Teen Rut

back of teen boy walking down street backpack hand on headTeens get in the rut of the same patterns different day. They may say they want to change but you don’t see the effort being made. In fact, in your adult body, when you say you are going to do something, you do it. But it may have taken you years to get where you are and lots of trial and error.

So let’s give teens some credit that change is possible. Rather than a dose of “I told you so” or “You can’t do it,” offer a bit of hope. Acknowledgement of the feeling that it may be difficult and a confidence boost saying you know they are a capable kid.

Let’s take this last 6 weeks of school for example. Your child may have an intention of getting in their late work. Rather than showing the negativity you feel about not getting in their work, show some encouragement and offer some support. Because what is done is done. I would encourage you to process the semester with them but probably at a later time then when they are not coming up with a plan to crank out what they need to do. This can be discouraging and lead to hopelessness.

Am I condoning getting work in late? No. But I am an optimist and realist, and it is inevitable some children will just not be on top of things all school year.

What if you had to get something turned in late at your work. Something that slipped your mind or didn’t make it on the agenda. Would you want your boss telling you they knew you wouldn’t get it done and you will never be able to turn it in. Probably not. How about you boss asking you to do your best to get it done, if you need some assistance in planning how to tackle things or understanding the concepts, and empowering you with the idea that you can succeed?  Now that sounds nice.

So I know it is hard when kids aren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing or not doing as well as they should. These are all life lessons we can help them with to grow into successful adults who are going to run our country, businesses, and have families. Take a deep breath, smile, and know that even though it isn’t perfect, your hope in your child can make a difference.

And lastly, please join myself and a few colleagues as we offer a FREE Parent Education Event Sink or Swim: 5 Tips for a Successful Summer.  This will be held May 15 from 6-7PM at the Burdell Building, 405 East D Street #105, Petaluma.  There will be plenty of time for quesitons and answers about how to help your junior high child. Visit www.sinkorswimsummer.com for more infomation and to RSVP.


I empower my child to be successful with words of encouragement and actions of support.

Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Mat

As I lunge forward into downward dog, I scan the crowd behind me to see who actually has their heels down. And then I think, “Sierra, get your eyes on your own mat.” I retract Woman sitting cross legged with back to camera on wooden deckthem back to my pose and take a deep breath in. I think about how I am doing alright, and it doesn’t matter what everyone has going on.

I always thought this a metaphor for my life in general. “Sierra, keep your eyes on your own mat.” Don’t compare yourself to other athletes, other professionals, other parents, other women. Just look at you.

But my eyes do drift. I may not want to be the best at whatever role I am in, but I at least want to know I can hang. “What does that even matter?” I wonder.

I have been a novice swimmer since I hit the pool on my middle school swim team in 5th grade. Yep, where I grew up, 5th grade was in middle school.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very good. I tried and eventually retired the Speedo but have picked it up throughout my life, certainly a different size, and have used swim as recreational exercise.

Now when I am in the pool, I know I can’t hang with the pros. Sometimes I catch a glimpse so I can better understand how to swim or watch how gracefully others move through the water. I never feel competitive, just humbled. I trudge along.

Does it pay to look at what others are doing? Maybe.  From looking at others, there are some benefits. I can gain a better sense of how I might like to do things. I can see I might be doing just fine or even better than some. I can also look at how I might like to change or challenge myself.

I think there is a distinction to be made of when it is OK to look around, and it lies in our motive. Am I looking around to better myself or to put others or myself down? Am I looking around so I can judge or so I can challenge myself? Maybe push myself to do things I didn’t think were possible. Not with animosity or negativity but with genuine heart. This distinction can be hard to determine as there can be many layers as to why we do what we do.

All I know is it feels better, whether I am on the yoga mat or in the pool, and I am truley focused on me.  When I am not competing with anyone but myself to be just who I need to be for that day.  The strong athlete or the soft woman or maybe even a bit of both.

Maybe its time for you to keep your eyes on your own mat.  Be an observer of yourself.  What does it feel like when you focus on you and not what everyone else is doing?  What happens when you don’t compete or compare?

Remember, being you just as you are is good enough.  Namaste.


