Sullen and/or Uncommunicative

Kids – and especially teenage kids – can sometimes withdraw from family communication and particularly from communication with their parents. They may retreat in different ways. Sometimes they sulk around the house saying very little to anyone including family, friends and others. Sometimes they don’t say much to their parents while they maintain contact with other family members and/or they talk non-stop on the phone to their friends, text madly away or chat avidly online. Sometimes their mood is morose for just a few hours and then they’re “suddenly” all happy again. But sometimes they withdraw for weeks or months on end. These silent and sullen periods are confusing for parents; how can parents tell if their child needs professional help or if he or she is just being a kid who needs space?

If you are dealing with a sullen or uncommunicative youngster, consider the following tips:

No One is Happy and “On” All the Time
Neither children nor adults experience constant positive moods. It’s normal for all of us to feel stressed or low, off and on throughout a day. Circadian rhythms alone (our biological clocks) affect our moods and energy levels, as does our diet, our exercise (or lack of it) and the various life stressors that each day brings. It’s important to give kids space to be a little irritable or quiet; they – like the rest of us – may need recovery time. Therefore, there’s no need to panic when you see that your child is in a mood. Instead, note the child’s mood and ask if there’s anything you can offer. For instance, you might say something like, “You seem a little down. Do you want to talk or do you need a little neck rub?” If the child declines on both counts, you just say “O.K.” and move on. You have shown an appropriate level of interest and concern without being intrusive or annoying. However, if the child is normally pretty balanced and then enters into an unremitting low, sad-looking mood for two weeks straight, you should express more concern. “Honey, I’m getting concerned. You’ve looked really sad for two weeks now and this isn’t like you. Is there something going on that is hard for you to deal with or are you feeling sad for no reason in particular? I don’t mind if you don’t want to talk to me about it – maybe I’m not the right person. But if you’re having trouble getting into a happier place, I want you to know that Dr. So & So is very nice to talk to and she might be able to help.”

Normal Needs for Privacy
Mood issues aren’t the only reason that kids withdraw from communication with their parents. Sometimes they are just expressing a normal need for privacy. No one likes their life to be a completely open book. You don’t share everything with your child and your child doesn’t need to share everything with you. If you don’t give enough privacy voluntarily, then a child may take it by refusing to open up. One way to offer privacy is to avoid intensive questioning. For instance, don’t ask your child detailed questions like “Who did you talk to today? What did you talk about? What is Bobby doing this weekend? Were you invited? Why not? Have you spoken to Carey lately? Don’t you think you should?” and so on. Children subjected to such inquisitions often learn to give very little information about anything. However, even when parents don’t ask much, teenagers are notorious for wanting to keep a private life. They may have no noteworthy secrets; being quiet doesn’t always mean that the youngster is engaging in suspicious activities. It may just be a case of privacy for privacy’s sake (i.e. “I don’t tell my mom who I see on the weekend not because I have something to hide, but just because I don’t feel like telling her.”). Sometimes, of course, excessive secrecy does indicate a problem behavior. However, usually there are other behavioral clues that contribute to a suspicious picture (for instance: a sudden drop in school marks, red eyes, unusual irritability, strange behavior, a change in behavior and so on). A lack of open communication by itself, is not necessarily cause for concern and in fact, is considered to be pretty normal in adolescents.

Set Appropriate Boundaries
If your child is otherwise happy and well, it is fine to set boundaries for the expression of sullen and uncommunicative behavior. For instance, if your kid is able to talk nicely to his or her friends and others, then go ahead and ask him or her to speak nicely to the folks at home as well. Make sure, however, that you are being mostly positive and pleasant yourself – check your communication ratio. Are you 90% positive and only 10% in the criticism-instruction-discipline section with your teenager (80-20 with your younger child)? If not improve your own pleasant behavior first and then ask your child to do the same. There is no need to allow rude behavior in the home and doing so gives your child the wrong message that family members aren’t real people with real feelings. It’s fine to say something like, “You don’t have to have a long conversation with me if you you’re not in the mood, but when I greet you please just look up for a moment and say ‘hi.’ It’s not acceptable to completely ignore a person who is talking to you and especially,  your parent.” If the child continues to ignore you after you’ve provided this information, something deeper may be going on – perhaps there are parent-child relationship issues, discipline issues or mood issues that would be best treated with professional help.

More Serious Mood Issues
When a previously happy child suddenly becomes sullen and/or uncommunicative for an extended period of time, he or she might be suffering from an internal or external stress. Internal stresses include mental health issues like social anxiety or depression. External stress includes life events like marital breakdown, failing grades or bullying at school. In children and adolescents, depression often shows up as irritable mood rather than sad mood, and is accompanied by other behaviors like changes in eating and sleeping patterns, a tendency to isolate from people, excessive low self-esteem or insecurity, changes in energy and other symptoms. If you are concerned about whether your child’s behavior requires professional intervention, ask your doctor for a referral to a child and adolescent mental health professional with whom you can discuss the issue.

Your Teenager’s Friends

Friends are very influential in the teen years. It’s at this age when a child finds peers far more interesting and far more knowledgeable than family members. Unless parents get to know their teenager’s friends, they’re in the dark regarding the kind of influences their youngster is receiving. But how can a parent get to know the people in his or her teenager’s inner circle?

If you’d like to get a feel for who your child’s friends are, consider the following tips:

Invite Them to Your Home
You can get to know your child’s friends in different ways. If you pick up your teen up from school everyday, then offer to drop off friends. Be conversant; talk about current events, ask them about school stuff, or comment on the song playing on the radio. You get to know your teens’ friends a little through the talk, and you also get to know where they live.

Another important strategies is to make it easy and pleasant for your child to bring friends home. Your home will be a safe and appealing “hang out” if you create the following kind of environment:

  • it is a peaceful, conflict-free environment (no loud fights occur between family members, particularly when “company” is over!)

