The 3 Things Your Teen Fears Most

What your teens fear most is quite different from what may keep you awake at night. Most parents’ worries are theoretical and future-based — fear for their teens’ safety at school and their ability to compete in an increasingly tough world, college applications and their kid getting a job.  Teens, in contrast, fear what is already directly in front of them. While social media stretches their global perspective, what’s on their minds most is narrower than what you might think.

Dr. Kevin Leman believes that three innate fears drive teen reactions. He also believes there are antidotes to each of those fears that only you can provide.  When you know those fears and what your teens need most from you, you can provide what’s already within your control — lasting antidotes to help them power through and develop resilience.  Let’s get to it!

Who doesn’t want to be liked and accepted? But with teens, this craving trumps all else. Worse, in the peer jungle, liking is based on who’s highest on the food chain for the day, so rejection is hard to escape. I’ve had many clients who’ve been ditched by a best friend then refuse to leave the house for days because they were so crushed.   I’ve had others who lived and breathed sports only to get cut from a team then want to quit everything and change schools.  Not exactly demonstrating resilience.  Here’s the rejection antidote… unconditional love and acceptance at home.  Since rejection is part of life, learning how to handle it positively is critical. If your teens end up in the dirt of the peer heap or fail to make a team or club, listen, empathize, and then offer perspective. Do not judge their feelings or compare them to your own.  With this kind of love and support your teens can learn to take rejection in stride and become resilient.

Your teens may act like nothing bothers them, but they worry constantly. Ever-present on their minds is the survival-of-the-fittest peer environment in which even those on the highest rock can be dethroned at any moment. That makes their world outside your nest rocky, but throw in uncertainty at home — like a parent who has unpredictable work schedules or whose parents are getting divorced — and the uncertainty can be paralyzing.  The uncertainty antidote… stability at home.  When your teens arrive home, they need a safe, calm atmosphere where they can sort out their thoughts and the events that threw them a curveball that day. You are the constant in their rapidly evolving universe. They need to know you’re there, not leaving, will accept them and that they are a priority over your work.  And remember, role-modeling unchanging character, priorities, and most of all, a rock-solid presence guarantees a foundation stronger than any uncertainty your teens face.

Fear can reign in competitive or vicious peer groups. Anything “different” about your teens, including clothes, “loner” status or the simple fact they’re breathing next to an insecure guy who needs to ensure he’s top dog, paints a big target on their backs. With the ease of spreading rumors on a smartphone, it’s not just face-to-face bully encounters anymore. Social media’s anonymity and few , if any consequences mean anyone can say anything about anyone at any time and share it at the press of a button, and it’ll remain indefinitely in the electronic universe and your teens are acutely aware of this, all the time.  The antidote… is a balanced perspective and a “we’re in this together” guarantee. Bad things do happen, and people can be so mean sometimes.  Both are facts of life, so it’s better to prepare your teens before it happens, if possible. Share a time when you were targeted. Point out that many bullies behave as they do because they’re insecure, and taking someone down makes them feel temporarily important. Knowing that truth and knowing you have their back removes some of the sting.

Every time your teens step out your door, that trio of fears hangs heavily over them. Is it any surprise, then, that they sometimes react to that high stress by picking on a sibling or even you? But when you understand what’s really going on behind the attitude-of-the-moment, you can provide support for their daily trek into the teen jungle.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

6 Ways to Monitor Your Teen and Social Media

Like it or not, for better and for worse, social media is here to stay.  The question now is how you’re going to monitor it with your teen.  There are lots of options but I’ve narrowed it down to six common and effective tips.

1. Set the ground rules.  When is social media access allowed and when is it not?  What sites and content are acceptable, which are not?  These ground rules should apply to the whole family whenever possible.

2. Educate Yourself!  What sites are your kids on?  What is the difference from one site to the next?  I understand it’s easy to be overwhelmed or feel like you don’t have the time to learn all there is to know about social media but you must. You can’t bury head in the sand.  

3.  Use All of the Privacy Settings.  All the devices your kids use should have strict privacy settings. These settings include who sees online social media posts, what social media sites are permitted and virus blocking on all devices.  Safety first!

4. Insist on full access to all social media accounts.  Of course your teen will argue this on the basis of privacy.  But this is a non-negotiable parameter.  Teens are less likely to share inappropriate content and more likely to stay safe when they know you will check up on them.

5.  Teach them how to protect their online reputation.  Teens don’t give this much thought so  it’s your job to teach them.  Kids can be impulsive and may not think about how their social media usage affects their ability to get a job or college entrance in the future.

