Grandparents and Teens

Yesterday, I was privileged to be a guest on the radio show Chat with Women.  During our discussion, the hosts asked me “What can grandparents do to help their teen granddaughters while they are going through tough times?”  This was a fantastic question.

The beauty of being a grandparent is that you don’t have to bother with discipline, academics, attire, or dating.  Grandparents can provide unconditional love without having to worry about all the rest of the stuff!  When hanging with grandparents, teens don’t worry about being cool, asserting their independence, or defending their choices.  Wouldn’t we all love to have safe space like this in life?!?

Because teens can let down their guard when they are with their grandparents, they will often listen to grandmotherly advice.  Sharing stories of your youth can remind your granddaughter that young girls have gone through the same doubts and struggles for many years.  Make sure you share stories and thoughts, though, rather than preach at them.  Talk about boys and dating.  Talk about struggles you had with your parents or as a parent.  Then you can top it off with, “Is it still like that now?”

What you should avoid as a grandparent is being part of a family argument.  If your granddaughter is having a fight with her Mom or Dad, let her vent.  You can give some advice, but don’t talk badly about the parents.  This would likely not end well and would only make the fight worse. 

Bottom line?  Be there for your grandkids.  Spend time with them.  Nurture them.  Hug them.  Praise them.  And admire them.  My grandmother never raised her voice to me, rarely lectured me, but always gave me hugs and Pringles.  My Grannie made a huge impact on my life and my character.  So hug or text or call your grandchild today!   (If you are a teen, reach out to your grandparents for some unconditional love.)

With Heart,  Sheri

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TALKING TERROR WITH TEENS

tragedt At this point, your teen has heard about the tragedy in Boston and might have seen horrific images associated with it. Some teens will be deeply affected by the event, while for others it will hardly be a blip on their radar. In either case, terroristic acts can bring up a variety of emotions and questions. Make sure to set aside time to talk to your teens about the events that occurred in Boston. Use this as an opportunity to explore a wide array of life topics. Here are a few suggestions.

TALK ABOUT REASONS FOR TERRORISTIC ACTS. Talk about why terrorists act as they do. Allow your teen to come up with some of the reasons on their own. Some examples are mental illness, misguided hate, isolation and loneliness, need for notoriety, and extremist beliefs.

PROCESS EMOTIONS. By allowing your kids to process their emotions, they will realize that it is ok to feel sad, angry, anxious or even numbness. All of these emotions are valid. Remind them that these emotions are only temporary, and that there is always a silver lining. By talking to them about their emotions, you are also reminding them that they can come to you during difficult times.

FINDING THE GOOD. One thing that we see time and time again is that the goodness of people is always brought out in a time of tragedy. Amidst the smoke, carnage, and chaos in Boston, people were rushing to help complete strangers. People took the shirts from their backs to create make-shift tourniquets. Boston residents opened their homes to complete strangers who were stranded. Restaurants served free food and water to the hungry. Remind your teens that the do-gooders in this world far outnumber the bad seeds.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING. Although we are seeing horrific acts of violence all too often, remind your teens that terrorist acts, statistically speaking, do not directly involve a large number of people. Remind them that they are relatively safe in their own environment and that these senseless acts of violence are very unlikely to directly affect them.

GIVE THEM AN ACTION POINT. Remind your teens that they are not helpless. If they want to help the victims, they can do so by sending cards to those who remain in the hospital or raise or donate funds to donate to the healing efforts. The mayor of Boston has established a new fund called The One Fund Boston which is to help victims of the latest tragedy.

CARPE DIEM. Although it is a bit cliché, remind your teen to live their life one day at a time and to its fullest. None of us know what our life holds in store for us. Cherish each and every day. [Skip this one if your child is particularly anxious or has obsessive tendencies.]

Whether your teens show their appreciation or not, they will learn from the time you spend talking with them about these events. Make sure that you do not lecture them but rather engage them. Good luck with your conversations.  For my teens who read my blog, you get the gist, right?  Talk to people around you about the events in Boston if you need to share your thoughts and feelings.  You are not alone!

-Sheri
Motivational and Educational Speaker for Tweens and Teens
http://www.TeenWiseSeattle.com

Teen Suicide- Signs & Solutions

59640109-teen-suicide“The most authentic things about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”  -Ben Okri

When a teen takes their own life, it hits my heart very hard.  Teens should feel like the world is their oyster with endless possibilities in front of them.  Perhaps they’ll get married and have kids, travel the world, become a teacher or an international spy, lead a simple farm life, or live in a bustling city.  Emotions, decisions, and self-discovery can sometimes be overwhelming for teens, though.  They feel alone and isolated despite parents and friends who love them and care about them.  Why do they choose ending their life rather than continuing to fight the fight?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10-14 year olds.  Let’s do our best to prevent these needless deaths by getting the facts.  Here are some signs to look for that could indicate suicide.