  • the home looks normal (not excessively messy, chaotic or run down)

  • there are lots of snacks and very few rules

  • you make yourself fairly scarce, giving the kids space to interact freely without excessive adult supervision

  • you offer goodies, make a few pleasant remarks or light jokes and you refrain from asking personal or intrusive questions

  • you say nothing about your child to his or her friends and you don’t ask the friends about your child either

  • you never correct or criticize your child in the presence of his or her friends

Allow your child to invite friends on weekends and for a sleepover, dinner, school project, or movie marathon – make everyone feel welcome.

As kids come pouring into your home, take note. Hopefully your child has made good choices in friends. However, there might be a child or two who makes you feel concerned. Use this feeling to spearhead a small investigation – you’ll want to take your time with this. Refrain from jumping to conclusions based on limited exposure and external appearances. The child’s style – even if it is the style you associate with dangerous thugs or subversive characters – may actually be just the child’s style! The teenager under the costume might be a very nice and totally respectable kid.

Do a Little Research and/or Have a Little Chat
If you are seriously concerned about one of your child’s friends, try doing a little research. You might be able to pick up some information on social networking sites like Facebook and other places. Even Google Search might yield something. If you find something that makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to tell your child. For instance, you can say something like, “You know, your friends seem like such a nice bunch of kids but that one fellow Craig always makes me feel uncomfortable. I decided to look him up online just to check my instincts and  I found a photo of him getting arrested for running a grow house! Were you aware of that?”

You can follow up by explicitly stating your concerns and worries, but DO NOT forbid your child to associate with a particular friend. Such a maneuver is likely to backfire, causing your teen to become sneaky, devious, rebellious and otherwise unsavory in his attempts to remain a free agent. Instead, simply invite your youngster to think about whether he really wants this sort of person as a friend. For instance, one might say, “I’m sure Craig is a nice guy but I’m worried that he’s not the best influence – he’s not exactly a model citizen. You might think differently, but I think that the people we hang around with tend to rub off on us – you know, walk into a perfume shop and you come out smelling like perfume – and all that stuff. Sometimes hanging around unsavory characters automatically puts us in the same category with them. But it’s up to you to choose the kind of friends you want in your life. Everyone has to make that choice for themselves. I myself would think twice about associating with someone like Craig.”

More often, you won’t be able to find any strong “evidence” against your child’s friends. Your gut feeling and parental wisdom will more likely be at the root of your worry. In this case, explain to your child that although you have no real proof that anything is amiss, your own instincts tell you that something is not quite right with his friend. Ask him if he has ever had a similar feeling about someone. Tell him that as a parent, you feel concerned for him and that although you certainly can’t advise him to drop the friend based on “nothing,” you are hoping that he’ll use his best judgment to decide whether this is a person he should keep close to him. Honesty will be your best policy. Again, refrain from ultimatums, threats or any other kind of drama. Your loving concern will be evident and the most powerful educational tool that you have.

Helping Your Child Choose a College

Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions your teenager will make in his or her lifetime. Aside from the fact that an institution’s educational standard translates to important credentials in the job market, prescription the college experience is also formative in terms of relationships and values. You want to ensure that your child makes the best decision when choosing a college or a university.

Below are some guidelines on how you can be of assistance to your teenager during this crucial decision-making time:

Explore all Possible Options
Although you may feel emotionally attached to your alma mater, viagra 100mg you’ll want to help your child select the most appropriate school based on a variety of factors – your personal familiarity with the campus or your emotional attachment being the least important consideration. Similarly, physical proximity – how close the college is to home – is not usually the most important factor unless the child needs to be nearby for some specific reason.  Practical considerations like affordability are important for obvious reasons (although loans and grants might help out here), and “good fit” is definitely essential. For instance, the child should certainly be looking for a school that offers a program in his or her area of interest. Moreover, the school should be well-suited to the youngster’s intellectual capacity – neither too hard or too easy.

Make a List of What Matters
Brainstorm together what criteria should be used when screening options. For instance, if your child is not yet sure of a career path, colleges might be considered on the basis of how much flexibility they offer in terms of number of educational options and ease of entering them or transferring between them. If the child already has a specific academic path in mind, it might be a good idea to filter options based on the reputation of the institution in that field and the expertise of its staff members. If values and culture are important, then filter based on belief systems and ideologies that the school espouses. While you and your child are talking all this through, be sure to be a good, non-judgmental listener rather than a controlling parent! Ultimately, this is your child’s choice – you are simply offering yourself as a loving guide.

Don’t Judge a School by its Brochure
All schools are perfect in brochures – their students are the happiest, their programs are superior, their campuses are the best of the best. But this may not be reflective of the real deal. If you want to make an informed choice, do a little more research.There are a lot of school-specific websites, online forums and message boards that are easily accessible. They provide, not only pictures of the campus, but first hand comments and feedback of students and alumni alike. News detailing accomplishments of schools are also readily available in the internet. Lastly, there are people you may know who went to the colleges your teen is considering; it would help to get their opinion.

Go on College Tours
A campus visit is an excellent way to assess a college. There’s nothing like experiencing the school culture first hand, and possibly having an opportunity to interview faculty. Your child can sit in on some classes, observe the physical layout of buildings and classrooms, check out the study halls, note proximity of the campus to amenities – dormitories and apartments, shopping, hospitals, transportation, and so forth.  It helps to take notes and pictures too, so you have a point of reference when deliberating later on. Of course, college visits can be both exhausting and expensive, especially when the schools are far away. So go on campus visits only after trimming you options to your top 2 or 3 choices.

Note Important Dates!
Suggest that your child tag the important dates on a big wall calendar where they can be easily seen: application deadlines, admission tests and interview schedules, release of results. If you are feeling anxious during the college application process, try not to show this to your child! He or she has enough pressure right now without having to calm you down too! Share your anxiety or stress with a good listener of your own.

