Summer Reading Recommendation #3

A student of mine once said to me, "I'm so happy it's summer and I can't wait to go camping with my family because where we camp, there's no cell phone service." Her comment stuck with me as I read Ana Homayoun's book Social Media Wellness. I would wager to guess that most adolescents view cell phones as both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing to have 24/7 access to your friends and not have to go through the antiquated methods we used- calling your friend's house and having to go through the pleasantries when her parents answered the phone- "Oh Hi Mr. Roberts, yes swim team is going well. Is Alice available to talk?" And yet, I also hear from the students I work with that it's a curse. "My friends get mad at me if I don't respond right away to their texts but my parents take my phone when I'm doing homework," lamented a student of mine.

I've read Social Media Wellness cover to cover twice and I still takeaway something new each time. I want to highlight Chapter 3 from the book- "Five Ways Social Media Affects Today's Tweens and Teens." One of Homayoun's five examples she discusses is this "always on mentality." I think this is something both adults and students struggle with and it's something I feel contributes to the rising anxiety levels of students today. Instead of copying homework assignments off the board, many students are redirected to their teacher's online page to check for assignments and often there's this fear (real or perceived) of an assignment being posted without a student knowing it. "Walking into school on Monday and finding out there was an assignment posted that I didn't know about is my worst fear," says a student, "so I check my online homework calendar all the time to make sure that never happens." 

Technology hasn't just changed the way students get and turn in homework assignments; it's changed how they communicate. Interacting socially with friends doesn't end at 3pm anymore or even when after school activities are over, it continues throughout the evening and often late into the wee hours of the morning. Students talk about the constant notifications and buzzing that happens when they're trying to sleep or do homework. Navigating boundaries around social media has become one of the hardest lessons for students to set with their peers. "I don't know how to tell my friends that sometimes I just want to be left alone at night" or "sometimes it's easier if I make up a story or blame it on my parents so friends don't get mad if I don't respond right away." 

If you haven't read Social Media Wellness I highly encourage you to do so. There are great points that resonate with both parents and students and in particular this "always on mentality" is something that adults and adolescents can resonate with and perhaps share strategies. 

  Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Summer Reading Recommendation #2

Have you heard of the Stress Olympics? If not, I encourage you to pick up Rachel Simmons newest book Enough as She Is and read Chapter 7 which talks about perfectionism and the rise of the stress culture. Chances are if you're reading this and you have young kids you've heard something similar to the following:

Kid 1: "I bet I can throw the ball farther than you."

Kid 2: "Oh yeah well I can throw the ball farther and do it with my eyes closed."

This "one-upping" of each other happens early in childhood and yet Rachel Simmons notices that it's happening in an unhealthy way in high school. The example she gives in her book goes something like this:

Student 1: "I'm so tired. I only slept five hours last night."

Student 2: "Yeah well I'm so tired because I have 2 tests and got 2 hours of sleep."

Student 3: "You think that's bad. I pulled an all-nighter and have 3 tests today."

There's this growing sense of pride that is associated with being "soooooo stressed" and "soooo tired." The Stress Olympics then breeds this culture of busyness where if you aren't tired and stressed, you must not be working hard enough. What is the solution then?

Let me offer a few thoughts. First of all, unfortunately the Stress Olympics is part of a larger problem with our society valuing and praising being busy and although that is not something one parent can solve, below are some helpful tips in working with your child:

1. Validate the feeling and dig deeper. "Wow it sounds like you are feeling stressed. I wonder what other feeling you can identify as well?" This allows your child to tap into their feelings vocabulary. Is it an exciting stress like the week before a big performance? Is it an overwhelmed stress such as writing college application essays? Is it a fearful stress because chemistry is really confusing?

2. Take small steps. The most common "type" of stress I hear and see in my work is the overwhelmed kind so I work with students on creating timelines and breaking larger assignments and tasks into more manageable chunks. The part of the brain responsible for planning and organization is the prefrontal cortex which is still developing in adolescents so they need strategies on how to break larger tasks down. You might say, "Okay so let me check to see if I heard you. Your research paper for history is due in a month and it's between 10-12 pages and worth a lot of points. Is that right? What do you think is your first step in tackling a large assignment like that?"

3. Provide coaching about healthy coping skills. "Wow it does seem like you have a lot on your plate right now. It's important to balance study time with time for yourself. What ideas do you have for how you might balance work and fun?" Questions like these help coach students to tap into healthy coping skills such as playing basketball, taking the dog for a walk, baking, etc. If your child is receptive to your coaching, provide an example of an activity that helps you. "I know that at work before a big meeting I take a 5 minute stroll around the block to clear my head and that helps. I wonder if there's something similar that might work for you?"

Looking for help with time management and relaxation strategies? Contact me and I'd be happy to work with your student.

  Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Summer Reading Recommendation #1

In a previous post, I recommended 5 books for parents and guardians to read over the summer. For the next 5 weeks, I’ll be highlighting a takeaway from each one of those five books. First up is Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Dr. Lisa Damour. As a past educator at an all-girls school, I used this book a lot when working with parents and found the organization of chapters related to developmental tasks particularly helpful. For example, the second chapter titled “Joining a New Tribe” looks at the changing friendships that occur. As I say this how many of you are thinking of seventh grade? 

