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Many college graduates will soon be joining the workforce, some for the first time. The transition can be a real shocker as they face their new reality of 8-hour days, specific start times, no more spring breaks and a limited amount of time for lunch. Plus, some workplaces expect employees to work at a rigorous pace that is foreign to many college students.

In the adjustment phase, young adults may complain to their parents about workplace practices, demanding bosses, irritating co-workers and deadlines, just to name a few issues. This is nothing new for sure. 

Anybody who has held a job can probably relate, but here’s where things get interesting. In an effort to be helpful, many parents jump right in to deal with the issue at hand. In fact, you might be surprised at just how many parents are quick to take the reins and deal with the issue themselves.

In a recent survey of parents of children ages 18-28 conducted by Morning Consult, 11 percent of the parents surveyed said they would contact an employer if their child was having issues at work. Of the parents surveyed:

  • 76% reminded their adult children of deadlines they need to meet, including for schoolwork. 
  • 74% made appointments for them, including doctor’s appointments. 
  • 42% offered them advice on relationships and romantic life. 
  • 16% helped write all or part of a job or internship application. 
  • 15% told them which career to pursue.
  • 14% helped them get jobs or internships through professional network.
  • 14% gave more than $500 per month for rent or daily expenses.

With the possible exception of giving romantic advice, none of these behaviors on the part of the parent are helpful in preparing a young adult for the real world.

Instead of jumping in to rescue them, it would be helpful to assist them in being prepared to deal with real-life work situations. Here’s how you can start:

  • When they encounter a difficult professor, process with them potential ways to approach the professor and have a conversation. 
  • Teach them how to make their own doctor’s appointments. 
  • If they have internship possibilities, rehearse with them how to make the initial phone call or introduction and talk with them about potential interview questions. 

If they believe they are being treated unfairly or inappropriately at work, get a good understanding of what is happening. Then:

  • Attempt to walk through the situation with them, but realize the situation is not yours to handle. 
  • Ask them what they think they need to do besides quit, which sometimes ends up being an option if nothing else works, and then help them figure out an action plan they can execute by discussing the pros and cons of all viable options. 
  • If you don’t think you have the knowledge or skill set required to help them decide how to move forward, connect them with someone you believe has the knowledge to do so. Avoid the temptation to make the call yourself. 

It can be painful to watch your young adult deal with difficult and sometimes very complicated circumstances, especially if they are a hard worker and what they are walking through seems unjust. However, it is not healthy or helpful to jump into circumstances they need to learn how to handle themselves. Life is for sure not fair, and this will likely not be the last time they have to navigate dealing with a difficult situation. 

Whether your adult child is still in college or in the workforce, writing papers for them, calling them to make sure they are awake, reminding them of deadlines or interfering at work does not prepare your child for the reality of living an independent, productive life. Doing these things will make them more dependent on you and less prepared for dealing with what life hands them on their own.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 31, 2019.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Do you remember those lively dodgeball games during recess? What about freeze tag, kickball, Four Square or climbing on the jungle gym? Many parents today likely have great memories of running around outdoors during school recess. And, chances are pretty good that once you got home from school, you played outside after finishing your homework. However, that is not the case for many children, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is concerned about the impact that lack of play is having on children.

The AAP states that the most powerful way children learn isn’t only in the classroom or libraries, but rather on playgrounds and in playrooms. The importance of playful learning for children cannot be overemphasized.

Experts define play as an activity that is fun and engaging, which could define a number of activities. But the difference in play and other activities is that play has no set outcome, no score to achieve and nothing to produce. It’s just good, old-fashioned fun.

“We’re recommending that doctors write a prescription for play, because it’s so important,” says pediatrician Michael Yogman, M.D., lead author of the AAP report. “Play with parents and peers is fundamentally important for developing a suite of 21st century skills, including social, emotional, language and cognitive skills, all needed by the next generation in an economically competitive world that requires collaboration and innovation. The benefits of play cannot really be overstated in terms of mitigating stress, improving academic skills and helping to build the safe, stable and nurturing relationships that buffer against toxic stress and build social-emotional resilience.”

Research indicates that family playtime enhances communication and tends to create a positive environment. Another benefit of letting the child direct the playtime is that it can help parents learn their child’s areas of interest.

Through the years, children’s playtime has been threatened, especially as schools have removed recess from the schedule in an effort to focus more on academics. A national survey of 8,950 preschool children and parents found that only 51 percent of children walked or played outside once a day with a parent. Additionally, surveys have found that as many as 94 percent of parents have safety concerns about outdoor play.

