Archive for July 2010

Set them loose: college students and substance abuse

July 29, 2010
John Belushi is the ultimate example of drug abuse gone wrong, both on the screen and personally. TEenagers and drug abuse are a huge risk. Teens can make good decisions. Good parenting can keep teens out of trouble. spend time together as a family. have family dinner  to prevent drug abuse among tweens & teens. Family dinner is one of the best ways to prevent drug abuse.

John Belushi is the ultimate icon and personal example of drug abuse and excessive behavior. Photo by http://www.belushi.com

Parents, rest assured, every college is a party school. Every first-year college student will have access to alcohol and other drugs.

In installment #3 on drug abuse & children, questions precede  the rules, because college students act and think independently. This is when parents find out if they’ve taught children to make good decisions when they’re 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour.

During family dinner ask college students the following questions. See how much they know. Let them tell you what they know because you know how little parents know 🙂

1. Do you need to do drugs, drink alcohol in order to have fun? If so, you might have a drinking/drug abuse problem. There are places to get help.

2. Do you know about alcohol poisoning? How much does it take? Tell me about the side effects, such as accidental death and injury, rape, and oxygen deprivation.

3. Do you know about date rape drugs? I know a young woman who was given a date rape drug by an upper-class male during her first week of school at an exclusive college. She woke up the next day bleeding from her vagina. His punishment? A one semester suspension. What is your plan to avoid date rape?

4. Do you know it is illegal to buy liquor for and to serve liquor to minors? When someone does that for you, she/he is breaking the law.

5. Do you know any young people who have abused substances and died, been disabled and/or are in rehab? Make it a practice to notice such events in the news.

The rules. Say these to your college students before they leave home.

1. “You are going to school to learn and to earn a college degree, not for a 24/7 party. We (your parents) will ONLY pay college bills and support you when you achieve a grade point average of 3.0 or better. We expect you to finish your education in four years and will only pay for four years.”

2. “If you ever get into a jam, do not hesitate to call me,” even if you are thousands of miles from the college. Parents are aware of many more resources than young people.

3. “You will have access to drugs and alcohol. I am trusting you to make good decisions, practice moderation and get help when you need it. Be responsible. Your live will depend on it.”

It’s okay if they respond with, “Oh, mom!” or “Oh, dad!” You’ve done your parental duty.

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Children will not go away when ignored. Marriages will.

July 28, 2010

THE MOST important relationship in a family is between the parents.

Parenting means keeping marriaging. Keep the marriage going by investing in it. Bob & I are spending time traveling in china together, without the children. We make the effort to spend time together. We have marriage dates. We have fun together. We have sex. We laugh.

Here we are in China, having fun together. You can have fun in your own back yard and bedroom, too. Go to China when college tuition bills end.mother, or father-father.

Divorce is the MOST disruptive event in a child’s life – emotionally, economically, and logistically. No child wants his/her parents to get divorced. Period.

Hence, parents  invest in your relationship. Take these actions.

  1. Take time to be together regularly. Set a monthly date if necessary. Laugh. Have sex. Have fun together doing something you both like.
  2. Talk daily. Ironically, when my husband traveled for corporate America, we talked MORE because I set aside 30 minutes at the end of the day after the kids were in bed to talk to him, uninterrupted. I made it a priority to stay in touch with him. We had a rule — no fighting when he was on the road because it felt like a dead-end when we hung up, with nowhere to go.
  3. Go away together as a couple once a year, for at least an overnight. “As a couple” means without the children! Find someone to take care of your children – pay, trade, ask relatives or friends. I found people to care for our four children and a dog. Crazy people are out there! Some of them are childless & might enjoy the adventure. Others do it because they’re related to you. We did all of the above – paid, traded, and asked friends/relatives.
  4. GET TUNE-UPS regularly. You maintain your car and your house, do the same for your marriage with the same regularity. Without fail. Filling up your tank every week with gas translates to weekly dates as simple as reserving time together after putting the children to bed.We had a standard in-house date of dinner and a movie. I fed the kids early, put them in front of their movie while we ate. Then we put them to bed and watched our movie.
  5. Get professional help until you learn to communicate openly and heal your childhood wounds. Therapy, workshops and groups are all WAY CHEAPER than getting divorced. Invest in your marriage, it’s worth it.

We followed the above guidelines and are going on 30 years together, and survived raising four children, moving five times and financial crises.

The first 20 years are the hardest. After the children leave home everything seems so simple. I fell in love with my husband again after the children left home. It’s wonderful to be with my life mate and the father of my children.

We drove over many bumps in the road to get here, with unexpected stops and destinations. HANG ON for the ride. It’s worth it.

“Scare the crap out of them” to keep teens away from drugs

July 27, 2010
drug abuse prevention among teens starts well before age 11, the average age children are introduced to drugs. Follow positive parenting plans and avoid drug abuse by teenagers . Adolescents must be empowered to say NO to drugs. Parents are the anti-drug

My worst nightmare is that picture would be my teenager. Photo source: http://www.rehab-center.com

The photo at right gives me the chills. I can only imagine the pain and helplessness of being the parent of a teen who abuses drugs & liquor.

