Posts Tagged ‘teen’

PostHeaderIcon Teen Boys, Sex, Alcohol

Teen  Boys, Sex, and Alcohol

by Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.

Image result for teen boy mom
Article Copyright © 2018 Center for the Challenging Child

This is a real exchange, published with names changed, and permission from the writer.

Hello Tina,

We met with you years ago when our kids were toddlers and bedtime nearly drove us crazy. They are all teenagers now and I would give anything to go back to those simpler times. My oldest is a 17-year-old boy. His grades are decent. He works a part time job around 20 hours a week. He is not doing a spring sport so he can work and save for college. I know that he and his friends sometime drink. There are two times that I am sure of. He has had the same girlfriend for 2 years now so I worry about sex also. I have tried to have many conversations and talk about what we believe and try to find out what the motive was to drink and where things are headed with the girlfriend and encouraged him to make a thoughtful decision when he is not “in the moment” so that he can fall back to that when the heat is on.

The main issue is in 6 months he is moving off to college and I worry about him making good decisions. I know a certain amount of college partying is very normal, but still worrisome. Any advice?

Thank you ~
Sharla
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Hi Sharla,

I’m happy to hear from you!  It sounds as if you have a wonderful 17-year-old who is going through the normal experiences of adolescence.  I hope that knowing this is very typical helps to relieve some of the stress you’re feeling.  And here are some ideas to help you navigate it:

  1. Let the positives of his life settle into your brain.  His grades are decent, he’s working and saving for school, he has a lasting relationship with his girlfriend.  He’s doing so many things right!
  2. Another huge plus: You have shared your values with him.  As I like to say, “Teens can’t let you know that they hear you, because they are busy individuating and becoming “not-mom.”  This is a necessary developmental step, and all healthy kids do it.  But once you’ve put your message about your values in him, they’re in there, rest assured.  He just can’t say, “Thanks, I got it,” at this point.  No need to repeat yourself about these now, as he knows how you feel, and repeating just becomes irritating.  I know, teens are very sensitive about this, but again, it’s normal.
  3. Your worry about drinking and sex are justified.  You don’t want him to become a father too young, and you don’t want him to break the law by drinking or become an alcoholic.  But reminding him repeatedly will not get you what you want, and he’s old enough now that you cannot control him.  It’s easy to think that a parent should control her son, but it’s just not possible, nor is it your job now that he’s 17. It’s your job to recognize the myriad ways in which he does control himself.
  4. You can help to reinforce his positive behaviors by letting him know how proud you are of him and the many good decisions he’s made so far.  He’s made a lot of good decisions, and he needs to hear that you see them, if he hasn’t already.  Writing them in a note is a powerful way to communicate, as writing weighs more than talking. Plus, guys at this age become “allergic” to their mothers’ voices – I raised three of them, and it’s just the way it is as they become men.
  5. The more you recognize his goodness, the more you will see.  You will also be drawing him toward you instead of pushing him away, which is huge.
  6. Does he have access to condoms? Tell him where to get them if you think he doesn’t.  This looks like condoning pre-marital sex, but if it’s already happening, it’s not going to end because you want it to.  The best solution is to be sure he’s having safe sex.
  7. The motive to drink is the same as it is for 17-year-olds world-wide. They are blossoming adults and this is an adult activity.  If you have seen him under the influence, but not overly drunk, you might want to say, “I’m glad you’re not overdoing it, and I’m glad you’re home safe.”  It’s the same as with sex; you don’t have the power to stop it because he’s growing up, but you do have the power to influence mindful use of it.  If he is overwhelmed by guilt from you, it may have the opposite effect from what you want, and give him a reason to drink more to suppress his feelings (the number one reason people drink.)

I hope this is helpful, Sharla.  Let me know if you’d like to talk more about this, and we can set up an appointment.  Place your trust in your son now, as he’s just learning to trust himself, and he can learn self-trust from your words and attitudes.

Best,
Tina

If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for information on parent coaching. 

