Category Archives: Teens and Preteens

It’s coming…aargh! The worst day (and week) of the year: the switch to Daylight Savings Time.

This can be really hard on families with children and teens. Not to mention every other person.

Here are a few strategies that have helped me as an adult and a few ideas I’ve found online. Please share your own strategies.

Start now by moving bedtime a little bit earlier each night—if you have a lead time of five nights (Monday-Saturday) then 12 minutes earlier each night gets you to an hour.

Some people recommend simultaneously waking up earlier as well. I’d suggest NOT doing that or at least not doing that until closer to Sunday. My rationale is that it’s better to get as much sleep as you can in advance of the change. Many of us are already short on sleep. See waking up strategies below.

Practice healthy sleep habits:

Fresh air and exercise during the day

De-stressing/relaxing times during the day and/or evening

Dark room

Cool room

Shift meal schedule gradually as well (if possible) It isn’t just bedtime and morning that gets thrown out of whack by the time change. If you can’t move meals try to incorporate more snacks (healthy ones and maybe some high tryptophan foods for dinner and bedtime snacks). See https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/food-and-sleep

NO CAFFIENE!

One hour before you want to get to sleep: No screens. No full spectrum, LED or fluorescent lights. Use a yellow, amber or red bulb for reading (see https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep). Red Christmas lights work well as nightlights. Googling “blue light blocking products” will get you to many sources of bulbs. Candlelight probably works as well, but please be careful!

Change your clock during the day on Saturday (if at all possible). I got this idea from crossing the Atlantic Ocean by ship. Going east, they changed the time at noon (since they had total control over the schedule, this was possible). I don’t know if part of it was psychological but it really helped. The change made dinner earlier so that also contributed.

Waking up. Just as light interferes with going to sleep, it helps us wake up. Gradually increasing the light in the morning will help you (and the kids) wake up. There are products “dawn simulators” that provide this (sorry to keep you Googling and spending money but it can be a good investment-some are less expensive than others so research options). Or you can do this manually for your children.

Make morning a pleasant time: snuggling, talking, reading with your child can make for a happier transition. Breakfast in bed anyone? Allow enough time for morning routines.

The real key to happy waking up is getting enough sleep the night before. Most of us don’t get enough sleep so this is a good time to focus on more sleep. Here are some more guidelines and resources.

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx

Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. She also has a website with a free download of sleep suggestions http://www.parentchildhelp.com/Resources.cfm

 

Also on ParentingSuccessNetwork

What Do You Want to Hear?

What do you want to hear?

 

In a recent talk with a group of parents I asked the question, “What do you want to hear from your children?” Answers were: “Thank you.” “Whatever you say, Mom.” “I’d love to clean my room.”

We all laughed. Then I rephrased the question to “What do we want our children to be able to tell us?”

Their answers included: Their real opinions. When they are in trouble. Their angst. When we are wrong about something. What they are excited about and passionate about. Their anxieties. Their relationships with others. When they feel unsafe. What they admire about us. Their reactions to body changes; their body images. Who they are or aren’t.

Some of these things we love to hear about. But many are things that are difficult and painful to hear. There may be information that worries us or frightens us; that makes us angry or sad. Information that makes us feel powerless. Those feelings can be hard for us to deal with in everyday situations. When confronted with them as parent interacting with a child, the challenge is even greater.

I (and I suspect most parents) secretly believed that if I did my job right, my children weren’t going to have problems that I couldn’t fix. I wanted to make things better. I wanted to kiss the sore spot and make the pain go away. It was hard to accept the truth that I couldn’t fix everything. (My children are adults now and it is still hard!)

Unfortunately, that hard truth and that feeling of powerlessness interfered with my ability to listen to those things I wanted my children to be able to tell me. It wasn’t easy, and I messed up a lot, but here are some things that helped me to listen then (and still help me now).

  •  Giving myself empathy—acknowledging how painful and difficult it is to hear some things.
  • Focusing my attention on listening and observing. Letting my child know I am listening—through touch, attentive silence, or short phrases like “I hear you” or “Oh.”
  • Accepting disappointment, sadness, fear, grief and other emotions as real, natural and legitimate feelings that don’t need to be brushed aside or gotten over right away.
  • Trusting that my child has many strengths, abilities, and resources to cope with challenges.
  • Knowing that I have access to resources—people I trust that I can talk to and professional help if needed.
  •  My religious faith is also a resource.
  • Trusting that really listening to someone is valuable.

I can’t fix everything—but I can listen.

Originally published March 5, 2014 on Parenting Success Network

 

 

What’s the Point of Punishment?

What’s the point of punishment?

Clarification: For this article, I define “punishment” as “penalty.” I’m talking about any consequence imposed by a parent on a child for misbehavior.

There are certainly many differences between different disciplinary techniques, but I believe parents usually use them for the same reasons:

“My child ran into the street, therefore he or she must be punished.” “My child disobeyed me, therefore he or she must go to time out.” “My child hit his or her sister, therefore he or she must experience consequences.”

But why? Why respond to misbehavior with a punishment or consequence? What do you hope to accomplish?

Here are some reasons parents have for using any form of discipline:

  • To stop a dangerous behavior
  • To teach that a behavior is not acceptable–ever or within a certain context. For example: It’s never okay to hit your little sister, or It’s not okay to scream at the dinner table.
  • To empathize the importance of what we are trying to teach. To show that we are serious about it.
  • To assert our authority as parents
  • To teach that there are consequences for behaviors
  • To prevent the behavior from reoccurring
  • To make amends for damages caused by the behavior

These are all legitimate goals. They are part your job as a parent. They are not, however, all the same goal. The same tactic may not work for every goal.

