How can I support my over-achieving teen

Today’s question: 

“I’m impressed, but also worried about my daughter. She’s 16 and has a 4.4 GPA, great friends, and excels in dance. She is amazingly driven, but averages 4-5 hours of sleep every night. Recently she got REALLY sick. Two weeks of flu symptoms so severe, she almost needed to be hospitalized. Now she’s back to her hardcore lifestyle. I encourage her to sleep and relax more but I’m wondering if it’s it all too much for her? Am I just finding things to worry about, or is there something I can do to support my over-achieving child?”   Marlene

Parent Educator Answer:

Our culture trains us to look for signs that our kids are on the right track. Developmental milestones when they are young, like walking and talking, grades, friendships, and extra-curricular activities when they are older. When your child is meeting all the societal expectations of success, it can cloud your judgement and make it harder to know if you should intervene or not. 

Here are signs your high achieving daughter could use some mama intervention:

  • -cranky and unhappy the majority of her days
  • -not celebrating accomplishments: deflecting and denying praise
  • -mean to siblings and parents.
  • -recurring illnesses that don’t seem to be contagious
  • -recurring physical pain
  • -acting out – doing something impulsive and out of character
  • -acting in – cutting, self-medicating, eating disorders, etc.

People have two ways to motivate themselves: love and fear.

I have coached teenage girls who are VERY hard on themselves. They have really mean inner critics that constantly tell them: “I need to work harder. I’m not doing enough. I don’t have time to relax.” Or they will say things to themselves like, “You are wasting your time. You have to do everything perfectly. You are going to fail, etc.”

Read these to your daughter and ask her if any of them sound like thoughts that bounce around inside her head. If she says yes, or if you see more than one of the warning signs, then she is using fear to motivate herself and it’s time to intervene.

The trick with teenagers is many are very resistant to thinking that something is “wrong” with them and they may shy away from counselors or therapists.

Life Coaching is a great solution. Teens have coaches who help them with their sports. Elite athletes still hire coaches because they can offer expertise and perspective to enhance their game. So there isn’t the same association with something being “wrong” with them. 

There is so much benefit to learning life coaching tools while you are young. You will save yourself years of suffering from the sneaky voice of the inner critic. In teens, this inner critic hasn’t been around long, so it’s easier to rewire that part of our brain, than it is with adults. Young brains are very malleable, so getting coaching while young would help her learn to support and motivate herself with love and passion for the rest her life. Knowing how to coach herself at a young age means that she will be happier, but also be a positive voice for her friends as she moves on to college and adult life.

Life Coach Answer:

Before mom can suggest any intervention for her daughter, she needs to make sure she isn’t worried. Worrying energy repels teens like crazy and will make her not want to listen or be around you. 

I see no problem telling her that some perfectionistic teens commit suicide when they get their first C in college, or when they don’t get into the premiere ballet school, or don’t win the scholarship they wanted, just don’t use it to fuel your worry.

Mama needs to let go of any thoughts around this being an emergency or her daughter “needing her help”. Instead, trust that she could go through her whole life this way and be very tired, but successful. Most of my clients have harsh inner critics and finally seek life coaching once their kids are born and they can’t do it all anymore. If you offer coaching to her, letting her know it’s a normal thing that people do to optimize their life experiences, she’ll eventually come around when the pain, illness, fatigue or frustration are too much for her.

What you can do to help, is to be mindful of your own inner critic and make sure your inner perfectionist isn’t fueling hers. Let her see you making mistakes and laughing them off. Encourage and model relaxation. There has never been a better time to lay around and do nothing.

Supermom kryptonite: busyness.

We live in a culture that reveres busyness. When a mom complains about being busy, all the other moms nod their head in agreement. We wear busyess like a badge of honor, but there is a cost to pay. Being busy robs us of our productivity and sense of well being.

As humans, we aren’t wired to be busy all day. How do we know? Think about the last really relaxing vacation you went on. Didn’t it feel good to do less? Think less? Accomplish less? The fact that doing less, feels good, means it’s more aligned with who we are meant to be. When we are busy, our brains are thinking about the past and the future. We end up spinning in circles, emptying half the dishwasher, doing half the laundry, drafting an email but not sending it. This unfocused, frenetic, busy energy does nothing for our productivity, efficiency, and joy. It keeps us out of the present moment but we do it, to keep our inner critic from rearing her ugly head to tell us we should be doing more.