 

 

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Screen Addiction

Screen Addiction: What Parents are Saying

Last month I asked parents to write to me about what was topmost on their minds regarding raising their children.  Almost overwhelmingly, screen addiction was the topic. 

One mom wrote and expressed her concern about her teen daughter.  Here’s her note to me, and my response:

Hi Tina,

Phone/screen addiction is on my mind.

My 16-year-old daughter has been wrestling with screen addiction for the past 2-3 years. I’ve taken her phone away and then tried giving it back to her with agreements about following limits and her behavior deteriorates within about 3-4 weeks. Angry outbursts that eventually turn violent, refusal to follow the phone rules, skipping classes at school and grades plummeting. Currently she does not have a phone. And things have gotten much better.

She’d like to get phone privileges back, but I reminded her that we’ve tried reinstating phone privileges on numerous occasions only to have things get way out of control.

For now, I’ve told her that having a phone is not an option for her.

I do let her use my phone to contact her friends, review her gymnastics videos, etc in the evening once chores and homework are done with the understanding that at 9 pm the wifi is unplugged.

This is truly tough to manage. Do you have any helpful insights?

RW

Hi RW,

I do have an insight for you … you’ve been much braver than many parents in setting limits, and I applaud you!  I think the young brain’s susceptibility to addiction to screens will be seen historically as a turning point in our society, and you have done a wonderful thing for your daughter in saying no to giving her brain a “substance” that it cannot handle.  It’s obvious that she cannot function with constant access to a device, so you have taken the adult role and helped her, just as if her brain was addicted to any other “substance.”  I will be using you as a shining example in VERY tough parenting times.

Thank you,

Tina

There will be more of these notes from parents coming up!  I learned a lot from asking this question, and I can’t wait to share parents’ comments with you.

If you need help with this or any other parenting issue, click here.

PostHeaderIcon Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge

Adolescence: The Great Cookie Challenge

Copyright ©2011 Tina Feigal

 

During a recent coaching call, my client related the story of her 11-year-old gifted son with ADHD. He had come home from school, and immediately loaded a platter of cookies, poured a tumbler of milk, and was heading to watch  TV. His mother’s comment was, “I don’t think so…that homework has to be done!” What ensued was a huge battle, complete with name calling of the most horrible kind, mom getting shoved, and a call dad, (the parents are divorced, but communicating regularly about their parenting) who came right over and gave his lecture and heated attention to the infraction. The son ended his day with a sense of complete guilt, failure, and disconnectedness from both parents.

I offered my thoughts on how this scene could have been avoided.

First, instead of challenging the 11-year-old holding cookies and milk, see that after a stressful day at school, he can benefit from some comfort in the food form and some down time in front of mindless (but please, appropriate!) TV. Notice the child in the present moment, and then ask a question, rather than deliver a command. A better comment might be, “That platter of cookies looks like exactly the thing a sixth-grader needs after a day at school.” The mom now has her son’s open, non-defended attention, even in the era of adolescence. The question is received more positively: “What’s your plan for homework when you’re done with your snack?”

This question does two things. It forwards the action, and it assumes the child’s responsibility for his own homework. This is crucial. With one foot in adulthood, and another in childhood, the sixth grader needs to have affirmations of his own self-efficacy whenever possible. It also helps him develop his sense of responsibility. The adolescent is not ONE thing. He is fifty things, including a developing being. You facilitate his healthy development by assuming his responsible actions (he may not have known how responsibly he was going to handle his homework before his mom phrased the question this way. It’s all happening at the same time…the development, the attitude formation, and the plan!) Furthermore, you predict his success by forwarding the action. One little well-phrased comment can turn a huge name-calling shove-fest into a moment of enhanced self-esteem and responsibility. We get to choose.

