W.W.M.D.?

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   — Maya Angelou

I think the highest compliment you can pay another person is to emulate their energy, outlook, and the way they respond to the hard stuff life sends their way.

Lorey

When faced with a trying moment with the kids or dealing with someone “less perfect than me,” I often ask myself, “What would Mom do?”

One thing’s for sure, whatever she’d do would leave us both laughing, because that’s what my Mom does—smiles, sees the bright side, and makes everything fun.

She’s universally beloved for her optimism, her crazy sense of humor, her puns, and her naughty jokes. Where she goes, joy and laughter follow. She makes life look easy.

As a little girl, I remember everyone adoring my mother. The room would light up when she walked in (and it still does). She was christened Lorey, but I’ve come to believe that her name is actually “I LOVE” Lorey, because that phrase always follows mention of her name.

My favorite childhood stories involve Mom making us laugh. These tales have been so often retold that we’ve come up with our own family shorthand for them, like “Smashing Ho-Ho’s,” “Oranges in The Bra,” and “Nasty Doodles on the Tablecloth.” These rank in the top ten, but there’re hundreds more.Lorey Balloons

She loves silly practical jokes. She’s been known to swipe the glass of milk you just poured, or go cross-eyed when you’re talking about something serious.

And we’ve learned to listen closely when Mom’s speaking, because if we don’t, we’re liable to see her facing the wall, talking happily on as if she still has the floor.

She used to tell me if I felt sad or blue I should “think a smile” to improve my outlook (try it – it works!), and if I felt nervous entering a roomful of people, to hold my head high and remember that I’m a talented, wonderful woman who can accomplish anything I put my mind to. She taught me that there will always be difficulties, but that if I don’t give up, I’ll prevail.

kimi-momma3

(‘Course she also said dumb stuff like, “Quit slouching! You’ll ruin your posture!”)

As a child, I remember wondering if people would like me as much when I was a grown-up. I so wanted to be like her, and have tried hard to follow in her footsteps.

I consider myself to be a happy person, one who “walks softly and carries a big smile.” With the kind of coaching I’ve had, who wouldn’t be?

At age 54, I still hear Mom’s voice in my head, guiding me as I make my way. I know my children have been watching me live life for a long time, and that my attitude and choices influence how they perceive the world. I hope when they hear my voice, they’ll be equally inspired.

I’m blessed to have Mom as my lifelong role model. We don’t get to choose our mothers, but if we could, I would have chosen her.

So, thanks to my Mom, I keep my shoulders back, stay positive and “think a smile,” stuff oranges in my bra when the kids need a laugh, and when the mood strikes – smash the occasional foil-wrapped dessert.


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Tips on Handling Teenage Rebellion – Epilogue

Yesterday I shared a WebMD article about how to handle typical teenage rebellion. Here are the last two of five tips. Don’t know about you, but I took something positive away from all of them!

By Christina Frank
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem, MD

Teen Behavior Problem 4:

Hanging Out with Kids You Don’t Like

You wince every time your son traipses through the door with his greasy-haired, noisy buddies. Should you suck it up, or say something?

Your Solution

Kids can wear weird clothes, pierce their lips, act rudely and still be decent kids, says Bartell, who advises parents to hold off on criticizing something as superficial as fashion in their kids’ friends. “Teenagers are so attached to their friends that it’s like criticizing them directly.”

On the other hand, if you know that your child has taken up with a group of troubled teens who skip school and do drugs, a talk is in order. “Without putting him on the defensive, tell your child you’re concerned about who he’s hanging out with and that you’re worried he’s doing drugs,” says Bartell. While you can’t forbid your child to hang around with certain kids, you can intervene and try to nip dangerous behaviors in the bud. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help about hanging out with a crowd engaged in negative behavior. Counseling or family therapy can help.

Teen Behavior Problem 5:

Everything’s a Drama

Every little thing seems to set your daughter off lately, and the more you try to help, the more she sobs or shouts or slams the door.

Part of being a teenager is feeling things intensely, so what may seem like no big deal to you is hugely important to her.

Your Solution

Parents tend to trivialize the importance of things in teenagers’ lives, says Bartell: “What happens is that kids feel misunderstood, and eventually they will stop telling you anything. Right now it is the most important thing in the world that her best friend is flirting with her boyfriend, and you need to take it seriously.”

Don’t offer advice, disparage her friends or try to minimize it by saying that one day she’ll see how silly high school romances are. “Just listen and sympathize,” says Bartell. And put yourself in her position — because, after all, you were once there yourself.

Tips on Handling Teenage Rebellion

I found this article on WebMD that resonated with me. Recognize anyone you know?