Rule 1. Make family dinner non-negotiable. Everyone must show up and make pleasant conversation at family dinner most nights of the week. Research done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse at Columbia University proves that teens who have family dinner five time a week or more are less likely to use marijuana and tobacco, drink alcohol and get drunk.

Tweens and teens will complain and resist. Too bad. Use the double E’s — encouragement and expectation. “I know you can arrange your schedule to be home for dinner. I expect you to be there.”

Rule 2. Educate them and yourself by “scaring the crap out of you.” When I asked my fourth “child,” (now 22) “Why didn’t you do drugs in high school?” She said “The movie, Requiem for a Dream scared the crap out of me.” I rented the movie and it scared the crap out of me, too. It brilliantly portrays a mother addicted to diet pills and young people and dealers hooked on heroin. The movie Trainspotting will also scare the crap out of you. Good! Fear and desire motivate us.

When I stumbled upon the book, “A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey, the nearly-true story of his drug addiction and recovery, the whole family (then ages 15-22) read the book within a few week. It’s a good story because the reader never knows what’s going to happen next.  Whether the story is true or exaggerated, it “scared the crap out of me” about drug use and addiction.

Rule 3. Do not condone drug/alcohol abuse either directly or with subtle hints, like “Boys will be boys,” or “Stay out of trouble tonight, honey, wink-wink.”  These double messages confuse teens. Avoid sarcasm when talking about substance abuse. Ask and confirm their whereabouts through spot checks, “Where are you going? Will there be adult supervision? Who is driving? When will you be home?”

Always give them these escapes: “If you ever find yourself in a difficult or dangerous situation, use me as the fall guy. Say, ‘I have to get home right now or my mom will kill me.’ Know that you can call me anytime from anywhere and I’ll come and get you, no questions asked, no punishment.”

And live up to the promise.

External resource for drug addiction help: http://www.withdrawal.net/learn/withdrawal-treatment/

Next: Part 3 on how to encourage good decision-making to keep them off drugs:  the college years

Have fun this summer & stay safe

July 26, 2010
Children can benefit by learning to swim to stay safe.

Every child ought to learn to swim. Photo from the City of Carson, Calif., Recreation Department

There’s still four to five weeks left of summer and enough time to get to some of the things on your “to do” list with the children. I hope teaching them to swim is on the list.

The leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 in Massachusetts is drowning. WATCH THEM! Drowning is a silent death. They can slip under water and disappear in an instant. If you have a swimming pool in the backyard, the most dangerous pools are the ones with the house as the fourth wall.

Make sure every one of your children learns to swim and safe comfortable in the water. Otherwise non-swimmers must wear a life jacket at all times around water. Use life jackets like bike helmets — all ages wear them automatically.

Helmets make good sense. Upon purchasing a ski helmet, my brother Stephen said, “My head is my most valuable asset.” He’s right. Parents – model wearing helmets. Most bike fatalities are adults. Only one-seventh of the bike fatalities in the US were for youths under age 16. There’s a website dedicated to bike helmet safety. http://www.bhsi.org/index.htm

Wearing bike helmets falls under teaching children to make good decisions when you’re not around. When parents use natural and logical consequences that are respectful, related and reasonable (thanks Jane Nelsen Ph.D.), children learn the relationship between their decisions and the outcome. They learn to make good choices, an important life skill. We want teens to choose well when they’re 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour.

Partner with your young people to make good decisions together. Give tweens and teens a long leash if they’ve proved trustworthy. When asked, “Mom, can I take the MBTA to Harvard Square?” put it on the family meeting agenda and talk about the maturity needed for such an excursion.

Children are more likely to get struck by lightning than to be kidnapped and murdered by a stranger. The probability is one in 1.5 million. Most missing children have been abducted by an estranged parent, someone they know or have run away.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Have a family meeting and talk about safety and what they want to do as a family before school starts.

Here are some places to learn to swim around Lowell, Mass.

FREE lessons through the DCR – started today, July 26. Contact them to see if your child could sign up.

Aug 2-Aug. 31 Lowell YMCA

Fall lessons: UMass Lowell Recreation Center

Candyland and drug-free teens, Part 1 (of 3)

July 21, 2010
Candyland requires parents to have patience and spend time with children having fun, competing, entering their little world. Candyland taught me patience. Candyland taught me how to slow down and take time with my children.

Playing Candyland with your toddler lays the foundation of a good relationship.

My biggest fear was that my four teens would get hooked on drugs or alcohol. None did. They’re all 20-something, college grads & living independently.

Was I just lucky? I doubt it because drugs/booze are always available. My workshops on what I most needed to learn helped. The main objective: how to cultivate a positive family environment without reward & punishment. This connects to drug-free teen years. By the way, children are offered drugs/alcohol during their 11th year.

Rule 1: Parents are the anti-drug.

Young people abuse drugs because they: are bored; have too much money and not enough time with parents; want to rebel against parents; make bad decisions; have bad friends; have no hope and low self-esteem; have too much freedom and too little supervision; receive unconscious messages from parents  that they expect teens to use drugs/alcohol; and more.