7874770862_1d83a7bbde_qWhen I was in my late 20s, I got mad. Real mad. It was hard to even find the words to put it all together. It didn’t make sense that after over 10 years of being out of my parents’ house, I was truly angry about all the things they didn’t do. The limits they didn’t set. The times they turned the other cheek. “Hello?  Is anybody listening? Did anybody see?”

I was scared to confront my parents. I wasn’t sure what it would do to our relationship. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle what came back at me. Sadness? Anger? Pointing the finger back at me? I sat on it for a long time, and it festered.

Festering is not pretty. Imagine what festering can do to your insides. To your mind. When something festers and is not taken care of, it only gets bigger, uglier, and deeper. Soon it leaks into all parts of your world: relationships, work, school, friendships. It can lead to a deep sadness about oneself and the world. It can create anxiety, severe depression, abuse of yourself and others, and even lead to suicide.  Not pretty at all.

This story addresses a really poignant part of my life and for anyone who has an awakening about the things that weren’t ok stemming from childhood or teenage years. It is poignant because once we have an awareness about something, life can never be the same. We can try to hide but our minds and bodies know our truth and cannot turn back.

How difficult it is to listen to our truth and allow ourselves to be aware and awakened. Contrary, how beautiful it is to listen to our truth and be aware and awakened. When we listen to what is true and allow the awareness in, our whole being opens up, and we become free.

On a calm winter night in North Carolina, I finally got the courage to release my anger and heal the festering pain I held inside. I am free.

I allow truth to set me free.

“Parents Just Don’t Understand”

What if I don’t get a Valentine?  What if I never date?  What if I don’t get asked to prom? 3262670006_b506c311e0_m (1)What if the only guy to ever kiss me is my dad?….gross.  What if I never get married?  What if I live with my parents forever?  I need a Valentine. Gretta got a rose from Steve last year.  She is so pretty.  I am not pretty.  I saw someone looking at my hair in class today. I know they were laughing at me.  I am ugly. I need to get up earlier before school. Do my hair.  And my makeup. I need to ask my mom for new makeup. Is makeup really going to help me? Maybe. It helps those girls in the magazines. It could help me. Probably not, I am ugly. I should text Gretta. Find out where she gets her hair done. Oh, and I have to do this stinkin homework. Really? I am awful at math………on and on and on and on……………..

Anybody else’s brain ever race like this?  Exhausting and self-deprecating.  Teenage girls are in the ranks among the people to be the most hard on themselves.  Constantly feeling the need to compare and put down themselves.

The thing is, you may never hear this whole dialogue.  Teens keep things like this tucked inside and maybe share a little bit with a friend.  Teens want to keep their parents at a distance because they think they don’t get it. Even in the 80s DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were singing about it, “Just take it from me, parents just don’t understand.”

Some parents love to pour out what happened to them to their children as living proof they get it. The thing is, while your story may be a carbon copy of what you teen is going through, it is your experience and not theirs so to them it can sound polar opposite.

I wouldn’t discourage all sharing, but just be selective.  Maybe ask if they want to hear it.  Otherwise you end up wasting your breath, your teen gets annoyed, and you find yourself agitated as well.

So what to do?  That is a good question isn’t it?  My answer is fourfold:

1. Show your unconditional love in any way you can. Share a meal together. Catch them on a Saturday when they wake up at 12PM and go out for a bagel; just before they hit up their phone and are gone for the day. Invite them to watch a movie with you. They may decline 9/10 times. But there will be a night when they need you. It might be just the right invite when not feeling so loved by their friends.

2. Listen. I always go back to this in a lot of things I write because it is what gets reported by teens so often. Teenagers want parents to listen and not jump in with the perfect solution.

3. Give them room to grow. Like you and me, we all needed to have our own experiences to grow and learn. Most of us really learn our lessons from our own doings. Teens crave these experiences and parents need to allow their teens the room to have them.

4. Get Their Mental Health Treated.  If your teen’s brain is functioning like the above paragraph and you know it, get them some professional help. Many kids benefit from a tune up of self-esteem from a professional. Teens can also learn life long tools to help them cope with anxiety and the negative chatter their mind’s create.  And lastly, teens are really soothed with reassurance by a teen expert in knowing they aren’t the only ones going through certain things.

I allow my teen the room to grow and experience life.

