Parenting Teens & Tweens

How to Avoid Your Kid’s Video Game Meltdowns

Written on January 22, 2015 at 10:15 am , by

Video games have come a long way since the days when we were just trying to gobble up dots and steer clear of four pesky ghosts. Now they’re 10 times as complex—just look at all the buttons on the joystick, ahem, controller. Story lines are far more elaborate. And a kid’s desire to play just a little bit longer? Infinite. So how do you get your child to put the controller down? Our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman received an email from a concerned school official dealing with just such a dilemma. Here’s Rosalind’s advice for putting playtime in its place.

Dear Rosalind:

I am an elementary school counselor, and so many parents have asked me for guidance on enforcing rules about video games. They don’t have problems setting the rules, but with enforcing them without meltdowns. What’s your advice?

Maybe some of you reading this have kids who follow your rules about games. Maybe some of you have kids who never argue or, worse, pretend not to hear you, when you say, “Your game time is up.” But for those of you who don’t, this is what I try to keep in mind.

Meltdowns are going to happen when your child stops playing a video game. As a parent, expect it and don’t take it personally. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t think your child is insane. He’s going from fighting monsters or competing in a world championship sports event to… sitting on the couch listening to his parent nag him about going over his screen time limits. Come to think of it, maybe our kids get into fights with us in these moments to continue the adrenaline rush.

When my boys disconnect, I give them about 10 minutes to be grumpy, rude, butt heads. They don’t get a free pass to be brats or say something personally horrible to me or about me. (“I hate you” doesn’t count as horrible. That’s a standard thing for your children to say and also should not be taken personally.) You should expect that they will lie (or be in denial) about how long they’ve played or argue with you about how much longer their sibling has been playing and how unfair the whole thing is. This is because they truly feel that they have been playing for only a few minutes and that their sibling(s) has hogged the controllers. Their passion fuels their justification about how unfair the situation is, which in turn fuels their belief that they are justified in being obnoxious brats.

Here’s how I try to manage myself so they don’t drag me into their tantrums: When I come into the house and they’re gaming, I try not to greet them with, “How long have you been playing?” (which, to be honest, is not a question—it’s an accusation) or “You better get off in 10 minutes” or “Have you walked the dog yet?” (again, an accusation). Instead—and this is very hard—I go in, say hi and let them play for 10 more minutes. Then I come back, tell them to pause the game and ask them about homework, the dog, cleaning the kitchen, etc. If they don’t pause the game after one warning, I do turn it off because that’s in our rules. (Rule #7: “I’ll pause the game within one minute after being told my time is up. If I don’t comply, I understand that my parent will turn off the screen so that any unsaved progress I lose will be because of my actions, not because my mom turned off the screen.”)

I have found that no matter what rules I have about food, leaving dirty socks on the floor or placing the cushions back on the couch, my kids still violate all of them. I don’t think I have ever come into the room where they play games and not found several dirty socks lying around. But when they stop playing, they have to clean up the space. Nothing happens until they clean up that room.

Bottom line: Don’t take their behavior personally. Don’t think they’re insane or game addicts. And don’t let them get you into a bad mood, stomping around the house resenting them. Stay strong, keep calm, and when in doubt you can always hide the controllers in the laundry room.


What rules do you place on video games in your house? Post a comment and tell me. 

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Learning from Loss: Why We Need to Embrace Goodness

Written on January 16, 2015 at 5:41 pm , by

 

Being blessed with four daughters means that I never had to have the “driving while black” talk. (For those who don’t know, that’s the conversation parents with black sons must have about the extra precautions you need to take should you be pulled over by a police officer.) Now, let me say up front, I respect, defer to and have admiration for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep our citizens and communities safe. However, as a mother my heart has been broken over the recent events involving innocent black youngsters and black men who have died in police encounters in Missouri, New York and Ohio, to name a few.

Just because these events happened in 2014 doesn’t make them any easier to manage emotionally in 2015. Last month, on the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, my heart was broken again as I saw images of the sweet, innocent smiles of victims contrasted with video of the ongoing pain of their surviving family members. A brave mother who lost her outgoing, curious and beautiful daughter stated: “You have bad days and even worse days…but you go on step by step.”

