For Readers That Enjoy Movies

moviesWhen I first launched this blog I intended to include lighthearted content as well. I’ve gotten away from that theme for a while. So, I’d like to return to it this week in sharing the top baker’s dozen (+1) movies that I recommend and have viewed repeatedly. In no particular order:

  1. Ordinary People
  2. Good Will Hunting
  3. The Color Purple
  4. Aliens
  5. The Big Lebowski
  6. The Godfather, 1 & 2
  7. It’s a Wonderful Life
  8. Unforgiven
  9. Rocky, 1 & 2
  10. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
  11. Kill Bill, 1 & 2
  12. The Breakfast Club
  13. I Am

Honorable mentions: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Dirty Harry flicks, and Pulp Fiction.  What am I missing?

There are so many other possible lists: top TV shows, documentaries, comedies, and epic films to name a few. Encourage me and I’ll list these later ;-)

New Research: Outcomes When Teens Smoke Pot

teen girl pushing hand to headLongitudinal studies track people over long periods of time. The 9/14 edition of The Lancet Psychiatry includes an integration of three longitudinal studies regarding marijuana use among teens in Australia and New Zealand. Between 2,537 and 3,765 teens (depending on the outcome variable), who used varying degrees of marijuana (from none to daily) were tracked to age 30. Those teens who were daily users of marijuana before age 17 had much lower educational outcomes and had significantly higher rates of later substance abuse problems and suicide attempts. Quoting directly from the article: “…individuals who were daily users before age 17 years had odds of high-school completion and degree attainment that were 63% and 62% lower, respectively, than those who had never used cannabis; furthermore, daily users had odds of later cannabis dependence that were 18 times higher, odds of use of other illicit drugs that were eight times higher, and odds of suicide attempt that were seven times higher.” However, teens who smoked less were also negatively affected; the dose of the poor outcome was directly related to the dose of the marijuana use. The authors conclude as follows: “Study findings suggest that adolescent cannabis use is linked to difficulties in successfully completing the tasks that mark the transition to adulthood. Prevention or delay of cannabis use in adolescence is likely to have broad health and social benefits.”

The Lancet study brings to mind a report released by the National Institutes of addictionHealth in December of 2013. This report, which summarized the results of a large national survey, indicated that 6.5% of high school students reported smoking marijuana daily. Moreover, nearly one out of four seniors reported having smoked it in the preceding month, with only 39.5% of them viewing regular marijuana use as being harmful. Bolstered by movements in the U.S. to legalize marijuana, many teens may argue that marijuana use is harmless. The important research reported in the Lancet would suggest otherwise. Moreover:

• No state that has legalized marijuana use for adults has done so for minors. Teens who smoke pot risk facing legal consequences in every state. For instance, in Pennsylvania, teens caught with marijuana are at risk to loose their driver’s license, among other consequences.

teen "help me" sign• What’s legal ≠ what’s healthy.

• Human brains continue to develop into early to mid twenties. And, the part of the brain that develops last is responsible for the most sophisticated and higher order brain functions. I know of no reputable scientist or clinician who would argue that it is advisable to introduce any psychoactive agent into a developing brain unless there is a compelling and well thought out need to treat a well-diagnosed condition. Teen life is challenging and complex enough without adding such a wildcard.

• There is evidence that people with genetic predispositions to certain disorders can have them activated by significant marijuana abuse (e.g., schizophrenia).

I think we parents need to insist that marijuana use among our teens is NOT okay. Please see my blog articles on monitoring and discipline strategies for support. However, if your teen is abusing marijuana, or any substance, and you are finding you cannot change this, please seek out the services of a qualified mental health professional. For a referral click here.

Forgiveness: An Essential Ingredient for Healthy Family Life

forgivenessForgiveness is the triathlon of psychological work. When someone completes a triathlon we can fairly conclude that that person is in top physical condition. Likewise, if someone is adept at forgiveness that person likely travels on a high road often.

We families are so close to each other, it is inevitable that we will inflict wounds, whether accidental or intentional. Without forgiveness, such wounds, especially as they mount, can cause relationships to break or to exist across large chasms. For this reason it is difficult for a family to be healthy, over the long haul, without developing a sound forgiveness practice.

