Parenthood – Don’t Be A Hero

Parenthood – Don’t Be A Hero.  As a marriage counselor specializing in working with couples, I listen to the many woes of parenthood.  Understanding childhood developmental stages can guide young parents to exercise appropriate and effective parenting.  When you become a parent for the first time it can be overwhelming as you strive to be the best “mother or father” possible.  We all want the best for our children and go to great lengths to make sure that happens.  Even if it chips away at your Sense of Self and marital needs.

In counseling I inform couples that in a healthy relationship the individual is #1 priority in getting needs and wants met.  This is done with mindful intentions that are not all together self-serving. The individual within the relationship is #2 priority. Individuals are Independent in an Interdependent relationship.  The actual relationship is #3 priority and offspring (children) are #4 priority.  Some may disagree with me as they say their children are #1 priority.  I agree that children are a priority but I encourage the order in which I prioritize a healthy healthy and functional relationship. The individual who knows what they want is a good place to start. This individual sets the stage for what kind of relationship you will have.  It’s important to know what a healthy relationship looks like so you know what to expect. When the individual is happy and content the relationship benefits and the two develop a relationship they want.  Every couple is different and has their own unique set of circumstances. It is important not to have parenting negatively affect your relationship. The couple is just as important as the children.

As a parent, I, too, wanted the best for my children. I have to admit I was overfunctioning (doing more than is necessary, more than is appropriate and more than is healthy) and became frustrated and resentful. Actually, all my life I was overfunctioning.  Overfunctioning is a sign of Codependency, and keeps you emotionally and physically fatigue as you are “doing” too much for people who can do for themselves. Doing too much for your children when they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves is “enabling.” Enabling prevents children from become Functional Adults. Enabling (overfunctioning) children not only hurts them, it hurts your relationship. Don’t be a Hero.

You don’t have to do it all. Outsource household work that you not only hate, have no time to do. Cooking home cooked meals everyday may be unrealistic as most couples are two working parent households. And please don’t do yard work, unless it makes you happy. Develop a schedule so that household responsibilities are shared. Schedule sex weekly so you don’t lose intimacy while raising your children. I see parents who have no sex life because they can’t or won’t put boundaries in place to separate out coupling and parenting. You can imagine what happens in the long term. Don’t be a Hero.

As a mother of two adult daughters, I can certainly relate to parents who over function with the good intentions of providing the best for our kids. Because I put good boundaries in place and appreciate the priorities for a healthy relationship my daughters are high functioning, independent and self-reliant people. My husband and I after 21 years of marriage have a relationship that resembles couples in the Honeymoon Stage. It takes a lot of work maintaining your individuality, your couplehood, and being a good parent. Keep in mind your children can do without you “doing” for them.  Don’t be a Hero as that kind of parent is doing a disservice to themselves, their relationship and their children’s ability to Grow Up.

For more information please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should School Start Later?

Should School Start Later?  As a parent, you want the best for your children.  That includes physical, emotional and psychological well-being.  Are you guilty of nagging your teenage kid to get to bed early so they get enough sleep?  We’ve been told by health experts, and it’s conventional wisdom that we should sleep between seven and eight hours for good health. Yet, the assumption that an eight-hour block of sleep is the ideal or norm may be a myth and for teenagers, according to this article by Rachel Ruggera is not even feasible.

photo courtesy: cdc.gov

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight; not engage in daily physical activity, suffer from symptoms of depression, engage in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco and using illicit drugs, and perform poorly in school.

As a parent, you want the best for your children.  That includes physical, emotional and psychological well-being.  Are you guilty of nagging your teenage kid to get to bed early so they get enough sleep?  We’ve been told by health experts, and it’s conventional wisdom that we should sleep between seven and eight hours for good health. Yet, the assumption that an eight-hour block of sleep is the ideal or norm may be a myth and for teenagers, according to this article by Rachel Ruggera is not even feasible.

In an opinion article by my daughter Rachel Rillo Ruggera, 11 grade who attends La Jolla Country Day School she writes , “sleep deprivation is plaguing students across the U.S. even after numerous studies have shown that teenagers would excel more academically and have better mental health with later school start times.

Teenagers have sleep cycles two hours later than adults, meaning that the majority can’t easily fall asleep until around 11 o’clock at night or wake up until 8 in the morning. This difference in time is because their circadian rhythm, or “internal clock”, is different from any other age group, making many teens face chronic lack of sleep throughout their entire school careers. The National Sleep Foundation suggests 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night, but for many high schoolers, this is often an unattainable and unrealistic goal. With a constant barrage of tests, projects, extracurriculars, and sports, teens barely have the time to finish homework, let alone sleep for a healthy amount of time. On average, students go to bed at 10:40 pm, leaving them the bare minimum time to sleep if school were to start at 8:30 am. Given that not all schools begin at this hour and some even have classes at 7:00 am, sleep deprivation has become a public health issue.