School Success for Teens

Maybe the first semester wasn’t the best for your child this school year.  Lots of things can get in the way of doing well in school.  Just like adults who may have difficulties with a co-worker, a rough workload, or depression and anxiety, teens also can be suffering from similar ailments.  The difference is, adults have the life experience to know it will pass.  Teens don’t have the same insight.If you have a child that had previously done well in school and their grades have fallen, there are things you can do to help them.

woman dabbing in red graduation gown holding diploma

1. Talk with them with a listening ear.  Leave your judgements at the door.  Allow your child the time to be heard.  Validate their feelings and struggles.  “That must be hard.”  “I hear how overwhelmed you feel.”

2. Problem solve.  Give them the opportunity to come  up with their own ideas on how to pull up their grades, deal with their peers, or manage their emotions at school.  Ask if they want some feedback or ideas.

3. Help them to set 1 or 2 realistic goals.  You want the plan to work and to build a feeling of accomplishment in your child.  If you tell your teen they need to get straight A’s in all their classes when they got Cs and Ds before, this can feel unmanageable to your teen.  Failure is likely to ensue.

4. Create objectives.  Write out or discuss how they are going to reach these goals.  A daily schedule, reminders in their phone, setting up a calendar.  Help them to get organized so their is room for success.

5. Let them take the lead.  Since you have been a parent for a long time, you may know just what they need to do.  Your child may even arrive at an idea that you have been telling them for ages.  But please don’t steal their thunder.  Teens are a hundred times more willing if they think it is their idea, not yours.  

6. Use rewards to keep kids motivated.  We get paid to go to work and ideally love what we do.  We have motivations.  Kids needs motivators too.  If you are really trying to change a behavior or pattern, daily rewards prove useful.  Computer time, phone time, family time (maybe?!), earning points towards getting something they want at the mall.

7. Notice them.  “I notice you working hard on things.”  “I notice you doing your homework each day after school.”  You don’t need to go on and on.  In fact, your teen may hate that.  Pick up on their cues.  One sentence may be enough.

8. Offer help.  “Can I help you in anyway?”  When you get the feedback regarding how annoying you are being, head for another room with grace.  Avoid comments about how ungrateful they are or mumbling under your breath.  Just be proud your teen is getting it done.

With my knowledge and experiences, I can help my child be successful.

Enduring the Holidays

birch trees in fallThe Holidays. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberries. Pumpkin Pie. Chaos. Tears. Anger. Old Resentment. Yummy.

Sound familiar?

I always wished the Holidays were like the movies or at least ended like the movies. A big warm house with everyone coming to an agreement. Singing, dancing, hugging. This usually only happens after a few bottles of wine and the old hurt comes back the next morning with a nasty hangover. Not so yummy.

It is so important to really care for ourselves during the Holidays. Often times people have limits and boundaries to what they are willing to endure over the year and then get slapped in the face by a turkey leg (literally or figuratively) when things haven’t changed and old wounds come to the surface.

How do we care for ourselves in the midst of the emotional chaos? Here are a few ideas.

1. When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Stay for a time but cut out early. Don’t wait for the drama to erupt. You can read about it on your cousin’s Facebook page in a few hours.

2. Drop the expectations. Expectations lead to disappointment. Disappointment leads to a whole host of other bad feelings.

3. Set limits to the conversations you don’t want to be a part of. If your mother starts digging up the dirt, take a potty break. Rejoin with another conversation or check out the game upon exit.

4. Take a walk. Get some fresh air and hoof it. Not only will your body appreciate it, so will your mind.

Happy Holidays!!!

I get to decide how much or little I am willing to take.

The Importance of Play Dates

Play dates can be lovely when hanging with a parent you really like and the children are getting along. It’s easy. Maybe even fun.

Play dates can feel difficult when hanging out with a parent you don’t really know and are unsure of how your children will gel when outside of their usual setting.

Parents can feel pressure about their child’s behavior reflecting on them and wanting to impress their fellow play date mate. “He doesn’t usually act this way,” a parent might say.

Parents can end fun time early due to a hit, kick, or tension ensuing between children. Out of embarrassment, parents head for the car dragging their child along kicking and screaming. “Its not fair,” you can hear throughout the entire park.

