THE PEOPLE SOLUTIONS NEWSLETTER
VOLUME #5, FOCUSING ON:
COACHING FOR BETTER PARENTS AND STRONGER KIDS
© Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
Originally printed 1996 - reissued 2003, All Rights Reserved
1. IN THE NEWS
2. BETTER PARENTS
3. STRONGER KIDS
4. COACH CORNER
5. HEALTH AND SAFETY
7. COACHING TIP
IN THE NEWS:
Kids continue to make the news and it is often the most gruesome that headline the news stories. In the last few months, three horror stories of kids out of control have come to my attention.
Rather than recount the details, let it suffice to say that these stories have included good students with excellent life opportunities who have made choices that put their futures in jeopardy. All of them involve the taking of another life.
I will not comment on why this might have happened, what I would like to comment on is the pain of all people involved. This is a strong reminder that we can not take our lives or our children's behavior for granted just because we are respectable people and live on the right side of the tracks.
My advice, keep listening and provide a receptive ear especially when our kids have done or thought something they are not proud of. It is often the fear of rejection or punishment that encourages kids to keep their thoughts to themselves. Even though WE know we love them unconditionally, they do not learn that unless we are still with them when they are at their worst.
The always dangerous mix of teenagers and drugs is something to be very educated about. The 1996 survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found there are seven potential indicators of teen drug use: l. The teen smokes, 2. The teen has friends who drink alcohol, 3. The teen's friends use marijuana, 4. The teen's friends use acid, cocaine or heroin, 5. The teen knows a drug dealer, 6. The teen says he or she can buy marijuana in a few hours or one day, 7. The teen says he or she expects to buy illegal drugs in the future.
The survey also found parental factors that could contribute to the risk of substance abuse among teens: 1. The parent has set no specific curfew for the teen, 2. The parent disapproves of the teen's friends, 3. The parent expects that the teen will try drugs, 4. The teen's family rarely has dinner together, 5. The parent does not attend religious services and does not take the teen along if he or she does.
Last month we focused around the Thanksgiving and how you could enter the holiday with intention rather than waiting to see what would happen. Take some time and answer the same questions for the next set of holidays.
Better parents model the behavior they want for their kids. You don't have to wait for January 1 to make resolutions. Consider taking time this month and use the end of the year momentum to start the New Year prepared. Wouldn't it be nice to have the vision clear, the mission stated and certain specific desires established by the time January 1st arrives.
The following exercise can help. Let a full, deep breath leave your body through your mouth or your nose and continue with a few short breaths out. Now ,release the breath. Feel breath spontaneously fill your lungs. Do this 3 or 4 times. Now that you are relaxed you can do the following exercise.
You can prepare for what you want in life by determining your Quality of Life Index (QLI). Next to each area of life write a number from O to 10 to indicate how satisfied you are with yourself in each area. Let O mean not satisfied at all and 10 mean totally satisfied. So if you are about half way satisfied with your environment you might put a 4 or 5 or 6. If you are completely dissatisfied with your family life, you might put a O or 1.
Add the numbers and divide by 100 for your QLI. You can review your responses to determine the areas of your life that you want to work on. As you plan for the New Year, keep in mind the balance that you want as you prioritize your goals. The goal is to have a QLI of 1.0. As your QLI reaches 1.0, your life will be more balanced and you will be a stronger model for your children.
Every time we give our kids opportunities to solve the part of a problem that is theirs to own, we increase the chances of their becoming independent capable people. And, the more they are involved in a solution to a problem, the more they are committed to the outcome. This is true of kids of all ages.
You can also include your children in the preparations for the new year by talking with them about how satisfied they are with their lives. Each person has an internal QLI even if not aware of it. The surprise often comes when it is put down on paper and suddenly there is an understanding of why life seems so irritating or so pleasurable.
If your child has a low QLI, or one that he or she would like to change, this is a wonderful opportunity to get them involved in the idea that life is what you make it and that you can indeed make lemonade from lemons. Many children are in the blaming mode - if it weren't for my teacher, if it weren't for Peggy Sue or Johnnie, life would be just great.
Each of the areas of life is applicable to the child for his age. A 7-year-old may be quite worried about career and what they are going to do when they grow up. This is a great time to let them know that there is plenty of time to take care of that and the job for them right now is to play and be an effective student. A 17-year-old who says he doesn't know and doesn't care gives you a lot of information about where he is in the growing up are.
But remember, there is no right or wrong, just what level of satisfaction and what they would desire to be different. We can inform them of our opinion but we can let go trying to make their lives happen.
My 15-year-old daughter does not like to involve her mother in any activities like sophomore semiformal or really anything at all. Why is this? She is a very bright child and a high achiever, but does not have a good connection with her mom. T.R.
I will speculate as to why your daughter does not want her mother involved but your daughter is really the one who has the answer to this question.
Fifteen year olds (sons and daughters) are going through the stage in their lives when they are trying to figure out who they are and how they make their own way in the world.
They are in the stage of lessening their dependence on their family but still do not have all the skills to make it on their own. They want to be recognized and validated for their individuality separate from their mothers and fathers. They want their activities to be their own yet they want support from their families.
Also, teenagers may not have figured out how to have relationships with both their friends and their families - they may think they can only have one or the other.