Yes, you go on, but how? Maybe the answer is closer than we imagine. The same ability that allows us to feel our own and others’ pain gives us the power to recognize that hope is all around us. We just have to make a conscious decision to see it, believe it and state it out loud. Our children need to hear us talk about the good in our lives—good people, good actions, good hearts and good words. That goodness connects us. It connects the people of Sandy Hook and the diverse group of people who are marching together for justice.

The new year provides a prime opportunity to teach our children with renewed spirit about giving, loving and being kind…just because. We can teach our children that the most important aspect of the recent holidays were not presents but presence. Interact in a gentle caring way, share history, swap stories and dole out tight hugs. Grief and heartbreak are part of life, but so are hope, goodness, love. And love heals.

How do you move forward from losses you’ve experienced or watched others experience? Post a comment below and let us know.

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

 

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

 

Modern Life: The Joys and Challenges of Raising a Child with Cerebral Palsy

Written on January 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm , by

Photography by Amy Postle

Flexibility is one of the cornerstones of sane parenting, especially when you have a child with special needs. 
As the parents of 9-year-old Sabrina and 12-year-old Max, who has cerebral palsy, Ellen Seidman and her husband, David, have become flex masters—they don’t let challenges dictate how they live their lives. This attitude keeps the family strong and acts as a source of inspiration for Ellen’s award-winning blog, Love That Max. We talked with 
Ellen about going with the flow.

Which three words best describe your family?
Down-to-earth, adventurous, fun-loving. 

How has having a child with special needs changed your outlook on life?
I’ve always been a person who likes to be in control, which has come in handy for making sure Max gets the services he needs. But having a kid with cerebral palsy, a condition for which there is no cure, has given me a roll-with-it sensibility. He can’t catch the softball? Okay, so we’ll just play a batting-only game of T-ball. Can’t get him to go into a restaurant because it’s too loud for him? Okay, we’ll try another one. You have to be flexible when you have a child with special needs, or you will drive yourself up the wall. 

How would you describe your parenting styles?
Me: Disciplinarian. Husband: Marshmallow-like—and he’ll readily admit it too. 

What is dinnertime like at your home?
First, I have to rip the kids away from the TV. At the table, we’ll talk about upcoming activities and how school is going; Max uses an iPad with a speech app to help him communicate. A lot of times, Max will try to get us to hold the spoon and feed him, but we tell him he has to do it himself—we’re all about encouraging independence. 

What is your family’s favorite activity?
Traveling of any kind—road trips, plane trips, train trips, wherever and whenever!  

How does Sabrina relate to Max and vice versa? Has being his sister made her a more empathetic person?
In many ways, my kids are typical siblings: They squabble, they’re competitive with each other, and they want to make sure they get the same size of birthday cake. But because Max has physical challenges, Sabrina has to help him sometimes—say, with holding the Wii remote or drawing something he wants. As the years have passed, she’s become more likely to instinctively help him without my asking. Ultimately, I can imagine that this will translate to her having a hearty sense of empathy for others with disabilities—but because she can also see Max’s abilities, she’ll know that even though people with special needs have their challenges, they are capable in so many ways.   

What is your pet peeve about how people treat Max?
The staring. It’s so rude. Hello, didn’t your mother teach you any better?! I’d much rather people come up to us and engage in conversation rather than gawk. Or even just say hi.

Photography by Amy Postle

Your biggest concerns?
They’ve changed over the years. When Max was a tot, I was anxious about his development and what he would and wouldn’t be able to do, and when. While he’s doing really well for himself (he walks and has some speech), I’ve come to accept him for who he is, keep hoping for progress, and keep getting him therapy up the wazoo! My biggest concern, which I’d venture to say is shared by every parent of a child with special needs: What will happen when my husband and I are gone?  

How has your blog, Love That Max, helped you?
I started my blog to inspire and inform parents of kids with special needs. I’d been through so much grief after Max was born, and I wanted to help others who were in that dark place. I know from comments and emails that parents find comfort in my writing, which does me good. But I also get so much in return: new perspectives on handling Max’s challenges and practical information too, like the best kind of sneakers to fit Max’s foot braces. It’s also been extremely satisfying to show people who don’t know anyone with special needs how absolutely awesome they are. I don’t want pity for my son—just inclusion and respect. When I hear that I’ve changed the way people view those with disabilities, I’m damn proud. 