Schools with well-rested students have seen an improvement in academic performance and even a decline in tardiness. By improving this one widespread problem, the community would also see a reduced risk of car accidents, obesity, and depression. Studies have proven that with an appropriate amount of sleep each night, students achieve higher grades, higher standardized test scores, and an overall better quality of life.  

While waking up before dawn to get to school isn’t the only cause for lack of sleep it is among one of the leading factors. Part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, excessive amounts of homework, and of course, technology can be detrimental to teenagers’ sleep. One major contributor to this problem can be easily amended by moving start times to later in the morning. If this is the case, then why aren’t school policies changing after all this evidence against early start times?

Later start times would require students to stay in class until later in the day. One argument made is that it would hurt high school sports teams by leaving them less time for after-school practice. Parents also argue that they need teens home earlier in order to take care of younger kids while they’re still at work. With this pushback from the administration and parents, schools haven’t seen significant changes since this new research has been published.

Sleep deprivation isn’t seen as a pressing issue since it has become a social norm among students and hasn’t been addressed by parents or the school. It is part of the school’s culture for students to just toughen up or study more if they aren’t successful in class. With hours of sports practice each week and pressure to add extracurriculars for college resumes, students are expected to excel in their courses at the expense of a good night’s sleep. Instead, conditions at schools should need to change to preserve their students’ mental health.”

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I would recommend you allow your teenager to sleep in as long as they need to on the weekends to catch up on the sleep they need from the prior week’s deprivation.  Don’t shame them for sleeping in late.  If they are taxed with extracurricular activities that prevent that from happening you put them in a vicious cycle where catching up on their sleep becomes a challenge.  Sometimes eliminating some extracurricular activities for the short term can set a limit that proves beneficial in the long run.  If in doubt ask your teen if setting aside an extracurricular would be something they’d like to do.  They typically know what they want and appreciate our help to get the need met.  As Rachel’s mother, asking her how I can help with this process is showing her love and support.

For more information on how to support your teen please contact me at (858) 735-1139

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/25/u-s-doctors-urge-later-school-start-times-for-teens/?utm_term=.6656c6538d08

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/why-school-should-start-later/401489/

https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_troxel_why_school_should_start_later_for_teens/transcript

Learn To Effectively Parent – Part II

Learn To Effectively Parent – Part II.

Last week I wrote about learning how to effectively parent and trusting your parenting skills.  When I was raising my first daughter who is now 27 years old and is a practicing attorney, I was new to parenting and had to learn what worked and what didn’t work.  As she became an adolescent and I became more experienced as a Marriage and Family Therapist I gained invaluable skills to bring her to successful adulthood.  As a Family Counselor, as well as Parent, I believe bringing an offspring (your child) to successful adulthood includes helping them in becoming a self-sufficient, independent, upstanding, responsible community member.  Helping our children know what to do in life is our primary responsibility.  Knowing why they act the way they do during certain developmental stages is helpful so you know how to help guide them during their challenges.  I am currently raising another teenage daughter and believe the following are helpful tools (courtesy of heysigmund.com):

Effectively Parent

The Adolescent Stage

  • Friends will be more important than family. You’re still important, but there’s something they have to do – find who they will be when they step into the world as a healthy, independent adult.  Just like you had to do at their age.
  • What their peers think of them will be a source of stress to them for a while, peaking for girls at age 13 and for boys at age 15. They might go to extra lengths to try to fit in with their peers. This might involve making silly decisions or putting themselves in risky situations. Breathe. It will end.
  • They will become more argumentative and will push against you more. This is perfectly in keeping with their adolescent adventure and their experimentation with independence.
  • May become more emotionally distant from you (don’t worry – they’ll come back but maybe not until they leave their teens).
  • Might not want to be seen in public with you – however cool you are.
  • Will experiment with their image, their identity, and the way they are in the world.
  • They might be impulsive and they might start taking risks.
  • They will be more creative and will start to think about the world in really interesting, different ways.
  • They will act like your opinion of them doesn’t matter but it does – as much as ever.
  • They will often misread your emotional expressions – reading anger, hostility or disappointment when you feel nothing like any of that.
  • Their sleep cycle will change. Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids. This means that they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier.
  • Will want to make their own decisions about the things that affect them.