There are many ways to protect and teach, to show you are serious, to assert your authority, to help a child make amends. Punishment may help in some situations, but it is only one strategy.

I often hear from parents that the whole day has become one misbehavior followed by a punishment, another misbehavior followed by a punishment, another misbehavior followed by a punishment . . . and on and on.

When this happens—or before it happens—stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. Identify the particular goal(s) you have in mind.

Instead of thinking: “I need to punish,” you can say to yourself “I need to protect” [or teach, or prevent, or assert, or whatever the goal is at that moment].

Meeting your goal(s) may require several different actions. You may need to discover more about why the behavior is happening; you may need to change the environment; you may need to involve your child in creating family rules—the list of problem-solving ideas is endless.

Identifying your goal(s) is the first step.

 

Originally published Parenting Success Network

The Magic of Wishes

What happens when you make wishes with children? They believe that you understand their heart’s desire. In other words, that you have empathy for what they are feeling.

Having empathy for a child enhances your relationship and can make parenting easier. Having empathy for the adults in your life enhances those relationships as well. Having empathy for yourself helps you to be emotionally healthy and enables you to have empathy for others.

Empathy is the respectful understanding of what someone (yourself or another person) is feeling and experiencing. You accept that the feelings are real—not made up to annoy you, not a sign of a moral flaw. Don’t try to suppress or minimize the feeling(s), simply acknowledge them.

Empathy means you are able to see a situation from another person’s perspective. Empathy doesn’t mean that you always agree with the other person’s point of view, just that you acknowledge that it exists.

It can be extremely difficult at times to be empathetic. It can also be challenging to convey to the other person that you have empathy for them. In the classic book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, authors Faber and Mazlish suggest using wishes as an effective way to convey empathy. Listen and think about what that person (or you) would wish for: “You wish ___(the fish was still alive; Dad didn’t have to be gone for work; all the children were snug and quiet in their beds).” Listen and describe a fantasy that the person would want: “You wish you could wave a magic wand and make it all better.”

I have found that using wishes is particularly helpful when what the other person would wish for is NOT something that is feasible or that I would want to be part of or help to make happen. Using “wish” implies that the desire may not be gratified, but that I respect that the other person really wishes it could be.

Some guidelines for using wishes.

Respectful tone of voice. Most of us have used the phrase “You wish” in an extremely unempathetic tone. Say it sincerely.

Make it positive. Not “You wish your brother would disappear” but “You wish your brother would leave your toys alone.”

Exaggeration can help. “I wish we were already home. I wish that the car could transform into a helicopter and fly over the traffic and land in our driveway!” Exaggerated wishes provide distraction and help the person transition to another activity. Exaggerated wishes can transform whining into a game.

Originally published June 9, 2013 on ParentingSuccessNetwork

Response to Dear Abby on parenting teens

This Dear Abby letter and response inspired me to write my own response–see below

http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/?uc_full_date=20140125

DEAR ABBY: Our 13-year-old is addicted to her phone. She stays on it for hours, and it’s affecting the time she goes to bed. She’s now starting to oversleep the alarm in the morning before school.

She’s spoiled, and I’m afraid that removing or limiting phone privileges will lead to major problems with her protesting it. I don’t want truant officers or social workers coming to my house because my wife and I can’t discipline our kid. How do you handle a spoiled brat without involving outside agencies? She’s nice to people in school, but is lazy at home and totally self-centered. — FRUSTRATED, EXHAUSTED DAD

 

DEAR DAD: You and your wife created this “monster,” and now it’s your job to make things right. Of course your daughter won’t like it when you set rules, but you must establish some for her before your lack of parenting causes even more serious problems.

Set the rules and stick with them. If she won’t follow them, there should be penalties for not doing so. Try this: Start with homework. When it’s done, she can have her phone for a period of time. Inform her that if she oversleeps because she was up too late on her phone, you will take it at bedtime. And then follow through.

My response:

Dear Frustrated Exhausted Dad,

There are many resources available to parents of teenagers. Parenting education can help you deal with this typical, teenage behavior and lessen your frustration. One place to start might be your daughter’s school—if they don’t already offer classes for parents, suggest that they start doing so. Other resources: your county extension service, community college, university, or health care services. Your local librarian can steer you to books on parenting teens. Some churches offer classes. There are also parenting coaches who can work with you individually. And there are online classes available.

Just as in any other field, the quality and philosophy of parenting education varies widely. Things to consider: What is the curriculum based on? Is it research-based? Has it been shown to be effective? Who is presenting or facilitating the class? Some states certify parent educators, the National Council on Family Relations certifies Family Life Educators.

For my own suggestions: Start by changing the way you think about your daughter: would you want to cooperate with someone who sees you as a lazy, self-centered, spoiled brat? Treat her with respect. She is in the process of learning how to become an adult and make responsible decisions about how she spends her time and takes care of her body. Your job is to protect her from serious dangers that her immaturity might lead her into, but it is also your job to help her learn how to take care of herself—which includes respecting herself. Rather than simply imposing rules, you can express your concerns about her health and well-being—focus on the issue of oversleeping and why you see that as a problem. Give her the opportunity to come up with a solution that you both can agree to try and then evaluate. This process may take time—just as it took time for your daughter to learn to walk, talk, and feed herself. Involving her in this process will help her see the connection between her behavior and consequences. It puts her in the position of deciding how to meet her needs for socialization and sleep.