By Christina Frank
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem, MD

To be fair, no one has ever pretended that parenting a teenager was going to be easy. Still, until your own kids reach that stage, it’s tempting to believe your family will be immune to teen behavior problems. No, you tell yourself, your teenager will never talk back, stay out too late or pierce her eyebrow.

Dream on.

Teenagers are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their parents, says Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively,” he explains. “It’s the task of the teenager to fire their parents and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. With the right approach, you can troubleshoot the following teen behavior problems in a relatively civilized fashion.

Teen Behavior Problem 1:

Your Teen Seems To Hate You

One minute your sweet child is begging you to come on the class trip or to lie down with her while she falls asleep. Then, seemingly overnight, she starts treating you like dirt, discounting everything you say and snickering at your suggestions. If you look closely, you’ll see that you’ve been through this before, when she was a toddler — only instead of shouting “no!” like a two-year-old would, a teenager simply rolls her eyes in disgust.

“It’s so hard for parents when this happens,” says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, a psychologist specializing in kids and families at Emory University in Atlanta. “But part of adolescence is about separating and individuating, and many kids need to reject their parents in order to find their own identities.” Teens focus on their friends more than on their families, which is normal too.

Your Solution

Sometimes parents feel so hurt by their teens’ treatment that they respond by returning the rejection — which is a mistake. “Teenagers know that they still need their parents even if they can’t admit it,” says Goldman. “The roller-coaster they put you on is also the one they’re feeling internally.” As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a child is 16 or 17.

But no one’s saying your teen should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you; when this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. One solution is the good, old-fashioned approach of: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” By letting your teenager know that you’re here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he’ll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while, which is a rare treat.

Teen Behavior Problem 2:

Communication Devices Rule Their Lives

It’s ironic that teenage forms of communication like instant messaging, texting, and talking on cell phones make them less communicative, at least with the people they live with. In today’s world, though, forbidding all use of electronic devices is not only unrealistic, but unkind. “Being networked with their friends is critical to most teens,” says Goldman.

Your Solution

Look at the big picture, advises Susan Bartell, PhD, an adolescent psychologist in New York. If your child is functioning well in school, doing his chores at home and not completely retreating from family life, it’s probably best to “lay off.” It’s also OK to set reasonable limits, such as no “texting” or cell phone calls during dinner. Some parents prefer not to let teens have computers in their rooms, since it makes it harder to supervise computer usage, and this is perfectly reasonable. Many experts also suggest establishing a rule that the computer has to be off at least one hour before bedtime, as a way to ensure that teens get more sleep.

One good way to limit how many minutes your teen spends talking on his cell and texting: Require him to pay his own cell phone bills. And do your best to monitor what your child does when he’s online, particularly if he or she is using networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. You still own the home and computer — so check into parental Internet controls and software to monitor use of any questionable web sites.

Teen Behavior Problem 3:

Staying Out Too Late

It’s 10:30 p.m. and you told your daughter to be home by 10 p.m. Why does she ignore your curfew again and again?

“Part of what teens do is test limits,” explains Goldman. “But the fact is that they actually want limits, so parents need to keep setting them.”

Your Solution

Do some research before insisting that your child respect your curfew because it’s possible that yours is unreasonable. Call a few of your kids’ friends’ parents and find out when they expect their kids home. Goldman suggests giving kids a 10-minute grace period, and if they defy that, to set consequences — such as no going out at night for a week.

If it seems like your child is staying out late because she’s up to no good, or doesn’t feel happy at home, then you need to talk with her and figure out what might be going on. However, if your curfew is in line with what’s typical in your teen’s crowd, then it’s time to set consequences and then enforce them if your teen continues to break your rules. When you make a rule, you have to mean it. You can’t bluff teenagers — they will always call you on it.

Part II of “Tips on Handling Teenage Rebellion” can be found here.

Note from teenparentcafe: For additional peace of mind when your teen is out of your sight, see my post on GPS tracking.

Appa Juice Bottle, Peez

momandteenagedaughtersmilingRecently, my 18 year old daughter and I were texting about sadness. I was feeling a little down, and she’d been feeling blue for weeks. We were both aware that our sadness was intensified because it was dark outside (I tell my kids to sleep on their worries because solutions are easier to see by the light of day.)

She suggested that when she got home, we cuddle, watch a movie and be sad together, then added a private saying we’ve shared since she was two:

“Appa Juice Bottle, Peez”.

When she was little she loved drinking apple juice from a bottle. She would drink “apple juice bottles” at times when she was relaxed and content, so this little phrase became synonymous with going to her Happy Place.