What is the most important thing you’d like people to know about special-needs children?
It’s best for parents to explain to their kids early on that children with disabilities are more alike than different from them. They should teach them to not be afraid of those who don’t act, talk or move like they do. Please encourage your child to say hello to children with special needs at the playground, the park, a party, wherever.

What surprises you most about parenting?
How cute your kids remain, even as they get older! They are as yummy and adorable to me now as they were when they were roly-poly babies. I still can’t stop kissing them. Only now, they’re getting embarrassed about it. 

Any New Year’s resolutions for you and your family?
We don’t make formal ones, because the second you make them they are doomed to fail, so I’ll just say that our unofficial resolution is: Find more time for fun!  

Modern Life: A Dual-Faith New York City Family Juggles Christmas and Hanukkah

Written on December 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm , by

CATHERINE COPPOLA, 57, MUSIC HISTORY PROFESSOR, RIC FRANK, 63, LOWER SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER AND BAND LEADER, AND CELIA FRANK, 15, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT.

 

For this Manhattan family, December means a holiday double-header: Christmas and Hanukkah. Catherine Coppola, a Catholic, her husband Ric Frank, who is Jewish, and 
their daughter, Celia Frank, pull off this dual-religion feat by combining old and new traditions in “roll-with-it” New York City style. They treated us to a glimpse of their particular winter wonderland, where Christmas ornaments and a menorah mix and mingle.

Questions answered by Catherine unless otherwise noted.

What do you like most, and least, about raising a child in New York City?
It’s great to have the incredible opportunities available here, especially for music and arts education. But it can be difficult for a child to be surrounded by high-end stores and all kinds of food and products that may not always be affordable. The flip side of that disparity, though, is the learning experience of growing up among many different kinds of people and levels of wealth, and the awareness that we are lucky to be in the middle, which can give a kid a healthy perspective.

How would you describe your parenting styles?
I try to talk things through, and accept the fact that the talk may go south, in which case tomorrow is another day. Sometimes you just have to leave it for a while and come back fresh.

My style is changing and evolving. The main thing I do is pick and choose my battles, and try to stay supportive. —Ric

What are some of your family’s Christmas and Hanukkah traditions?

For Christmas, tree decorating includes a goofy version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to go along with a set of ornaments that was given to me by some very good friends, and then we’ll drink eggnog, attend church and have dinner with my extended family. For Hanukkah, we light the menorah and sing the blessing, which Celia knows in Hebrew.

Have you found any challenges to living in a dual-religion household? If so, how have you dealt with them?
I was a church organist for many years, and Celia attended many services with me while Ric practiced his music, so it was natural for her to become part of that community. It also allowed Celia to participate comfortably when we attended church on holidays with the larger family.
Ric was not raised with synagogue attendance except on high holidays, but he always reads the services at home on the holidays and has tried to engage Celia in that way. So for us it has always tilted more toward the Christian side, and that can be a challenge for Ric, whose extended family is not on the East Coast. The challenge is that even with the best intentions, exposing Celia to both traditions can leave her confused as to which religion she is.

How did your friends and family react to your marriage?
We were introduced by a friend of Ric’s, and both his and my friends were happy for us. I had been married before, and about my first husband my father had raised the very legitimate question of why was he divorced. With Ric, my dad asked, “At 44, why has he never been married?” Parents will always have some trepidation until their child’s mate proves that they are a good person who will share your essential values. Once it was apparent that that was the case, my parents were fine with Ric. The only objection came from my very traditional Italian uncle. When I visited him in Bensonhurst and told him I had met a good guy, he asked, “What nationality is he?” When I said Jewish, he put his head in his hands and just shook it back and forth. Once he got over the surprise he was fine. With Ric’s family there was really no issue—his parents liked my cooking!

What song best captures the spirit of your family?
“My Girl.” It was our favorite early in our relationship as a couple, and it captures our love for Celia.

What do you love most about Celia?
I love that she is able to assert herself when necessary but that she seems to know the difference between assertiveness and aggression. I’m actually a little jealous of the way she is able to make her needs and feelings known—and this is true whether they are feelings of anger or of love, with which she is very generous. I also admire the way she can hold her own in conversation, whether with peers or adults, and I am very proud of her honesty and her work ethic.