  • Hopelessness
  • Talking about suicide
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame
  • Fascination with death
  • Decline in schoolwork
  • Withdrawing from social circle/family
  • Saying goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Increased drug or alcohol use, general reckless behavior
  • Sense of calm after a long period of the above behaviors

Now that we know what to look for, what do we do?

  • Speak to the person directly if you know them well.  Let them know that you have noticed that they seem very sad or that they have noticed they have been pretty down lately.
  • Ask them if something has happened to them that made them sad or upset.
  • Let them know that you are there for them.
  • Help them call into a suicide hotline
  • Remind them that things will get better and that feelings change from day to day.
  • Have them promise you that if they feel like committing suicide, that they will call you or another designated person
  • If you don’t know the person well, reach out to their parents, friends, or to school personnel.  Give them as much information as possible including the warning signs that you have noticed.
  • Remind yourself that you are going to do what you can, but that you are not in charge or responsible for this person’s ultimate decisions

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or feeling extremely depressed, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-784-2433 or you can chat at crisischat.org.

Please know that you matter and that you are important.

Sheri, Teen Wise

Tricky Teen Technology

computer girlsToday is just going to be a short post on the junk that technology brings to our teens.  Since I have teens of my own, I am on the constant look out for what could be dangerous for our teens to come across on the “interwebs”.  The biggest fear for parents is that our teens will encounter sexual predators online.  Unfortunately, there are so many other harmful ideas, thoughts, and situations out there.  Snapchat is a simple app for kids to take pictures and send to their friends.  The teen can determine how long the picture lasts (5, 10, 20 seconds) before it disappears.  Teens are using this as a “safe” sexting tool thinking that the picture will not be accessible after those few seconds of viewing.  However, one the receivers end, there is another app that takes a picture of the snapshot and then they have the picture forever.  ChatRoulette is a dangerous site on the internet.  The idea is that you video chat with a random person online.  This isn’t supposed to be a sexual site but, as you can imagine, often goes in the direction.  Another site is called Thinspo.  This is another website that is pro-anorexia.  It teaches girls how to get super skinny.  They have diet tricks, visuals, and inspiration quote.  The quote that stood out for me was “When I see my first bone, I’ll feel happy.”  Keep a sharp eye out for these types of apps and websites that might seem harmless on the surface.  If you take a deeper look, they are not what they seem.

Stay on your toes, parents!

-Sheri Gazitt, Teen Life Coach, www.TeenWiseSeattle.com

Fostering Gratefulness in Teens

When kids are young, it is fairly easy promote an attitude of gratitude. We make sure they say “thank you” when we give them things or do things for them, we have them say what they are thankful for at the dinner table, and we can make them write thank you notes. When it comes to teens, though, promoting gratitude is a much trickier process. For teens who are trying to create their own unique identity, being grateful can be equated to being indebted. So how do we go about fostering gratitude in our teens? gratefulHere are a few pointers:

(1) Continue making them write thank you notes. Writing down gratitude is much more passive on the teens end but very appreciated by the receiver.

(2) Casually remind them of favors. If your teen receives something from another teen or a parent, like a ride for instance, non-chalantly say “That was very nice of them to give you a ride.” This reminds them that they were not entitled to the ride but that it was a favor.

(3) Expose them to the less fortunate. Now that they are teens, they are much more able to process sad and difficult situations. Now is the time to start exposing your teens to unfortunate situations. When a bad storm occurs, for instance, have them watch the news coverage with you. Talk about 3rd world countries where children starve on a daily basis. Do an internet search with them about homeless teens and families. Don’t say to them, “Look what these kids go through, you should be thankful for what you have.” They will come to this conclusion on their own. Let them absorb the information, talk to them about the issues, and let them form their own gratitude.

(4) Don’t panic. Keep in mind that what your teen shows you is typically not what your teen shows the rest of the world. Your kids will inevitably keep the emotional outbursts and snarky comments all for you. In an odd way, you should be happy because this means that your teen feels emotionally safe with you.

(5) Be persistent. As a parent, you do want your teen to be appreciative of all that you do. Demand respect and demand a “thank you” for the big things. And on the other side, make sure that you say “thank you” to your teens for the things they do for you even if it is an expected household chore.

And for the teens who read my blog, find things in your everyday life that you are thankful for.  A great quote to learn from:  “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.”  -Gertrude Stein

Thanks for Reading my Blog!