There are three sections to this entry: (1) a listing of what forgiveness isn’t, (2) a description of a three step forgiveness process and (3) a description of some behaviors that can augment and support forgiveness work.

What forgiveness isn’t

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting the offense. While the passage of time may cause a forgiven injustice to fall out of mind, forgiving someone does not require forgetting what happened.

Forgiveness does not equate with leaving oneself open to continued injustice. We can forgive another person without allowingfighting partents that person to hurt us again in the same way.

Forgiveness does not mean excusing, minimizing or justifying the injustice. We’ve been hurt. Acknowledging and being aware of the fullness of that is often part of a healthy forgiveness process.

Forgiveness does not require the offender’s participation. Resentment is a poison within us. Sure, if the perpetrator authentically and effectively asks for forgiveness, it is easier to remove the toxin. However, it’s best for us if we proceed even if that isn’t forthcoming. (Imagine a patient telling a doctor that they would only have the doctor remove the venom from a snake bite if the patient’s partner would first expresses a wish for that to happen. Sort of a silly image isn’t it?)

Forgiveness does not require communication with the offender. We may wish to let the offender know that we have forgiven him or her; and, in family life, this is can be a very helpful thing to do. However, there are instances when that could lead to other painful complications; in these instances, forgiveness can occur privately.

Forgiveness steps

The forgiveness process can proceed differently across people. However, if you’re looking for some guidance, I can suggest this tight summary:

spiritual man, african-americanStep 1: Let yourself become fully aware of how you’ve been hurt. Examining your wound(s) is often a part of good self-care.

Step 2: Try to empathize with the human condition in the offender that promoted the infraction against you. This is very, very hard to do (just like it can’t be easy to run a long distance after having swam a mile). But, even the most tragic of attacking behaviors has a human condition behind it with which we can empathize.

Step 3: Try to forgive the offender. If you are a spiritual person, taping into your Higher Power can be very helpful here. It can also help to imagine that you are cleansing yourself of a toxin (i.e., resentment).

How long these steps take will vary tremendously. And, there can be a looping back across them over time.

Augmenting behaviors

Forgiveness may be facilitated in families by the following activities:

• Appreciating that I’ve been an offender also and taking appropriate steps to seek forgiveness and make reparation as I become aware of such.

• Try to avoid aligning yourself with friends who would have you stay trapped in resentment. Instead, seek out those who will support your desire to live on a high road.

• Pointing out what the offender does well. (Search above for “gratitude letter” for a great exercise along these lines.)diverse happy parents copy

• Getting clarity on what my vow and commitment to my family members means to me (e.g., how much they are conditional and, if they are, under what terms).

• Having regular and enjoyable rituals with my family members.

• Using the problem solving exercise to get past problems and conflicts (use the search engine above or see my parenting book for a full description).

• Seeking out therapy when forgiveness work bogs down or seems impossible to do. For a referral click here.

Good luck! This ain’t easy, for sure.

How Can I Tell if My Kid is Depressed?

depressed stunningAccording to the National Institute of Mental Health 9% of teens suffer from depression each year while 11% of youth suffer a depressive disorder by age 18. Moreover, suicide is the third leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24. This entry will describe common symptoms and signs of depression in youth. (Please keep in mind that depression runs on a continuum; a kid may be suffering from depression, and need treatment, but only have some of the symptoms indicated below.)

Mood disturbance: Kids who are depressed have impairing sadness and/or irritability that is persistent (i.e., two weeks or longer). When a kid’s depression is manifested as irritability, it is easy to mistakenly conclude that primary problem is defiance.

Sleep disturbance: Not being able to get enough sleep or oversleeping are both signs of depression. What can make this tricky for teens is that school and extracurricular commitments can make it so that the teen doesn’t get to bed late anyway. Moreover, parents may retire before their teen and may not realize that s/he is struggling with sleep. (For guidelines on how much sleep is recommended, across age groups, enter the word “sleep” in the search bar above).

Appetite disturbance: Like sleep disturbance, depressed kids will tend to either over or under eat. Changes in weight and waistline are common.