Most of these reasons trace back to parents being either over-controlling (which can cause rebellion) or under-involved, when parents do not: build a strong relationship with children by spending time with them (see rule 3); keep track of their children and who they’re friends are; and/or provide productive ways to spend time.

Rule 2: Use the first 11 years to develop a positive, open, warm, trusting relationship with your child. This is called spending lots of time together — eating dinner together most nights, doing chores together, playing Candy Land, going to the park, reading aloud to them every night, cooking, building a bird house together, shooting hoops, telling stories, laughing, or in short, showing an interest in your child, daily.

Rule 3: Practice mutual respect. Use family meetings to negotiate reasonable boundaries and agreements. THEN allow children to make decisions and experience the natural and logical consequences of their choices.

When children practice making decisions, for example, of whether to clean up their room, get a haircut, remember lunch money, or do their homework and feel the results of NOT doing those things, they learn about cause and effect. Then they learn to make better decisions, without being nagged or punished and avoid entitlement.

The main causes of entitlement are that parents:

a. Do everything for children and ask nothing from the child. Children grow up like they live in a free restaurant and hotel with a driver on call;

b. Do not let children fail. This denies children the opportunity to learn to make good decisions so when they become teens and they’re 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour, they will make REALLY GOOD decisions. That’s what it’s all about.

Part two is on teens and research on family dinner and preventing drug abuse. Part three is on the college years.

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Empty nest is inevitable and enjoyable

July 16, 2010

This book is a reminder for all parents that some day their nest will empty. Like all Good parenting books, this book unites us with other parents and reminds us to be in the present momentI enjoyed this collection of essays “The Empty Nest” edited by Karen Stabiner because they reflect the stage of life I’m at, with my fourth and final “child” at home for what might be her last summer before starting graduate school in a few weeks.

As a young mother, the thought of an empty nest seemed far-off, improbable and something to be worried about later, tomorrow, after I made another meal, ran another load of laundry and fell into bed exhausted, surrounded by my little tribe of four.

My mother Mildred, the wise mother of nine children and 25 grandchildren, said, “Each day they will need you less.”

Mom was right. Each day is preparation for the day they will eventually leave your home. If they stay forever, that’s a problem of its own.

Celebrate the moment you’re in now with your child, wherever and whatever that is. Believe older mothers when they say, “This will pass quickly.”

Time seems to go by faster as I get older. Time passing makes clear what is really important.

Editor Karen Stabiner collected the 31 essays from outstanding writers, mostly white and upper class. Several fathers, a few single parents, parents of color and non-heterosexuals were thrown into the mix. The contributors were almost all highly educated, wealthy,  (boarding school types) successful, and well-published.

I wanted to hear from parents of lesser means, with bigger families and smaller careers who are more like me. The essays were all written by accomplished professionals. What about the full-time moms who made motherhood their lives? How did it feel to become obsolete? Why do women have to justify our existence with  a paid career?

I was grateful to be employed outside of the home by the time our four started trooping out the door. I eased the ache.

I still hate to cook alone. The silence and calm of the house feel spooky. I’ve re-learned how to work, think and love without constant interruption — which took some adjustment. Then someone comes home for an extended stay — summer vacation, spring break or occasionally, between jobs. And my life feels normal again.

I live in the yin-yang between old normal and new normal. Both are good.

No matter what, being a mother or father is THE most important thing we will do in our lives, with the longest-lasting legacy. It’s also the toughest.

Make tantrums history by looking at their history

July 13, 2010
there are many causes of Tantrums. Parents have to look beyond the immediate frustration and see the bigger picture to eliminate tantrums. parents may have trained children to use tantrums because they work. Tantrums can be solved by parents taking a different attitude.

Is the little guy hungry, sleepy or just sick of shopping with mom?

One day I followed my 4-year-old son upstairs when he threw a fit and I realized he used the tantrum to get one-on-one attention from me. In a family of four children, it was a good strategy for him to use. I realized that I owed him some regular bursts of positive attention — to prevent using tantrums to get my attention.

Tantrums are a symptom of something deeper in the parent-child relationship. Use introspection to figure out underlying causes so they can be eliminated.

Ask:

1. Does the tantrum get the child what she wants? If so, the parent has trained her to use tantrums because parents have established the pattern of responding to them. They work, so the child uses them.

2. Is the child’s emotional cup running over? Do parents give enough time to him in short bursts over the course of a day, week and month? Does he feel like he’s a priority in the parent’s life without going to extremes to be seen and heard?

3. At the time of the tantrum, is the child over-tired, hungry or stressed about a transition [going/coming to dad’s house, school vacation, a big holiday]? Has the parent asked too much of the child (for example, taken her on a lengthy adult shopping trip?)If so, show respect for the child’s needs to eat, rest and play, and figure out ways to anticipate significant transitions in the child’s life.

Parents need to take a bigger picture view of tantrums because there are no one-click fixes in parenting. Learn to slow down and tune into your child’s needs, wants, preferences and pace of life.

Although it might not feel like it in the moment, their youth is SO BRIEF in the overall scheme, it is worth taking/making the time to be present with them and balance them with your own needs.