 

Supermom power boost: honor a sabbath

The old fashioned idea of ‘honoring a sabbath’ could be very beneficial for today’s modern families. With lives full of places to be and things to do, taking time out to just sit and DO NOTHING is probably the smartest thing we could all be doing to improve our sense of well-being. But as soon as we sit to do nothing, our minds fill with all the things we ‘could’ and ‘should’ be doing. Or, we pick up our cell phones and find something to fill the void.

I propose a modern take on honoring a sabbath by setting aside 5 hours (or even just 5 minutes) every week, where no electronic devices are allowed. Where you and your family are forced to “do nothing” together. When the intention is to do nothing but just hang out together, it helps keep that inner voice at bay saying, “you should be doing something else.” 

When my family takes time to honor a sabbath this way, we go hiking, fly kites, go out to lunch, hang out in the back yard, make up silly games, etc. Slowing down and focusing on BEING instead of DOING, can make wonderful things happen that you can’t anticipate when you are busy.

Quote of the Day:“We are living under the collective delusion that in order to succeed we have to burnout along the way.” Arianna Huffington 

How to prevent “failure to launch”?

Today’s question: 

“My son is 16 and UNMOTIVATED. He gets by at school, but that’s it. He doesn’t play sports or have a job or even his driver’s license. I’ve given this kid every opportunity, and I’m resentful that he doesn’t appreciate it. I’m sick of nagging and trying to motivate him because clearly, it’s not working. I’m worried he’s going to be one of those “failure to launch” kids who’s thirty years old and just lays on the couch playing video games and smoking pot. This is unacceptable to me. How can I prevent a “failure to launch?” – April

Parent Educator Answer: “Failure to Launch” is a term used to describe a delay into adult independence and responsibility. Mom has a strong idea in her head of where a 16 year old should be (getting a driver’s license and job), but since he isn’t moving in that direction, she starts worrying about what this means for his future.

There are MANY reasons why we are seeing an increase in “failure to launch” scenarios in our culture. 

It’s common in Supermom culture to do too much for our kids. Optimizing children’s opportunities and focusing on kids instead of parental happiness is unnatural, and puts stress on the family. When we use stress and fear to fuel our actions (we’d better sign up for music lessons, private coaching, tutoring or else we’ll be left behind) our kids don’t learn to motivate themselves out of joy, passion, or interest.

With downtime and boredom, kids learn to listen to their inner wisdom and what interests they want to pursue for their adult life. American kids have less down time than ever before. When every spare minute is filled with a text, tweet, or video game, kids aren’t able to hear what their wisdom is telling them.

Our perfectionistic parenting culture puts too much emphasis on ‘doing everything right’ and meeting societal expectations. It’s really hard for a kid to transition into a new version of themselves when they are afraid of making mistakes or failing. Some kids think the safest way to avoid failure is to not try. Avoiding new things is a common way of coping with the anxiety and fear that naturally bubble up as kids grow into the challenges of adulthood.

Our culture creates the perfect recipe for “failure to launch”. While podcasts like this are trying to change the perfectionistic, work hard and blame the mom culture, what can this mom do to help her (possibly) fearful, avoidant son?

Right now, nothing. Because her emotions are rooted in fear, everything she says or does will add to his fear, increasing his tendency toward avoidance.

Life Coach Answer: I know it’s easy to look at your son’s current behavior and “futurize” and “catastrophize” imagining that he will never change. When you do that, you put your brain into the fight or flight response believing there is an emergency to be addressed right NOW. This angry, fearful energy makes you nag, complain, cajole, and TRY to get him to do what YOU want. He picks up on your fear, making him increase his desire to avoid the world.

Before you can take productive action, you need to release the anger and fear. Why? Because emotions are contagious. When you are calm and confident, he will pick up on that. In order to face the many challenges that lie ahead of him, he needs to have confidence in his ability to achieve AND to fail.

First, recognize that in this moment, all is well. There are no immediate threats to your safety or to his. Breathe and notice that all the drama is happening inside your own head. You are using your imagination to create a dreary future scenario. You could just as easily envision ten other futures for him instead of the one you currently are.