Poor motivation: Most kids need help learning to do things when they don’t feel like it. But, kids who are depressed experience a steeper climb up that mountain.

Anhedonia: This is the clinical word for not being able to experience joy when crying childengaging in activities that are typically pleasurable. This can be especially frustrating for parents who have endeavored to engineer a positive change in mood.

Concentration problems: Just about all kids who are depressed will experience some degree of concentration problem. (Sleep disturbance and concentration problems are to a child psychologist what fevers are to a pediatrician: there’s a problem there but it can be due to a number of different things.)

Suicidal thinking: This kind of thinking runs along a continuum. On the one end are having vague thoughts that it’d be okay to die without any specific plans or intent to take action. On the other end is generating a lethal, specific and doable suicide plan.

Here are two common myths about teen suicide: asking a kid whether s/he is having thoughts of self-harm promotes suicide (not true) and all kids who make a suicide attempt mean to die (not true also). For more information on suicide, and talking to a teen about this, use the search bar above.

Negative thinking: Youth who are depressed tend to think, “Everything sucks. It’s my fault and it can’t be changed.” This promotes what is called “learned helplessness,” meaning that a kid can become so overwhelmed that s/he won’t take obvious and straightforward steps to feel better. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt are also common in moderate to severe cases.

teenagainstwallVarious kinds of mental confusion: In addition to concentration problems, youth with severe depression can start confusing what is real and what is not. They can also start to form beliefs that are highly distorted.

Though not present on the diagnostic criteria there are a couple of other common indicators:

Parental burnout: Parenting a kid who is depressed can be exceptionally frustrating and difficult. Not only do intuitive interventions tend to not work (e.g., verbal reassurances), but they tend to make matters worse. This can cause a parent to feel helpless and incompetent.

Parental disputes: As most parents tend to have different parenting styles, it’s natural to believe that if only the other parent would do things differently, the kid’s depression would lift. For this reason, the youth’s depression takes a toll on the parents’ relationship. I’ve witnessed a number of marriages get better simply by effectively treating a kid’s mood disorder.

Running in the family: Depression typically results when stress activates a pre-existing genetic vulnerability. The more mood disorders run in the family, the less stress it may take to activate impairing symptoms.

Sadly, and sometimes tragically, most youth who are depressed do not get distressed teen girltreatment for it, even though effective treatments are available (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy). If you are in doubt about whether your child or teen is suffering from depression, by all means treat that situation as you would if you were in doubt about the presence of a cavity. For databases of treatment providers near you, click here. Also, and as is the case across all service professions, the quality of mental health care varies. Sometimes adequately credentialed therapists are not prepared to evaluate and to treat juvenile depression in a manner that is informed by contemporary research findings. For this reason, parents do well to be informed consumers. To learn more about what constitutes effective mental health care for youth, see Chapter 10 of my parenting book or search the pages of this blog.





Eight Tips for Transitioning Back to School

Well it’s that time of the parenting year when many of us start overseeing the transition back to school. Whether this is a purely joyful time for you or a time of ambivalence, here are eight tips to help.

Tip #1: Start transitioning your child’s sleep routine to approximate the school day. Many kids develop a vampire sleep schedule during the summer, especially teenagers. Getting your kid onto a sleep schedule that will approximate the school year, a week or two in advance, will ease everyone’s transition. (For guidelines on how much sleep your child needs, click here.)

Tip #2: Set as a goal an hour a day of sweating and breathing hard for your progeny. It can be less stressful to begin this widely recommended behavior now than once the craziness of the school year kicks in. (Hint: it’s a lot easier to establish routine physical activity if it’s fun and part of scheduled and structure commitments.)

Tip #3: I bet you see this next one coming: establish a balanced diet to give your child a wonderful gift. It is very easy to get free online help. (As a child psychologist, I wonder how many mental health problems in youth would go away if all kids got enough sleep, got a reasonable amount of physical activity and ate a balanced diet.)

Tip #4: Plan a fun activity for the family a week or two into the school year. This gives everyone something to look forward to, which can ease the transition back to school.

