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Pediatric Safety and Stepmother-hood: New Beginnings

Hello dear readers. I am Clara Ember and I am the new Junior Editor for Pediatric Safety. I am a newlywed at 28 and in addition to gaining the companionship of a handsome and intelligent young man, I also found myself suddenly in the role of stepmother to a seven-year-old boy. As someone who never planned on having children of her own, the change was a significant one. I have always liked children and I am aunt to three beautiful little ones, all of whom I love dearly, but see rarely.

I put a lot of thought into motherhood before marrying my husband. His son does not live with us, (he stays with his grandparents) but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to have a significant part in his life. The first few times I met him I was a nervous wreck. What happened if he didn’t like me, or if I didn’t like him? What if I was just terrible at being a responsible adult and ended up being a bad influence on him? What was I supposed to talk to him about?

When he first met me, he called me by my husband’s ex’s name. Over and over and over again. Awkward right? As it turns out, five-year-olds don’t understand breakups and to him, I looked like her. I was a short girl with short hair, that’s the same right? I was so shy that I had no idea how to handle it, so I just stayed very quiet.

Then we went hiking around my husband’s parents property. We had been hiking for about 20min when we came to a pile of logs we had to climb over. He jumped on top of them and turned around with sparkling brown eyes and held out his hand. “Here Clara!” he said, “Let me help you.” My heart melted and with it, went all of my fears about how being in his life would play out. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, I would simply love him the best I could and figure out the rest.

He’s too young to really understand what my role in my life is now that I’m married to his father. He sees me as a friend, someone to play transformers and trains with, someone to cuddle. Truthfully, I’m just figuring it out as I go, but what a beautiful journey it is…

I am amazed by parenting, by the balance it requires and the subtle (and not subtle) guidance required to direct and teach a little human. One must be firm and gentle, challenging and comforting, and constantly engaged.

But I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t already know. You are more than aware of the hardships and beautiful moments of having a child and I salute you for all of the work you are putting into it. That being said, if you more experienced parents have any advice you’d like to pass along to a new stepmom, I would love to hear it! Mostly we play outside and build things with legos, but I would like to start teaching him more and building a more solid relationship with him. I want to be a mentor as well as a friend, but I know that’s something you can’t force.

I am really looking forward to working with our authors and staff to continue to bring you intelligent and useful content to help you all on your parenting journeys. After all, it takes a village.

And if you have any questions you would like to ask me, my inbox is always open and I will respond as quickly and honestly as I can. Have a wonderful weekend!

A Pediatrician’s Unique Perspective on Dads and Babies

Most human Mom’s live with their babies developing in their uteri for about 9 months. During this time, they both experience the physiologic and personality changes associated with pregnancy. Dad too has been involved but in a much more subtle and marginal way.  He has seen the remarkable changes occurring in the mother of his child almost on a daily basis and has looked on in awe and wonderment at her growing belly and occasionally has been lucky enough to have been present when the movement of the fetus can be seen and felt through the mother’s abdominal wall.  If he was lucky enough to attend her prenatal visits he might even have caught a glimpse of the actual baby moving through the magic of sonography.

Some men, rarely, have expressed a feeling of disappointment at not having had the same experiences moms have.  Most Fathers, however, have experienced the same joy and elation at seeing their newborn baby for the first time as Moms.  There is that certain feeling of witnessing a miracle that doesn’t come along every day.  Just imagine that little perfect person with everything an adult has but just in miniature.  In fact, the production of a baby is, by all accounts, a miracle of such huge proportions that volumes of books and stories have been written and seen and read on this topic alone.

A father develops a special bond with his baby that can almost not be put into words. The presence of a father adds a certain amount of stability immediately to the family unit and, if Mom will allow the participation of the Father in an equal manner with her, then the family unit is strengthened even more- and the father feels less like an outsider and more like an active influence on the development of the baby.