Let Your Child Choose
You don’t want your child blaming you for being in the wrong program or college. Therefore, be sure to provide your child with the criteria for making an informed choice WITHOUT actually telling him or her which choice to choose! Ask your child to consider all the factors discussed above and to let you know which college is most attractive based on those considerations. If you are funding school, you can certainly advise your child that you are only offering a finite amount of money and that switching schools won’t necessarily fall into your budget. Of course, don’t be threatening – even after all is considered, it is possible that unforeseeable factors turn the school into a bad choice or that the child might make an innocent mistake based on a misunderstanding. Simply encourage the youngster to go slowly and think carefully and let him or her know that you are there to help. Hopefully, everything will go well and your child will have a positive and productive college experience!

Talking to Teens about Sex

You may have already had a chat with your pre-teen about the body, the female menstrual cycle, and even how babies are made, so you may feel that you’ve done all you need to do. However, as your child grows into his or her teens, there is good reason to have another chat. The stakes are higher now as it is increasingly likely that your youngster will actually have some sort of active sexual life before marriage and before the age of twenty. In fact, he or she may have several intimate partners during this period. To be healthy and safe, your child needs accurate information. If you do not talk to your teenager about sexuality, your child will still learn about it — perhaps from sources you won’t approve of. Not all schools offer quality sex education; most kids glean information about sex from the internet, TV and well-meaning (but not necessarily knowledgeable) peers. If you want to make sure your teen understands sexuality the right way, it’s best to invest time in “the talk.”

How to Speak to Your Teen about Sex
The ideal way to talk about sexuality is the way a doctor would do it – in a friendly, matter-of-fact, educational sort of tone. “Parental” talk full of threats, dire warnings, judgments and so on, can backfire, causing your child to go underground, get answers elsewhere and/or become deceptive. In fact, if you feel that you can’t speak about this subject calmly and non-judgmentally, you can actually make an appointment for your doctor to give over the important health information to  your child. On the other hand, if you feel up to being the educator, you may want to research the topic of sexual disease, using books, internet and medical resources like your doctor. You want to be sure to give your child the right information because if your child finds that you have been exaggerating or fabricating or just giving wrong information on one or two points, then he or she may disregard your entire message.

Utilize Resources
When talking with your child, you can use books designed especially for teens on this subject – ask your local librarian to suggest some titles. Leave a couple of books around the house (and in the bathroom) for your child to leaf through. Books make the information less personal – the truth is that it’s not YOUR ideas you are trying to ram down the child’s throat, but rather, it’s just a collection of objective facts and information. Most books will discuss both the physical health concerns and also the emotional aspects of intimacy. You should also address both aspects, helping your child be aware of his or her impact on other people as well as being prepared for the intense emotions that can be triggered by intimacy. Ideally you can discuss the differences between having sex and having a relationship.

Be Honest and Open
You should mention your personal values regarding sexuality, while acknowledging that your child will have to form his or her own opinions on this important subject. Emphasize, too, that what popular culture and media has to say doesn’t always reflect your own personal values or your family’s values. Go ahead and discuss how the media represents sex and sexuality, exploring current cultural values regarding love, marriage and intimacy. Compare and contrast these values with your own. Help your child to understand why you feel whatever you feel on this topic. For instance, if you believe that a person should only be intimate in the context of a serious relationship, be prepared to explain why you feel this way. At the same time, acknowledge that your child may feel differently. This acknowledgment helps prevent your child from having to reject your values, as it gives him or her space to evaluate what you are saying and see how it fits and feels. Although you are making it clear that you do have opinions and values, you want to keep that tone non-judgmental. This will allow your child to ask questions. And be prepared – he or she may have LOTS of questions.

Confront the Issues Head On
Today’s culture encourages bi-sexuality, homosexuality and to some extent, promiscuity (a large selection of intimate partners). Polygamy, open-marriages, serial divorce, “friends with benefits” and all sorts of other intimate relationships are rampant. Be ready to give your opinions about all these lifestyle issues and the reasons for the way you feel – but be careful to continue to speak in a tone that is soft and welcoming. Acknowledge that other people have their own opinions on this topic. Be proactive if you want, and ask the child what he or she thinks about these things. If the child says that he or she has cravings for the same sex, acknowledge that this is common as we grow up, but that almost all people develop a specific sexual orientation over time. If the child feels that he or she is bisexual, then again, acknowledge that this is a common feeling and then discuss the pro’s and con’s of each lifestyle. If you have a religious perspective, offer it. However, even if you believe that homosexuality is a grave sin, continue to express your ideas respectfully and calmly. As it says in Proverbs, “The words of the wise are heard best when spoken softly.” In other words, having a temper tantrum won’t help your child choose a healthy path. If your child is confused and wants help, offer to arrange a meeting with a spiritual advisor and/or a professional who specializes in sexuality or adolescent psychology.

Child Swears

Swearing may be acceptable for “drunken sailors” but it is not a good communication technique in the home. Foul language is hurtful and insulting. Even if a person swears into the air because he stubbed his toe, it is still a very unpleasant sound in the house. It is unhealthy for the child who must listen to his or her parents swear at each other in anger. When an adult swears at a child it is not only offensive but also degrading and destructive to the child’s development. And when a child swears at a parent, it indicates a complete breakdown of the normal healthy boundaries between parents and children, some sort of grave dysfunction within the parent-child dynamic. In short, swearing is never a good way to communicate in family life.

How can parents encourage a “swear-free” environment? Consider the following tips:

Educate and Sensitize Your Child
Teach your child the importance and value of proper communication. Explain the crudeness of swearing and the reasons you don’t want it used in your house. The more the child understands about what is wrong with this form of communication, the more likely he or she is to respect your wish that this sort of language be avoided.

Consistently Reinforce a “No Swearing” Rule
Kids will tend to copy what they hear adults say or do. It’s almost impossible to discipline a child or teen who swears when Mom and Dad do the same. Ending a child’s swearing must therefore start with ending the parents’ swearing. If you’ve developed a habit of swearing when you hurt yourself or when you’re angry at someone, let your children know that you are “swearing off swearing!” Tell them that you are going to discipline yourself every time you swear until you’ve broken your habit of swearing. Your punishment could be anything you choose – donating money to charity, doing push-ups, or even writing out pages of lines every time you swear. Just pick something, let everyone know you’re doing it and then do it. Within a few short weeks, your should no longer be swearing and your child will be impressed.

