Janet Taylor

What’s So Bad About Being a Trust Fund Kid?

Written on July 24, 2014 at 11:42 am , by

To the best of my recollection, I have never met a trust fund kid. I’m sure there are benefits to having a friend who never has to worry about working, paying rent or facing the dreaded “I’m sorry, do you have another card?’ from an ambivalent waitress. He or she might offer to foot your bill or pay for trips and would never squeeze you for cash. Sounds convenient, right?

But perhaps actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was aware of something about trust fund children that I am not. His untimely death resulted in a large sum of money going directly to the mother of his three kids because he refused to put any cash into trusts for them. Reportedly, he told his accountant that he didn’t want them to be perceived as “trust fund” children.

Which begs the question…why?

His decision is not without precedent. Reportedly, Bill and Melinda Gates will leave their children only $10 million each. Warren Buffet allegedly will do the same. On the other hand, Oracle chief Larry Ellison famously began distributing the family fortune to his kids at the age of 18. He didn’t want them to “be afraid of money” but instead wanted them to learn about the ethical and social responsibility that access to a vast fortune entails. Although both dropped out of college, they are hardworking adults.

It’s pretty simple to understand why creating trust fund kids may not be optimal for some uber-wealthy families. The common perception is that money is a primary motivator for hard work. That’s a complete myth. In fact, leading motivators for hard work are caring about customers and clients, having a sense of purpose, passion, an alignment of values, wanting to achieve and just plain having fun.

What’s interesting is that Hoffman made a shrewd declaration of how society endorses the wealthy and privileged at the risk of alienating the lower classes. Perhaps he also wanted his children to learn the value of earning a dollar and, more important, character.

However, character does not come from a zip code. Parents with limited means raise responsible children and struggle with the same parenting issues as middle- and upper-income parents.

For my money, the underlying issue is not related to how much cash we give or leave for our kids, it’s the life lessons we teach them. What kind of role models are we as parents? What kind of respect do we exemplify toward others? How much do we show love to folks in our own households?

Money doesn’t buy happiness. I would guess that a trust fund doesn’t either.

Would you ever establish a trust fund for your child? Post a comment and let me know.


Janet Taylor, MD, MPH
, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.


Would You Leave Your Kid Alone in a Car?

Written on July 10, 2014 at 2:01 pm , by

Imagine this scenario: You’re pulling into a parking space so you can pick up Chinese food for dinner. As you glance into the backseat, you can see that your adorable (but extremely energetic) 3-year-old twins are finally asleep and safely strapped into their snuggly car seats. And you wonder: Should you wake them up and bring them into the restaurant with you, or dash inside for just a minute, leaving the kids inside the car alone? You’re parked right in front of the restaurant’s door. What do you do?

The truth is, if we haven’t all made the dash inside, we’ve at least thought about it for more than a second. However, many parents don’t understand the cause for concern until it’s too late and they’ve received a reprimand from a concerned citizen, been handed a summons from an unforgiving police officer, or experienced a tragedy that will be hard to forgive themselves for.

While the specific laws and age limits for leaving a child alone vary from state to state, I imagine some parents are thinking: “I know my kid” or “No one can tell me what to do with my own children.” Actually, communities and institutions can and in my opinion should. Some parents need care instructions for their kids. Common sense and parenting skills are not a given. If legislation or consequences keep one child safer at the expense of another parent’s inconvenience, so be it.

Now here’s my confession: Years ago, I left the motor running and my twins strapped into the backseat of my cool minivan on a hot summer day. Pulling right up to the front door of a local Chinese restaurant, I quickly ran in to pick up my order. It took a minute for me to find out the food wasn’t ready. Then I pushed open the front door to see my now moving minivan rolling past me with one of my 3-year-olds at the wheel.

I panicked, crushing my shinbone as I swung open the door and put my foot on the brake. The car went from neutral to park. In shock, I said to my daughters, “Girls, what happened?” My level-headed, still-strapped-in daughter, Taylor, said, “Erin drive.” Erin, my sweet and funny aspiring daredevil, just smiled. I was dying inside but so grateful that a tragedy had been averted. And I have never left a child of mine in a car or unsupervised since.

While it’s true that parenting skills and styles are very individual, there is always one constant: the responsibility we have to protect our children and not expose them to potentially dangerous situations. You may believe that they’ll be just fine in your absence, but—speaking from personal experience—in lieu of a crystal ball, think safety instead.