6. Be a good example!  Whether we want them to or not, our kids follow our lead. Let’s be a good example in this area as we practice smart online usage and etiquette.  I promise they are watching.

Social media doesn’t have to be a bad thing… but it does have to be monitored. 

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How to Help Your Hurting Teen

As a teen and family coach who has worked with thousands of teen, I often hear parents talk about how much their teen is hurting emotionally. In today’s unpredictable world, encountering hurt is as inevitable as paying taxes. It’s even more so for your teen. Add intense peer pressure, a friend’s betrayal, derogatory comments on social media, the cultural rearranging of values and family structure, and it’s no wonder teens face significant trauma.

No parent likes to see her children in pain. When your teen is hurting, you can follow these three principles to help them work through the hurt and develop strength and resilience.

Acknowledge The Pain
Ignoring a hurt doesn’t make it disappear. But you can comfort your teen by saying, “I know you’re hurting. If that happened to me, I’d be hurting, too.” That speaks volumes to your teen about your support.  Don’t compare their pain to any of your pain… past or present.  Don’t tell them to “let it go.”  Don’t talk on and on about the situation at hand with sage advice or anything else.  Just listen, validate and support.

Listen Without Judgement
Emotions are not right or wrong. They’re simply what your hurting teen feels. If you want them to talk, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  Stop yourself from telling them what to feel and what not to feel.  Don’t tell them why they shouldn’t be feeling the way they do.  Just accept them right where they are and remember that they are teenagers… most things are a big deal to them!  They will mature emotionally as they grow up and they deserve the time and space to do that without judgement.

Strategize How to Handle the Situation Together
Don’t rush in to fix the problem!  Rather than solving the problem for your teen, encourage him to strategize a path to healing. 

Helping your teen brainstorm his next move will make him more resilient in the future. On the other hand, rescuing your teen from emotional hurt weakens them and promotes a victim mentality. Yes, there are times when he should get an adult involved. But most of the time, them staying in the fight and proactively problem-solving will help them stand strong in life’s storms that we know are sure to come.

When your teen has followed through on their plan, cheer the effort: “What happened to you was really tough. But you were strong and rose above the situation.”

Your belief in your child means more than you will ever know.  

 I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

The Concierge Parent

The Concierge Parent

Whether your kid is one of 5.9 million with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or not, it’s probably safe to say that you as the parent are the one paying most attention on your child’s behalf. Parents have gotten out of control on this front.  You have become your kid’s eyes, ears and brain.  You stand up straight and snap to attention when your kid’s teacher or coach starts talking at orientation while your kid sits their bored, playing on their smartphone, completely disinterested.  And then you ask me why your kids are not more independent, self-reliant and responsible for themselves.  Are you kidding me?

Here’s the problem.  You are a concierge parent (that label coined by Julie Lythcott-Haims).  Just as a hotel concierge does all he can do to make your vacation a perfect and hassle-free experience you try to do the same for your kids life.  You look ahead at what possible pitfalls, obstacles and challenges your kids may face and race ahead to smooth out the path so there are no hills for them to climb (or, God forbid, a valley).  You pay for every possible opportunity so that your child can have every experience… like enrolling them in sports at three years old, hiring a tutor for your first-grader so they can have a fifth grade reading level so they can be better prepared for college by second grade.  There are some parents who take their 8 year old kids on first class vacations around the world so they can “experience life.”  Again… Are you kidding me?  Have them go outside and ride bikes with the neighbors… that’s life.

Fast forward to young adult-hood.  Colonel Leon Robert, professor at West Point said this: “Graduates exit West Point with the rank of second lieutenants in the Unites States Army.  the great majority are great men and women doing the right thing.  But there are a creeping number who have parents that over-manage them, such as by driving them to their first assignment.  That’s totally inappropriate.  You don’t need your mother to show up at the front gate of Fort Bragg with you, or help you find an apartment.  You’re twenty-one or twenty-two years old.  You need to deal with the landlord yourself.  That’s part of learning to act as an adult.  Our graduates are mature leaders of character well prepared to lead America’s sons and daughters and with all the right tools to be successful at the tasks the army will require of them.  However, there are a small percentage of parents that will not, or cannot, ‘let go” and continue to hover over their adult children.” I haven’t worked with families associated with West Point but I’ve worked with thousands of others who have similar stories.