Mortified. Incompetent. Judged. Some parents do not embark on play dates for the fear of what may happen, how they will feel, and how others may view them.

If you have read my previous posts, you may guess what I am going to suggest….do it anyway. Kids need play dates . They need to learn how to be with other children outside of the home and learn how to work through intense feelings and manage conflict.

They need opportunities to practice these skills and  play dates provide the perfect forum. Children need hours of playtime to allow the comfort level and situations to arise. Children need time to see conflict can be meditated without being hauled off to the car and shamed by a parent. This can lead to a host of other problems, including the beginning stages of poor self-esteem and anxiety around their own social abilities.

It can be hard to put yourself out there. You yourself may feel socially awkward and have your own discomfort in meeting new people. You may have been at the end of judgements from other parents. Whatever it is, I would encourage you to try and put the feelings aside and make time for your child to play.

The park is a great place for parents to meet up and get their child some social interaction. The down side is a parent may not be on the same page as you regarding teaching your child about the ups and downs of socializing. One push and you might have someone giving you the stink eye and leaving abruptly.

There are a few great ways to get the ideal play date going. Talking with play date parents about what you are trying to teach your child can be a part of the conversation. Their child may be doing some of the exact same things as yours. Many behaviors children engage in are developmentally normal and yet many parents want to bury their head in the playground sand when their child barrels over another child. While it can be embarrassing, there is a clear opportunity to teach your child about empathy and expressing his needs and feelings with words instead of actions.

A second idea is to meet with a parent you already seem to have some connection with, like a parent you talk with at pick up or drop off. If you already have a little chemistry, this can alleviate some of the social angst you may be feeling.

Lastly, don’t be the judge of others. As we all know, kids have bad days. This fact should not have a direct link to judgements we make about their parents. Also, parents learn to parent from their own experiences.  Unfortunately, some of them may not have been good ones. Have empathy. Model what healthy parenting looks like and be open to the challenges other’s face.

I parent from a non-judgemental place and believe others do as well.

The Evolution of a Teenager

The evolution of the teenager.  I adore watching this unfold.  Many think teens are scary.  Boys, girls, it doesn’t matter.  Teens can frighten people with their looks and energy.

Why I love teens is because at the heart of who they are, they are just trying to figure it all out.  With their parents they may act self-righteous, entitled, and inferior.  With other adults, teens can sometimes let down their parental guard and be real about what is on their minds.

College, grades, and friends are often at the heart of what is weighing in.  Sex, drugs, alcohol, and being cool are also at the forefront for many teens.

I love to ask teens the tough questions.  Give them a place to talk about the stuff parents are afraid to tackle.  Many teens express a reserve in talking with their own parents.  Some are afraid of the response they will get.  Some are embarassed for themselves and for their parents.

Talking with both teen boys and teen girls as a parent is a slippery slope.  Teens can make parents feel like they hate them, don’t want to talk with them, and are annoyed by the very quiet breath they take.  It is hard to have a meaningful conversation when your teen is in this place.

I would always encourage a parent to keep the door open.  To continue to try and talk with their teen even if their teen isn’t taking the bait.  Not hound the child, but finding small windows of opportunity to engage and then seeing what happens.  Just listening is a good move.  I cannot tell you how many teenagers complain their parents don’t listen.

If your teen is refusing to talk with you, it may be worthwhile to get them connected with a responsible adult they will talk to.  A neighbor, family member, or therapist may be a good way to know your child is sharing and getting some good feedback regarding their thoughts and behaviors.

This can be difficult for parents to allow another adult to play a role in their teen’s life they wanted to play.  Parents can feel jealous and left out when another adult is getting more from their teen in 15 minutes then they got all week.  If parents can put the emotions aside and see how their teenager can benefit from a healthy adult interaction, they may feel less threatened and more relieved.

If we all can take a moment to recollect what it was like to be teenager, most of us will remember keeping our parents at a distance, at least some of the time. Why we remember this distance is because it is developmentally normal for teens to begin to separate from their parents.  This process is called individuation and we all have gone through it.  Because of this process we no longer live with our parents.