Most moms dread this “failure to launch” scenario because of what they would say to themselves and to their sons if this situation came about. “I failed. He’s a failure.” So let’s make a commitment right here and now that, no matter what, you will focus on love. “I loved him with all my heart.” “He is still 100% lovable, no matter what.” “Even if he never lives up to his potential, I will love him.” “My job is just to love, the rest is up to him.”

Now that we’ve got you out of fear, you can actually say and do things that might help.

Encourage small steps, rather than criticize. Find something to focus on that is a sign of growth or forward momentum, no matter how small. “You found the DMV website today, YEAH!” “You were nervous to ask your friend about his job but you did it anyway, that’s great!” Praising or rewarding him every time he faces his fear is how we undo perfectionism. Then, he can learn to associate the negative feeling of fear, with a positive result.

Meanwhile, you can hold a vision of him being brave and bold, until he can hold it for himself. Picture him taking chances, being brave, and feeling scared but doing it anyway.

Moms can help prevent “failure to launch” by remembering that the number one way kids learn, is by imitation.

I was introducing a group of girl scouts to jumping rope and how to run into it while it’s moving and then start jumping. One at a time, each girl positioned themselves to run in; studying the rhythm of the rope, trying to decide the optimal time to go for it. Their facial expressions showed fear, determination, interest, hesitation, and courage. One girl stood at the ready, nervous but determined, waiting for courage to kick in. Her mom felt uncomfortable seeing her daughter so hesitant, so she ran into the moving jump rope and said: “Look, it’s easy, just do it like this.”

Immediately, this girl’s face crumbled. She folded her arms, walked off, sat against the wall, defeated, and would not try again.

This was such a lesson for me. That sometimes, our competence can actually drain the confidence right out of our kids.

If we want our kids to do new and scary things, what helps them isn’t telling them about our successes, but about our failures.  Instead of telling them about how you worked two jobs and got your license at 16, tell them about the D you got in Geometry and had to go to summer school for. Share that embarrassing story about asking that guy to prom who never actually answered you. Conjuring up your past mistakes and sharing them, might be just the thing your son needs to challenge himself.

Better yet, let him see you trying something new. Have him teach you how to use SnapChat. Let him laugh at your ineptitude at his favorite video game. Or, use this opportunity to pursue something you have dreamt of doing but haven’t had the chance.

Thinking about starting a side-hustle? Now is a great time. Have you been wanting to cut out sugar, carbs, or meat? Why not try it now? Sign up for that half marathon. Start that club you’ve been wanting to start. Budget. Meditate. Make sure it’s something personally challenging to you so he can watch you struggle and stumble. This is THE best way you can help your son. It takes your attention off of him and gives you compassion, remembering that change isn’t as easy as it seems.

Supermom kryptonite: Futurizing & Catastrophizng

Futurizing doesn’t sound like a bad idea, “Isn’t it good to be thinking about and preparing for the future?”  Yes, we like to know what to expect, but many people only envision the worst case scenario (catastrophizing). Our brains can’t tell the difference between a real life catastrophic situation, and the imaginary one we create in our mind. We react as though the terrible thing we’re imagining is actually going to happen.

Try this, keep the worst case scenario in mind, but, just for fun, imagine the best possible scenario in the same detail as you did for your worst case. The vision in your head will be wrong either way, but it is much more enjoyable to imagine everything going perfectly. Now try imagining the funniest case scenario. Then, the weirdest. Then, the most boring. Choose to imagine the one that feels the best to you.

It’s easier to have a life coach help you separate your current, present reality, from your catastrophic future but this will get you started. Your imagination is something you control, why not put it to good use?

Supermom power boostCompassion.

When we recognize that our frustration is really about us and our fears, we can let it go and make room for compassion. Compassion is a wonderful emotion but we can’t access it when we are trying not to feel embarrassed or think that we have failed as a mom. Accept that your child will NEVER live up to his potential but you get to decide how you want to feel about him while he is struggling, learning, growing, failing and succeeding. Love and compassion are always great options that feel good. Embarrassment and shame will not give you the result you want, which is to feel like a good mom.