Once you’ve properly dealt with your own swearing habits, tell the kids it’s their turn. You will now ask them to select an appropriate punishment for themselves (or choose one for them) that you will enforce whenever you hear them swear.

Mind Your Reactions When You Hear Your Child Swear
Children like attention and will engage in behaviors that bring them attention. Therefore, it’s essential NOT to give a lot of attention to swearing. If your child swears, go silent. Take time to calm down and think of what intervention you want to use to deal with this behavior. Remember: the more upset you show, the more you’re likely to hear bad language again. Stay cool.

For young children, those aged 5 and below, the best response to swearing is a calm “We don’t speak like that. Those are bad words. Please say it again properly.” Again, remain calm and collected.

For older kids, react calmly, slowly and quietly using the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe) – a gentle, but firm form of discipline. Essentially, you make a rule that swearing is not allowed. Then, when the child swears, you repeat the new rule and name a negative consequence that will occur in the future for swearing. Then, if it happens again, quietly and firmly apply the consequence.

Replace the Swear Word with Something That is More Acceptable
What if  your child uses swear words in everyday conversation? In this case, your child may not be swearing out of anger or for attention, but has simply become used to speaking in such a fashion. Ask your child to use an acceptable replacement word immediately after swearing. Constantly having to say the acceptable word helps the child’s brain select this word in the first place instead of the swear word. For instance, if the child has the habit of using a short expletive meaning “horse manure,” you can ask him or her to then say, “darn!” or “shoot!” or something similar. In this way, you are training a new, more acceptable habit.

Helping Teens Survive Heartbreak

First love is a wonderful experience, but also a risky one. Most “first” relationships end at some point and with the ending often comes a crushing heartbreak. How can parents help their child through the feelings of tremendous pain, shock and grief that can accompany heartbreak?

Consider the following tips:

Use Emotional Coaching
Listening is one way of providing essential emotional support. Listen for feelings and name them back to the child without trying to cheer up the teenager. For example, “It really hurts.” or “It’s quite a loss.” Be careful not to use the word “but” when listening – as in “Yes it hurts but you’ll soon meet someone even better.”  This too-quick attempt to make the pain go away only tends to prolong the agony.

Share Your Own Experiences
If you’ve had the experience of heartbreak, go ahead and share a little of it. Don’t take front and center – it’s not about you right now. Nonetheless, sharing your feelings can be therapeutic. Your child will feel somewhat better knowing that you suffered a broken heart and lived to tell the tale. He or she can see that you survived and went on to love again (hopefully); this can help ease some of the desperation he or she might be feeling right now.

Refrain from Diminishing the “Ex”
Although the relationship seems to have ended, you never know for sure – the two may get back together at some future date – weeks, months or even years in the future. This is true even if you think it shouldn’t happen. Therefore, don’t say anything that may come back to haunt you. Also remember that your grieving youngster may still have strong positive feelings for the young man or lady. Your insults are not likely to be well-received. Instead of talking about the ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, just support your child through the feelings of pain and loss by listening sympathetically. You don’t have to share all the thoughts that you have!

Suggest “Rescue Remedy”
Grieving heals with a listening ear and time. However, many people find that the Bach Flower preparation called “Rescue Remedy” can also help calm feelings of desperation, hysteria, panic, loss, confusion and overwhelming pain. Rescue Remedy is available online and at health food stores and some pharmacies. It is harmless enough to be used safely by infants and pregnant women and does not interact with other medicines, foods or treatments. However, if you have special health needs or any concerns about it at all, do ask your doctor before suggesting it to your child. Rescue Remedy is available in liquid form as well as candy and chewing gum varieties.

Consider Professional Help
If you are noticing signs of depression, hopelessness, addictive behavior, or loss of interest in friends and school, then consider taking your child to a mental health professional. Teenagers do not always handle heartbreak well; in some cases, it is the trigger for a suicide attempt or an actual suicide. Keep the doors of communication open and if your child tells you that life isn’t worth living anymore, acknowledge the pain and say something like, “I know it can hurt so much that it doesn’t even seem like there’s a future after something like this. But there are professionals who can help people climb out of the dark hole and into the light again and I’d like you to talk with someone like that. There’s no need to try to get through this all on your own.”

When Your Child Comes Home Drunk

It is well-known that teenagers are in a stage of experimentation – they are exploring the world around them, the world of relationships and their own inner landscape. What feels right? What creates pleasure? What is meaningful? What relieves stress? What brings social, academic and personal success?

Somewhere along the way, most teens will encounter alcohol. Some will like what they find, indulging the substance more and more in order to gain social acceptance or psychic relief or both. Others will find that they don’t like the feeling that alcohol gives them and will move away from it toward other, healthier forms of stress relief and happiness. And some will find a small place in their lives in which to place consumption of alcoholic beverages – certain social situations like celebrations and other special gatherings. No matter what kids ultimately decide to do with alcohol, however, many will get drunk at least one time.  Some will do so accidentally, simply not knowing their limits. Others will do so intentionally. No matter how it happens, however, parents have to know how to handle the situation.

Below are some tips in handling a teenager who comes home drunk:

Stay Calm
There is such a thing as a “teaching moment.” This is a moment in which the child is calm and coherent and a moment in which the parent is also calm and coherent.  When either child or parent is not fully present due to overwhelming emotions (like anger, grief or fear) or impaired consciousness (i.e. not fully awake, drunk or stoned) no learning will occur.  In fact, talking to a drunken person is futile; alcohol significantly impairs comprehension and inhibition — your drunk teen doesn’t have the mental capacity to process your message, nor the ability to explain things properly. Therefore, when your child comes home drunk, wait until he or she sobers up before you try to deal with the issue. Let the child sleep it off – the best time to talk is likely to be the day after the incident.