Tip #5: If your child has a history of struggles with his or her academics, establish a minimum amount of time to be spent on homework each school night. An evidence-based guideline is 10 minutes per grade (e.g., a 5th grader would spend 50 minutes). (If the amount of time your child needs to spend on homework each night far exceeds this 10-minute guideline, I would initiate a discussion with the teacher(s) or a good child psychologist regarding what might be going on.)

Tip #6: Discuss with your child the amount of extracurricular activities that you find to be adaptive. Having no extracurricular involvements can hamper opportunities for advancing important developmental outcomes. However, too much extracurricular activity can compromise academics or wellness. As is the case across parenting, the middle ground is usually in order.

Tip #7: Avoid stressing your finances needlessly with back-to-school expenses. There can be a conscious or unconscious pressure to doll our kids up with expensive new clothes and bountiful office supplies when such isn’t needed. If you have the money and inclination, go for it. But, I would try to avoid creating burdens on myself that will later tax my ability to parent with intention.

Tip #8: Don’t beat yourself up for unrealized summer dreams. In the spring many of we parents imagine spending the summer frolicking through fields of meaning and joy with our children. Of course, this never happens with the same breath and depth as we imagined in the spring (i.e., another version of the Clark Griswold syndrome). Try instead to give yourself credit for your efforts and what went well.

Good luck my parent colleague!


Geography of Happiness

happiness signA national survey study recently listed the region where I live, Northeastern PA, as the least happiest US metropolitan area among the 177 surveyed. In response to this article, and the dialogue it generated in my region, I wrote this op-ed for the Scranton Times-Tribune titled “The Geography of Happiness.” I thought I’d share it here as well. ;-)

What’s a Stepparent to Do?

confused womanLet’s face it, you stepparents have it tough. Kids are primed to see you as a threat. Exes are primed to be suspicious, or worse. Even Disney has perfected the art of vilifying your role. So, I thought I’d invest some space to offer support.

What unique challenges do stepparents face?

Healthy stepparents face multiple challenges. To name a few:

• Trying to reassure stepchildren that you are not trying to replace a birth parent.

• Trying to reassure the ex that you recognize, respect and value his or her critically important role and authority.

• Figuring out what’s in bounds and out of bounds in terms of parenting your stepchildren.

• Trying to avoid showing favoritism for your birth children over your stepchildren.

• Trying to be empathic with your spouse about his or her angry or hurt feelings towards the ex without worsening or supporting any ongoing tensions.

Phew, not easy stuff.

What is an ideal situation for stepparents?

It always takes fewer words to describe health than it does to describe illness. An black mom with kids, white backgroundideal situation is one in which your spouse and his or her ex cooperate in parenting, your role as a stepparent is supported and valued and your stepchildren are allowed and encouraged to develop a healthy relationship with you.

What are some strategies a stepparent can do to promote wellness when the situation is not ideal?

I would offer the following 10 tips:

#1: Have a frank discussion with your spouse and come to an agreement about what parenting tasks you may and may not do.

#2: Avoid contact with the ex if that relationship is toxic. Let your spouse manage that.

#3: Complete one hour of special time each week with each of your stepchildren (and birth children for that matter). (Click here for a free download on how to do special time, or see Chapter One in my parenting book for a fuller explanation.)

#4: Do all that you reasonably can to promote healing and cooperation between your spouse and his or her ex.

#5: Try to put out of your head any desires to have your spouse or your stepchildren compare you favorably to your spouse’s ex. Having these desires makes you human. Not feeding them puts you on a high road.

conflict graphic#6: Try to avoid fueling conflict between your spouse and his or her ex. I find that some stepparents, who are in doubt about the security of their relationship with their spouse, view cooperation with the ex as a threat. In these instances, the stepparent gets upset when the other two parents get along; moreover, there can be efforts to try to stir the coals of conflict. However, any sense of security born out of conflict between others outside of the relationship isn’t very secure; moreover, this sort of a dynamic promotes increased stress for everyone, especially the kids.

#7: Try to avoid focusing attention on perceived losses in court. For instance, you may believe that your spouse pays too much support or gets paid too little support, and that this negatively effects your standard of living. Focusing on this is not only akin to chewing on glass, but can distract you from the truth that intimacy and happiness are poorly associated with income.