Turn Off to Turn On: Make Time to Really Connect

Written on July 8, 2014 at 9:38 am , by

 

Truly connecting with your spouse, your kids or even a coworker isn’t a high-speed endeavor. Meaningful relationships can’t be jump-started by hitting send, condensed into 140 characters or easily deleted. They’re about a lingering glance, a tight hug or a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, high touch is being taken over by high tech. I’ve painfully witnessed couples more engrossed in their smartphones than in each other, fathers reacting faster to the ping of a text message than to their kids yelling “Dad!” and moms spending more time uploading family photos to Facebook than letting their kids download with them.

I know, I know, your teen is probably so obsessed with her Instagram account that she’s not paying attention to you either. But it’s hard to ask a teen to turn off a smartphone when you’re not paying attention yourself. My suggestion: Aim for as much real face time as you can. Create mini media blackouts by using a basket to collect electronics for a distraction-free dinner or having a family night devoted to offline entertainment like board games. Most important, teach your children when to pick up the telephone to reach out to someone by modeling that behavior. Our kids need to develop the keys to love and trust that come from a human touch-not a touchscreen.

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.


What Dr. Janet Wants You to Do for 20 Seconds to Feel Better Now

Written on June 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm , by

How many times have you been hugged today? Chances are even if you’re lucky enough to have been enveloped in the arms of someone you love, you still haven’t been hugged enough. That’s because the more embraces you have, the better it is for your health. Eight, in fact, is ideal. Here’s why:

Hugs are a power boost for our immune system. They decrease stress levels, help fight fatigue, promote well-being, lower blood pressure, improve our cardiovascular system and benefit aging muscles. Plus, there is nothing like a hug to make you feel up when you are down or safe when you are searching.

The science behind the embrace helping to heal both your head and your heart can be summed up in one word: oxytocin. Oxytocin is a chemical that’s released from your brain during the act of hugging, breast-feeding and, yes, sex. Think about the billions of dollars spent on self-help books, vitamins and little blue pills when one of nature’s most potent resources is free and can be plentiful! A 20-second hug, multiple times during the day (as I mentioned earlier, eight is best), is all it takes.

The challenge is to actually do it. Here are some suggestions to get your daily doses in.

1)   Unplug. Make eye contact and just go for it.

2)   Pay attention. Watch how others are feeling. We get so caught up in our own issues that we miss cues from people that we care about showing us they need to be held.

3)   Keep count. When you track and measure a goal, it increases your likelihood of obtaining it.

4)   Don’t be shy. If you have a teenager who avoids embraces, do it anyway.

5)    Draw everyone in. Get your whole family involved. Encourage group hugs.

6)    Press the men. Many dads stop demonstrating affection to their sons as they get older. Don’t let that be the case in your house.

Happy hugging!

Who are you going to hug today? Post a comment and tell me here.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

Why Age Is Really Just a Number…at 21

Written on June 5, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

In a few weeks, the youngest of my four daughters will reach a milestone. She will officially be an adult, as there will be 21 candles on a very delicious cake. Yes, her ticket will be officially punched into adulthood.

Adulthood. It’s hard to believe that a birthday can mark critical issues like responsibility, employment security (if you have a job), housing status (What? You still live at home?) and the pressure to finally be in a serious relationship. In other words, there is a general emphasis on just pulling one’s life together.

Heavy stuff…but as a practicing adult I know that there is plenty of time to grow up. Growing up is a process that is not just marked by a numerical value. Growing up is a mindset.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the parameters of growing up were carded for, much like liquor sales? How cool would it be if delis and minimarts had a calendar marking the current date and the statement: “If you are still immature and born before this date ____, practice self-reflection or ask a real adult to share their experiences and most significant life lessons with you.”

What if the ritual of turning 21 was not focused on being able to drink legally but tapped into a person’s ability to help others, practice respect and goodwill, and simply focus on making the world a better place to live and coexist?

What if instead of honing in on a chronological age to symbolize the pinnacle of physical maturity and emotional growth, we understood that things like wisdom, self-understanding and self-acceptance are not easily quantifiable but can be gained throughout our life span with a willingness to do so?

In many ways, the over-celebration of adulthood or being “legal” minimizes the true benefit of simply growing older and growing up. The real benefit of growing up is being able to appreciate your own successes and failures, to find the silver lining in disappointment and to have gratitude for joyful experiences. Completeness does not arise from turning a certain age on a certain day. Happiness and self-satisfaction can be present throughout our life span.