Here’s the take away for you… empower your kids.  Get out of their way.  Stop being their concierge, planning their every activity, wrapping them in bubble wrap to prevent pain, paving the way for a perfect life experience.  You’re intention is to help them, I know.  But you can be certain you are hurting them, instead.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith


Tips for Building Resilience in Your Kids

Tips for Building Resilience in Your Kids

After decades of experience working with thousands of kids of a all ages I am astounded and dismayed at the lack of resilience in young people today.  And to be fair, it’s not at all their fault.  It is ours.  As adults we have shielded, buffered and protected them to their own detriment.  Instead of having kids who can say to themselves “It’s ok that I didn’t get what I wanted or that I performed badly, I can still move forward.  I will try again.  I can do this.”  We have teenagers smashing windows because they got a low ACT score, didn’t get in to the college of their choice or they weren’t invited to a birthday party.  Even our younger kids are throwing tantrums and physically assaulting teachers when they have to redo a homework assignment or retake a spelling test.  These kids are lacking resiliency.  Here are a few tips to build this essential life skill in your child.

1. Be present in your kid’s life.  While some parents are over-parenting and hovering, research also shows a swell of parents not making meaningful emotional connections with their kids.  Being present means setting aside what you are doing when they walk in the room and let them see the joy their presence brings to you. Make eye contact.  Take interest in what they are saying.  Show them you care by being empathetic (not to be confused with sympathetic) when they struggle even if they played a role in their own demise.

2. Back off.  I know, I just said be present and now I’m saying back off.  There’s a delicate balance.  Be present but don’t do everything for them.  Don’t check in with them before, during and after an event or important assignment to see if they need you. Let them make choices and decisions about how to do things whenever possible.  For example, when they are young they can choose what to wear, when they are in middle school they can decide whether it’s cold enough outside that they need a jacket and when they are in high school they can determine in what order to do homework assignments.  Let them take risks and make mistakes without  you acting like the world might end.  When they take work hard or take a risk and succeed it will build a tremendous sense of authentic accomplishment.

3.  Model it.  Your kids see you as successful and are often unaware of the twists and turns and setbacks you’ve experienced and continue to experience.  The best way to normalize struggle and build resiliency is to let your kids know when we have, or have had a setbacks such as a failure or disappointment at work or even a falling out with a close friend.  Allow them to see you feeling down for a bit.  Let them hear you say that maybe you could have done somethings differently or better… or that you know you did some things wrong.  After they hear you reflect about the situation let them see you smile then move on.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

Why Your Kid Needs to Fail

Why Your Kid Needs to Fail

You’ve protected your kid from failure, discomfort, rejection and pain for far too long.  Despite your good intentions you have harmed them.  Yep.  While you meant to help them you have hurt them.  If students are in their late teens or early twenties when they first face their own very normal human trait of imperfection and experience failure, they’ll lack the “brush it off, get back on the horse, try again, persevere through it” mentality they could-should– have cultivated in childhood.  We need to normalize struggle.

Kids need to know that failure, pain, discomfort, hurt and making mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of.  Instead, they need to understand that such experiences can be lessons and even open up new possibilities.  But this starts with the parent backing off enough to let their child experience, well, life.

Colonel Leon Robert, professor at West Point said “With some of our new cadets right out of high school, if you raise your voice they get teary-eyed.  Like no one has corrected them on a behavior before.  You’ve got to be able to have a setback, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and drive on.”

Harriet Rossetto of Beit T’Shuvah rehab facility in Los Angeles said  “A lack of resiliency is common among addicts.  They find that they can’t cope with failure or pain so they self medicate.  In contrast, studies have shown that the best predictor of success is a sense of resiliency, grit, capacity to fail and get back up.  If you’re prevented from feeling discomfort or failure, you have no sense of how to handle those things at all.”  I could not agree more.  So how do we build resiliency?  We will discuss this much more in my next blog but for now the answer is simple: let them fail and let them feel the pain of their failure.  Love them through it but don’t fix the situation for them.

I said it’s simple, not easy.  We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.

Written by Lisa Smith

How Our Busy Performance Based Culture is Effecting Parenting

Our culture has changed in the way that we view children and how we raise them and some of these changes are for the better but some are not producing the results that we want. I want my child to grow to be a person who can handle the challenges, who is considerate of others, who can maintain relationships because he/she understands how to not only take but also give. These skills need to be learned and that is our job as parents. 

