Thursday, September 30, 2010

Talking with Teens

In talking with the mom of a teenage girl today, I was reminded of the importance of two things in the relationship between parent and teenager: the language used and the practice of turning agenda-driven discussions into open conversations. Here are some simple things to keep in mind to create peace in your home and to stay connected with your teen as she traverses these turbulent years:


When speaking with your teen, put things on the table. If you think your son has been less than truthful with you, let him know what you know to be true rather than attempting to catch him in a lie. If he said he was at a friend’s house and you know that he wasn’t, avoid saying, “How was your visit with your friend?” Instead, say, “I spoke with Mark’s mother today and I know that you were not there. Let’s talk about what happened.” If you don’t think your daughter has completed her science project, avoid skirting the issue with questions that will probably imply mistrust. Instead, use an I-statement to dispel her defensiveness and to voice your feelings. For example, “I feel uncomfortable because your science project is due next Friday and I haven’t seen you working on it. How is it going, and can I help in any way?”


Use “and” as your conjunction rather than “but.” When you say to your teen, “I love you but I am not willing for you to spend the night at Julie’s house”, she will not hear the “I love you.” People tend to ignore the words that come before the “but”. Simply rephrasing the statement by substituting “and” for “but” will keep the “I love you” in the conversation and in her heart.


Some big issues for parents of teens and for teens themselves are school success, love relationships, drugs and alcohol, and relationships with friends. By having conversations about these big ticket items, you keep the door open for connected communication. As you let go during the teen years, you can embrace being your child’s ally. The one item that distinguishes a conversation from a lecture is an agenda. If you are promoting your agenda rather than seeking understanding, it is a lecture. A conversation means that both you and your teen have a space to voice feelings and desires. What do you want? What does she want? What are your boundaries and limits? What are hers? The more “conversational” the discussion, the more empowered and invested your teen will be. The more of an ally you will be. The more connected you both will be.

And did I say listen?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Driven to Distraction

Our mission at Whole Hearted Parenting is to assist parents in creating peace at home. A few days ago a mom who had scheduled a coaching session asked a follow-up question about redirecting children while in the car. What a great topic! Everything happening in the car seems somehow magnified. The distractions of children who might be fighting, continually requesting your help or making demands can be unnerving and unsafe. Here are a few suggestions for creating peace in your car.

Have a conversation at home with your children about safety in the car. Let them know how important it is for you to be able to focus without distractions while you drive and that they are your safety team, helping you to keep everyone safe. Request that they ask only once for something (rather than the barrage of “Mommy, mommy, mommy”) and that they handle things themselves. For instance, if you child has something he needs to use or play with while in the car, it is his job – if it is age appropriate – to place it within reachable distance when he gets in rather than depend on the driver of the car to retrieve it for him. The driver's job is to drive.

Ask your child to create a verbal or physical signal so that you can let him know that you feel distracted. Examples are the words “focus” or “OM” or the peace sign. It could also be some very calming music that you play. It could be a song that you sing. Let your children know that if you are distracted, you will pull over and stop to be safe.

If your children are fighting or out of control or your feel distracted while you are driving, first give them the signal. For instance, firmly say, “Focus!” Put on your calming music or begin to sing the chosen song. If the behavior persists, calmly pull over to a safe place and park the car. One mom got out of the car and sat on the hood until her children calmed down.

A friend tells the story of driving her children and their cousins to Orlando for a trip to one of the “worlds.” While driving out of town, they began arguing over which “world” they would visit. The arguing got heated. She safely exited the turnpike, parked the car and calmly said, “I am willing to take you to any of the theme parks that you choose to visit. I am not willing to listen to the arguing any longer. You have ten minutes to reach a decision on which park you wish to visit.” As she stepped out of the car to let them have privacy to negotiate, she overheard her son say, “And she means it!” This is a mom who sets clear limits and followed through.

The more you successfully redirect the fighting, rivalry, power struggles and attention-seeking at home, the less often you will experience it in the car.

Hunger and fatigue are triggers for power struggles and meltdowns, so it pays to have snacks in the car as well as a comforting pillow or blanket. After school, when blood sugar is low and kids are tired, and long trips are times to have these supplies on hand.

You might also wish to declare your car a “peace zone (PZ).” Be clear that negotiating, helpfulness, gentle touch, honoring a sibling’s personal space and a respectful tone of voice are all part of the PZ.

Peaceful driving!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Adoption Myths

This week I am blogging on Adoption Myths on Moms Miami. Join the conversation.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Make School Your Child’s Ally After Divorce

Many thanks to Rosalind Sedacca for this timely article on creating a team with your child's school to assist the family post divorce or separation. This team can also be helpful when a divorced parent remarries, particularly if the new spouse has children from a previous marriage who will be living at home. The team can assist a child experiencing the intense, complex and ambiguous emotions that may arise from sharing his parent with another adult and other children, sharing a home, and having another adult in a parental role. You will also find wonderful meditations and Verbal First Aide in this week's issue of Parenting News. The meditations are calming and create clarity around emotions. To receive Parenting News, please visit

Returning to school after their parents have separated or divorced can be difficult for any child. You can ease the transition, however, by opening the door to the many resources available to you through the school. The key here is in forming a cooperative relationship with key personnel.

Making your child’s teachers aware of a major change in your home environment is helpful both for them and your child. That’s because school is really a second home for children in our culture.
Regardless of their age, children can’t be expected to turn off their emotions during or after a divorce any more than their parents can. Fear, insecurity, shame, guilt and other emotions are usually triggered when a parental marriage ends. These complex feelings can affect a child’s focus, self-esteem, relationships with their friends as well as their academic performance.
Many children trust and feel safe with their teachers. By talking to the teacher in advance and explaining the status of your post-divorce arrangements, you can go a long way toward helping your child feel more secure or less alone.

Here are some tips for making the most of your school system and professional educators:

• A compassionate teacher can keep an eye open for signs of distress or depression in your child. You can provide some messages for the teacher to share should they feel it appropriate to talk with your child about their feelings. A trusted teacher can remind your child that he or she is not at fault … that they aren’t the only students at school who are going through these challenging times … and that life will move back into a more comfortable place before too long. This can be helpful in reinforcing prior conversations you’ve already had with your child. It also reassures your child that the divorce is not a big shameful secret. It can be discussed candidly and openly without shame.

• It’s also wise to speak with your child’s guidance counselors. These professionals are trained to handle challenging circumstances and can be an ally that you and your family can count on for support and suggestions.

• The key here is to bring these educators onto your team on behalf of your child. With their eyes open, it will be easier to detect signs of depression, aggression or other behavior changes that need to be brought to your attention and discussed as soon as possible.

• Some schools offer support groups for children coping with divorce issues. It can be very helpful for children to talk to one another, sharing their fears and other anxieties during or after the divorce. Knowing they’re not alone, that they’re accepted and that others are facing the same type of family dynamics gives children a sense of belonging. It’s also an opportunity to vent and make new friends with children who can empathize with them. The less alone a child feels, the better they are able to accept the challenges they will be facing in the weeks and months ahead.

Talk to your child before sending them back to school. Discuss any changes in routine or scheduling they can expect. Also let them know who they can talk to at school if they are feeling sad or have questions about adapting to life at school post-divorce. School can be your child’s best friend at this time – and a great support system for your family – if you take advantage of all the resources available.

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a relationship seminar facilitator and author of How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! The ebook provides fill-in-the-blank templates for customizing a personal family storybook that guides children through this difficult transition with optimum results. For free articles, coaching services and other resources on child-centered divorce or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to