Take the intervening time to settle your own nerves. You might be feeling alarmed, enraged, disappointed or otherwise extremely upset. Emotion, especially of an intense, hysterical or dramatic kind, will work against your goals. Remember – you shouldn’t be addressing the issue at all until you are calm enough for your child to be able to take you very seriously. This talk will be an important one – you don’t want to appear off-balance while you are trying to make important, life-impacting remarks. Staying calm, you help give your teen someone to take seriously, look up to and respect. You increase your power to provide education and guidance when you come across as a loving, concerned, firm, clear, knowledgeable and trustworthy adult. Try to get into that state before you hold a meeting with your teen!

Emergency Intervention
Do call your local emergency medical information line if your child’s state concerns you. You can describe your child’s behavior in the intoxicated state and if there is a concern, an ambulance will be sent out. It’s always better to err on the side of caution – there is no reason NOT to call and describe symptoms unless the symptoms are barely noticeable. However, sometimes a child is barely conscious. Sometimes he can’t stop vomiting. Sometimes he is experiencing alcohol poisoning. Unless you already know what to look for, make the call.

Appropriate Response
Even if you think it’s kind of “cute” or funny the first time your child comes home drunk, you should consider the importance of refraining from showing any kind of pride or pleasure in this behavior. Remind yourself that teens are very easily addicted and that addiction will bring them much suffering. Their careers, their relationships and their health can suffer serious negative consequences. Their drunken state can lead to their own or someone else’s death or permanent disability. A teenager may misread your cues, thinking that you are encouraging self-destructive behavior. Be careful to respond seriously and responsibly. Your child’s future is at risk. Everything you say and do at this critical time can have a life-long impact. Refrain from helping your child avoid current consequences of this particular episode – do not cover up. Help him to learn that there CAN be negative consequences. If nothing bad happened during this episode, then make sure you discuss with him at some point, what CAN happen when a person is drunk.

Know Where You Stand
Different parents have different rules on drinking; some demand total abstinence from alcohol, others allow drinking in moderation. Regardless of where you stand on the drinking issue, it’s important you address the situation of your teen coming home intoxicated. Alcohol is an easy drug to abuse. As previously stated, it can also be a dangerous drug leading to life-threatening accidents, legal problems and health problems. You might want to do some research to find out more about alcohol, the state of intoxication, addiction and other issues so that you can talk knowledgeably to your child. Inviting your child to do research WITH you might be even better! It’s best to create rules and guidelines that make sense in the light of the information you have about alcohol – such rules are more likely to be taken seriously by your child. Rules that “make no sense” tend to be defied by older kids. If you and your child do research together, you two can also formulate reasonable guidelines.

First Time Only
If this is the first time your child has come home drunk, education is the correct intervention. Punishment should be avoided. In fact, don’t mention negative consequences at all. If it happens again, however, make a rule that there will always be severe consequences for this in the future. The first two episodes are for education only – not punishment. All other episodes require heavy negative consequences (see the 2X Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe).

Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If you think your child is already abusing alcohol habitually, or is at risk of becoming an alcoholic, contract a substance abuse counselor. Alcoholism is an incurable, progressive and fatal disease – it’s best  to intervene as soon as possible.

Homework Issues

While homework sometimes goes smoothly for some children and their parents – it often doesn’t! Homework issues abound, from kids who forget to do their homework, to kids who don’t want to do it, to kids who simply can’t do it. Let’s look at some common homework challenges and their solutions:

Inborn Homework Challenges
Some children are naturals when it comes to homework. They enjoy school work and tend to be independent and mature. They know what their homework is, they bring it home and do it and they take it back to school – all with no or minimal parental supervision. However, there are two other genetic homework profiles to consider: the “average” child and the “organizationally challenged” child. The average child would rather play than do homework. Like the average adult, this youngster tries to avoid unpleasant tasks as long as possible. Parents have to provide encouragement and structure for this kind of child, teaching him or her to settle down to the task and apply appropriate attention and effort. In the younger grades, parents may actually set the homework time and participate in the work itself with some of these youngsters, although some children in this group simply need to be pointed toward their desk. The average child may balk or dawdle, but eventually he or she cooperates and the task is completed. Smart parents try to make the time pass pleasantly with plenty of positive feedback, good humor and maybe even little niceties like milk and cookies. The average child might also benefit from and be receptive to some parental advice when it comes to homework: encouragement to take short breaks, for instance, or reminders to do the work carefully and neatly.

The organizationally challenged child often doesn’t bring his or her homework home. If it is brought home, it is wrinkled, crinkled and half-missing. If it is in one piece, it is too long or too hard or both. If it gets done, it doesn’t make it back to school. No matter how the parent tries to organize this child – providing special notebooks, folders and systems – the same organizational challenges present themselves year after year. This child’s brain is wired for creativity and many other positive attributes, but not for boring, detailed tasks like homework and not for the organizational abilities required to see it through. The wiring – being a built-in feature of this kind of brain – normally affects people throughout their life spans. Although they may eventually learn some tricks to help themselves work around organizational deficits, the best trick in adulthood is to get a good administrative assistant and/or spouse!

Teenagers & Homework
As these three homework “types” move into adolescence, the challenge for parents changes. The “organized and responsible” child never presented a real challenge and that likely remains the same throughout the teenage years. The “average” child who needed some coaxing in the grade school years, is now an adolescent and, like all adolescents, has much less tolerance for coaxing. At this age, a young person has a strong distaste for being told what to do and when and how to do it. If the parent was an unpleasant coaxer earlier on – that is, actually fought with the child over homework – the topic will be even more contentious now. However, even if the parent had been firm and patient in those earlier years, the teenage child now balks at explicit instructions.