After years of training in authoritarian “teach the child a lesson” approaches, we need to unlearn our knee-jerk reactions to kids in adolescence who look as if they are misbehaving, and learn a whole new way of relating to them. Instead of playing the behavior police by correcting the infraction, we need to take the bigger view. An adolescent is an EXTREMELY self-conscious being. It’s as if a huge search light is on him at all times. His body is changing, his thought processes are changing, and his whole being feels a bit unfamiliar. No wonder he feels self-conscious during adolescence. If he doesn’t even know who he is, he can hardly defend himself against the ill-informed opinions of adults and peers.

So an adolescent needs understanding. He is neither child nor adult, but a fluctuating, spinning, hormone-ridden, uncertain, fabulous, loving, angry, open, close-minded baby adult. He will give you the finger and call you a name that makes your blood boil one minute and climb into your lap the next. During this phase of adolescence, a human being needs empathy, not judgment.

At the end of our coaching session, my client asked me, “What’s my mantra?”

My answer is three-fold: “Don’t judge.  Ask: What does he need to learn? Teach him that.”

Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011

For parent coaching help with your children in adolescence, call 651-453-0123.

PostHeaderIcon What Your Child Can’t Tell You

What Your Child Can’t Tell You

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Parenting Speaker
 
You have probably heard the phrase, “All behavior is communication.” The more I think about this, the more I see that it is a crucial thought for raising children. I want everyone to emblazon this idea where they will see it every day. Children misbehave because they lack the communication skills and insight to tell us what’s really happening. It’s our job to look beyond the behavior to the root feelings.
When a child whines, it is not because she likes the sound of whining. It’s because she lacks the maturity and experience to say, “Mom, Dad, I am frustrated right now because you are asking me to hurry for school, but I am a kid and I’m just slower.” Instead, she’ll exhibit all kinds of unwanted behaviors: whining, delaying, arguing, and even getting physically aggressive.
When a grade-schooler refuses to do his homework, it’s not likely that he is simply lazy. His behavior is communicating that he is discouraged in some way. Our first impulse as parents is to make him seethat he needs to get the work done so he can be successful. We remind, cajole, threaten, and eventually explode. Our first impulse would be much more helpful if instead, it was to determine what to do about the discouragement.
When a teenager doesn’t listen to our advice, it’s not because he is just being a jerk. His behavior is communicating that he is in a new phase of development. He needs to make his own decisions, and we are inadvertently calling him incompetent whenever we advise him. He takes it as an insult every time we make a suggestion. He can’t say, “Mom, Dad, I appreciate that you care about me, and that you are more wise than I am. But I need to make these decisions myself because I am becoming a young adult, and that’s what young adults do. Please bear with me as I struggle and even fail sometimes.” So he leaves the house in a huff, giving the door an extra hard slam for emphasis. We would be much better off if our first impulse was to support him in his decision-making, rather than tell him what to do.

It’s essentially a short-cut. If you want cooperative behavior from your kids, take the short-cut by training your mind to see what’s beneath the communication. Practice seeing your child’s innocence first, and working to understand what lies beneath the foul language, the time spent with the door locked, and the “interesting” style of dress. You will find a vulnerable, changing child who simply doesn’t have insight yet. That’s our job as adults … to gain the insight and act accordingly.

Rather than exhibit anger over disrespectful behavior, acknowledge there’s an emotion that the child cannot express directly lying just under the surface. Kids get hurt a lot easier than most adults realize, so they are compelled to protect their tender hearts by lashing out. If we don’t give them cause to protect themselves (by seeing what’s really going on) they won’t have to be so defensive.

So the next time you see a child “acting out”, ask yourself what’s being communicated. It will be an emotion that the child is too young or too immature to express directly, such as hurt, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, or something else you can help to identify. Then address the child in those terms, rather than with your own irritation. Say, “You seem upset. Want to tell me what’s up?” or “How about you take some time in your own room until you feel better and we can talk?” or “I remember being your age and feeling that same way. Sit down, and let’s try to make this better together.” You are getting to the root emotion, rather than placing judgment on the child’s behavior. Congratulations! You are on the short-cut to better communication and better behavior with your child.

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal