Sometimes, Ya Just Gotta Suck It Up!
August 9, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Discipline, Parenting, Spoiling, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

The energy us parents put into using “positive discipline” – not yelling, speaking from the “I”, and trying to listen to our children. Feeling sick about ourselves if we do, eventually, lose it.

Lately, I have been getting a different slant on the parenting of college age children/adults. Stories right and left of kids acting like tyrants when they are sick, insisting their parents pay more rent because they “refuse to leave the Lower East Side”, or just plain old constant complaining about every slight ache or worry.

Parents, me included, lament to each other, “What happened to just sucking it up?” Didn’t our parents give the –“This is life-deal with it,”– message sometimes? And, though we didn’t like hearing at the time and felt misunderstood, angry and alone–didn’t it work?

So you worked the crappy job at the mall, plowed through the day even though you didn’t feel good, so you lived in a share with 4 friends in a sketchy neighborhood. Didn’t we survive these things and aren’t we the better for it? Yes. And so did every generation before who went through the same thing with their parents.

Resiliency comes from working the muscle of sticking with discomfort and seeing you can come out the other side. Confidence often comes from seeing that you can control yourself and get to a better place.

So along with the slogans, “Because I Say So”, “I Am The Head of this Family”, that we swore we would never say, but now claim them with delicious self-righteousness, let us add,”Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Suck It Up!”

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Knit 1 Pearl 2, Hand It Down
July 7, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

by Jean Kunhardt

One of my fondest memories of childhood is my grandmother teaching me how to knit. I was 8 and spending the summer with her. Nonie was a master knitter; could “turn a heel of a sock in a dark movie theater.” She had bony arthritic fingers and her knuckle bumps, which I envied, served as perfect yarn holders as her fingers flew and her needles clicked. As expert as she was, she was also a devoted teacher with the time and patience for my inevitable fumbling and dropped stitches.

Over that summer and for the rest of my childhood, she not only taught me the basics but also how to understand the process; how to “unknit” and correct mistakes and follow complicated patterns and make my own designs. I have been knitting for my whole life and it has brought me years of pleasure and comfort. It gives me a feeling of creativity and productivity and it is a way to relax. I in turn have taught both of my daughters and they too enjoy having projects for long car drives and making handmade gifts for their friends.

Recently I went into a knit shop and met a young girl named Romy whose mother had  just taken over and reinvented the store. Romy is an incredible kid. She confidently introduced herself, answered questions, explained designs and stitches and at her young age ( I think 12) had me taking on a difficult golden lacey scarf project.  As we talked she told me of her plan to run classes for kids to teach them how to knit clothes for their dolls. She introduced me to her store mascot (an American girl doll)  who will be displaying the outfits she makes. I was so impressed with Romy’s confidence, skill, friendliness and entrepreneurial spirit.

Not to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but in this age of technology, where we can all get gratification so instantly with the press of a keypad, I fear the loss of the tradition of passing down crafts to our children and grandchildren. More and more in this highly stressful world, our children need ways to sit with themselves and feel calm and content. So parents, if you are not knitters yourself, think about having your kids join Romy’s classes.

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Has the World Gone Mad?
June 28, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Education, K-5 Kids, Mental Health, Parenting, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off

You can always count on the NYT for a splashy parenting story. This one is a real doozy. The Times reports in, “Push for A’s in Private School is Keeping Costly Tutors Busy” that some parents are paying tutors amounts equal to their child’s private school tuition! Since it is hard to believe, here is a quote from the article-

“Prepping”…did not start the week before the exams, the mother pointed out. She said she had paid Mr. Iyer’s company $750 to $1,500 each week this school year for 100-minute sessions on Liberal Studies, a total of about $35,000 — just shy of Riverdale’s $38,800 tuition.

Last year, she said, her tutoring bills hit six figures, including year-round SAT preparation from Advantage Testing at $425 per 50 minutes; Spanish and math help from current and former private school teachers at $150 an hour; and sessions with Mr. Iyer for Riverdale’s equally notorious interdisciplinary course Constructing America, at $375 per 50 minutes.

Forget high school, let’s focus on toddlerhood tutoring. In Child-Psych.org, a terrific blog on parenting and child development research the author writes:

Junior Kumon program enrolls students from two to five years of age and primarily utilizes a drill and kill methodology designed to provide early reading and math enrichment.  The primary problem that I saw was that the author could find no evidence that this method actually leads to these little people  growing into big people with greater chances for professional success.  In fact, the research overall seems to be lacking.

On the other hand we have plenty of research that shows the ill effects of hyper-focus on performance in children. Jean Twenge, research psychologist and author of Living In the Age Of Entitlement, analyzed the results of years of study on whether people feel that their sense of control over life comes from the internal or external forces. Intrinsic or internal goals are those that have to do with one’s own development as a person–such as becoming competent in a chosen endeavor and developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Extrinsic goals include goals of high income, status, and perfect appearance. Scores shifted dramatically for children aged 9 to 14 as well as for college age students from 1960 – 2002.  The average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s. The rise in externality 42-year period showed the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety in children and teens.

“Twenge’s own theory is that the generational increases in anxiety and depression are related to a shift from “intrinsic” to “extrinsic” goals. Twenge cites evidence that young people today are, on average, more oriented toward extrinsic goals and less oriented toward intrinsic goals than they were in the past. For example, a poll conducted annually of college freshmen shows that most students today list “being well off financially” as more important to them than “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” while the reverse was true in the 1960s and ’70s.”

If parents continue communicating to children that worth is in their performance by spending untold sums of money for tutoring, when the child is already at the top of the class, or that math skills must be learned as young as two years old by signing them up for kindergarten Kumon, they are not helping fight the tide of American culture that says your worth is in how pretty, rich and skinny you are, and where you go to school. Our children need our balanced perspective, a focus on loving the person they are, not on their accomplishments.

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Aging Parents? Lots of Siblings? Consider Elder Mediation
April 28, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

We recently met with colleagues Abby Rosmarin and Tara Sher who work as mediators, providing divorce and family mediation, including a new and growing subspecialty–Elder Mediation. More and more families are raising children and coping with their aging parents medical and financial needs at the same time. Big decisions need to be made–Assisted living vs living with a child?  When should a parent stop driving? How to protect assets? End of life medical choices. A family can experience conflict and even ruptures as they grapple with these issues. Elder Mediation can be a proactive, efficient and thoughtful way to reach family agreements. Here is an excerpt from their blog.

Consider the following scenario. An elder person living on her own begins to think about whether a different living situation where her needs can be better met makes more sense. Her children have conflicting opinions about where she should live and no one really knows the full range of options available or how much they cost. No one, including the mother, can agree on next steps, leaving the family stymied.

Although all involved may have the best interest of the elder at heart, many known and unknown variables often confound the ability of families to communicate effectively. As mediators in this situation, we would speak with each child and the elder individually to formulate a list of concerns to be discussed in a joint family session such as the geographic location where the mother will reside, the plans for the family home, the level of care the mother needs now and how to plan for the future, financial resources to pay for her new residence and care, and responsibilities of each family member in the future.

The mediation may result in the following decisions: (1) hiring a geriatric care manager to assess the mother’s needs and inform the family of appropriate living options based on the assessment; (2) obtaining an appraisal of the fair market value of the mother’s home; and (3) enlisting an elder law attorney or financial advisor to assist in determining how to maximize the mother’s financial resources to cover the cost of her living expenses.

In family sessions, the mediators facilitate discussion of each issue, making sure that each participant has the opportunity to speak. Given the long history involved, elder mediators must also manage the emotions expressed in a way that is productive to the process. When mediation works, participants gain a clearer understanding of what is important to each person at the table and commonality of interests emerge. Once this occurs, the focus shifts to brainstorming ways to address the issue at hand. Before a proposed solution can become a final decision, the mediators check for buy-in from each participant. Only the family members, not the mediators, make decisions.

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Rescuing Adult Siblings
April 21, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (1)

By Lisa Merlo Booth

It seems as if countless people have troubled siblings.  One person’s sibling is struggling with addiction, another’s with bi-polar syndrome, and another’s with depression, still another’s is in a violent relationship and yet another’s is just plain mean and reactive, and on and on.  The possibilities are endless, yet the problem is always the same: How do I help my troubled sibling?

Regardless of whether the issue is substance abuse, depression or reactivity, the key is to not work harder than your sibling is working for himself or herself.  Too often we are so anxious to help them that we end up spinning ourselves into a state of frenzy while they sit back and complain…but take no action.  Stop your frenzy.  Be willing to help if they ask, but don’t pursue.  It is even okay to offer to help…and then wait until they take you up on your offer.  And…don’t pursue.

Often people in trouble need to feel the pain of their struggles before they’re willing to do anything about them.  Make sure you are not protecting your sibling from that pain.  Do not save them, rescue them or minimize the consequences of their behavior.  Saving them from feeling the way their actions hit is called enabling.  When you soften the consequences, you enable the destructive behavior to continue.  Don’t do that.  Enabling makes matters worse.

It’s also important to make a distinction between behaviors that are hurtful to your siblings (e.g. depression or a violent relationship) and behaviors that are hurtful to you (reactive or emotionally abusive).  With behaviors that are self destructive, you offer help and then pull back until they are willing to accept the help.  Behaviors that are abusive to you require self care on your end.  It’s one thing to enable drinking, it’s another thing to throw yourself under the bus by being an emotional punching bag.  Do not be empathetic to a sibling who is abusing you – be loving and firm.  Love your sibling while setting a limit on their toxic behavior.

Too often we allow our love for our siblings to get in the way of doing what’s best…for our sibling and ourselves.  Stay level-headed.  Your goal is to be effective and compassionate—not enabling or rescuing.  You cannot save your sibling from himself or herself, only your sibling can do that.  You can be a resource and a friend, not a savior.  If you think they have a problem, speak to them about it honestly.  Don’t minimize it, avoid it or think it’s none of your business—be straightforward, compassionate and honest.  Set limits to protect yourself, help where you can and leave the onus for change on them.

Remember that loving someone sometimes requires tough limits.  Don’t work harder for someone than they are willing to work for themselves.  Offer assistance without doing all their work.  And don’t ever allow yourself to take a hit from someone because you have pity for them.  Have empathy for you and take care of yourself while feeling compassion for them.

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Get To Know Your Inner Critic
January 11, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Anger, Mental Health, Therapy · Permalink · Comments Off

You know that voice inside? The one with the viscous tongue that criticizes your weight, the kind of mother you think you are, how lazy, spoiled or stupid you are? Yes, that one. These voices are called Inner Critics and we all have them. They keep us in line in a funny kind of way. Getting to know, and yes, love your Inner Critics settles them down. Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), a compassionate, healing modality created by Dick Schwartz, Ph.D. teaches you how to connect to your inner parts that seem to be sabotaging you but in fact are just trying to help in their own funny way. Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss, IFS therapists and writers have translated IFS to user-friendly, common sense ideas and exercises that are extremely helpful. Here is an article by Bonnie Weiss that teaches how to befriend your Inner Critic. Hope you find it useful!

Taming Your Inner Critic

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

Marlene is overdue for a promotion. She knows that she should talk to her boss, but can’t get up the courage. A voice inside her head keeps reminding her of her failings and limitations; it tells her that the discussion will end with her being chided and shamed.

Jamie is obsessed with men who reject her. She spends her evenings waiting by the phone for George to call even though she knows he isn’t a good match for her. She hopes that he will accept her and this will quiet her self-hatred.

We are all aware of that nattering little voice inside that tells us we are deficient and reminds us of our failures. Sometimes we hear a voice that warns us not to think too big, reach too high, or be too confident. The Inner Critic subpersonality is a result of our experience and conditioning. It holds the remnants of our parent’s hopes and fears for us and for themselves, our school history, our religious upbringing, and the competitive culture that we live in.

When you get to know your Inner Critic from an open, curious place, you will be amazed to find out that its underlying motivation is actually to protect you. It feels so awful to hear those negative words and those constraining warnings that this may be hard to believe. Yet it is trying to protect fragile parts of your personality that have been injured in the past. At the core of this yammering is a wish for you to be safe and free of disappointment and humiliation.

The Critic has old ideas about you, and carries antiquated images of who you are and the capacities you have. Like an adult going to work in a toddler’s jumper, its view of you is outdated and doesn’t fit your current life situation, skills, or experience. So its efforts to protect you cause you to doubt yourself and feel deflated and deficient.

Here is a three step process for handling your Inner Critic:

Step 1: Separate. It’s just a part.
It’s a big step to realize that this voice is just a part of you that has its own motivations and world view. That means that you can separate from that part and get some distance from it. You can choose to listen or not listen. You can take control by telling it to “back off” or by deciding to be interested in its underlying intent, rather than being intimidated by its negative prattling. Separation means being grounded in your higher Self. This process is supported by meditative and spiritual practices and good self care.

Step 2: Update. Bring the part into this century.
Once you make contact with this critical part and begin a dialogue with it, you can ask it how old it thinks you are. Most often you will discover that this part still thinks you are a small child in a challenging situation. Its vehement efforts to protect you from re-injury and repeated humiliation are bound by beliefs that were developed at that time. By showing this part who you actually are today, the capacities you have developed, the experience you have gained, and the freedom you enjoy, it is more able to let go of its outmoded  fears and concerns.

Step 3:  Mentor. Develop an Inner Champion.
You can create a positive, supportive aspect of yourself which I call the Inner Champion. It will guide you in your work with your Inner Critic and develop your positive capacities in your life. Itcan be drawn from positive experiences and reflections you have had in the past or inspiration from mythology, literature or modern culture. Mine has qualities of Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Mead, Jean Houston and Quan Yin. The role of the Inner Champion is to bolster your strength. It is there to love and support as you move toward your personal goals.

The Inner Champion:

  1. Sounds like the voice of a good mom that reminds you of your value and capabilities. It encourages you to take reasonable risks to gain what you desire and deserve.
  2. Has the courage to take a stand when necessary with the Inner Critic and tell it to leave you alone. When my Critic bugs me, my Inner Mentor can look it in the eye and say. “That is NOT helpful!.” or “This is not a good time!”.
  3. Helps you develop a step-by-step plan for achieving what you want.
  • Provides nurturance and care for the fragile parts of us that are ultimately being protected by the Inner Critic.
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    Learning to Share
    December 28, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off

    By Laura Stephens

    I have only recently begun living with my boyfriend and am already face to face with the complications of sharing a tiny 10 x 14 bedroom. Who knew I was such a terrible “sharer”? I like to fall asleep to background noise of the TV. He likes sleeping with the fan on high. He likes the door open, I like it closed. His alarm goes off at 5 AM and he hits snooze for 45 minutes. At first the battle lines were drawn and we both automatically clung to our preferences and habits – unwilling to come to the other side. And with self righteous indignation no less. It seems that sharing a bedroom as adults has catapulted us back into pre-schoolers who refuse to give up their favorite toy.

    As time has passed we both realized that we needed to use the basic skills our parents spent so much time teaching us:  sharing. So now I have detoxed from the lullaby of the TV and he only hits snooze once. The fan is on high, but the door gets closed. Peace has descended on the battle ground of the bedroom.

    You do your kids a giant favor by setting the groundwork for sharing –sometimes that means taking turns, sometimes compromising and sometimes just plain old doing something together. I am learning, in this new life stage, that sharing is a skill that will always be handy no matter what point you are in life.

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    Create A New Adult Relationship With Your Family Of Origin
    December 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off

    By Lisa Merlo Booth

    It’s amazing how easy it is for us to stay in the same family role we played when we were children.  Perhaps you were the peacemaker of the family and still find yourself trying to keep the peace among everyone.  Some people are the family scapegoat, forever seen as the troubled or irresponsible one.  Still others are the quiet ones, who just try to stay out of the line of fire.

    Regardless of the role we played years ago or how much we’ve changed since then, our families have an uncanny ability to pull us back into our old roles and patterns like no one else in our lives.  We could have been working on ourselves for years and then — wham — we see our families and we’re right back to being that little girl or boy again.