To add to these social and emotional changes, physically they have those drugs called hormones going through their bodies. Hormones can cause behavior and feelings to be quite unpredictable'
During this time of change and uncertainty (even though they may seem to know it all) teenagers (whether they are bright and good students or not) are often confused about when to ask for help and when to do it on their own. When in doubt, they'll usually do it on their own and unless well-supported in their family, keep the mistakes to themselves. This can begin a cycle of emotional distancing that results in bad tempers and arguing.
Parents may be having a tough time as well, especially when they have a teenager of their own for the first time. Previously loving children may seem to have taken on new and unbearable personalities. They may seem knowledgeable and friendly one minute and yet act like two-year-olds the next.
Parents who are unsure of themselves may vacillate between being over-involved and throwing their hands up in frustration. They find that what works one-day may not work the next. This is breeding ground for anxiety and hurt feelings, especially if parents are taking their kids' behavior personally.
Unfortunately, there are no set rules for managing through the teenage years except to: STOP to gather the facts. (What's really going on here?) THINK about the desired outcome. (How do I want to get along?) ASSESS yourself and your child. (Who am I? Who is she?) RESPOND with age appropriate behaviors. (Parents act like adults and treat their teenagers as teenagers, not 8 year olds.)
Problems between parents and kids often occur when parents are more involved with their kids' lives than their kids want them to be. Teenagers are very sensitive to their own privacy and unless you suspect that your child is involved in dangerous behavior, -respecting privacy is recommended. When privacy is respected, kids will often invite their parents into their world.
Parents need to be cautious of living vicariously through their children. So if the semi-formal is coming up and mom is more excited about it than her daughter, you can understand why her daughter might not want mom involved. This is when I often hear teenagers say "I wish mom or dad would get a life of his or her own and leave me alone!"
If mom's comments about what to wear and what to do seem critical rather than informational, her daughter may resist mom's input. The good neighbor policy is especially helpful in raising teenagers so before offering advice check first to see if it's wanted.
Even though I can speculate, your daughter is the one who has the answer to why she doesn't like to involve mom. So, in the spirit of going with the simplest solution, ask your daughter. The first usual answer will be - you guessed it - "I don't know."
Actually kids know the answers but are so convinced from experience that parents aren't going to listen that they just find ways of avoiding the answer. We in turn are so convinced that they are not going to say anything that we have learned to give up.
Try this instead. After she says "I don't know", you can say "You may not know for sure but you have some idea why." And then when you gently don't give up and she finally starts saying something, however meager, just say, "Thank you for telling me."
If time allows you can say, "I'd really like to hear more.'' And then, listen - really listen. No defending mom, no defending yourself, no telling her she should think something else or that you are disappointed in her. Just simply thank her for saying whatever it is that is said.
Our teenagers have a lot to offer us. We can be privy to their who they are by respecting their experiences and opinions in the same way we would like to have ours respected.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Since the last newsletter, a more definitive statement about the safety of airbags has come out and the auto manufacturers are hard at work with some redesign. In the meantime, children 12 and under should be buckled into the back seats.
TOYS AND TOTS: For gift-giving to children under three years old, strict care should be given to the size of the items in order to avoid accidental choking. Any piece of a toy that goes through a 1 1/2" choke tube is too small for children under 3. When there are older siblings, parents are advised to keep the older kids' toys' out of reach. The "what to do when the young kids have older siblings" was a dilemma for me so I give toys that are not questionable in size and let the parents make the decisions on Legos, jacks and little play people
AAUW (American Association of University Women) resources in the field of equity and education
The AAUW is the source for groundbreaking works on gender equity and education. Some titles include: How Schools Shortchange Girls: The AAUW Report Growing Smart: What's Working for Girls in School Video: Girls in the Middle: Working to Succeed in School Hostile Hallways: The AAUW Survey on Sexual Harassment in America's School The information on equity is startling as even the well-informed and well-intentioned can subtly affect the outcomes of self-esteem and achievement.
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Is This Your Child’s World
by Doris Rapp, M.D.
The subtitle of this book is: How You Can Fix the Schools and Homes That are Making Your Children Sick. Dr. Rapp is an environmental medical specialist and pediatric allergist.
With the rates of ADD, ADHD, and asthma increasing steadily this is a must read for parents of children who are hyperactive, asthmatic, disruptive or suffering from chronic colds or learning
ISBN 0-553-10513-2 24.95 US
Many companies are concentrating on team-building - using crosssection of skills and employees to work together to complete a common task. How can you use this in the family? Is it true that the only thing a family that works together gets is splinters under their nails? I hope not!
Jesting aside, our dishwasher blew up (literally had fire flaming from the front door about 3 months ago). I'm not sure why we haven't fixed it or replaced it, but we haven't and at this point I'm not inclined to (except that we want to sell our house and the new owners will probably want a working unit.) Besides having very clean hands, we have spent more time together than usual and we each are taking some responsibility for getting the job done.
This may seem far-fetched for many families but please consider how the busyness of the day does more to separate us than join us together. I'm calling for a new dinner and dishes approach to family living: Plan meals, share them (without the television and around a table), and work together to clean up.
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Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
32 Cole Street, Suite 5
Warren, RI 02885