What can parents of homework-allergic teens do? First of all, it is necessary to adopt strategies that are appropriate for the second decade. Compliments are welcome throughout the lifespan, so the occasional positive remark offered for responsible behavior can be employed. Too much praise for doing homework at this age is inappropriate, however. It would be the same if your spouse praised you regularly for getting up in the morning – more insulting than helpful! Once the children hit the teen years, the most important strategy is standing back. By that time, you will have expressed your philosophy of life and homework many, many times over. The child knows your views. Now is the time to let the child experience the consequences of not performing well. Here is where it becomes very hard for parents. In the teenage years, children need to deal with their own problems in order to develop the muscles for doing so later in life. Indeed, adversity breeds creativity, ingenuity and other coping skills. It is better to have learning opportunities in the teen years than in the years of adulthood that follow quickly after.

Most important, be aware of the possible consequences of your interventions. While the occasional reminder may be tolerated, many reminders might actually erode your parent-child relationship (and thereby, your overall power to positively influence your children). NEVER use anger. Even if the homework gets done, the personality of the child and your relationship with her may both be damaged as a result of anger. Moreover, academic success achieved this way is normally a temporary exception in the child’s life. Once the child is left to his or her own devices, he or she will regress to the default non-performance position. The most important strategy of all may be to reinforce your child’s natural talents and abilities and focus less on academic performance. Help him or her to find and maximize natural strengths. People normally succeed best in life by utilizing their God-given gifts. Strengthen these and by doing so, you will strengthen your youngster’s self-confidence, self-esteem, positive mood and desire to do his or her best. And that’s the best that you can do.

Parenting Style
Some parenting styles can contribute to homework issues in some children. For instance, when parents provide insufficient supervision for younger children, the kids sometimes figure out how to “work the system.” They learn that they can just show Mom and Dad a little effort and then, with no further reporting obligations, they can get back to their games or computer to have some real fun! Problems like this can be addressed by being more conscientious about checking to see if homework is complete and well done when children are still in grade school.  Close supervision of this kind is not generally appropriate for teens however. That age group must deal with the consequences of their poor study habits (such as low grades or teacher feedback) and make corrections on their own.

Distraction
Sometimes, the learning style of the child affects the way homework is done. For instance, incomplete homework may be due to being too distracted to get the job done successfully. Perhaps your child’s study station is too noisy and busy for him to be able to concentrate for a long period of time. Some children do better with less hustle and bustle around them. If this is the case, try to make the homework location as protected as possible. This can sometimes be accomplished by putting a desk in a quiet part of the house or creating a homemade “study carol” by using cardboard boxes around the desk to block out the sights and sounds around. Of course, some children are distracted not so much by their external environment as by their internal environment – the chatter inside their heads. For instance, a child may start to do his arithmetic and then begin thinking about the numbers in a card trick he learned. This gets him thinking about what happened at recess and reminds him that he has to talk to his friend after school today. His mind flits on and on, from one topic to another and the arithmetic is no longer on the agenda. It’s just the way his brain works, moving from one thing to the next, making it quite challenging to focus on boring tasks like homework. The Bach Flower Remedy Chestnut Bud may help reduce the scattered tendencies when they are caused by an easily-distracted nature. or the Remedy Clematis might help if the child is prone to being “spacey” or engaging in daydreams. (You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.) If neither help, a professional assessment is in order. Sometimes the cuplrit is ADHD – attention deficit disorder; treatment may involve behavioral modification and/or medication. If your child does get distracted on a regular basis, a professional psycho-educational assessment can help determine the cause of the problem and the most appropriate forms of intervention.

Learning Disabilities or Challenges
Incomplete homework may also be an indication that your child is having problems with the lesson. After all, it’s not unusual for teachers to combine easy and hard questions in the same assignment to both interest and challenge a child. Perhaps your child breezed through the simple problems and then struggled with the more complicated ones. If failing to complete homework is a chronic and recurring issue, then consider the possibility that your child is having some difficulty with the task. If this is the case, an educational assessment may help locate the source of the difficulty. Ask your child’s teacher or pediatrician for a referral to someone who can diagnose a child’s learning problem. Sometimes tutorial services may help the child perform better and parents can arrange this help with or without having the child assessed. However, an assessment can point the way to the best interventions for the particular youngster.

Perfectionism and/or Anxiety
Failure to complete homework may also be a sign of anxiety regarding failure and/or evaluation. Maybe your child is motivated to start assignments, but dreads the idea of you or teachers checking his or her performance. For some kids, it is less threatening to think “I failed because I have incomplete work” than feeling “I failed because I wasn’t good enough.”

If this is the case, do what you can to take some of the pressure off of academics; help your child to relax and enjoy life by focusing on extracurricular activities, hobbies, exercise and relaxation. If these steps don’t help your anxious child to calm down around schoolwork, consider the possibility that the youngster is more anxious than he or she needs to be. Again, professional assessment can help determine whether professional intervention of some kind might be helpful. If home treatment is sufficient, you can offer Bach Flower Remedies (or, try the remedies first and if they seem to help within a few weeks, then further assessment and treatment may be unnecessary. However, if after a few weeks of treatment with Bach Flowers, your child’s anxiety is still interfering with schoolwork, it is likely time for a mental health assessment.) For a child whose self-imposed high standards are interfering with completion of schoolwork, you might try the Bach Larch (for fear of failure) and Rock Water (for perfectionism). Alternatively, an evaluation by a Bach Flower Practitioner can help determine if other remedies may be useful. You can also read up on descriptions of the 38 remedies in books and online and try up to 7 of those you think might be useful. Mix 2 drops of each one in a single 1oz. glass mixing bottle and put 4 drops into liquid (juice, water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, coffee, soda, etc.) 4 times a day until the child no longer seems to be experiencing tension and fear around homework issues.

Assessment and Intervention
As we have seen, many factors can impact on a child’s ability to do homework. If you have done everything you can and your child is still having homework problems, do try to arrange for a psychological assessment to help determine the source of his or her difficulty and to receive remedial recommendations and interventions.