What to do

  • Don’t be judgmental or critical – they need your love and connection more than ever.
  • Understand that they need to find their independence from you. Give them the space to do this. Over time, their values will be likely to align with yours.
  • Know that your teen isn’t rejecting you, but is finding their own way in the world – it’s an important, healthy part of being an independent adult – even if it feels bad.
  • Let go of control and go for influence. The harder you fight to control them, the harder they will push against you. The truth is that when it comes to adolescence, we have no control – they will decide how much they involve you in their lives, how much they tell you, and how much influence you have. Make it easy for them to come to you when something happens or when they need guidance.
  • Give them information, but don’t lecture.
  • Don’t buy into arguments – ask them to state their case and talk to you about the pros and cons of what they want. By nature, teens will overstate the positives and underestimate the negatives. Encourage them to tell you some of the cons – nothing is ever black or white.
  • Be the calming force – breathe and wait for the wave to pass over you. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to be triggered, to peak and to start to fade, provided you don’t do anything to give it oxygen.
  • Help them to plan ahead and see around corners, but without judgement.
  • Encourage their social connections and give them space to strengthen their relationships. An important part of their development is to decrease their independence on the family tribe and to do this. To do this, they will feel an increased need to strengthen their affiliation with a friendship tribe. Encourage and support this wherever you can.
  • Help them find safe ways to take risks such as sports – competitive and non-competitive.
  • Let them know you will always do whatever you can to collect them from any situation when they want to come home – regardless of the circumstances and how late or far away it might be.
  • Let nothing be off limits when it comes to what they can talk to you about.
  • Wherever possible, let them sleep in to catch up on sleep deficits.
  • Listen more than you talk.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Couples Counselor, and Relationship Expert, it is important to know there are things to learn, mistakes to be made, boundaries to be pushed, independence to be found while parenting.  The experience is beautiful, exhausting, baffling, sometimes terrifying, overwhelming and even traumatic. Be patient and don’t take their opportunities to learn and grow away from them by taking their mistakes and their less than ideal behavior personally. Their greatest growth will come from the mistakes they make and the limits they push.  Even under ideal circumstances, they are going to make mistakes. Provided they have the support they need, their mistakes will be about their growth, not your parenting.

Acquire the tools to effectively parent and then trust those skills.  Growing up is a journey of learning, exploring and experimenting for our children and for us.  If you need help in acquiring effectively parenting tools please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Learn Effective Parenting Then Trust Your Parenting

Learn Effective Parenting Then Trust Your Parenting.  There’s nothing that beats the pride I feel when reading my daughter’s progress report.  She’s 15 and a Freshman who at a very young age knew if she needed help with any school work she is to ask.  Whether from her father, myself or her educators.  And if that wasn’t sufficient, and I know I wouldn’t be helpful with anything to do with Math or Science, a tutor was to be considered.  The point being I never “bugged” her about doing her homework or if she handed it in on time.  She knows what is expected of her as she has always been given choices.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist working with loving parents for over 21 years I also see that some can be overbearing and project their own anxieties upon their children creating undue pressure on them and disharmony within the family.  It’s those “helicopter moms” and “controlling dads” that get in the way of effectively parenting their kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe we as parents need to guide our children by placing boundaries and putting limits in place so they’ll know how to take care of themselves through their process of growing up.  But that’s just the point, it’s their process, not ours.  When parents can grasp that concept their children are free to “be” who they are going to be and will have the good well-being to choose for themselves what is right for them.  Often times those choices are the right choices albeit they might not be what we want.

IMG_3794

So in reading her English teacher’s comments, “she earned A’s on all her Macbeth tests; her responses to the short-answer prompts indicate good comprehension of the reading and are among the best I received.”  “In short, she possesses all the skills needed for successful literary analysis.”

Her Science teacher comments, “she remains quiet as ever and her intense focus on exactly what she needs to do is a welcome respite from the conversations that happen around her in class, I am consistently awed by how much she is able to accomplish during class.”

It goes on and on as her World Culture teacher states she has earned a preliminary recommendation for an AP History as her Sophomore history class.

As a mother I’m not immuned to my own anxiety when I see her heading to bed at 11 pm and sometimes leaving the house a little later for school because of it ending up a bit tardy for her first class.  Or when she sleeps in until 11 pm on weekends to catch up on her sleep.  My mother used to say I was lazy for sleeping in so late on the weekends when in fact science indicates a teenager’s sleep cycle will change.  Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids.  This is referred to as “sleep phase delay.”  This means they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier.  If you didn’t know that as a parent you could be experiencing Power Struggles with your child and that would create disharmony between you.

As a Marriage Counselor who works with single parents and intact families I help parents learn and understand childhood developmental stages.  With knowledge comes a better understanding of how to raise and parent our children and get the outcome we all want.  When it comes to teenagers, as much as we want more hands on, for obvious reasons, the more we are to trust and give them their independence so they can learn to make the right choices for themselves.  For more information on the best parenting possible contact me at (858 735-1139.