What I see are kids who are very busy with activities that revolve around them and are often performance based like a sport. We all go to watch, cheer and talk about the child’s performance. I understand there is a lot of good in sports activities, things like exercise, discipline, team work and learning to listen to direction. Playing a sport can also teach how to behave when your team looses, or you miss a shot or have to sit on the bench. So I am not saying that sports are bad, what I am saying is that if that type of performance based activity is all that the child does and the family revolves around the child then they can get the wrong idea of how life works. The child will expect the attention to revolve around them and they will also feel the stress of continual performance.  

There should also be times when the child has to make a sacrifice for others. Have them go and watch someone else’s activity and cheer with a good attitude. Have them serve the family by washing the car or mowing the lawn. They have to learn to contribute to the family. Without this training they begin to feel entitled to have the attention all the time.

In the past children would also do things that were less performance based and simply for fun, art projects, build a model airplane, learning to sew these types of behaviors teach a different skill set that includes patience, perseverance and learning to pay attention to details. They can also be done with your child and this allows for time to talk and build the relationship. We are missing this element because we tend to send our children off to a coach or teacher to work with them instead of spending time ourselves.

I understand that we are all very busy but some of that busyness is self imposed because we feel this busy lifestyle is what is expected. But we can push back against some of these cultural expectations and do something different. Remember the goal is not to keep up with everyone else, the goal is to build a relationship with your child and teach them skills that will help them succeed as an adult. Few of your children are going to be pro-athletes but all of them will need to have a job, deal with challenges and maintain relationships. Let’s prepare them.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.

Written by Lisa Strong


How to Give Your Kids the Best Start to the New School Year

I can hear it from my office chair… the cheers of parents as they are about to send their kids out of the house and back to school.  But the tranquility of a quiet home will only last a minute if you aren’t prepared for the school year to come.  Here are critical things to do and topics to consider as we go in to this new season.

1. Define expectations
Get really clear on what your expectations are of your kid when it comes to this school year.  The expectations should be different than last school year in some ways because they are a year older which means you can raise the bar a bit.  Discuss with them what is a reasonable grade to expect in each class, what daily chore does he need to do around the house regardless of how busy he is, what is the expected attitude toward his teachers and family and if applicable, what are the expectations about social media and dating?

2. Structure the Day
Don’t leave the schedule to chance or assumption.  Decide ahead of time through conversation and common sense what needs to happen and when.  Leave as little wiggle room as possible to avoid misunderstandings.  When is a reasonable time for bed time?  When do phones need to be put away… as in, out of their room?  You may need to buy them an alarm clock since they won’t have their phone and you won’t be waking them up.  What time do they need to be up in the morning and what time do you all need to be out the door in the morning?  When is family time?  How much screen time do they get during the week and weekends?

3. Empower Your Kid Instead of Enabling Them
Ask them what they expect of themselves in regards to school, sports, giving back to the community, being a part of the family unity.  Then ask how you can support them in meeting those goals.  Don’t do the planning or the work for them.  Instead, make sure they have the resources, encouragement and support to do it themselves.

4. Set an Inviting Tone With Teachers
There are a million studies out there that say students do exponentially better in school when the teacher and parent have a good relationship.  Work with the teacher to support your student.  Understand that teachers are just as stressed and overwhelmed as the rest of us.  Appreciate what they are doing and do your best to never talk badly about them in front of your kids.  Reach out to the teachers and give them your contact information so they can connect with you when needed.

5. Don’t Obsess
Be involved without smothering your student.  There’s no need to check online grades every day!  Stop yourself.  Pick one day a week to check out what your kid is up to academically and stick to that day.  The more you pull back the more your student will step up.

6. Leave Last Year in the Last Year
Maybe your kid did a stellar job in school last year.  This year may be the same, it may better or it may be more difficult.  Whatever the case, don’t compare to last year.  Your kid is changing.  Circumstances are changing.  Address what is right in front of you without referring to the good or bad of what happened in the past.

The new school year bring opportunity for growth on many levels… academically, maturity, socially, emotionally.  Be your kid’s biggest fan by encouraging them and also holding them to a standard you know they are capable of and nothing less.

This isn’t always easy.  Keeping yourself in check as well as your student can be challenging.  If you need help, ask us.  You don’t have to do it alone.

Written by Lisa Smith

4 Ways to Love Your Teen and Help Them Like You Back (Maybe)

An eye roll (or 20).  Indifference and disrespect.  Self-centeredness.  Testing every boundary known to mankind. For some parents, the teenage years test the bonds of unconditional love like no other parenting season. We can’t force our children to behave respectfully, love us wholeheartedly or — let’s be honest — even like to be around us.