Quote of the Day: “We change, we grow up, we fuck up, we love, we hurt, we’re teenagers. We’re still learning.” – By Unknown Author

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog, so that someone in the house is happy to see you.” Nora Ephron

Go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me if you want help with your teen.

How can I help my daughter make friends?


Today’s question: “My daughter is 9 years old and doesn’t seem to have any friends. There are girls in the neighborhood we carpool with, and kids she goes to school, gymnastics, and temple with, but she doesn’t seek these kids out on the weekends or after school. At recess or on weekends, she prefers playing by herself. Her brother, on the other hand, is always with friends: riding bikes, skateboarding, and generally having an active social life. I’m worried that my daughter isn’t going to have close friendships. She’s very opinionated, strong willed, and doesn’t like to compromise, so I understand why other kids may not choose to play with her. She doesn’t seem as bothered by this as I am. She likes to read and be by herself, while I’m the one scheduling play dates. How can I make my daughter make friends?”  Lea

Parent Educator Answer: It sounds like you are doing everything you can to support your daughter’s friendships. It’s wonderful that you have arranged so many opportunities for her to socialize and become familiar with other kids.

Between the ages of 3-9, most girls develop friendships based on proximity and convenience. They don’t discriminate easily and are usually happy to play with whoever is happy to play with them. Birthday parties can be huge during these years because it’s hard for kids to choose which friends they like best.

Between the years of 10-12 (once puberty begins) girls tend to want a smaller, more intimate group of friendships they can build closer bonds with. Developmentally, they are practicing intimate relationships by creating a more manageable group of girls they feel comfortable with. It’s common in these years to have hurt feelings as girls get edged out and left out while best friends are created. It is normal, however, for some girls not to be interested in forming these intimate relationships. In every class, there’s always at least one girl who is happy to play with whoever shows up. She doesn’t mind hanging with a different kid everyday, or even none at all. These kids are valuable assets for to those who have recently been rejected by their friend group. 

From what I hear in Lea’s question, there are at least 5 perfectly healthy reasons why this kid might not like playing with other kids:

  1. She hasn’t entered the stage yet of wanting an intimate friendship or friend group.
  2. She may be the type of kid who is comfortable with acquaintences rather than close friends.
  3. She is exhausted from being around kids all day long and needs time alone to recuperate.
  4. It’s more important for her to be able to hear and execute her own ideas while playing, than to expend energy compromising and explaining her thoughts to others.
  5. She hasn’t found a friend yet that allows her to be fully herself.

Kids who have strong ideas and opinions often enjoy the company of younger children. Younger kids are so excited to have the attention of a big kid, that they are willing to compromise more than children of the same age are. Little kids love the creative ideas for play that big kids come up with, and don’t mind being told what to do. Older kids can make great babysitters or mother’s helpers because they get to play the role of leader, boss, or director that they were born to play.

 

Life Coaching Answer: When our kids don’t have meaningful friendships, this can be a big trigger for moms who place a high value on friendship. It is really easy to “futurize” and “catastrophize”, imagining that they’ll never have friends and be sad and socially rejected all through adolescence. Moms can worry that their kids will ALWAYS struggle to make friends and believe this is a huge problem that needs immediate attention and intervention. 

First, we have to look at the problem that is CURRENTLY presenting itself. We cannot fix a problem in the future that hasn’t happened yet (and may never happen) and trying to do so will make us crazy.

The circumstance here, is that Lea’s daughter is 9. She hasn’t entered puberty yet. She likes reading books (a solitary activity), she doesn’t seek out playdates, she is surrounded by family members and family acquaintances almost every moment of every day, and she prefers to play by herself at recess, after school, and on weekends.

We want to take a look at what mom actually has control over. Can she make her daughter make friends? No. She can arrange playdates, carpools & neighborhood gatherings so her daughter has exposure to other kids and becomes familiar with the people in her life. She can sign her up for summer camps and gymnastics classes, but how her daughter interacts with the kids while there is not within mom’s control.

One thing we mammas do have control over is how we interpret our kid’s social relationships. Without meaning to, Lea may be communicating the idea that “there is something wrong with her daughter” because she doesn’t have the quality and quantity of friendships that her brother has. Can you imagine that there is an introverted mom out there in the world who loves to read, be by herself, and sees nothing wrong with her 9 year old avoiding social interaction? We have no idea how this girls social relationships will change with puberty, middle school or high school. This is a time of rapid development! After a day of obeying teachers and following their curriculum, she may have a higher need of listening to her own voice, directing others, or dwelling in her imagination.