In fact, fathers should be encouraged to take a very active role in the care of this infant right from birth.  A father taking his baby to the Doctor’s office for regular visits is becoming far more common now than it ever used to be.  I remember as a young intern and resident with a very busy day and night schedule I could not attend very many of my childrens’ doctor visits and could only listen in amazement at the reports my wife would give me in the evening when I finally got home.  To this day I feel cheated of some of the elation that came when our baby’s doctor could confirm that our care was certainly correct and of great benefit for our child.  After all, babies do not come with instructions or warranty manuals and it is important for parents to have their parenting skills recognized and confirmed by an objective third party. 

Erin Pougnet’s studies of fathers’ influence on children’s cognitive and behavioural functioning have shown greater achievable IQ levels in children with whom the father has paid a greater role during early infancy and childhood.  Fathers are known to contribute different ways of looking at non-verbal skills as they take part in the physical contact of their children (playing roughly) and offer another definition of reasoning. Recent evidence gathered from families in which the father is absent due to armed forces responsibilities show that there are more stresses, sadness, withdrawal and aggressive behavior when Dad is away for any significant time span. Families in older generations suffered from the father’s inability to express appropriate feeling toward his children; now it is felt that younger fathers have these skills.

A Father should never be a casual observer to the growth and development of his child but an active contributing member of the family unit.  Prenatal classes of a different kind than those for expectant mothers should be offered to the father- to- be as well, so that his role can be more clearly defined. As research has shown, dad’s increasing involvement is making a difference.

3 Ways Music Improves Kids’ Learning, Relationships & Confidence

When we think of music, often what comes to mind is song. We may think of Broadway musicals, Bach or Justin Timberlake. In our minds, we might imagine orchestras or pianists.

Music has been central to civilization for thousands of years. In fact, before we had language we used musical tones and sounds to communicate. The tone of a grunt signaled a message in our prehistoric ancestors, while the beat of a drum brought village people together in unity far and wide. What we think of a little less often is what music is made of and how it impacts our learning, behavior and social relationships.

Music is all around us as we hear the subway cling and clatter, the pitter-patter of our children’s footsteps and the ambient noise inherent in life. Music engages our sensory, motor and auditory pathways in the brain fostering engagement and synchronicity (Patel & Iverson, 2014).

Curiously, the ability to synchronize with a beat is associated with learning language and grammar (Corriveau & Goswami, 2009; Gordon et al., 2015). At its core music is made of beats and rhythms that create sound, melody and even movement. These beats and rhythms are meaningful scaffolds we can use in school, at home and in life to enhance foundational aspects of our learning, behavior and character.

Here are three ways to incorporate music into your family life to foster growth in learning, behavior, confidence, social relationships and character.

TRUST Engaging in music with your children, classmates and workmates can enhance a sense of cohesion, emotional safety and trust. Our brains and bodies love to entrain, that is, join together in synchrony with others. Moving, tapping and singing in synchrony provide us with a felt-sense of togetherness, safety and trust. Consider for a moment, the smile on an infant’s face as he plays clapping games with his mother. Think about your own emotions as you walk by a classroom of students harmonizing in song.

“Musical engagement provides opportunities to improve social cohesion, psychological safety and trust in our relationships.”

What can you do? Sing more with others. Whether acapella, with the radio or as you complete your tasks of daily living, turn up the music and sing along. Choose songs that are known to all and enjoy the feeling of camaraderie and togetherness as you sing out that tune, together.

LEARNING – Even if you aren’t a musical performer, songs, chants, poems and raps are a wonderful way to learn academic knowledge. Music provides a rhythmic foundation on which to layer information in order to encode it and make it learned knowledge.  Further, consistent beats, specifically in 4/4 time, stimulate the brain’s natural interest, comfort and familiarity with patterns and sequences. Help your children learn their math facts, historical knowledge, literature and foreign language saying simple repetitive words with rhythm for better encoding and retrieval of learned knowledge.

“We are musical beings, even our neurons fire like an orchestra.”

MOVE IT – Clapping, tapping, stepping, marching and bouncing to a beat provide a firm scaffold on which to layer learning. Start by clapping or stepping to a simple quarter note at 85-120 beats per minute and increase tempo as the children become familiar with the beat.