Confronting a Child Who Has Lied

Kids sometimes lie. They do so for many reasons (to avoid punishment, because of embarrassment, because of an overactive imagination and so on), but no matter why they do it, parents must know what to do to help them stop doing it. The way a parent confronts a lying youngster can make the difference between whether that child lies less or more in the future.

If you know or suspect that your child has been lying, consider the following tips:

Consider Your Child’s Motivation for Lying
Is your child lying in order to protect someone else (“Sarah’s parents don’t want her spending time with her boyfriend so I agreed to pretend that she and I were going to Karen’s house to sleep over.”)? Is he or she lying in order to avoid an unpleasant task (“No I don’t have any homework tonight”)? Is the lie designed to avoid punishment (“No I didn’t break the vase.”) Perhaps the lie is meant to avoid embarrassment (“Yes I passed all my subjects”).

Think about the possible reason for the lie BEFORE you confront the child. This can help you be more effective in using Emotional Coaching – the naming and accepting of the child’s feelings. Emotional coaching makes the child feel understood and accepted instead of defensive. It helps the child WANT to hear what you have to say and WANT to cooperate with you. Emotional coaching reduces defiance and deception. An example of emotional coaching for a child who wants to protect her friend, might be the following, “You’re a very good friend to Sarah and of course you don’t want her to get into trouble with her parents. I know you are trying to help her.”

After providing this kind of acknowledgment of her motivations and feelings, you can then go on to give instruction and correction: “The problem is that Sarah’s parents love her probably even more than you do and they make certain rules for her because they want to protect her. This issue is really between Sarah and her parents and it’s not right for you to get involved. Most importantly, Sarah is asking you to lie for her, which isn’t what a good friend does. Good friends bring out the best in each other and don’t encourage each other to become worse people. Sarah is asking you to harm your relationship with US in order to help her continue to defy her parents. I don’t think that this is fair of her to ask you, but you have to decide that for yourself. The only thing that we want you to know is that if you lie to us in the future, you will certainly erode our trust in you and that will not be good for your relationship with us. Right now we give you lots of privileges and free reign because we trust you –  but that could all change if you continue to be dishonest.”

Notice that this approach appeals to the parent-child relationship and also appeals to logic. The “punishment” implicit here is damage to the relationship. This approach works particularly well with adolescents. It is possible to combine Emotional Coaching with discipline, however, as might be appropriate for a child who lies about his uncompleted homework. “I know you don’t enjoy doing homework and I fully sympathize with you. It’s a lot more fun to play games on the computer. However, when you lie about completing your homework you may be compromising your grades and I don’t want that to happen. Therefore, in the future when I find that you are lying about the amount of homework you have you will lose computer privileges for 48 hours.”

Avoid Anger
One of the most common reasons kids lie is to avoid parental wrath. Often kids grow up and become adults who lie to their spouses because they expect – based on childhood experiences with their parents – that making mistakes can get them into BIG trouble. Encourage truth-telling by keeping your confrontations quiet, respectful and low-key. Effective discipline (like the 2X-Rule described in detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) replaces the need for anger. You can use the 2X-Rule to give appropriate, moderate discipline when necessary. Consider the following example:

You discover that $100.00 is missing from your purse. You are certain your son took it because you see that he has a new gadget that he told you his friend bought for him as a gift and you know that this particular gadget costs around $80.00 – and you are pretty sure none of his friends would spend that kind of money on him. How do you get him to acknowledge what he did and make restitution? Not by getting mad! In fact, the madder you get, the more likely it is that your son will lie to you in the future in order to avoid your anger. Instead, you can follow these steps:

  • Speaking very quietly and slowly, refraining from drama or emotion, you confront him by saying something like, “I have good reason to believe that you took $100.00 out of my purse last week.”
  • If your son denies it, look him in the eye and very slowly repeat your statement with minor modifications: “It’s possible that I’m wrong – I didn’t have a camera rolling – but I’m fairly certain you took it. I put the money in the purse late Wednesday night, didn’t move the purse, and discovered it missing Thursday morning at sunrise, before anyone came into the house. Only God knows for sure what happened to it so I’ll just say this: If you did take that money, I’m going to assume it was a mistake and that  you will find a way to put it back in my purse some time over the next few  days and that  you’ll never do such a thing again. However, if you really didn’t take it, then I don’t want you to replace it. Just be honest with yourself and with me. I’ll assume that if you don’t replace it, you never took it to begin with and this is my mistake – for which I am apologizing in advance. However, if money ever goes missing from my purse again, the whole family will have to go for family counseling to discover what is going on in our house.

Do Not Trap a Child into Admitting the Truth
Suppose you just learned that your daughter lied to you about the location of a party she was attending. She knew that you didn’t want her to go to parties with certain kids and in fact, the party she wanted to go to was at one of those kid’s houses – so she gave you a different address. When a friend telephones for your daughter, she accidentally reveals the actual address of the party. Now you know for a fact that your daughter lied. When your daughter returns home, DO NOT play questioning games designed to trap her in her lie. For instance, let’s say she told you that the party was at Erica’s house. Do not do something like this: “How’s Erica? How’s her mom and dad? Were they at the party? Did you say hello to them for us?” and so on. Being sneaky with your kids just encourages them to be sneaky back to you!

Instead, be straight: “We know that the party was not at Erica’s house – it was at Ian’s place. You lied to us.” Continue with Emotional Coaching: “I guess you knew we wouldn’t be pleased and you felt you just had to go, so the only way to make it happen was to lie.” Continue with education and information: Do you think that we are trying to hurt you when we ask you not to go to parties with those kids? What do you think our motivation is? Do you think we are too protective?” Do not be hostile or sarcastic when asking these questions. You are simply trying to help your youngster think through what she has done. You want her to conclude that you love her and you are trying to help her. If she insists that you are well-intentioned but misguided (“You don’t know them Mom! Sure they drink too much, but they’re really nice and they don’t drive when they’re drunk so there’s really no problem!”), let her know that you cannot agree to allow her to do things you think are life-threatening, illegal or immoral. If she does these things, there will be negative consequences, but if she lies and does them, the consequences will be much greater. This method works only when the relationship between you and your child is a good one. If you are too strict, controlling or critical, your child will be more likely to defy you because there is very little to lose. If, on the other hand, you are loving, warm and positive, the child will not want to risk losing your affection and support and will be more likely to comply with your requests.