Sheri Gazitt, Teen Life Coach

Mistakes Shape Us, NOT Define Us

All of us make mistakes.  We are not defined by them but rather shaped by them.  Teens are at a time in their lives when they will make lots of mistakes.  Science has shown that the brain chemistry and barin structure of teens is going through a major shakeup particularly in the frontal lobe.  The frontal lobe is the primary decision-making center.  No wonder they make their fair share of mistakes!  On top of that, they are starting to get a taste of independence.  They are now  making more decisions which naturally means there will be more mistakes.

What we do to rectify the mistakes we make is what defines us.  Let’s say our teen fails a math test miserably because he decides to play video games rather than study.  Instead of blaming the teacher or making excuses, he can own up to his poor choice.  From there, he can talk to his teacher, apologize, and ask if there is any way to retake the test or get extra credit.  Now he has gone from a seemingly irresponsible teen to a teen who cares about his academics and takes charge.  A more serious example is a teen who decides to have relations with a boy before she is ready.  She might then feel ashamed and maybe helpless.  She might even feel like she no longer has the right to say no to future sexual advances.  She must realize that she still has the power of choice.  She can say to herself “I made the wrong choice and I will not do it again until I am ready.”

Owning up to mistakes and making sure our next decision is a good one is not always easy. We all make mistakes, but we all have the power and the right to move past them.  The next time a teen in your life makes a major mistake, sit down with her and figure out what she has learned from her mistake and what she will do to avoid it in the future.  There is a beautiful song called “You are More” by Tenth Avenue North.  When you have a chance, listen to it [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J3M7uVjwI8].  For now, here is a taste of the lyrics.  This is a religious song, but everyone can appreciate the underlying theme of forgiveness and moving past mistakes.

There’s a girl in the corner,

With tear stains in her eyes,

From the places she’s wandered,

And the shame she can’t hide,

She says, “How did I get here?”,

I’m not who I once was. 

And I’m crippled by the fear

that I’ve fallen too far to love.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made.

You are more than the sum of your mistakes.

You are more than the problems you create.

You’ve been remade.

         -Tenth Avenue North

Teaching Teens to Speak Up For Themselves

Schools, parents, and counselors all drill it in to teens to speak up when someone is bullying them.  However, we as parents and as a society forget to teach our teens when to speak up to authority figures.  In fact, until the teen years, some often-used phrases are “listen to your teacher”,” don’t interrupt”, “do what they say”, “you have no choice”, and many more phrases that remind kids that authority figures are not to be questioned.  The most famous phrase would be “Because I said so!”.  For the most part, excluding dangerous or harmful situations, we tell our kids that they must listen to and not question authority figures.  When big issues come up, parents do get involved and speak up against the authority figure.  But at some point, the transition must be made so that the teens are able to speak up for themselves.

There are a few situations that I encountered as a teen that I still think about to this day. For example, I had a male band director that would walk by my chair in the morning and whisper in my ear “You look nice today” or “Your hair looks beautiful”.  It was very inappropriate and made me feel uncomfortable.  That same man would lecture during band about “lazy welfare recipients” (about 75% of the class had parents on welfare).  No one in our band of 240 kids said a thing about it.  This man was a major authority figure that was looked up to in the community.  Once in a while this situation pops into my head, and I visualize myself giving this man a few choice words.

Here are some common situations in which teens should speak out:

  • An authority figure is acting inappropriately
  • Rules do not make sense
  • An authority figure says something that is offensive or that goes against their core beliefs
  • You have a true need that seems to be overlooked or authority refuses to handle
  • Something was handled unfairly

Here are some examples of when not to speak out:

  • You make a bad grade because you didn’t study
  • You don’t like the rule just because you want things your way
  • You are currently angry and not in control of your emotions

Let’s take my own personal example of the band director and come up with an action plan.  It could have looked something like this…

  • Think about why it bothers her so much
  • Talk to her parents about it
  • Come up with a well thought out statement regarding why his actions are inappropriate
  • Submit a complaint in writing to his supervisor (This is when the persuasive writing skills taught in English class become helpful.)
  • A meeting request should be included in the letter and a parent and perhaps other students (in the case of the welfare comments) should plan to be a part of the meeting

If I had taken these action steps, who knows what would have transpired.  He could have been fired or given the proverbial slap on the wrist.  Either way, it would have given me a  feeling of empowerment rather than a feeling of helplessness.  It would have also taught me the importance of taking action about something that bothered me rather than just complaining.  Luckily I did learn these skills as an adult.  My suggestion to parents is to sit down with your teen and go over the common situations in which to speak out.  They may have a few examples that are currently happening in their life or you can come up with one.  Brainstorm with them the appropriate steps for that particular situation.  And, most importantly, let them know that you are there for them every step of the way as they learn this important new life skill.  If you have made a true impact, you might even expect a few of these written complaints handed to you by your teen.  In fact, one of my daughters recently wrote one regarding her bed time!