On the downbeat add the content to be learned, for example, C-A-T CAT.  You can also say the words syllabically, HO – USE HOUSE with a double clap on the fourth beat. Imagine learning your history facts to a beat, “Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, created Thanksgiving Day, he championed for freedom, as the children played.” Mix and match beats with rhythm, movements, sounds and words for an engaging social experience. The words can rhyme, but they don’t have to.

Music is magical. It has the ability to help us calm or energize, connect and reflect, enhancing our thinking skills, learning and character by engaging us as musical and prosocial beings.

Enjoy building confidence, character, and social connections as you chant, sing, move, and create to the sounds of music.

For more musical learning ideas see Musical Thinking and 70 Play Activities for Better Thinking, Self-Regulation, Learning and Behavior.

References:

  • Corriveau K, Goswami U. (2009). Rhythmic motor entrainment in children with speech and language impairments: tapping to the beat. Cortex, 45: 119–130.
  • Gordon R, Shivers C, Wieland E, Kotz S, Yoder P, McAuley J. (2015). Musical rhythm discrimination explains individual differences in grammar skills in children. Developmental Science, 18: 635–644.
  • Patel, A. D., & Iversen, J. R. (2014). The evolutionary neuroscience of musical beat perception: the Action Simulation for Auditory Prediction (ASAP) hypothesis. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 8, 57.

Helpful websites:

www.letsplaymusicsite.com

http://thekiboomers.com

https://meludia.com/en/

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70-play-hi-res-150x197Written for teachers, educators, and clinicians whose work involves playing, talking or teaching children who would benefit from better executive function and social-emotional learning skills, 70 Play Activities incorporates over 100 research studies into printable worksheets, handouts, and guided scripts with step-by-step directions, to empower children to learn and behave better. “With 70 Play Activities we aim to improve the trajectory of children’s learning by integrating the newest neuroscience with activities children love!” With over 70 activities designed to improve thinking, self-regulation, learning and behavior, your tool-kit will be full and your creative brain will be inspired to craft your own meaningful exercises. 70 Play Activities is available at amazon.com

 

Information for Your Teen about Abuse in Relationships

If you’re in a relationship and you feel unhappy about or frightened by the way your partner treats you, you don’t have to put up with it.

It can be hard to know what’s “normal” in a relationship. It can take time to get to know each other and discover what works for you both. But there is one thing that’s for sure: abusive or violent behaviour is not acceptable, and if it’s happening to you it’s OK to ask for help and advice.

Partner abuse can happen to anyone of any age, culture or religion. It can happen to boys or girls, but it’s much more likely to happen to girls. Young people in same-sex relationships are also more likely to be affected.

Tink Palmer, a social worker who works with people who have been abused, says: “No one should have to put up with violence in any form. If it’s happening to you, talk to a person you trust, such as a parent, a trusted adult or a friend. Don’t hold it in, talk to someone.”

What is Abuse in a Relationship?

Abuse can involve physical violence, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping or pressuring you into sex. But there are other forms of abuse, too. Emotional and verbal abuse can involve your boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • Saying things that make you feel small, whether you’re alone or in front of other people
  • Pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do, including sexual things
  • Checking up on you all the time to find out where you are and who you’re with – for example, texting or calling you a lot if you’re out with your friends
  • Threatening to hurt you or someone close to you, including pets

As well as happening when you’re together, emotional and verbal abuse can happen on the phone or on the internet.

Behaviour like this is not about love. It’s about someone controlling you and making you behave how they want. People who abuse a partner verbally or emotionally may turn to violence later on in the relationship. This kind of controlling behaviour is a big warning sign.

Behaviour like this is not OK, even if some people tell you it is. Violence and abuse in relationships is not normal, it is not “just the way things are” or “messing around”. It’s a serious issue.

Being hurt emotionally and physically can harm your self-esteem and make you feel anxious, depressed or ill. Girls who are abused can also develop eating disordersproblems with alcohol and drugs, and be at risk of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy from sexual abuse.