It has never been easier to find one’s tribe than it is today. If you don’t fit in with the tribe of people around you, meetup, tinder, or youtube will help you find your village and connect you with people who appreciate your authentic self. Rather than thinking, “this is a problem that needs fixing”, try thinking thoughts that make you feel at ease.

“She is surrounded by people who love her.”

“She will find her people someday.”

“She is so true to herself that when she finds someone who likes her, they will really genuinely like her.”

“If she’s ok playing by herself, I can be ok with it, too.”

“I’ve done everything I can think of, the rest is up to her.”

“If she wants better friendships, she’ll be motivated to compromise.”

When you feel at ease around your daughter’s social dynamics, you communicate the message that there is nothing wrong with her the way she is. This gives her acceptance and belonging; the whole point of friendships in the first place!

 

Supermom kryptonite: worrying

I used to think that “good moms” worried about their kids. It seemed the opposite of neglect. When my worrying turned into anxiety, I had to make a change. What I’ve learned is that worrying is terrible for kids and robs us of our ability to enjoy our lives. Worrying is imagining bad things happening. Focusing on everything that can go wrong drains our energy and keeps us from appreciating when everything is going right. Once I stopped worrying, I was floored at how much more productive I was throughout my day, how much more energy I had, and how relaxed I was able to feel.

 

Supermom power boost: yoga

All exercise is good for us but yoga seems to be especially beneficial for overworked mammas. My theory is that yoga turns our attention inwards. With kids around, your attention is constantly being pulled outside of yourself. Even when we aren’t with them, we think about them, talk to our friends and partners about them, and get annoyed with them for leaving their mess all over the floor. Yoga brings your attention into your body, focusing on the subtleties of movement, muscles, positioning, and breath. This forced self attention and flowing movement re-energies us in ways beyond a typical workout. In my opinion, yoga is a quick and reliable energy boost.

 

Quote of the Day – “Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. 
Keep in the sunlight.” ― Benjamin Franklin

 

 

My a-ha moment and why bother doing scary things

Overcoming fear and life coaching for busy, bored moms

I used to worry. A lot. As a kid, I was scared to say the wrong thing, scared to make someone mad, scared of water, bugs, or walking down the street at night. When I became a Mom, this fear just expanded: scared of something bad happening, scared of running out of money, all sorts of things. It’s easy to be fearful in our culture. The media perpetuates it and I’ve worked hard to overcome it. Now I seek out doing new and scary things. Why? What’s the point of doing things that scare you when the world has enough fear already?

The answer came to me in one, clear “a-ha moment”.

I had just finished a life coach training course with my teacher, Brooke Castillo, and she took us to a ropes course in Lake Tahoe. I’m sitting on a 8 inch square platform, 100 ft above the ground with tears rolling down my face. I’m tied to another coach who is behind me, struggling, scared, I didn’t really know, because I was above her and if I looked down to see her, we would both fall. My heart was racing, my breath was short from the effort of the climb, or from the altitude, or the fear, who knows. There was nothing to do but sit and wait for my companion to be coached into climbing up to join me. I was SOBBING crying, and I didn’t know why.

As I sat and got curious about what my tears were all about it, it hit me. I had spent so much time afraid…. of nothing. Here I was sitting high above the ground, scared out of my mind, and it was actually kind of FUN!  I felt exhilarated! Fully alive! It was a beautiful day. I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery. I enjoyed pushing myself and climbing up so high.

Could it be true that REAL, GENUINE FEAR IS ACTUALLY KIND OF FUN?

All those years I spent in “fake fear” were such a waste!

This started my journey pushing myself outside my comfort zone. Looking for opportunities to grow and challenges to take on, what a better way to go through life!  The way I lived my life constantly worrying, left me drained. Now, with my self-imposed, “bring-on-the-fear attitude”, I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning.

Do you ever feel like your life has become too routine?

If you feel stuck, like you are just going through the motions, busy, but not inspired, then it’s time to shake things up! These feelings happen when we stop growing.