No one will be surprised to know that technology also impacts play. According to media research, the average preschooler watches 4.5 hours of television a day, which is associated with greater risks of obesity. If you factor in the time that kids of all ages spend on their personal devices, and it’s easy to see that playing outdoors has been replaced with screen time.  And, it’s not just preschoolers who are living a sedentary lifestyle.

“Media use such as television, video games, smartphone and tablet apps are increasingly distracting children from play. It’s concerning when immersion in electronic media takes away time for real play, either outdoors or indoors,” says pediatrician Jeffrey Hutchinson, M.D., a co-author of the report.

The report encourages educators, pediatricians and families to advocate for and protect unstructured play and playful learning in preschools and schools because of the numerous benefits it offers in all areas of life and development.

If play isn’t something that comes naturally to you, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Have a water fight with buckets, squirt guns and the hose.
  • Build a fort in your back yard or with the furniture and sheets in your family room.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Visit a children’s museum.
  • Make chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
  • Rake the leaves into big piles and jump in them.
  • Go for a walk in the rain and stomp in the mud puddles.
  • Play with Play-Doh.
  • Build something out of Legos.

“The next time your child wants to play with you, say yes. It’s one of the best parts of being a parent, and one of the best things you can do for your child,” Dr. Yogman says. “Play helps children learn language, math and social skills, and lowers stress. Play is important both for children and their parents since sharing joyful moments together during play can only enhance their relationship.”

In Dr. Phil Zimbardo’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talk about the demise of guys, he states that boys are flaming out academically and wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.

In response to Zimbardo’s talk, Dr. Gary Wilson explains why guys are flaming out and what we can do about it. He bases his reasoning on years of research concerning the neuroscience of reward, sex and bonding.

According to Wilson, most boys seek porn by age 10. At that age, a brain that is suddenly fascinated by sex drives the boys. Thanks to high-speed internet, boys have access to unending novelty. The boy’s brain releases dopamine with each new image, and he will keep going as long as he can keep clicking.

Eventually, the brain wires itself to everything associated with porn such as: being alone, constant clicking, voyeurism, shock and surprise – instead of learning about real sex, which involves interaction with a real person, courtship, commitment, touching, being touched and emotional connection.

Porn Is A Serious Addiction

In 2009, a Canadian researcher attempting to study the impact of porn could not find any college males who weren’t using porn, so he had no control group for his research. He asked 20 male students who had been using porn for at least a decade if they thought porn was affecting them or their relationships with women. All of them said they didn’t think so. However, many of these males were dealing with social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression and concentration problems.

“Of all the activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to be addictive,” says Wilson. “Everything in the porn user’s life is boring except porn.”

Interestingly, there are thousands of men, young and old, who are giving up porn. Why? Because it is killing their sexual performance.

A guy in his 20s reports, “I have been to psychologists and psychiatrists off and on for the last eight years. I was diagnosed with depression, social anxiety, severe memory impairment, tried numerous medications, dropped out of college twice, have been fired twice, used pot to calm my nerves, and have been approached by women but they quickly left because of my weirdness.

“I have been a hardcore porn addict since age 14,” he says. “I stopped porn completely two months ago. It has been hard. I have quit all of the medication I was taking. My anxiety is nonexistent… My memory and focus are sharper than they have ever been and my erectile dysfunction is gone. I feel like I have a second chance at life.”

“Widespread youthful erectile dysfunction has never been seen before,” Wilson says. “This is the only symptom that gets their attention.”

The high-speed internet has taken porn to a new level and it is messing with our children. Watching porn digitally rewires boys’ brains in a totally new way for change, constant arousal, novelty and excitement. This creates real issues when it comes to romantic relationships that grow gradually and subtly.

Do your children know what healthy relationships look like? Have you taught them about the perils of the internet? Are you paying attention to their computer use?

It’s time to take back our boys. Their health and future relationships are hanging in the balance.

They say that our scars are our stories. If this is true, then Jude, my 12-year-old son, now has this story to tell: “I was playing Fortnite, and I tried this new exploit I saw in a YouTube video, and it worked! I was so excited, I jumped off my bed and busted my lip on the corner of a shelf and had to go to the emergency room and get stitches.” That’s right, we had a video game injury in my house today.

Something about my son getting hurt playing video games made me stop and think. It wasn’t just what he was doing when he got hurt, but I was bothered by what he wasn’t doing. He didn’t get hurt jumping his bike off a homemade ramp, or falling out of a treehouse he was building, or even the ridiculous rock fights that characterized my youth. He got hurt in his bedroom all by himself, playing Fortnite…

Boyhood has changed.