Getting Help for Abuse

If you are in a controlling or abusive relationship and you want help, don’t be scared to talk to someone about it. Remember it’s not your fault, no matter what anyone says, and it is far better to talk about it with someone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been drinking or what you’ve been wearing. There is no excuse.

It can be difficult to find the right words to ask for help. Try asking someone whether you can talk to them about something. Tell them you need some help or that something is happening and you don’t know what to do.

There are several people you might talk to, such as:

  • An adult mentor or a favourite teacher at school
  • Your mum, dad or another trusted adult, perhaps a friend’s mum
  • An adviser on a helpline such as ChildLine (0800 11 11) (*in the UK)
  • A GP (*family physician) or nurse
  • A friend

And remember, try again if you don’t get the response you think you need. If you are in immediate danger, call 999 (*in the UK – 911 in the US).

If You Think a Friend is Being Abused

If you think a friend might be experiencing abuse, talk to her (your friend might be male, but it is most often girls who experience abuse). “Keep calm, and don’t be judgmental or condemning,” says Palmer. “It can be difficult to talk to a friend, but try. If you’re concerned, don’t worry that you might be wrong, worry that you might be right.”

Try asking your friend if you can talk about something. Tell her you’re worried about her and ask her whether everything is OK. Listen to her and let her know that nobody has to put up with abuse.

If she has been hurt, offer to go to the doctor with her. Have the number of a useful helpline, such as ChildLine on 0800 11 11 (*in the UK), ready to give to her.

Your friend might be angry or upset with you for a while, but she will know that you care and you might have helped her realise she can get help.

If You are Abusing Someone

If you are abusing your partner or you’re worried that you might, you can call ChildLine on 0800 11 11 (*in the UK) or talk to a trusted adult.

“Recognising that your behaviour is wrong is the first step to stopping it. But you may need help to stop,” says Palmer.

Sometimes the things that cause abusive behaviour, such as feelings about things that happened in the past, can be very powerful. “We can’t always stop things on our own, or straight away,” says Palmer. “We do need help, which is why it’s important to talk to someone.”

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

U.S. Resources for Teen Relationship / Domestic Abuse:

 





Teen Narcissism is Worse: Is Social Networking The Cause?

Teen Narcissism Is Increasing – But Just What is Narcissism?

facebook focusedA growing number of researchers are finding a link between social media web-sites and anti-social narcissistic behavior among certain users. So we can be on the same page as the researchers,  narcissism is defined as “self-centered, arrogant, and entitled.”

It’s not just attention-getting or wanting to be liked, but a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration—an exaggerated sense of self-importance where the person believes they are special and require excessive admiration from others.”

The phrase, “so-and so is such a narcissist,” is often used in our culture and generally means just a self-centered person. But there is a clear difference when narcissism rises to the level of being a true psychological problem.

The worry is that too hefty a dose of narcissism and an unhealthy overriding belief and exaggerated view that “I’m better than all” can turn into a personality disorder robbing a person’s psychological and emotional well being. So there are two big dangers for our children:

  • First, the narcissist generally has an inability to form healthy, long-term relationships because narcissists  are so focused on themselves.
  • Second is that narcissism diminishes and even shuts down a person’s capacity to empathize or feel for others.

That last danger is the crux of why many child development expert and parents alike are on edge and it’s why I’m very concerned. A landmark report released by Common Sense Media in November of 2015 found that “teenagers (ages 13-18) use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day and that tweens (ages 8-12) use an average of six hours a day, not including time spent using media for school or homework”. And let’s be real, it’s a rare parent who wants a kid who feels entitled (I’ve yet to find one anyway). It’s why we all –parents, mental health professions, educators, and medical professions–need to dig deeper and review these results carefully and then take an honest look at our children’s needs. Here are facts you need to know:

Study Ties Social Networking to Narcissism…Or Does It?

One study, published by Mary Ann Liebert suggested a link between narcissism and (in this case the social network) Facebook. The researcher concluded that Facebook users with narcissistic behaviors could be clearly identified by contents on their Facebook pages.  The research received quite a buzz in the news.  Here was my take:

While it was an interesting study and worth discussing, more data was needed before drawing conclusions. The research used in the analysis was only a small sample size  (only 100 students were involved), all students were from the same university, and the researcher herself compiled the ratings so results could be biased.