If we provide our young adults with an accurate representation of growing old and the recognition that aging is not a disease state but a normal process that holds both real beauty and potential at every age, as well as a blueprint for finding them, then perhaps every 21-year-old will have much more to truly celebrate.

What emotional accomplishments do you hope your child will have achieved by the age of 21? Post a comment and share.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

What It Means to Mother Yourself

Written on May 9, 2014 at 9:44 am , by

As Mother’s Day approaches and millions of Americans reach out and touch the speed-dial button to their favorite floral shop, I find myself thinking about the day in another way.

This Mother’s Day will be the first for me without the visible presence of my own mother, Joan Taylor, who passed away last spring. The loss of my mother has made me think about the qualities that I need moving forward that will allow me to mother myself.

Those qualities include treating myself with compassion and loving kindness, and being more accepting of difficult situations by hearing my mother’s supportive words in my head—words like “everything will work out” or “you did a great job”—even when I’m unsure.

Since I have four daughters myself, Mother’s Day makes me examine the legacy that I am trying to leave for them, a legacy not of material or financial wealth but of social and emotional capital. In other words, the ability to tap into their own reservoir of self-understanding and acceptance with a dose of optimism sprinkled in.

This holiday, it’s also important to remember that while 90% of women want to be mothers, 39% of them may never be because of issues of fertility or circumstance. And  6% choose to be child-free. For these women, Mother’s Day may have multiple meanings.

One consistent factor for all women is the reality that we have been mothered. That experience, either with a biological or nonbiological mother, has a lasting impact throughout our lives. We learn how to love, experience life’s challenges, work out feelings of frustration and develop our strengths and values from our relationship with our first love and primary attachment, our mother.

The capacity to support each other as women by sharing our experiences of being mothered and what we have learned about our mothers and ourselves is truly what Mother’s Day represents. It’s about honoring our growth and origins and loving who we are just as our own mothers, in their unique and individual way, loved us.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

How do you mother yourself? Post a comment and share.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanetRead more of her posts here.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

Hit “Post”—Wait, Not So Fast!

Written on April 10, 2014 at 9:00 am , by

I remember when memories had expiration dates. What I mean is that if someone had a picture that you liked, you actually had to ask for the negative or request a copy of the photo. Occasionally, by the time you received the keepsake, you had long forgotten about the event. The good thing about formally requesting a reproduction was the implicit approval residing in the delivery of the image.

That was then. This is now. These days, a photo is taken and uploaded faster than you can say “Cheese!” A quick turnaround is wonderful for sharing a joke and capturing good times, but if you are looking for private moments, you won’t find them in this technological age. And when it comes to children—and more specifically photos of other people’s children—we’re not dealing with a laughing matter anymore.

A recent poll indicated that 57% of parents on Facebook strongly dislike having unauthorized photographs of their children posted. However, most parents feel like they don’t have control over the images. Their wishes and wants are conflicted. As a parent, if you don’t have control, who does?

Perhaps the answer is that every family needs to have a social media and sharing policy. Decide if it’s okay to have your little cherub’s face posted at any time by folks who are not part of your family’s tribe. If it is, have at it. If not, then diligently make sure that your wishes are enforced. That may result in the potentially difficult task of asking friends and family to delete unauthorized photos. By the same token, if you post a picture and are asked to remove it, please do.

In the future, schools and organizations may need to require consent for the release of photographs to protect your wishes. Until that happens, the wiser decision may be to ask, not assume, before hitting the “post” button.

Have you ever asked someone not to post (or to remove) a photo of your child from a website? If so, post a comment and tell me what happened.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

Be Willing to Learn from Failure

Written on March 18, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Inspired by my work at an inner-city hospital—but dismayed by what seemed a revolving door of the same critical patients—I decided to obtain a graduate degree in public health 10 years ago. I was exhausted by having a job during the day and school at night, but I felt like the luckiest student in the world when I confidently turned in my first paper.

I can still remember gasping for air when I checked my grade on my smartphone: C minus. I had let myself and my family down. I was an academic disappointment—or was I?

Looking back, that episode taught me a valuable lesson. I realized that there is a difference between a moment and an experience. Yes, I had let myself down in that moment. But the experience made me want to improve. This was not a fatal event, but one from which I could regroup.