In addition to Cathy’s thoughts, I really love how Celia stands up for equality across the board whether related to gender, age, race or religion. —Ric

What’s the biggest challenge for your family?
We need to remember how good our life is and keep the trivial things that we argue about in perspective so they don’t weigh us down. And when it’s not so trivial, we need to put a priority on communicating clearly what we feel and need from the other person in the situation. Sometimes that seems even more challenging in a family of three, where the triangle of emotions can be very intense.

Any tricks to keeping sane while trying to do the whole work/life balance juggle?
Yoga and meditation for Ric, Pilates for me and creative work for both of us in performing and writing; it’s also important not to be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself some shortcuts, like a take-out night. Eating together feels good even if you didn’t cook the meal!

When Friends Turn to Foes

Written on December 3, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Two’s company and three can be a crowd when it comes to tween girls and friendships. So how can a mom help her daughter smooth things over when an expanding circle of friendship starts to wreak havoc? Our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman received an email from a worried mother dealing with just such a dilemma. Here’s Rosalind’s advice for keeping the peace.

Dear Rosalind,
My 8-year-old daughter (I’ll call her Alexa) has known another 8-year-old girl (let’s call her Becky) since they were 4 and they’ve gone to the same school. Last year a new girl (let’s call her Jamie) came in halfway through the year and my daughter befriended her. Jamie has a difficult home situation and lives with her great-grandmother. Sadly, Becky is one of several people—including Becky’s overprotective mom—who don’t like Jamie and are giving my daughter a very hard time over the friendship. They’ve begun excluding Alexa. Becky used to cling to Alexa like glue and Alexa never pushed her away. I can’t understand why this girl has become so unkind to my daughter.

As hard as this is to believe, I’d bet any amount of money that the overprotective mom thinks she’s in the right—that in her mind she has a perfectively justified reason for supporting her daughter (Becky) in excluding your daughter’s (Alexa’s) new friend. So let go of “understanding” this woman’s perspective or why her daughter can’t accept the new friendship and focus on supporting your daughter and her new friend.

The only time I would talk to the nasty mom is if she confronts you or something happens between the girls that necessitates you speak with her. If that does happen, I’d say to her, “My daughter likes this new girl and we support the friendship. Our daughters don’t have to be friends, but I would like your support in allowing the girls to go their separate ways without being hurtful to each other.” Then get ready for this woman to be defensive or tell you the reasons why the new girl is a bad influence. Don’t get sucked in. The most you should say in response is, “That’s not been my or my daughter’s experience with this girl and I hope you would respect that.”

You also need to talk to your daughter. Tell her that you’re disappointed that her old friend isn’t being nice to her or the new girl. Maybe she’ll turn around one day but for right now, ask your daughter to give her some space until she can be a good friend.

If the old friend continues to be mean to her or the new girl, she needs to tell you and/or the person she thinks is the smartest adult at school what’s happening. But at base, this is an opportunity for your daughter to learn an important lesson from you: Sometimes good friends do things that make it impossible to continue the friendship for right now. Maybe later things will change. But in the present, it’s important to have friendships with people you actually like who allow you to be friends with others as well.

How would you handle a girl (and her mom) putting friendship pressure on your child? Post a comment and tell me. 

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

Is It Okay for a Mom to #BreakTheInternet?

Written on November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am , by

Celebrity provocateur Kim Kardashian hoped to create an earth-shattering event when she posed for naked pictures in an attempt to #BreakTheInternet. (Warning: That hot link goes to her Paper Magazine spread, which includes nude photographs.) Her ample derriere was widely posted throughout cyberspace. Reactions seemed to range from disinterest to disbelief and astonishment.

Many people voiced concern about her seeming lack of seriousness related to her role as a mom and the potential long-lasting effects of images like this on her daughter. “Why would a mother want to pose like that?” some asked.

Yes, she is a mother. She is also being mothered by a woman who is her manager and obviously supportive of her recent photo spread.

For me, the underlying issue is not about her being open to displaying herself as a sexual being. She has the right to pose in any way that she chooses. There has not been any suggestion that she is abusive or negligent to her adorable daughter. The exhaustion of motherhood, with its additional responsibilities and time demands, can impact intimacy and sexual desire. Those are two situations that require process and communication—not a photo shoot.