It’s the confluence of two things I’ve observed increasingly in the past few years. First, there seems to be real societal pressure to tame boys – to keep them from playing rough, to rein in their impulse to explore, their need to test themselves against the heights of a tall tree, or even to rise to the challenge of a mouthy friend. We don’t let them wrestle or climb or ride off on their bikes. We neuter any hint of wildness. We tell them to get down, to settle down, sit down and sit still.

Secondly, because of technology like video games, tablets, and smartphones, our kids are perfectly fine with sitting down and sitting still inside where it is safe and secure. Boys fire up a game console, put on their headset, turn on their flatscreen and tune out the whole wild world. They don’t even know what they’re missing.

Now the only world that boys explore is digital. Imagination is no longer required – just good Wi-Fi. The challenges of boyhood today mainly involve leveling up. Boys engage their rivals in hand to controller combat. And because the risks aren’t real, neither are the rewards. There may be fewer trips to the emergency room but there are less adventures and far fewer stories to tell.

Scars represent life lived. My son will have a Fortnite scar going forward. I suppose there are worse ways to get a scar, but there are also so many better ways.

The little girl was playing in the playground area of a fast food restaurant, yelling at her mom, “Watch me, Mama! Watch me!” Consumed by her cell phone, her mom did not hear her daughter calling to her. The child came down the slide, went over to her mom and started tugging on her arm, saying, “Mommy, Mommy, watch me.” At this point the mother looked at her daughter, seemingly irritated at the interruption, and said, “What?”

Perhaps you’ve been that mom at one point or another, and chances are good you’ve witnessed that mom. For some, that moment when a child is occupied on the safe playground is the opportunity to take a little break. For others, constant distractions keep parents from engaging with their kids.

Dr. Jenny Radesky is a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. She and a team of researchers observed 55 caregivers, usually a parent, eating and interacting with one or more children, from infants to 10-year-olds, in fast-food restaurants. 

Out of 55 caregivers, 40 were involved with their phones during the meal. Sixteen of these adults used the mobile device throughout the meal. The researchers referred to this as “absorption with the mobile device.”

Three adults gave a device to a child to keep them occupied. One adult with a little girl picked up her phone as soon as she sat down, and she used it throughout the entire meal.

“The girl keeps eating, then gets up to cross the room to get more ketchup. Caregiver is not watching her do this; she is looking down at the phone…,” the notes showed. “Still no conversation… Now girl’s head appears to be looking right at caregiver, and caregiver looks up but not at girl…”

How much screen time is too much screen time when it comes to being an engaged parent? Perhaps the better question is, are you frequently distracted by your phone or some other device when your child is trying to get your attention? If you aren’t sure, The Gottman Institute encourages you to consider these questions:

  • When was the last time you played with your child or teenager?
  • What was the last conversation you shared as a family?
  • Ask your kids if they feel you are distracted. Honesty can go a long way in opening up communication. Just avoid responding defensively and ask more about what they need from you.
  • Think about the last conversation you had with an adult. Were they on their phone? Did you make eye contact? Did you feel heard?
  • What makes you feel heard? The same things that make you feel heard probably apply to the children and teens in your life. Have an open conversation about what listening looks like in different settings.

Many young people complain that their parents nag at them for always being on their phone, yet they believe their parents are as consumed by technology as they are. Perhaps one of the most important things for parents to remember is that children are very good at copying the behavior that parents model for them. 

Technology isn’t going away. When parents decide to put down the cell phone, turn off the game, and walk away from the emails on the computer to focus on their children, it sends a significant message: You matter. You are more important than the screen. I value you. 

Face-to-face relationships beat technology any day of the week.

Me: “Hey, dude. Let me check your phone.

My son is 12 and recently got an iPhone. Among the many stressful thoughts I’ve had to entertain because of this new and very significant development was this doozy: “Great, one more thing for me to police.

Me: “Here. While I’m checking your phone, I want you to check my phone.”

Parents checking phones seems like a great recipe for family conflict. The experts debate children’s expectations of privacy, perceptions of mistrust, and voice concerns about how parents searching through phones affect the overall health of the parent-child relationship.

Me: “We’ll check each other’s phones for twenty minutes and then ask each other whatever questions we have. Text messages, social media, browsing history – anything. Okay?”

A few years ago, I conducted an anonymous survey with my high school students about their experiences with their phones and social media. The survey was a tool to help me better understand and serve my students, but I definitely had ulterior parenting motives. So I asked them, “What helps you make good choices online?” The number one answer was immediately surprising to me, but really shouldn’t have been: “Knowing that my parents will check my phone.”