The world we live in doesn’t offer us a lot of REAL LIFE fearful situations. We use TV shows and the news to create scary situations in our minds, but these stop us from taking action. We have to do hard and scary things outside of our comfort zone in order to evolve ourselves as humans.

Don’t let your kids be the only ones who embrace challenge and grow.

Do you have a dream but you are scared to action? Are you so stuck in care-taking that you forgot how to dream for yourself? It’s hard to do scary things without help.

Go to www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me to schedule your free life coaching session and start having more fun.

We aren’t meant to be passengers in this life. I believe we are meant to be creators of our future. The reason I believe it is because I’ve done both and living with genuine, deliberate, fun fear, feels SO MUCH BETTER!

 

When a sensitive teen enters puberty

We all start out listening to our own internal compass. If Great Aunt Mary wants us to hug her, and we don’t want to, we won’t. If a movie is too loud, we will cry, hide, or just walk out. If we want to wear our favorite Dora the Explorer pajamas everyday, no amount of criticism will change our mind.

When puberty starts, along with it comes an increased social awareness: what’s in, what’s out, what’s cool, what’s not. During the ages of 12-16, peer acceptance becomes very important. We are learning to separate from our parents, but we aren’t strong enough to stand on our own so peers become our safety net until we achieve independence. The ability to tune into social cues and interpret meaning becomes key to enjoying the adolescent years. If your child is on either end of this “social cues spectrum”, he or she may start having difficulties at school. 

On the far side of the spectrum are kids who have difficulty understanding social cues, missing nuances, difficulty understanding other people’s emotions and interpreting meaning. They may have a diagnosis like Autism or Aspergers, higher testosterone, or just be more cerebral and “left brain” dominant. School counselors can be very helpful for these kids, taking the subtle and making it clear and concrete.

I like to work with the teens and adults who lie on the other end of the spectrum, HIGH empathy kids. These kids notice EVERY subtlety and can soak up other people’s energy like a sponge. Sensitive kids with high empathy can be very social, but find themselves exhausted with too much social activity, sometimes feeling anxious or depressed when left alone. They have a hard time differentiating their emotions, from everyone else’s, and may find the company of animals and children easier to deal with.sensitive-teen

It’s common for sensitive teens, preteens, and adults, to assume the negative. When we tune in to the people around us, it’s easy to notice someone or something is “off”. Maybe it’s a delayed reaction time, maybe it’s a surprising tone of voice, maybe it’s that the words didn’t match the emotion behind them. Any of these subtle nuances can make a sensitive person’s radar go off and question “What was that about?”  Empathic kids (or adults who haven’t learned to manage their energy) can feel really bothered by this, they may get physically weak, tired, sick with headaches or stomachaches, get nervous or anxious. Our brain goes to work trying to solve the puzzle of “What was that about?” and we often end up making it mean something negative about us: “I said the wrong thing.” “She’s mad at me.” “I hurt her feelings.” “People don’t like me.”

It’s important to acknowledge your intuition and respect that it picked up on the fact that “something is off”. We were born with this intuitive ability to sense danger and it’s a valuable skill set to have. (Your intuition is always calm and easy to ignore, your brain is hard to ignore and keeps repeating itself, don’t mix the two.) Our job is to respect our inner compass sensing “something is off” and manage our mind to think thoughts that are true and helpful. The adolescent years are when negative self talk really explodes so it’s important to make sure we aren’t telling ourselves horrible things about our appearance, our intelligence, our futures and our failures.

Beware of invisible assumptions. You may have no idea why her words didn’t match her emotions. It could be she was distracted, she had a bad morning, was worrying about an upcoming test, just started her period, drank three red bulls, we don’t know. If you are going to allow your brain to answer “What was that about?”, make sure it’s something that feels good to you like, “I don’t know but I know I care about my friend’s feelings.” “She’s having an off day and that’s ok.” “I can still like me, even if she doesn’t.”

Just because you didn’t want to hug Great Aunt Mary, didn’t mean she was an evil person, or that you were rude for not wanting to hug her. Just because the volume of the movie was too loud for you, didn’t mean you are wimpy. And you, refusing to wear anything other than your Dora the Explorer pajamas, doesn’t make you weird, unless you like believing that you are weird. Your inner compass is here to get your attention and guide you, but you get to decide what you make it mean.