The real issue is the way the media drives our consumption of knowledge around individuals who seemingly do not inject any sense of purpose or additional meaning into our lives. Enough. How great would it be if we could #BreakTheInternet with examples of kindness, generosity and overall goodness?

The positive news: According to the Wall Street Journal, the Rosetta spacecraft’s landing on a comet had more tweets then a champagne glass landing on Kim Kardashian’s rear. Score one for the comet and zero for Kim Kardashian. And that is really big, big, big news.

What do you think about Kim Kardashian’s attempt to break the Internet? Post a comment below and let us know.
 Janet Taylor, MD, MPH, a mother of four, is a psychiatrist in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet. Read more of her posts here.

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

 

The Most Important Thing You Can Teach Your Daughter

Written on November 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm , by

Being the parent of a teen girl has never been easy. But being a parent of a teen girl in this gadget-driven, video-vixen, text-versus-talk culture can be monumentally difficult. In this guest post, Sophia A. Nelson, author of The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, explains how to rise above pop culture, catty friends and blaring headphones to give your daughter the tools she needs to succeed.

As an aunt of one tween (age 12) and a bona fide teen (age 16), I take some pride in being very in touch with this new generation (Generation Text, Generation Connection or, more fondly, Gen Y) of young ladies. As a speaker, the author of two successful books about women, and a coach for women in corporate America, faith-based communities and universities, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us as moms, aunts, mentors and role models to boldly and honestly take back our girls by teaching them to know their value.

Of all the modern things we struggle with as women of our time, variations on one age-old question still determine how far we will go in life: “Am I good enough?” or “Can I be enough?” or “Am I worth enough?” Our girls struggle with this even more. They are constantly bombarded with images of beauty, overt sensuality and celebrities who make it to the top by way of YouTube—or worse. They experience the world far differently from us. And it’s up to us to be the bridge over turbulent waters to help keep them centered and focused on what matters most: their value.

How? you ask. It’s really simple.

We have got to reengage in old-fashioned conversation (that means speaking and eye-to-eye connecting) with our daughters. Make them put the gadgets down. We have to talk, not text. We have to stop trying to be a friend and start being what our moms and grandmoms were to us: teachers, advisors, protectors and disciplinarians without apology.

Here are five keys I use with my own nieces, and that I write about in The Woman Code. When put into practice, they shift the energy in our relationships as older women connecting with the next generation of young women.

1. Value yourself. Yes, we can tell our girls, daughters and nieces that their value is not defined on a TV set, a YouTube video or social media. We can drill home that it is defined from within. But know that they are also watching how YOU value yourself. So make sure you are teaching and leading by example.

2. Dare to engage in courageous conversations. Don’t duck the hard issues young girls face today. Be open and be willing to listen. You are the adult. Make sure they know you are there to protect and love them, and that you actually were their age once. It’s all about connection and conversation.

3. Teach your daughters to be authentic. Let them know who proper role models are: women like first lady Michelle Obama or singer Carrie Underwood. Teach them to live from their gifts from the inside out, not to be part of a crowd or a follower.

4. Share with your daughters the power of choosing the right friends early in life. I call it “know your front row.” If you see your daughters with the wrong crowd, intervene. Explain why these friends are not going to help them to win in life. Stress the importance of not engaging in gossip, bullying other girls or allowing themselves to be bullied. This is a favorite pastime of girls—tearing down other girls. And it causes great damage for years to come.

5. Prepare them to guard their hearts—not gate them, but protect them so that they will love the right men, surround themselves with the right friends and honor their deepest desires for marriage and family later in life.

 

Sophia A. Nelson is an award-winning author and journalist. She is a noted TV personality and thought leader on all things women. Her new book, The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, is now in stores everywhere. You can tweet her @iamsophianelson.

Putting an End to Negative Self-Talk in Kids

Written on November 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm , by

A little negativity can go a long way. So when you’ve got a kid who is constantly down on himself, getting him to listen to a positive perspective can seem like an impossible task. A few days ago, the following email from a parent with just this problem landed in the inbox of our parenting expert, Rosalind Wiseman. Here’s her advice for silencing negative self-talk.

 

Q. My 10 year-old son has such a defeatist attitude. He’s always saying, “I’m no good at this or I’m no good at that.” His so-called teammates and friends blame him when they lose games and they never invite him to anything after school. I always struggle to think of the right things to say that my son will actually take to heart. How can I help him?

A. I understand how frustrating this is for so many parents. You feel like there’s nothing you can say to make it better. And if you don’t say, “No honey, you’re great!” you worry that it sounds like you agree with him. So here are my suggestions.

1. Stop using “You’re so great” as your go-to response. It comes across as not listening to your child. Instead, what I find more helpful is to say something like this:

You: I’m really sorry. Will you tell me a little more about why you’re feeling this way? Are there specific things you’re feeling down about?
Your child: I’m so slow. I get teased all the time because I’m the slowest kid in the world. No one has ever been as slow as me in the history of my school.
You: Wow, that’s really hard. I can imagine how annoying that is because it’s not like you want to be slow, and then the kids who tease you make it even worse. There are a couple of things I want you to just consider, not necessarily agree with, but just consider. No one can be good at everything. But the same is true the other way. No one is bad at everything either. I want to make a list of the things you’re good at and the things you’re not so good at. Then you can choose if you want to work on something on your list you want to get better at. Like if you want to get better at running, you can work on that.

2. Consider who’s inspiring these comments. Since classmates or other kids on the team are feeding negative comments to your kid, you might add something like this:

“I know it’s a lot to think about but I want to talk about what’s happening with your friends too. If other kids are mean to you, there are two ways I think you can handle it. Maybe you can think of more. You can laugh it off. Like, if kids on the basketball or track team are teasing you because you’re not as fast as them, you could say: ‘Yes, I’m really slow.’ Sometimes admitting it takes away some of the teasers’ power. Or you could choose not to run in any races or play in any games until you feel more confident. What do you think is a good way to handle it?”

Then listen to your child as he thinks through what he wants to do to have a little control and dignity in this situation.

3. Think about the benefits of being left out here. On the issue of those boys not inviting your son to things: take a step back. I know it feels bad when other children don’t include your child. However, in this case, do you want your son to be in a situation where they could easily ridicule him under the guise of joking around and playing? Overall, what he needs to do is work on the things he identifies for himself that he wants to get better at and then choose genuine friends who make him feel good instead of tearing him down. Even having one friend who treats him well is way better than hanging out with a group of kids who make him feel bad.

How would you handle a kid who’s down on himself? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

 

When Dads Need Help Understanding Tween Girls

Written on November 3, 2014 at 10:24 am , by

Carpools are supposed to make everyone’s lives easier, but this one ride may have caused more trouble than it was worth. Check out our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman’s correspondence with a mom who was upset by a dad who made her daughter feel like an outsider.

Dear Rosalind,

The father on carpool duty picked up my daughter and his from dance class and then took them to a party my daughter wasn’t invited to. When he dropped his daughter off, the windows opened, everyone saw my girl and she was humiliated. She is rightfully questioning whether this girl is a thoughtful friend, while I’m left wondering how to talk to the parents about this so the same situation doesn’t happen again. It’s hard enough to navigate new friendships and the party circuit without parents undermining your kid.

Signed,
Disappointed by Carpool Dad

 

Hi, Disappointed,

I am not excusing his behavior, but I always try to understand why a parent would do something that’s insensitive to a child. Once I understand it, it’s easier to figure out how to talk to the parent so it doesn’t happen again.

In this case, I am guessing that the dad didn’t have a clue what was going on until it was unfolding. Even if he did, he probably did what a lot of us do in awkward social situations: pretend it’s not happening. Think about it from his perspective. He’s picking up carpool and when he realizes that your daughter isn’t invited, he’s between a rock and a hard place. If he had called you from the car, that would have been worse for your daughter. If he hadn’t put her in his car, he would have had to leave her at practice. So my question to you is: What would you have liked him to do?

And regarding your daughter’s friends who attended the party, unless they’ve been excluding her in other ways, they could have felt awkward about the whole thing too. I totally understand that your daughter felt terrible and left out. However, I think this is one of those times (unless there is a pattern where the girls are being mean to her) when you acknowledge how crappy the situation is but she’s strong enough to feel those bad feelings, admit them and then move on.

Look forward to hearing back from you and I hope at least some of my advice is helpful.