Me: “Listen, we both need to make good choices with our phones. Let’s help each other and keep each other accountable. You can check my phone whenever you want and ask me anything. Deal?”

There are ways to check a child’s phone that move us from confrontation to conversation.

Him: “Sounds good, Dad.”

Ellen Pober Rittberg is the mother of three. She had three children in three years and she spent 13 years representing young people as an attorney. Both of these experiences have given her insight into the lives of young people which led to writing 35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will.

“I wrote this book as a message to parents that you can do this,” says Rittberg. “I think that it is probably the hardest time to be raising a teen. There are threats to their safety, head-spinning technological advances, they are encouraged to dress provocatively by celebrities who they see dressing provocatively, and peers are more important to them than family. The book is really a form of cheerleading in an informed, honest and positive way.”

Rittberg believes the biggest mistake parents can make is to trust their teen all the time.

She cautions parents that in spite of the fact that their young person seems really smart, their judgment is defective and they will make poor decisions because they are adults in the making.

35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will is the manual I wish I had had when I was raising my teens,” Rittberg says. “I didn’t want to be preached to and I didn’t want to read clinical pieces written by educators, psychologists or medical doctors. I wanted to know the practical do’s and don’ts, the big mistakes to avoid, what to do when you are at the end of your rope and ways to enjoy the challenge of raising teens.”

Rittberg encourages parents to be open to the fact that they can learn to be a better parent.

“When I was pregnant with my first child, I read a ton of books because I didn’t know how to parent,” Rittberg recalls. “We need to continue exposing ourselves to information that will help us be better parents. Parents also need to consider the values they want to impart to their children and how they will be intentional about doing it.”

Here are a few of the 35 things Rittberg wants you to know:

  • You shouldn’t be your child’s best friend. We have a role as parents to be responsible and reliable. If you act like a teenager, your teen won’t respect you.
  • Your child needs meaningful work. Anything that encourages a healthy work ethic and sense of family duty is a good thing.
  • To know your teen’s friends is to know your teen. If you want to know what your teen is up to, get to know their friends. Make your house a welcoming place. You have to be there when they are there.
  • A parent should not buy a child a car. There are large consequences to buying your child a car, the largest is that the child who doesn’t earn a significant portion of the car will likely total it soon after getting it. When they have worked for it they will take better care of it.
  • Know your child’s school. School officials should know your face, what you do and that you want to help.
  • Curfews are good. As the old saying goes, nothing good happens after midnight!

“Parenting teens is challenging, but you can do it and be good at it,” Rittberg says.

I can always tell when my kids are in a Fortnite Battle Royale match by the cheering or jeering I hear blaring from their rooms. I might be hearing the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, but it is loud and enthusiastic. If you have a child who plays video games, they are probably playing Fortnite, too, (or soon will be) as the Fortnite craze shows no signs of slowing down.

When it comes to video games I typically have two concerns. Is this particular game and its content something I want my child playing, and then more generally, how much time (and money) should my child spend playing video games? It’s worth noting that good, caring, involved parents can come to different conclusions – and that’s okay.

As far as content goes, Fortnite, put out by Epic Games, is rated for 11 year olds and up. The most popular game mode is Battle Royale, which involves up to 100 online players fighting to the death to be the last player standing on an island with various structures and topography. Eliminating the other 99 players involves weapons and violence, but I would describe it as cartoon violence as opposed to bloody, realistic violence.

One thing I really like about Fortnite is that it requires creativity to be successful, not just a trigger finger. Quickly building and manipulating the environment to gain an advantage is an essential part of gameplay. Fortnite is a combination of Minecraft and shooter games with several clever twists thrown in that are genuinely fun.

(If you are concerned about the content of any video game, head to YouTube and watch a few gameplay videos that players have uploaded.)

This brings us back to the general question of how much time we want our kids spending with video games – especially since games like Fortnite can quickly become obsessions.

Parents approach this in a variety of ways. During the school year, some parents allow a set amount of time each week and/or only allow gaming on weekends. Hopefully your family has some tech-free times set aside for reading and playing outside, not to mention structured time set aside for homework and chores. Gaming time might vary during holiday and summer breaks.

Make whatever the latest video game craze is work for you! Parents can leverage video games in many creative ways. For example, I get a ton of extra work done around my house so the kids can earn money for in-game purchases. My child’s behavior and attitude may earn them more or less playing time. And here’s one of my personal favorites as a former English teacher: “I’ll match your reading time with Fortnite time minute for minute!

Perhaps the absolute best leveraging of your child’s Fortnite obsession is to use it to spend time together, either joining in or watching them play. Game on!

Should your parent check your phone?