#8: Try to avoid the idea that bloodying the ex’s nose in court is a win. From the view of a narrow lens that may be true. But, looking at things through a wider lens, which is always closer to reality, will usually show that when the ex is bloodied, the kids often end up getting bloodied too, sooner or later, in one way or another.

#9: Try to avoid supporting disputes over “monkey heads.” I use the term “monkey heads” for property or access that have little REAL value, or that have little value relative to the value of the birth parents getting along. Epic disputes over monkey heads are common. Who gets uncle Bob’s dining room suite. Whether I get reimbursed for the hardwood floors I put in the house. Whether you or I get the Monday after Christmas. On and on it goes, wars over monkey heads. Meanwhile, the kids take most of the psychological shrapnel. Try to be the voice of reason in these disputes. Try to disavow your spouse of the idea that s/he is loosing something really important when surrendering a monkey head.

#10: Don’t try to force quick intimacy with your stepchildren. While one can holding a heartempathize with a hungry farmer shouting at the corn stalk to grow, one knows that certain good outcomes take time and patience. If you are generally loving and kind, and mostly do well in the parenting game, it’ll come as much as circumstances outside of your control will allow.

Do you have other tips for reducing divorce tensions?

Sure do. Just enter “divorce” in the search box above.

Good luck. And, please also keep in mind that a good child psychologist knows how to work well with these issues. For a referral, click here.


Combating Insomnia

insomnia femaleThere are numerous causes of insomnia in youth. Stress, anxiety disorders and mood disorders can each cause this problem. However, if the problem is addressed early, or if it is mild, self-help remedies may be helpful.

A good starting point is to review the amount of sleep that kids need. Sleep is even more important to youth than it is to adults. Just one hour of deprived sleep a night can have negative impacts on cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning the next day. Moreover, sustained problems with sleep have been shown to contribute to numerous psychological and medical problems, including obesity. These are commonly promulgated guidelines:

1-3 years old:            12-14 hours

3-5 years old:            11-13 hours

5-12 years old:          10-11 hours

Teens:                       8.5-9.25 hours

(As you look at these numbers it wouldn’t be uncommon for you, especially if you’re the parent of a teen during the school year, to think “Geez, my kid doesn’t get that much sleep.”)

What follows are behavioral, cognitive and environmental tips for combating insomnia.

Behavioral Strategies

• Try to encourage a consistent bedtime ritual that starts about an hour prior to bedtime. In this hour try to avoid activities that promote an active or a fretful reading to kid, asianmind. For younger children reading them a book can be effective. A shower or bath in this hour can also be relaxing.

• Baring unusual circumstances, consider not allowing your child to keep a cell phone in her bedroom. Likewise, try to avoid allowing your child to watch TV as s/he falls asleep. However, if you do, make sure it is not on for long and that it is turned off shortly after s/he falls asleep.

• Dim night lights are fine to use if such makes your child more comfortable, but I would try to avoid treating anxiety by laying with your child as s/he falls asleep (enter the word “anxiety” in the search bar above to find alternative approaches).

• If your child consistently fights you in getting to bed on time, consider making him or her earn access to a desired activity or object the next day by getting into bed on time (e.g., cell phone access the next day is earned by having gotten into bed on time with the lights out).  This is not punishment. (i.e., “I’m taking your cell phone away because you did not get to bed on time.”) This is reward. (i.e, “You earn your cell phone each day by having gotten to bed on time the night before.”) So, your child either earns or doesn’t earn the desired activity or access while you remain an empathic bystander.

physician and a familiy• Try to avoid caffeinated beverages and food (you might be surprised at how common caffeine is) and limit your child’s intake of sugar. (The World Health Organization’s 2014 draft guidelines recommend that no more than 5% of the daily calorie intake occur from sugar, which can be challenging given how prolific the substance is. For example, there can be a teaspoon of it in a tablespoon of ketchup.) Moreover, Ask your child’s pediatrician if natural supplements such as Omega-3 fish oil and melatonin SR might be helpful.

Cognitive Strategies

These strategies are useful when your child can’t fall asleep because his or her mind is too busy. These strategies involve redirecting his or her mind to content that promote sleep instead of interfering with it.