But the results came on the tail of two previous studies that also found a connection between narcissistic behavior and social media and those results should clearly raise our parenting radar.

Study#1: College Students Agree their Generation Is More Self-Centered

Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology from San Diego State University and author of Generation Me, conducted fascinating research about kids’ narcissistic behaviors both on and off line. Tracking over 37,000 college students’ personality profiles, Twenge found a most troubling trend.

REALITY CHECK: Young people’s narcissistic personality traits are steadily rising from the 1980s to the present. By 2006, one out of four college students agreed with the majority of the items on a standard measure of narcissistic traits; in 1985 that number was only one in seven.

Twenge’s national survey of 1068 college students also had interesting results. Results found:

REALITY CHECK: 57 percent of college students admitting that social networking makes them more narcissistic and that their peers used social networking sites for self-promotion, narcissism and attention-seeking.

What’s more, over two-thirds of those adolescents surveyed said their generation was “more self-promoting, narcissistic, overconfident and attention-seeking” than others in the past.

Study #2: College Students Are Less Empathic Than Previous Generations

Twenge’s results come on the tails of yet another troubling report. A University of Michigan study of 14000 college students found these results:

REALITY CHECK: College students today show 40 percent less empathy toward others than college students in 1980s and 1990s The researcher hypothesized that because there are fewer face-to face interactions (largely due to the rise of net connection) empathy is also declining.

Put all of those studies together. Results from three large scale, longitudinal studies lead by major researchers at major universities found a decrease in kids’ empathy and an increase in narcissistic, self-centered-like behavior. Now it is time to be concerned…very concerned.

Don’t Put the Blame All On Social Networking….Just Yet

If there is a growing narcissistic streak among teens and young adults, let’s not put ALL the blame on social networking sites. (Note: As of 4th quarter 2015, there were over 1.5 billion monthly active Facebook users and not all are narcissists – or at least I hope not.  This number does not include Periscope users, Instagram users, Snapchat users, etc.).  What a social network DOES provide is a great place for a teen who feels a bit more entitled to draw attention to himself, self-promote, and show the world just how great he is.

So let’s not put all the blame on social networks for how our kids are turning out. In that regard, I fear we have only ourselves to blame.

Trendy girl make a selfieThe more probable causes to the dawn of the “Self-Annointed Kid” is a parental style that pushes too much entitlement, too many trophies too soon, too much “ME-ME-ME”, too much “center stage” and not enough good ‘ol “NOs” and focusing on “THEM.”

Researchers also point out that a celebrity saturated culture that emphasizes the rich and famous, is another culprit along with the breakdown of face-to-face connection, and a society that seems too often to be under-stressing those good old home-spun virtues like kindness, cooperation and helpfulness.

So what’s a parent to do? What do you do if you think you are the proud owner of a budding little narcissistic–or at least a kid who feels entitled-on your hands?

Your first step is to recognize the problem.

Your second step is to use research-based parenting solutions to curb your child’s self-centeredness, and do so pronto.

Tell-Tale Signs of a Budding Kid Narcissist

Researchers say there are a few indicators that could indicate narcissism in youth who are social networking.

Keep in mind, it’s not one sign but a combination of behaviors your should watch for in your teen. You should see these same narcissistic behaviors both off screen as well as on. Here are ways to start observing:

  • Be Where Your Teen Is. Your first step is to make sure you have an account on the same social networks as your teen and that you have befriended him or her so you can follow your teen’s presence. You do NOT have to post on your teen’s account (usually a HUGE turn off, but you do have to be where your teen is online so you can monitor your teen’s presence.
    This isn’t spying (get over it!), this is parental monitoring. You announce ahead to your teen that you will be monitoring. It’s part of being a parent. See the Internet as virtual extension of your child’s playground. You monitored there, right? So monitor your teen online!
  • View Online Presence Together. A great exercise to do with your teen is to view his or her online presence together. Ask: “What does this say about you to someone else who may not know you?” “Why did you choose that photo?” etc. Don’t be judgmental (you’ll get nowhere) but just inquisitive. It might be a great eye-opener.