Avoid Excessive Punishment
Even when you have to discipline a child for lying, be careful to choose moderate negative consequences. Always warn the child before giving a punishment (“From now on, if I find that you have lied, such & such consequence will occur.”). Punishments that are too intense are more likely to backfire, causing the child to lie more in the future in order to avoid harsh punishments (see “Avoid Anger” above for a similar problem). For a selection of reasonable punishments, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

When There is a Chronic Pattern of Lying
If you find that your child is lying frequently rather than on rare occasions, your child has a problem that requires your attention. Again, anger and upset on your part will be counterproductive – destructive instead of helpful. Instead, express sadness that there is a serious problem. (“It seems that you don’t feel comfortable being honest with me. I can see we have a serious problem here that we have to address.”) Arrange for professional assistance in the form of family counselling. A therapist can help help discover the reasons for a child’s persistent dishonesty and develop an effective treatment plan.

Your Teen’s Right to Privacy

Today’s teenagers live in a world that their parents often find scary and alien. It seems that there are no protective walls around their youngsters – computers and cellphones open them to a wide world of exposure and vulnerability that the parents don’t even fully understand. Moreover, cialis teens are more independent and are physically away from their parents more hours of the day and night. Parents are losing a grip – they no longer control or even know, what their child is up to. Many take to looking for clues as to their child’s whereabouts and activities, while others insist on constant check-ins and reports on the who, where, what & why of all activities. But how much does a parent really need to know about his or her teen’s activities? How far do the parent’s rights extend – does the parent have the right to full disclosure of all a teenager’s comings and goings? Does a teen have any right to privacy?

If you’re wondering where to draw the line on your teen’s privacy, consider the following tips:

Everyone is Entitled to Personal Space
It is healthy for every child to have a sense of privacy. This helps the youngster develop appropriate personal boundaries, a sense of “me” vs. “you” that helps the child come to know who she is and what she stands for – with the subsequent ability to stand up for one’s OWN values and beliefs. Privacy is attained by maintaining physical privacy – the ability to dress and bathe in privacy and the ownership of a private space (a bed, maybe a bedroom, a private wardrobe, personal possessions that are not for the use of others without permission). Your teenager is at an age where it is inappropriate to rummage through her drawers or belongings. Unless you suspect your teen is hiding drugs, weapons or other dangerous possessions, you have no right to search her belongings. In fact, the kind of privacy you should give your teen is the privacy he or she deserves. If your teen has grown up to be responsible, caring, and trustworthy, then there is no reason for you to watch his or her every move or even suspect impropriety.

Talk about Life
Raise interesting issues for discussion at your dinner table. Raise topics from your weekly news magazine or paper. Talk about what’s going on in the world and in your local community. Talk about violence, crime, sexuality, bullying, materialism, fashion, addictions, war – everything that is out there. Help your kids think about life and clarify their own values. Provide education in discussion format – not lectures and dire warnings. This will help your teen make good, healthy choices.

Be a Good Listener
Kids who can talk about their stresses tend to act out less. Instead of turning to drugs, stealing, sex or other distracting unhealthy activities, your child can turn to YOU for support, approval, comfort and nurturing. Work hard to listen without offering criticism or even education. Just show compassion and trust for your youngster, conveying that you believe in him or her.

Confront Untrustworthy Behavior
Catching under-aged teens drinking alcohol or stashing inappropriate materials are reasons to initiate an intervention, but this response has to be done appropriately. If the disturbing behavior is mild, parental intervention alone may be sufficient – heart to heart talks, discussion concerning consequences and other normal parenting strategies can be employed. If the offence is recurrent, however, or if it is serious, then it’s best to enlist professional assistance. Speak to your doctor for a referral to a mental health practitioner.

After your child has acted in an untrustworthy manner, it is tempting to “check up on him” from time to time. However, acting in a sneaky way is likely to backfire at some point. Don’t do anything that you don’t want your youngster to do. Therefore, if you don’t want to find your youngster searching your purse or your private drawers, refrain from that kind of behavior also. If you don’t want your youngster checking your email or social feeds, don’t do it to him. If something in your child’s demeanor makes you feel concerned, talk about it openly. It’s fine to ask your child to show you (on the spot) his last string of communications with friends if you have serious reason to suspect dangerous or illegal activity on his part. Otherwise, never ask for such a thing.

Some kids who are addicts will act in deviant and sneaky  ways because of their addiction. Work with a professional addiction counselor to create appropriate interventions in the home. If checking on the child is recommended by the counselor, then of course, follow the recommendation.

Checking In
For reasons of common courtesy and safety, it’s reasonable for your teen to let you know when and where he is going. Depending on the age of the teen, it will also be appropriate to ask permission to go there! If you have curfews in place, it is important to expect the teen to comply with them or renegotiate them to everyone’s satisfaction. However, once your teen is out and about, it is intrusive to call and check on him or her. If the child is traveling a long distance, it’s fine for him to call to say he’s arrived (i.e. he has taken a flight), but you don’t need him to call for local trips to friend’s houses. On the other hand, if your thirteen year-old daughter has to walk a few blocks alone in the dark to her destination, you might ask her to call – it depends on the safety of the area in which she is walking.

Act as if your child is completely trustworthy unless your child shows you otherwise. If there is a problem, sit down and try to work it through, explaining your concerns and working towards solutions. If this is insufficient, enlist the help of a professional family therapist. If the child is acting out – engaging in inappropriate and/or dangerous activities – do consider bringing a mental health professional into the picture.