Best,
Rosalind 

 

Dear Rosalind:

Ideally, I would have liked the father to bring my daughter home before dropping off his daughter at the party. We have seven elementary schools that feed into three middle schools, so there are new faces right now, and new friendships forming/shifting. My daughter was upset not to be invited, but not devastated. She didn’t think much of her friend going on and on about the party in the carpool ride. She interpreted that as rudeness and thought her friend should know better. She was most embarrassed by being seen in the car by friends she did know who were already at the party. She hasn’t let it bother her since and has moved on—a good sign.

Anyway, I resolved this with the parents, by text, and I’ll paraphrase.

Me: With that party, last week was rough on my daughter, so just wanted to let you know that it’s not a problem to shoot me a text or call, even last minute, if it’s not convenient to bring her home, or if plans change, it’s easy for me to come down to the dance studio. I know how quickly plans change with tweens on a Friday evening!

Other mom: I’m so sorry about that. I was away when the last minute request came for my daughter to go to the party and I was trying to communicate everything to my husband but was busy and didn’t think about all the implications.

Me: I absolutely know there was no ill intention, just wanted us all on the same page for the carpool to work for all the girls.

 

Now, here’s my bottom line after the back-and-forth with this mom: What I love about this parent is that she’s role modeling appropriate involvement in her tween daughter’s life. She recognizes her daughter was upset but not devastated. She reaches out to the other parent to share her concern but is clear about wanting to move forward for all the girls. The only thing I would like even more is if the dad was involved as well. We need to bring dads into these situations more often, especially when they are directly involved, as this dad was. I get that this can be hard, but I’d like to encourage dads to be involved in the social dynamics that can come up.

How would you handle this carpool conundrum? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

Tips for Handling a Breakup as a Parent

Written on October 10, 2014 at 11:15 am , by

Breaking up is (especially) hard to do when you’re a parent. You may not be hitched to your ex anymore, but you’re connected through your kids. Communicate while keeping the peace with these smart strategies.

Set talk terms. If face-to-face is too painful, go with emails, texting or phone calls.

Stick to  ground rules. No bringing up past incidents, no cursing and no threatening.

Organize your thoughts. Write down topics that need to be discussed before you pick up the phone, checking off each item as you address it.

Put the kids first. Their welfare is the priority, so avoid placing them in the middle of situations. When in doubt, ask yourself: What’s best for them?

Choose words carefully. Replace phrases like “you always” or “you never” with “I feel” or “maybe we should consider.”

Listen harder. Sometimes instead of reacting, just reflect. Consider saying, “Let me think about that and get back to you.”

Forgive. Let go of old offenses and accept an “I’m sorry”—or be strong enough to offer one.

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

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

 

Modern Life: Two Dads, Two Kids and Two Dogs Make a Happy Home in the Heartland

Written on October 8, 2014 at 10:13 am , by

 

Mornings that begin with a big family hug are a sweet way to start the day for Chris Osner-Hackett, his husband, Bob Osner-Hackett, and daughters Cai and Ava. Their busy schedules are tempered by calm weekend activities like Friday movie night, long walks with their two dogs, and jaunts to the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market.

Questions answered by Chris Osner-Hackett unless otherwise noted.

Which three words best capture your family?
Loving, grateful and supportive.

How would you describe your parenting styles?
Bob and I have completely different parenting styles. While we’re both supportive of our girls trying new things, Bob is by far the adventurer while I lean toward measured caution. Chris is the worrier and Bob is the encourager. We share the role of disciplinarian. Our styles, for the most, complement each other.

Have you felt accepted by your community?
Yes! First and foremost, we have a truly supportive network of family and friends who love and accept our family unconditionally. We have truly felt welcome wherever we have lived—whether Ohio, New Jersey or Michigan. We like to think it’s because once people get to know our family, it doesn’t matter that we are gay dads. Or it could just be that everyone loves Bob. Sure, there’s an occasional stare where you know someone’s thinking, “Must be dads’ night out with the kids” or “What is the dynamic of that family?” It really doesn’t faze the girls or us.

What surprises you most about parenthood?
How two children brought up in the same home could be so totally different. We have a serious and logical 8-year-old with a dry sense of humor, and a three-and-half-year-old who is animated, boisterous and keeps us laughing.

What are the biggest challenges that your family faces?
Finding time to have a sit-down dinner together.

No different than any other family—balancing the needs/wants of both a three-and-half- and an 8-year-old. We do believe we may face tougher challenges in the years ahead as we deal with questions around adoption and our nontraditional family. —Bob

What is the best moment of the day?
When Ava, our three-and-a-half-year-old, initiates the morning family hug.