4 Possible Signs of Teen Narcissism 

  1. All About Me: Tune into your teen’s primary motive for using a social network. Is it primarily for connection to be with others or a place to self-promote? Young narcissists are all self-promoting and not to use their social networks as an opportunity to commiserate with peers.
  2. Read and listen to those pronouns: Is the teen using those “Me, I and My” pronouns so every entry is about how “I’m doing” and rarely about “What are you up to?” Does she always refer to herself and her needs and delete the other population? (Teens are egocentric so expect some Me-Me-Me verbiage. Be concerned when it’s exclusively Me-Me-Me and little Her-Him-Them.”
  3. Self Promotion: Narcissists are more likely to choose glamorous, self-promoting pictures for their main profile photos, while those who are not so inclined are more likely to use simple snapshots. But also check your teen’s offline presence. Look at those screen-savers and ask yourself what they tell about your teen.
  4. Competition: Researchers say a key sign is the teen who constantly (multiple times daily) checks into the network to count his FB friends and then announces that number. The studies found that the more teens checked in and the more they announced their FB friends the higher the narcissism. But off-line is your kid doing the same (checking or comparing her abilities verses others).

Countering the Teen Narcissism Epidemic

If you suspect your child is a budding little narcissist, the cure isn’t pulling their social media accounts. Chances are high that your teen earned that “entitlement” image before logging onto a social network. Center your parenting efforts on these strategies instead:

  • Refocus Your Praise Temper those oohs and ahhs that focus only on your kid. Watch out for lavish sugar-coated, undeserved praise and giving out a trophy for every little thing.
    Instead stress your child’s inside qualities like kindness, cooperation and reinforce “selfless” acts so your child starts to become aware of the rights, feelings, and needs of others. Sigh!
  • Lower the Curtain Ask yourself if you always single out your teen’s performance in a group activity over the other participants. If so, watch your focus and start emphasizing your teen’s teammates.
  • Teen Girl Helps the HomelessNurture Empathy Narcissistic, entitled kids shut down their capacity to understand where other people are coming. Because they only focus on “ME,” it’s hard to put themselves into someone else’s shoes and feel how they feel. So nurture your teen’s empathy. Point out other people’s feelings. Ask, “How does the other person feel?” The best antidote for selfishness and entitlement is to boost empathy.
  • Boost Face-to-Face Interaction Boost face to face interaction opportunities to help him see beyond himself. Help him focus on the views of others. You don’t learn empathy by facing a screen. Keep in mind that this is the generation who prefers to text than talk and all that screen time doesn”t develop those key skills for emotional intelligence, social competence, empathy and moral development. Set up sacred “unplugged” family times. Hold family dinners! And grab those cell phones and put them on hold during key times your family is together.

The best way to learn benevolence and selflessness is not lecturing about it but providing kids with real opportunities to do for others. So find ways your family – and particularly your teen – can do community service and emphasize others not themselves: Work at a shelter. Deliver gently-used possessions to charity. Pitch in to help the elderly neighbor rake her leaves. Find real and meaningful opportunities tailored to your child’s passions!

The real parenting goal is for our children to learn one wonderful life lesson: Doing good for others is one of the greatest ways to feel good about who you are as a person. And doing good for others is also has a hidden benefit: it’s one of the simplest and best ways to boost happiness.

Resources for this report:

  • Ypulse survey of 1068 college students was done with Jean Twenge, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State when asked about narcissism in a poll on social networking sites in June by Ypulse, August 2009.
  • University of Michigan study culled 72 studies that gauged empathy among 14,000 students over 30 years. They found college students today have 40% less empathy than students in the 1980s and 1990s. The researcher suggested its because there are fewer face-to face interactions. “Empathy is best activated when you can see another person signal for help.”