When you sit down to a family meal, are people on their devices?

Do your parents follow you on social media?

These are just a few of the questions from an informal survey of more than 1,000 middle and high schoolers during March and April of 2018. The responses might surprise you.

When students were asked if their parents ever checked their phones, 82 percent said their parents never checked or only checked it once or twice a year. Forty-five percent of respondents said they are not on their phones or watching television during family meals, and 22 percent said they don’t eat meals together as a family.

When it comes to social media, 45 percent of the teens said their parents follow them on some apps while 28 percent said their parents do not follow them on any social media apps. Only 27 percent said their parents follow them on all their social media apps.

Overwhelmingly, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, iMessage, FaceTime, Facebook and Twitter were the most popular apps, used by 60 percent or more. Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube were all above 80 percent.

Here’s where things really get interesting. 

When asked about negative experiences on social media:

  • 56 percent of respondents said they had been contacted or messaged by a complete stranger. 
  • Over 46 percent said they have been unfriended, unfollowed or deleted from someone’s account. 
  • More than 39 percent said someone had asked them for inappropriate/sexual pictures. 

And when it comes to breaking up, 36 percent said someone had broken up with them by text or another form of social media.

The final question, “Has social media ever made you feel stress, anxiety or depressed?” had some very interesting results. Overarchingly, 45 percent of respondents said social media never makes them feel stress, anxiety or depression. However, in unpacking the data, 62 percent of middle-schoolers said social media never makes them feel this way. Conversely, by 12th grade, 60 percent of teens say it has contributed to stress, anxiety and depression.

Another aspect of this involves structure and parental engagement in the home. Teens who say their parents are actively involved in overseeing their social media engagement reported significantly less stress, anxiety and depression than teens who reported less parental involvement. Teens who reported the least amount of structure and parental engagement also reported the highest levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

Before you convince yourself that technology is the problem, breathe. The truth is, technology will only continue to evolve and move faster as time goes by. Being tuned in to your child is their best hope for navigating those changes in a healthy manner. In a previous survey, teens were asked what helped them make good choices with social media and phone usage. The number one answer was “knowing that my parents check my phone.”

It may be tiring and frustrating, but you are the best app for your child’s phone.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV!

We’ve all been there. We watch parents cave to a child’s demands and think, “I would never let that happen with my child. I have no intention of raising an entitled kid.” 

Oh wait – that’s not at all how it actually goes!

But how many times have I been “that” parent, who after a long day, just wants to get home? Even after being so proud of myself for saying no, I eventually give because I just want it to be over. I beat myself up a bit and tell myself I’ll do better next time.

Honestly, most parents don’t set out to raise self-centered children. However, as we try to give our kids what we didn’t have or to ensure their success, we spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and brainpower focused on them. Unfortunately, this leads our kids to believe they are and should be the center of attention everywhere.

In my head, I know this is not a good thing. My professional training shows me this is not conducive to good outcomes for young adults. And research tells me this kind of parenting is not ultimately helpful to my child or any other child. BUT, how do we as parents put the brakes on and change our ways? And why would we want to stop doing things that we believe will ultimately make our children successful adults?

It’s helpful to begin with the end in mind. I don’t know about you, but outside of extenuating circumstances, I am not interested in having my child dependent on her parents for the rest of her life. I want to see her spread her wings and realize all she can do without our direct assistance.

What does it take to raise a child who isn’t entitled?

  • Avoid leading your child to believe he/she is the center of your universe. In real life, your child will not always be the center of attention. Avoid putting this belief in his head – don’t make him the focal point in your home.

  • Teach your child what it means to be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior. While this one can be painful, it is super-powerful and important. Instead of saving the day when your child encounters a difficult person or a problem, allow your child to problem-solve, figure something out and actually deal with it. This will help build self-confidence. When parents take responsibility for a child’s behavior and removes the consequences (good or bad), kids miss opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Help them understand that just because you want something badly doesn’t mean you automatically get it. People tend to be less appreciative when they get things without earning them. Teach your children that anything worth having is worth working for. It’s a lesson that will serve them well throughout their life. Also, avoid the trap of believing it’s about the stuff.

  • Teach them the importance of giving. Whether helping with chores (without getting paid) or serving in the community, teach children how to be givers. Giving can help guard against a sense of entitlement.

In an interview about hiring practices, Schwab CEO Walt Bettinger, shared that he intentionally takes interviewees out for a meal. He always arrives early and requests that the wait staff intentionally mess up the person’s order. Why? Because he wants to see how they will handle the situation. Through the years he has learned that a person’s heart and their character matter as much – if not more than – what’s in their head.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!