think something that feels true and gives us a softening feeling in the body. “I don’t like her and that’s ok” “I’m prioritizing my emotional well being over her screen time, and that’s ok.” “I’m a good, but imperfect mother.”

 

Quote of the Day:

“‘It is what it is’ This means we parent our children as our children are, not as we might wish them to be.” Dr. Shafali Tsaberry