So breathe a sigh of relief what you’re facing is normal as far as teens pushing parents away emotionally.  But if you are concerned you have the means to help support your teen by finding a trusted adult who can give them the parental guidance they may not be able to hear from you.  And let out a second breathe of relief knowing they can turn out OK.

I allow the process of life to unfold for my teen.

I Am Not Doing My Homework!

The freedom to let children make their own choice in regards to homework is a tough one for parents. At what age to start and how much responsibility to let cmultiplication worksheet with red pencilhildren take are questions many parents struggle with.

When do we let children and teens not do their homework and suffer the repercussions.  When do we not pencil in the answer for our child because its just easier?  When do we let go and allow children to relish in the rewards and become upset at the consequences?  How about now?

“Now?” you ask.  But, my child needs me to hound at them to get their homework done or else they don’t get a good education.  But my child is going to refuse to write in the answer if I don’t do it for her.  And what if she gets a detention?  Won’t that reflect on me as a parent?

Parents are chalked full of reasons why something is never a good time.  While they may seem valid, they don’t always have a lot of clout.   Being a parent is a full time job, which includes the role of “life teacher.”

One way we help kids is to teach them about responsibility.  Parents can teach responsibility with the natural consequences and rewards of the world.  When you parent from this angle, you begin to take the power struggle out of the parenting.  It isn’t your fault your child missed recess for not doing their homework.  A child has no one to hold accountable but themselves.

I am not saying you should abandon your child all together.  Help them to have a homework time.  Set aside time when you or another capable person is available to help as needed.  Keep in mind to help your child and not “do” for them.  Children don’t learn this way.

Work on slowly exposing them to taking more responsibility for their work.  If last year you sat by their side and helped them with every problem, move towards stepping away for a few minutes and then coming back to check and provide support.  Small steps to change are the way to go for many children.

Empower your child in their ability to be successful.  Reflect on past successes and times you saw how good they felt when they mastered a concept and got the natural reward of earning recess or raising their GPA.

If you are unsure of your child’s level of readiness for responsibility, check with their teacher.  The teacher sees your child 5 days a week and should have a good idea as to where they should be performing academically and how much responsibility they can take.

Lastly, with whatever parenting strategy you implement, be clear and consistent.  If you say you will be back in 5 minutes to check on them, be back in 5.  When you come back in 2 minutes because they are flipping out you are not being clear and consistent.  Children will learn they can get you attention and even get the answer if they flip out.  Not exactly the message you want to send.

I am solid in the ways I choose to support my child.

To Date Or Not To Date? That Is The Question.

While John Mayer may not be the role model fathers are looking towards, he certainly has mothers and fathers alike getting teary-eyed as he sings, “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do….”

brown dog next to sign that say will you be my date?
My mind immediately flashed to the weddings I attended as I watched brides and their fathers sway to such a sweet song. I admittedly think of my own daughters on their wedding days, hopefully lightening years away, marrying someone as sweet as their own father.

“Twenty-seven.” “Forty.” “Never.” The answers many teen girls reveal when talking about the age their father’s say they can date. How protective they are.

And to a degree, rightfully so. Men know what it is like to be a boy and would never allow anyone close to their own child who may represent the male pubescent side of who they used to be.

So when is it ok for teens to start dating? While “never” seems like a good answer to many parents, they are asking for a host of defiance, sneaking out, anger, shutting down and all other sorts of feelings and behaviors which arise when teens are ready to take a step towards growing up.

Going slow might be a good step for parents and a good step for teens as they begin to embark on this new social venture. Group dates or hosting boy/girl get togethers at your house is a good first step. You can dictate the pace of slow.

With any new privilege teens need to show responsibility and an ability to follow the rules set forth. If a parent catches their child making out, you now have an open window to talk about a multitude of things. Seize the opportunity to give your child information and process acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Yes, they will hate this. You may too. Teens still need guidance and hear the message of what is OK and not OK.

Sure teens get fuel on breaking the rules and making parents crazy, but deep inside, they carry our words. Adults help create their conscience. If parents say nothing, it gives teens silent permission. Be the voice of experience and reason. Keep it short and offer an open door policy for them to talk with you anytime.

There is no right answer as to when teens should be allowed to date. The fact is, dating can mean so many things. Talk with your teen and be open to their needs and ideas and look towards negotiating if their requests are a little out of the box.