I love that at age 18 she still wants to squirrel away with Mom and “be girls,” talk about boys, relationships, weird stuff she’s going through, share her fears about leaving childhood behind, and giggle at silly pictures on her blog. At these times, we exist in our own little bubble, outside of time and worry.

As I read her sweet text, I was struck with an acute awareness that I’d been struggling with some melancholy myself.

It starts gradually in the evening. My husband and I will have enjoyed a nice dinner out, walk into the dark, quiet house (though far from lonely with our six cats, a dog and a rabbit) and I’ll be struck by the contrast between now and the days when SpongeBob was blasting from the TV and every fifth word was “Mom!”

I love the quiet — when it’s just my husband and I, curling up, covered in purring kitties, watching Mad Men on DVD. As a parent, it’s one of the things you look forward to – using your free time to do whatever you want. No karate lessons, rushing off to soccer practice, or getting after kids who are up past their bedtime.

But in a weird way, it’s not having to do these things that’s sad. It’s what the quiet house represents – that Empty Nest is fast approaching.

Since I became pregnant with my oldest child, it’s been all about motherhood. My children’s well-being has been at the heart of every choice, decision, and purchase I’ve made.

A good deal of my income was spent on things like childcare, Happy Meals, and new shoes every two months. I dealt with more dirty clothes, homework assignments, and skinned knees than I can possibly count. Neighborhood moms talking about motherhood while watching their kids play together was a nightly routine in our Rockwellian world.

But that’s changed as the years have passed. Now, my daughter’s 18 and my son is 15 1/2, old enough to get his Driver’s Permit, with a 4.3 GPA and a fantastic attitude towards academics. On top of these things he’s also just landed his first job.

So they’re big kids now. Young adults. No more time outs, Nick Toons, swimming lessons, or mac and cheese. They get themselves dressed, make their own meals (usually), and have their own house keys.

They don’t need a “Mommy” anymore. 

Enter sadness.

So, how does a woman who has functioned primarily as “Mom” for 18 years breathe new life into her sense of purpose?

Volunteering for a local non-profits, managing projects, building websites, and planning events has helped ease the transition. I’ve been able to channel some of that good “mothering” energy into productive projects that help other people. It doesn’t replace being “Mom”, but it helps me feel needed.

Still, I get sad.

So, while I can, I’ll treasure the cuddles with my “little girl” while watching A Knight’s Tale in the dark, with happy kitties draped over our legs, solving the problems of our world, and sharing whatever else might come to mind. 

I know my kids are growing up. But for now…

Appa juice bottle, peez. 

MomDaughter Cuddling Parentdish


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teenparentcafe’s “Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids”–Part III

stepfamily paper dollsAnd…we’re back! Time for the third and final installment of What the Heck Do I Do Now  “teenparentcafe’s ‘Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids”.

In our previous two articles, we discussed worry over whether your stepchildren will like you, children requesting secrecy between parents, and your role as disciplinarian in your new family.

So what do you do when you dislike your spouse’s ex, or disagree with them (your spouse) on how best to discipline the kids? Here’s how we choose to deal:

What if I have issues with my spouse’s ex?

I don’t care if you hate their guts and wish them banished to the lower levels of Hades – when face-to-face with your stepchildren’s other parent, always say hello and BE CIVIL. We learned the hard way never to talk negatively about the ex- within earshot of the kids. This has seriously backfired.

It may seem impossible to hold your tongue or keep from sneering, especially if you’ve had recent confrontations with the other parent. Nevertheless – in front of the kids, we “suck it up” and be grown-ups.  We’ve had some experience with this (and a fair bit of therapy), so we’re confident sharing this little pearl of step-wisdom.

With practice, it’s gotten easier. Kids want permission to love all of their parents. Seeing you get along can ease the stress of the divorce.  

Do it for the kids.

What if my husband and I disagree on how best to raise our kids?

In our experience, it’s important that parents come to an understanding about the role of the stepparent in the home early on. If these conversations don’t take place (there’ll be more than one), you’re setting yourself up for a world o’ hurt.

As I mentioned in teenparentcafe’s “Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids, Part II,” we decided that in our family it worked best for me (the biological parent in our case) to take sole responsibility for discipline in the household. Pseudo-Pop (my kids’ pet name for their Stepdad) primarily supports my position and reminds the kids of why the rule was put in place to begin with.

Sometimes – we disagree on my disciplinary decisions. Once I shake off my shock that he would ever disagree with me (KIDDING), we take the discussion into a room where the kids are not, and hash it out. We’re usually able to come to an understanding with a minimum amount of conflict by approaching the situation as unemotionally as possible and being empathetic to each other’s position.

We incorporate this strategy into all of our conversations, especially when dealing with confrontation. We find it works particularly well when dealing with child-rearing issues.