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com

Thawing Your Teen’s Cold Shoulder

girl ignoring momWhen it comes to teens, parents sometimes feel like they’re dealing with a different species all together.  Things like raging hormones, stress, sleep deprivation, growth spurts, self-consciousness and neurological wiring make teens super sensitive, moody and irritable. They’re stuck in the middle of childhood and adulthood with the an urge to be independent. More physical changes are happening to their bodies that at any other developmental period in their life. Research confirms that their brains are wired differently so expect them to be a uniquely difficult species. Those are just a few reasons why parents also feel this is one of the most difficult periods of parenting.

On the Today show I shared tips with Al Roker to help parents thaw out a teen’s cold shoulder so they can stay connected. Here are a few of the highlights of that segment.

The key parenting secret (nothing new on this one) is to “know thy teen.” After all, no two kids are alike. Once you know what’s “normal” for your teen, you can then look for any behavior that deviates too much from his or her standard. That’s why it’s so important to tune into your teen’s mood. Doing so will help you understand a little more about what might be going on with your kid at this critical stage of development. Most of us were “experts” in about those baby years as we devoured all those baby books but not nearly as knowledgeable about those crucial teen years.

There are a number of reasons that your teen might be giving you the cold shoulder. Here are among the most common causes:

  1. Stress: School, schedules, tests, worrying about the future, college acceptances, sleep deprivation
  2. Peer pressure and the social scene: Girlfriends/boyfriends, fitting in, peer pressure
  3. Substance abuse: Drugs, alcohol, steroids, prescription drugs (Don’t be too quick to say, “Not my kid.” Beware that it might be a possibility).
  4. Hormonal changes: A sudden growth spurt, puberty.
  5. A bad habit: Your teen has a bad attitude that you’ve allowed.
  6. Your own attitude: Might the trigger be how you treat your child? To figure this one out, use the “friend test”: Would you talk to a friend the way you relate to your teen? If your friend won’t tolerate it, it’s time to be honest and change your attitude.

There are a number of ways to improve a relationship with a teen. The key is to find what works with your teen, use an attitude of “patient persistence,” and hang in there! Here are a few ways to thaw out a cold shoulder:

  • Learn 2 txt! Many teens say they would respond more to their parents if they were to use text. Teens actually prefer texting – so to get in your teen’s world, learn to text!
  • Be 80 percent positive, 20 percent negative. Use the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it” policy. The ideal formula is to strive to be at least 80 percent positive and 20 percent negative when dealing with your teen. Slowly stretch your time together without a cold shoulder or blow up. Better to have your interactions be short and positive to thaw out a relationship
  • Learn the words “I’m sorry.” Apologize when you are wrong and sincerely convey that you hope you never have “another last night.”
  • Give kudos. Find anything your teen is doing that deserves recognition.
  • Hope for the truth. Find some truth in what your teen is saying. Even if it seems
    unreasonable. You don’t have to agree with what he says. But strive to find one part where he’s right. “Can’t say I agree, but you sure are learning some great debating principles.”
  • His time + Your time = The right time. Identify the time your teen is most receptive, and then use that as the optimal time to approach your teen. Hint: Most teens are sleep-deprived and actually on a different time zone than adults.
  • Get into his zone. Go to a basketball game, a concert, the movies, Starbucks, the mall, the batting cage, yoga class or any other place that your kid loves. Just go together and let him know you care about his world.
  • Halt communication blockers. There are a few communication almost guaranteed to tune teens out and off.  Here are a few communication blockers to avoid: Talking too much or lecturing. Using sarcasm, put downs and judgments. Multi-tasking instead of giving your kid your presence. Too intense of eye contact. An irritable tone of voice. Being too rushed to pay attention

Target one change you want to try at a time, and keep working at the new behavior until it becomes a new habit. Thawing a teen’s cold shoulder may take awhile. (Think of an iceberg as your image). If you don’t see a gradual warming up, then use the old pen and paper technique. One mom told me that she used a journal to write comments back and forth with her son which really helped reduce conflict and rebuild the relationship. If you still continue to get that cold shoulder, then consider counseling. Just don’t give up!

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com

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