• At a soft volume, play an audio recording of a story with which your child is familiar. Try to avoid plots that are action packed.  Also, make sure to turn it of shortly after your child falls asleep.

• Play sounds from nature (e.g., the beach, a rainforest) or other soothing green forest roadmusic (e.g., tracks from Michael Bruce’s Insomnia Treatment that is available on iTunes). If your child has a device like an iPod, he may enjoy using one of the compatible pillows that are available.

• Encourage your child to imagine that it is the next day and s/he is in a boring class. In the class s/he is extremely tired, but s/he MUST stay awake. Encourage your child to imagine what each of her senses experience as s/he does this mental exercise.

• Encourage your child to imagine a repetitive pleasurable activity (e.g., fishing, cheerleading, pitching a ball game, dancing, etc.). Again, encourage him or her to engage all of his or her senses when imagining this activity.

Environmental Strategies

• If your child is waking up soar or stiff or if her mattress is showing signs of wear or tear, consider replacing it.

• If your child reports being too cold or too hot when trying to fall sleep, adjust accordingly.

white_noise_machine• Of course, try to ensure that your child’s environment is quiet. If you live in a busy area and outside noise is interfering, consider purchasing a noise cancelling machine.

• Some people report that the aroma of lavender can have a sedating effect. So, consider this as well.

If these strategies don’t work, and assuming physical causes have been ruled out, seriously consider seeking out the services of a qualified child mental health professional. For a referral, click here.


Tips For When A College Grad Returns Home

As it seems to take more years for young adults to accomplish independence from their parents, many return home after college for periods of time. This happens so often that a term has been coined for this group of young adults: “the boomerang generation.” Many parents feel confused about how to interact with their children in these situations. This post is designed to address common questions that arise for parents when their kids boomerang home.

Parent question: Is there a priority I should keep in mind?

Answer: Yes. The key question is: Does your adult child have a viable vocational plan that stands a reasonable chance of accomplishing effective independence?  If yes, count your blessings and try to keep the other issues in perspective. If no, that is the place to start. There are multiple methods that may be used to create such a plan. For instance, vocational counselors  offer questionnaires that can be useful in narrowing down career choices. Moreover, if your adult child graduated from college, his or her university likely has a career services center that can help. Former professors and mentors can also be invaluable resources.

Parent question: What if my adult child is completely clueless about what she or he wants to do for a vocation. Where is a good place to start?

Answer: Don’t worry if this is the case, as there are millions of adults in the same position, across the lifespan. A key first question is: What are your adult child’s top strengths? The premise is that all humans, barring significant brain dysfunction, have top strengths, or things that they can do in a superior fashion. Resources like the VIA Survey of Character Strengths (  or Tom Rath’s book Strength Finder 2.0 can be of help in generating theories regarding your adult child’s top strengths. Once the top strengths have been identified the next question is : What vocation will allow my adult child to execute those top strengths in service to others? Those who effectively realize the answers to these two questions tend not only to have a viable vocation, but also tend to experience great meaning and purpose in their work lives. (The Strong Interest Inventory can be helpful in this reflection, though it’s easy to misinterpret or misunderstand the results without the help of a psychologist.)

Parent question: Okay, let’s say my adult child has a viable vocational plan that requires her or him to live with me for a while. Should I set some rules about chores?

Answer: Most families find it important to have a collaborative discussion about these practicalities, which, of course, is different from a parent unilaterally deciding what the chores should be. You might start things off by creating the circumstance to have an extended discussion (e.g., going out to a restaurant, going for a walk, etc.). Then you can begin by affirming your adult child for the things in her or his life that you appreciate and value. You might then segue into the topic of dividing up tasks as follows: “Of course, whenever adults live together they share the household labor. What do you think would be a fair way for us to divide things up?”

Parent question: Should I charge rent? And, if yes, how should I calculate it?

Answer: There is no answer that can apply equally well across families. However, the more your adult child is working at a viable vocational plan, and the more she or he is scraping by financially, the more I might let this go. On the other hand, the more your adult child doesn’t seem invested in accomplishing independence, or the more she or he has a decent income, the more I might consider charging rent. Of course, how much you charge, and whether you charge at all, will also depend on your own financial wellness.