Whenever you attempt a victory—whether it’s hitting a fundraising goal for your child’s school trip or creating the ultimate Easter basket—there is a risk that you may not succeed. The question is whether you stay in the game, knowing that there is always room for improvement, or slink over to the sidelines and never try, try again.

Be willing to learn from the experience of failing and be determined to turn things around. I did so with hard work and a willingness to listen to painful but honest feedback from my advisor. You can too. Remember: Failure is a symptom. It does not have to be a condition.

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

#LoveYourSelfie: How One Snap Can Build Self-Esteem in Kids

Written on March 7, 2014 at 11:00 am , by

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, then your selfie should be an epic story. And it doesn’t have to crash Twitter to be worth a read. I’ve been watching with interest the recent campaign by NBC’s Today show, #LoveYourSelfie. The campaign began with the anchors, faces without make-up, openly discussing their perceived flaws. Viewers sent in their own pictures, spanning a range of ages, actions, body types and expressions. Priceless.

I applaud the viewers who were brave enough to share their photos. However, it begs the question: Do we need a campaign that reminds us to love ourselves?

Yes.

Girls as young as 6 report being dissatisfied with their bodies, which is shocking but understandable. Media images promote thinness as perfection and seemingly place a higher value on models who are white, blonde and slim. Rarely are the concepts of beauty and goodness from the inside out adequately displayed.

The Cast of Today show

Low self-esteem and a negative self-image can lead to risk-taking behaviors in children and teenagers. Having a positive self-image, a healthy body image and good self-esteem are critical factors as children and teens work toward self-acceptance.

That’s where our important role as parents comes in. We have an opportunity to empower our children when it comes to how they feel about themselves. Doing that requires understanding how they view themselves and, more important, how we view ourselves. Our children listen to the words we use to describe our bodies and our feelings of self-acceptance. Our children listen to the comments we make about their friends as it relates to appearance.

Here’s a suggestion: Have everyone in your family take a selfie that they’re willing to share. Sit down and ask each person talk about their photo, explaining how they felt taking it and how the photo represents one of their strengths, then caption it in three words that describe what they like about themselves. Parents can use this opportunity to share their own experiences growing up and how they dealt with issues of self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Telling the story of your wonderful, beautiful, individual self is a click away: #LoveYourSelfie

Have you taken a look at your kid’s selfies? What do you think they say? Post a comment below and tell us about them.

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, who took this selfie, is a mother of four and a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

 

 

 

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What Made Teen Ethan Couch Think He Could Drink and Drive?

Written on February 11, 2014 at 2:53 pm , by

Ethan Couch

Just when I thought I had seen or heard everything, a news item really floored me—or in this case simply made me sick.

Recently, a 17-year-old young man, Ethan Couch, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and an unspecified amount of time at a rehabilitation facility for an unspeakable crime. While driving 70 miles per hour with a blood alcohol level three times the limit, he slammed into innocent bystanders who were trying to help someone get a car started. His foolish decision to drink and drive—30 miles per hour over the speed limit—killed four people and seriously injured two others. Legally, what would have appeared to be a very horrific and sad case for everyone involved became frustrating and complicated by a single word.

Affluenza

According to his defense, this condition—having a privileged upbringing and lacking parental boundaries—apparently resulted in the disastrous events. Ethan’s wealthy parents raised him with a sense of entitlement and poor judgment, and thus he was incapable of being held completely accountable. Yes, a sociological term used to define the downright destructiveness that results from greed, selfishness and ruthless behavior brought on by the quest for the almighty dollar became a defense.

Sad, crazy and true! As the grieving widower and father of two of the victims said, “I only wanted to hear two words at the trial: ‘I’m sorry.’” And Ethan never uttered them. The devastated father went on to say that his home is now empty and just a house. Tragic.

How did this happen? How can parents with or without economic resources raise children who have absolutely no regard for their peers or fellow citizens? Have we overindulged our children to the point that being responsible for multiple deaths is excusable because they didn’t know?

I can think of two people who are directly responsible and need to be held accountable for this tragedy: his parents. You would think that instead of hiring a high-priced lawyer, they should have invested in parenting classes and psychotherapy for their spoiled, remorseless son. You would think that multiple apologies would have been forthcoming from them. You would think that a judge would understand how her ruling reinforced the double standard of leniency largely related to class and socioeconomic status.