Of course, this is an ongoing effort. Just take it One Day At A Time.

The issues we’ve presented in this three-part series are just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll have your own list.

HappySteps_thumb6We’ve learned that a family is a living, breathing thing – one that’ll change many times and call on you to be flexible, patient (bolded that one for emphasis) and have an open mind.

The theme of your new family’s life together could be as cheerful as The Brady Bunch if you talk to each other, be clear on your roles, and…

HAVE FUN BUILDING YOUR OWN FAMILY HISTORY!

 

 

 

 

List of Helpful Insights on “Normal” Teen Behavior

I found this in my web surfing today. I felt good after reading it, hope you will, too.

Teenage Development

© International Network for Children and Families

teen party

We need to better understand adolescent developmental stages to help us not take teenage behavior as a personal attack on us. By becoming familiar with these stages, we will increase our competence in encouraging teens to establish their sense of identity.

  • Teens are preparing to separate or individuate from the family. They are in the process of developing their values.
  • Teenagers must initiate this separation and often rebellion gives them the energy to do this. A teenager challenges rules and values as a way of establishing his or her individuality. Adolescents cannot do this in a vacuum, but rather through conflict and confrontation.
  • Adolescents may be rude or make fun of parents and other authority figures and not want to be with them. In a teenager’s mind, defiance expresses autonomy and says that he or she doesn’t need parents in and often serves as a test of parental caring.
  • Due to body changes, there can be confusion about whether teenagers really do want to grow up.
  • Hormonal changes cause mood swings marked by tearfulness, heightened sensitivity, sudden flare-ups, an increased need for physical activity and inappropriate laughter and giggling.
  • Teens begin to work out their relationships with their peers to find out how they fit in.
  • Teens start relating to the opposite sex in a different way than they did when they were younger (where there were once friendships, romantic relationships and/or deeply felt negative emotions may surface).
  • Teenagers have a heightened need for privacy. Experiencing privacy gives them a new sense of control and autonomy. They need privacy to test things out for themselves without parent input.
  • Teenagers may feel all-powerful and all-knowing at the same time that they experience fears of inadequacy and failure.
  • Teens still need an adult to relate to, but in a different way than they did when they were younger.

© International Network for Children and Families (INCAF)

 

teenparentcafe’s “Guide to Raising Someone Else’s Kids”– Part II

StepRingsWhen a parent remarries, a new family is born. Caring for a “newborn” calls for flexibility, an ocean of love, and a lot of sleep.

“Raising someone else’s kids” will try your patience in a thousand ways you didn’t expect.

According to our very own Pseudo-Pop (my kids’ pet name for their stepfather), a lot of questions go through your mind as a new stepparent. Maybe some of these ring true for you, too:

Will the kids like me?

Ah, there’s a question. Everyone wants to be liked, especially when they’re anxious to impress. But getting to know somebody takes time. You can’t expect the kids to like you instantaneously. Like a fine wine, relationships have to b-r-e-a-t-h-e for awhile.

We were lucky in our case, because the kids and my husband hit it off well from the start. But that isn’t always the case.

Though we generally get along famously, there are times when it’s hard for my husband to play the role of Pseudo-Pop. Specifically, he loves and adores our daughter, yet sometimes feels he gets about as much recognition from her as she might give a phantom limb. There are days he’s ignored when he walks in the door and overlooked when the daily “have a good days” are dispensed.

She often tells her Pseudo-Pop that she loves him, but occasionally has been known to dismiss him by saying, “This is between me and my Mom so stay out of it!”

OUCH.

This is a ongoing “step-thorn” we’re trying to extract.StepFamiliesRock-CafePress_thumb2

It could be that this is residue from unresolved anger playing itself out, or just garden-variety teenage rudeness. Whatever the cause, it’s unacceptable and we’re working to correct it.

What if my step-kids confide in me about risky behavior?

“Please don’t tell Mom!”

There are certain “secrets” that can be kept confidential between the kids and one parent (“girl” talk, “guy” talk, Birds and Bees stuff that they’re not comfortable talking about with the parent of the opposite gender), but when their safety is at stake, these secrets need to be revealed to both parents.

My husband is honored that the kids trust him enough to confide in him about actions that could get them into trouble, but this has occasionally put him in an awkward position.

He has figured out a way of dealing with it that’s been fairly successful. He explains that there are no secrets between him and their Mom, but that he doesn’t have to be the one to tell her, as long as they will. He also offers to be there with them to help “soften the blow” by explaining to me that they came to him with the information first.

So far this strategy has worked out well, though thankfully there have only been a couple of occasions where it was an issue (at least, as far as we know).

Oops, we’re out of time! To be continued tomorrow…

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