Today I want to highlight Chapter 3: Harnessing Emotions because here Dr. Damour describes one of my favorite metaphors: the emotional hot potato. Think of a really bad day that your daughter had recently. Something didn’t go her way- it could’ve been at sports practice, in school, with a friend, etc. Whatever it may be, she described the event to you in painstaking detail and what was your reaction? Did you take the emotional hot potato from her and say, “I’ll talk with your coach” or “Let me email your teacher?” Or did you say, “Wow that sounds _____________ (insert reflective feeling here- frustrating/embarrassing, et.), how do you want to solve it? What’s your next step?"

The developmental task here is for students to build their own toolbox of coping strategies. The parent/guardian role moves away from problem solver and moves towards coach. Understanding that you have more life experience and can offer up different solutions is key and yet the work to be done is your child’s, not yours. Questions such as “What have you tried?” or “What’s your first step towards solving the problem with friend/teacher/coach?” empowers your child.

To read more of Dr. Lisa Damour’s resources from Untangled go to: https://www.drlisadamour.com/untangled/

Interested in hosting a book discussion at your child's school or community group? Let me know! I've facilitated parent workshops around this book and countless others!

 

  Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Summer Reading for Parents/Guardians

It's that time of year- the end of school is within reach. Warmer days, class field trips, and for high school students- finals and end of year exams. Before students leave for the summer, they inevitably have in hand their summer reading list. What I've included below is a summer reading list for parents/guardians. You may get through only one book and yet that one book brings you a little closer to understanding the developmental journey of your child. 

Enough as She is by Rachel Simmons. Released in February of 2018, this book looks at how girls struggle to accept that their authentic selves are truly enough.

Untangled by Lisa Damour. This is an all-time favorite of mine. It guides parents of daughters through the seven stages of a girl's developmental journey. 

Social Media Wellness by Ana Homayoun. This book provides insight on the lure of social media and tangible tips to help your child disconnect.

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims. It encourages parents to let their children do the work in terms of solving friendship struggles, managing schoolwork and demands. "What's your plan?" and "What's your next best step?" are great questions for parents to adopt when facilitating conversations with their children.

The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair. What happened to family meals around the dinner table? Steiner-Adair explores the way technology has changed family routines. Some families don't sit down at all anymore while others bring their devices to the table. 

Interested in hosting a book discussion at your child's school or community group? Let me know! I've facilitated parent workshops around these books and countless others!

  Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Communicating with Confidence

If you haven't read Playing Big by Tara Mohr, I highly recommend you add it to your summer reading list. Mohr shares many insightful words of wisdom to help girls and women speak up, create, and lead. The focus of this post is about one of Mohr's chapters: Communicating with Power. What does that mean exactly? 

I'll start by describing what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean using "just" as in "I'm just wondering..." or "I'm just an assistant researcher..." Powerful language doesn't start with "Sorry but..." as in "Sorry to bother you but..." And powerful language doesn't offer disclaimers. For example, how many times have you heard someone say "I know this is probably wrong..." or "I'm not an expert but..."

According to Mohr, this kind of language is playing it safe. Self-doubt shows right through when we communicate in this way. Powerful language, on the other hand, is grounded in confidence. Powerful language says "I believe the answer is..." If you have an adolescent daughter at home, listen for instances of hedging- "just" or "kind of" and also listen for apologies "sorry but..." During adolescence, teens become hyper aware of their peers and focus on what their peers think of them. How this translates in the classroom/dance studio/soccer field is shying away from taking chances. A student once told me, "I only raise my hand when I know the answer is 100% right." If that's the case for you or your son/daughter, ask "What would happen if you were wrong?"

For the next week, focus on powerful language. Scan your emails for words like "just" or "a little bit" and notice when you hide behind disclaimers. Communicate your points with confidence. 

 

 

  Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman

Helping Adolescents Find Balance

I think back to the days in which I grew up- days where homework only took an hour or two, social time consisted of riding bikes down the street or hanging out in someone's backyard, and stress seemed like a word that only applied to grown-ups. Sure I remember the feelings of worry and unease in high school before taking the SAT and how anxious I felt awaiting college acceptance letters but as I reflect on my experience I can only pinpoint a few times when I felt truly stressed.

I contrast that feeling with students today. The feelings of anxiety and stress start in elementary school and sometimes by the time high school arrives these feelings are crippling. My work on helping adolescents find balance centers around mindfulness practices. When students or adults are in their thoughts and their heads are spinning, they are disconnected from their bodies. Mindfulness allows students to come out of their heads and feel what's going on in their bodies at the moment. 

Listening to music, journaling, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are all tools that can help adolescents become mindful of how their thoughts affect their bodies. Start out small with 5 minutes a day devoted to drawing, listening to a meditation, journaling, etc. and then slowly increase until 30 minutes before bedtime you're engaging in a mindfulness practice. Not sure where to start? That's where I can help!

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

"Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, that is the best season of your life." ~ Wu Men

  Written by Kathleen Goodman

Written by Kathleen Goodman