    Part of this phenomenon happens because, no matter how much we’ve changed, we tend to act the same as we always did when we get back to our old home turf.  It’s as though we become that young child again – the one who has to throw a tantrum to be heard or has to silence to feel safe or…

    The reality, of course, is that this re-enactment truly is not the case.  We can choose to be different with our family, just as we can choose to be different with anybody else in our life.  All it takes is a conscious decision to not play by the old rules, good boundaries and healthy self-esteem (not an easy task, I realize).  We need to decide how and who we want to be in this world and then have the courage to be that person regardless of the audience.

    In my own life, I am the youngest of five children.  Naturally, I was seen as the baby of the family.  I played that role well for many years, until I finally realized that it didn’t fit me anymore.  As I began to step up in my interactions with my family, I began to change that story.  I didn’t need to cower in the presence of my father or have everyone do things for me that I was able to do for myself.  I could share my opinions, set limits and speak honestly and confidently about what was going on for me.  As I began to step up, I started to break through the chains of my old family role.  Although, I’m sure there are times when my old role creeps back, it feels really good to not be acting like a nine-year old every time I go back home.

    I constantly hear stories about raging fathers who are still hotheads in their 70s or mothers trying to micromanage their adult children.  Whatever the issue is with your parents or siblings, remember that you’re no longer that nine-year-old who had to just take it.  You are a grown adult who is responsible for taking care of yourself and your family—even if that means setting limits on your own parents.  Break the chains of your old family role and have the courage to have an adult relationship with your family.  Set limits when you have to, share your opinions when you choose to and make requests when you’d like to.  Take all of these actions with a centered, powerful strength that is always respectful.

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    Adolescent Mental Health By The Numbers
    November 18, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Mental Health · Permalink · Comments Off

    The National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) attempts to assess the levels of psychiatric illness in American children ages 13 to 18 years old.  The most recent study of approximately 10,000 children showed that close to 50% of teens would meet the diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric illness at some time during adolescence. According to Childpsych.net researcher Nestor Lopez-Duran, PhD,

    “At first this sounds like an alarming number that could not possibly be true. However, remember that this refers to “life time prevalence.”  The number does not suggest that 50% of 18 year olds have or even received a psychiatric diagnosis, but that 50% experienced enough symptoms sometime in the past to meet the diagnostic criteria for at least 1 psychiatric diagnosis.”

    “The table below presents the “life time prevalence” by age 18 of each disorder for females, males, and the entire sample. The life time prevalence means the percentage of adolescents that meet the diagnostic criteria for each disorder sometime during their lives by the age of 18.”

    Life time prevalence of psychiatric disorder by age 18

    Diagnosis Females Males Everyone
    Any 1 Disorder 51 48.1 49.5
    Depression 15.9 7.7 11.7
    Bi-Polar 3.3 2.6 2.9
    Anxiety (GAD) 3 1.5 2.2
    Social Phobia 11.2 7 9.1
    Specific Phobia 22.1 16.7 19.3
    Panic Disorder 2.6 2 2.3
    PTSD 8 2.3 5
    ADHD 4.2 13 8.7
    ODD 11.3 13.9 12.6
    Conduct Disorder 5.8 7.9 6.8
    Alcohol Abuse/Dep 5.8 7 6.4
    Drug Abuse/Dep 8 9.8 8.9
    Eating Disorders 3.8 1.5 2.7

    We need to be attentive to the mental health needs of our children and not just write off lasting symptoms to phases. For a host of reasons many of our children have or will suffer with some form of psychiatric illness. Early intervention, family support, therapy and medicine can make a huge difference and help a child stabilize and get back on track.

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    Should We Cut The i-Embilical Cord?
    September 23, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Mental Health, Parenting, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off

    Technology has given us many ways to stay connected to our children: text, ichat, skype, email and cell phone. They keep us feeling in touch even when kids are off to summer camp or college. A new book entitled The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore challenges parents to think carefully about the benefits of  pulling the plug on these means of communication. The book looks at the downside of parents being over involved in the day to day, or many times a day, lives of their college age children. Children who were in such close contact were less able to problem solve on their own and were less competent in caring for themselves.

    Hofer is not suggesting that parents cut contact with their kids but she does illustrate the benefit of the kind of independence and separateness we had from parents when we were in college.  She points out that less contact does not mean less close and that sometimes we can inadvertently undermine the young adult development that is so important by being overly connected.

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