Parent question: Should I set a curfew?

Answer: I would not initiate a discussion about this unless a problem has emerged or is emerging. However, if your adult child is coming home at an hour that interferes with your getting a good night’s sleep or if your adult child seems to be developing significant self-destructive habits, then I would suggest initiating a discussion using the same strategy that I reviewed above regarding chores.

Parent question: What if my adult child does things like leave a dirty dish in the family room or a dirty towel in the bathroom, should I ask her or him to clean it up?

Answer: These sorts of dynamics happen whenever adults live together, no matter what the relationships are. In this context, I would probably try to keep the key issue in mind. That is, if she or he is working a viable vocational plan, and assuming I don’t feel too taken advantage of by cleaning up after someone, I might keep this agitation to myself. However, if you decide it is worth mentioning, I would do so by asking your adult child how she or he would suggest that you handle these situations.

Parent question: Do you have any other guidelines for communicating?

Answer: Remember that for a lecture to change human behavior two conditions must be met. First, the person must not already possess the information. Second, the person must want to receive the information. Hence, when lectures are used to try to change someone’s behavior in a family it is like a carpenter trying to drive a nail into a piece of wood with a screwdriver. There is nothing inherently wrong with the tool, it is just not designed for that particular job. Methods that are much more effective for modifying behavior include expressing empathy, asking questions, affirming what you like and partnering in decision-making. Besides, your adult child would probably score very high on a multiple choice test on “what mom/dad thinks about things.”

Parent question: What should I do if my adult child and I are getting into regular and heated conflicts about these things?

Answer: I’d seek out a mental health professional competent in doing family therapy. It can be a remarkable and rewarding experience to have a well-trained and objective professional ease or completely resolve long standing family conflicts. For a referral in your community, click here.

Six Tips for Keeping Kids Busy This Summer

cheerful familySchool has either let out, or is about to let out, morphing legion of parents into the role cruise director. Much of the time this happens seamlessly and without a lot of fuss. However, I thought I’d offer six tips for those experiencing rough edges in the transition.

• If you’ve got it, spending money on camps and family vacations can be wonderful. But, if you don’t have the money, you needn’t feel badly or create toxic doses of stress by spending/borrowing money you don’t have. (In national survey’s of adult and family based stress financial concerns are almost always a top stress.) First of all, meaning making never requires coin. Second, when many of us were kids we were given a stick and (maybe) a dog and told to go outside–that usually worked out fine. While I appreciate times have changed (and oh have they), there are still many, many engaging activities that can be done on the cheap (e.g., search for “staycation” within this blog). Otherwise consider what your local public facilities have to offer (e.g., excursions to libraries, parks and waterways) or just rotate activity planning among several households.

• High school students, who wish to remain competitive for college admissions. happy asian womanmight consider how exciting and rewarding a summer internship can be. I continue to be delighted at how generous professionals, offices, companies and agencies can be in allowing high school students to shadow and hang out; it just requires asking. I realize that this, at first, can seem like extending the high school season to teens. But, and assuming there is an overlap with vocational interests, they are often invigorating.

• Try to limit electronic lethargy (e.g., video game or TV watching marathons). I know some kids might lobby for this under the flag of “why can’t I just relax?!” But these activities, when engaged to excess, can promote or exacerbate numerous problems as well as interfere with wellness goals. A max of two hours a day is a good general guideline (search this blog site for many related tips and resources).

• Try not to allow your child to morph into a vampire sleep schedule. This makes it hard to engage productive and engaging daytime activities that the humans make available.

relaxed character in a coconut hot tub• Remember, you get to relax too! All of us (blogging psychologists included) need to remember that we do best for our kids when we make (not find) time to do those activities that restore us.

• There are so many helpful blog entries that list creative, fun and engaging summer activities for kids. Here are three that I like:

33 Activities Under $10 that Will Keep Your Kids Busy All Summer

101 Fun Things to Do with Kids This Summer

50 Outdoor Summer Activity for Kids

Good luck!


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