What happens on a typical weekend?
The kids love Friday movie night. Saturdays are usually filled with dog walks around the lake, the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market and lots of outdoor activities, like bike riding and tennis.

What are your tips for balancing work and family?
We are fortunate that Bob is able to be a stay-at-home parent. The benefit of having him home with the girls cannot be measured. As for me, I’m fortunate that my employer allows for good work/life balance, allowing me to prioritize the kids’ activities (sports, plays, lessons).

What is dinnertime like at your home?
Organized chaos—while our goal is to have a sit-down family meal, it doesn’t always go that way. Dinners are often preempted by an 8-year-old that, like daddy, is a picky eater, and a three-and-a-half-year-old who would rather play than eat, and the uncertainty of Chris’s arrival time.

Are you cooking this Thanksgiving? Any specialties?
Chris likes to boast about his homemade pumpkin pie, which he claimed for years was a family recipe until one year when he learned that “the secret family recipe” could also be found on the side of the Libby’s Pure Pumpkin can! —Bob

 

How did you feel when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down and you were able to make your marriage legal? What was that moment like?
A big step forward, however, there’s still a lot of work to be done at the individual state level. We’ve been together for 14 years and have considered ourselves “married” since our June 2003 commitment ceremony in Maui. We then filed for a domestic partnership while living in New Jersey, and finally had a legal wedding in Toronto in September 2013, post-DOMA. The striking down of DOMA, while momentous and exciting for the LGBT community, didn’t change the way we felt about each other. We had felt married for 10 years.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about homes with same-sex parents?
The biggest misconception is probably that children need parents of both genders; that with same-sex parents a kid is missing out by not having both a mom and a dad present. We believe this to be false for many reasons. Our daughters know of their circumstances. We’ve been open and honest about their adoptions and the fact that not all families are alike. We have also surrounded them with strong female role models—they have three grandmothers plus godmothers and many aunts/great-aunts/surrogate aunts that are very active in their lives. As long as kids are shown love every day and have a committed person in their lives dedicated to providing them a safe, loving environment, it shouldn’t matter what their gender is. In the end, love makes a family.

 

 

Have You Talked to Your Kids About Hannah Graham?

Written on October 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm , by

 

As an 8-year-old thrilled to be in the beautiful, green outdoors of Michigan for summer camp, I learned a lifelong lesson. While splashing in the cool water, I heard a whistle blow. It was a “buddy check.” The piercing sound meant that you had to quickly find your assigned buddy. Panic ensued when it was determined that a camper—my assigned buddy—was missing.

Thankfully, I had been told in advance that this would happen. The camp counselors had planned the exercise to keep the head swim counselor on his toes and teach the campers the importance of looking out for your buddy. Their scheme worked. I have never forgotten the emotion and chaos of that afternoon, as well as the relief when the camper turned up on the sandy shores of the beach.

With my own daughters, I’ve tried to pass along the importance of simply staying in contact with and keeping an eye on friends in social situations, especially late at night. I still say it, tolerating the rolled eyes or silence as they saunter out my door.

Hannah Graham

A few weekends ago I went to visit my youngest daughter, who is now in her fourth year at the University of Virginia. It was the same weekend that first-year student Hannah Graham went missing. Like most of you, I have watched the news coverage hoping that Hannah will be found safe, and feeling heartbroken at the sight of the anguish etched into the faces of her loving parents.

Tragedies have a way of generating what-ifs and identifying ways to prevent them from happening again. One of the more touching tips came from Hannah’s devastated parents, John and Sue Graham, who stated: ”For those students planning to unwind this weekend, please be extra vigilant when you are out and walk with a buddy.”

We can also remind our teenagers to keep their cell phones charged, to let their friends know where they are going, to never leave a party or event with someone they don’t know, to keep their eyes on their cups at all times, and to choose someone to buddy up with and call the police immediately if they can’t locate them. It’s better to raise a false alarm then to lose time in a search.

My prayers and thoughts are with the Graham family and any other families with missing loved ones. May they all return safely.

 

 

 

 

Have you talked to your child about buddying up whether they’re at the beach or on a college campus? Post a comment and tell me what you suggested.

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

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