My hope is that as parents this tragic case reminds us that teaching individual responsibility to our children is more important than buying them a new iPad or the latest video game. May it force us to realize that we are raising not just children but citizens of the world, a world that needs compassion and just behavior instead of more senseless deaths and devastated communities.

 

Do you know any children that suffer from “affluenza”? Post a comment below and tell us about them.

 

 

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

When Your Teen Tries Your Patience

Written on February 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm , by

By now most of America has seen the infamous recent television appearance by Kate Gosselin with her twins on NBC’s The Today Show. It started off promisingly enough, with the 13-year-old twins clamoring to talk about “how normal their lives are.” Compelling stuff! What transpired was both shocking and sad. The twins were painfully silent on live television, creating the dreaded dead air. After glares and a curt “Use your words!” from Kate in response to their silence, one of the twins uttered a few sentences. Whew!

The resulting debate centered upon Kate’s fitness as a parent, conjured up memories of Mommy Dearest, questioned the twins’ sanity (they’re fine), and suggested that their performance was meant to get back at their mother. What an intriguing concept. Are teens that smart and deceptive?

Maybe.

Teens certainly know how to push mom’s buttons. Television and radio personality Wendy Williams recently burst into tears when talking about her 13-year-old son, who “doesn’t like me anymore.” She didn’t get the memo: No crying when raising a 13-year-old. Really? Of course not.

The reality is that 13-year-olds will try you to make you question your own sanity. They alter their personalities and responses to situations in the blink of an eye. The same cuddly child giving you hugs and saying, “I love you, Mom,” can give you a look and spew words that make you search for the 666 that must be somewhere on her forehead.

Thirteen. Hormones are raging, friends are confusing, parents are annoying and life can feel full of pressure and confusion. The good life…

Instead of labeling them as crazy or mean, we need to just hang with them and show them love. We must parent with limits and consequences in spite of how they push back. Remember when you were 13 and how easily you communicated with your parents? Yeah, right.

If you need proof that teens come around, fast-forward to the Gosselin segment on The View a few days later after their initial debacle. The girls were pleasant, relaxed and laughing. It was good to see, as it was further proof that if you wait long enough, the kids have a way of letting you know that they’re all right.

Has your teen ever tried your patience in public? Post a comment below and tell us what happened.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.

 

 

 

This Video Will Change How You Think About Teens and Drug Abuse

Written on January 16, 2014 at 9:30 am , by

 

Many outsiders would look at Chiara de Blasio, the 19-year-old daughter of newly elected New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, and see a young woman with a completely charmed life. A recent fashion spread in a well-known teen magazine does little to dispel that image of a magical existence.

Fashion mavens may argue about her style, but few could dispute her honesty. In a video released by her father’s campaign last month, Chiara’s struggles with depression and substance abuse, which began in her teenage years, add a sobering reality to what it means to be a first family.

She details her difficulties with fitting in and self-esteem, and the need to self-medicate with marijuana and alcohol. Describing how her mental state impacted her academic and social progress, she offers wise advice to others, stating: “If you’re suffering…getting sober is always a positive thing…It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s so worth it.”

Mental health issues can be present in any family. Being an elected official doesn’t exempt one from them. What’s most important, however, is a family’s reaction to the problem, which can make the difference between a person’s shying away from treatment and their embracing it.

[Also Read: Down Time: Teens and Depression]

Chiara’s openness may help break the stigma associated with mental illness and seeking the appropriate treatment. By simply telling her story, she potentially can help so many others.

As parents, we try to protect our children as much as possible. However, there are times when silence is not productive. Instead, it can reinforce negative behaviors by not addressing them. We can all learn from the example set by the de Blasios.

If your child is struggling with similar issues:

Support your teenager. Be open to their getting a professional assessment and treatment. They may be resistant, but purposefully and gently push for treatment.

Talk to other families. Many families feel like they’re the only ones going through challenging times. You are not. Talk to your health care professional about support groups.

Look at the big picture. Staying sober is a lifelong journey. Buckle up and be prepared for the peaks and valleys. Celebrate successes while being mindful of a blueprint.

Share your struggle. Breaking the silence about issues like depression and substance abuse can assist others in getting help. I applaud the de Blasio family for sharing their story—and hope more families do the same.

Is there someone in your life who could benefit from getting support for substance abuse? Post a comment below and tell us how you plan to approach them about this and offer them help.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, is a mother of four, a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at askdrjanet@familycircle.com.