But here’s the good news: After working with teens and their families for more than a decade, I’ve noticed four key things that help parents connect with their teens, and as a result, make it easier for those teens to appreciate their families in return… most of the time.

Fight Fair

Conflict isn’t the problem; knowing how to resolve it without scratching each other’s eyeballs out is. The goal is to reach a compromise with a greater understanding of each other, rather than wounding each other with dagger-like words or cold indifference. When we stick to the rules of a good, clean fight, the resolution is always better.

If you want your teens to engage in a meaningful discussion devoid of name-calling, low blows, running away, eye rolling and dismissive speech, show them how. This means you have to set the example. You, as the adult, have to refrain from sarcasm, criticism, and yelling.  Stick to the issue at hand, not all the issues of the past.  Reserve your veto power for the biggest issues.  And always be quick to ask for forgiveness when you blow it.

Understand Them

Figuring out a teen sounds like an impossibility, akin to understanding quantum physics or capturing video of Bigfoot. While it might be impossible to wrap our minds around our teens’ mood swings and irrational emotions, we can get to know them as individuals. Sure, you know your son still gets hungry at 4 p.m. just as he did when he was 5, but do you know what his greatest fears are at 16? You might know your daughter would rather be grounded for a week than clean her room, but do you know who her best friends are and why?

Show love by taking time to know their evolving likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, conflicts and accomplishments. Your teens are changing quickly, which means you have the joy and responsibility of continually discovering them — who they are and who they are becoming. Showing an interest in your teens might not spark instant reciprocation, but they will likely soften when they see you genuinely care to know the real them.

Let Them Go

Yes… go… away from you.  Your goal as parents is to help your kids reach adulthood before they leave your home, not hope they figure it out after they leave. To do this, you have to concede freedoms, even when teens don’t use those freedoms wisely. Let them increasingly make their own decisions about food, sleep, homework, purchases and activities, and allow them to enjoy the rewards or suffer the natural consequences of their choices.

Allow them to try and fail with as little “rescuing” as possible. For example, if you’ve given your teen the freedom to drive your car and she crashes it, let her know she is responsible for the repairs. Or if he works hard to purchase a car, let him decide which set of wheels to buy (even if you believe it’s a frivolous choice).

Anticipate Change

One of the only certainties about the teen years is that they will end. In a few years, your relationship will change. So before your teens launch into adulthood, ask yourself:

  • How do I want to spend the days we have left together?
  • Are there battles I can relinquish?
  • Are there experiences I want us to share?

Make the most of these days, and tell your teens why you’re being intentional. Invest in your relationship, not only to keep you from regret, but also to give your teens a solid footing for their lives ahead.

Sound hard?  Truth be told, it can be!  But you don’t have to do it alone.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call to see how we can help.  

Written by Lisa Smith

The Payoff for Parents

When you are in the middle of a super challenging season in your parenting do you ever wonder what the payoff is?  Why do you even bother to keep engaging, to keep trying, especially if your kid isn’t receiving any of it?  Every good parent has been in that  place and asked those questions.  This true story will encourage you.

Today, I had the great pleasure of spending time with a dearest friend of almost 25 years.  I taught her daughter when she was in second grade and she is now in her twenties!  I suddenly feel very old.  I’ve watched my friend and her husband parent their three children who are all adults now.  I’ve seen the ups and the downs first hand and my friend has been brave and honest enough to share with me the truth about the trials and challenges she has faced as a mother.  But what she shared with me today brought me tears… the most proud and joyful kind.

Her oldest son, 26,  came to her yesterday, all on his own, and confided something deep and profound about his feelings that has been weighing on him.  It was powerful, amazing and beautiful… not to mention completely authentic and brave of him.  I got choked up as she was telling me the story… not because of what he told her but because he felt safe, confident and comfortable enough to have the conversation with her. What I realized is that the only reason this ever happened with her son is because of the relationship she has spent twenty-some years building with him.  She has always validated him, affirmed him, guided and directed him, disciplined him and was authentic herself within their relationship.  And the payoff for her was this intimate conversation they had… as an adult, he let her in to a deep and intimate place of his heart.  Beautiful! Does it get better?  I think not.

I am so proud of my friend and share in her joy!  But the only reason I can see the true beauty of this is because she has always been extremely real and genuine with me about herself and her family.  She didn’t cover up, make excuses or protect reputations… she simply shared her beautiful life with me as her very close friend (not with the whole world).  And for this reason, I know the real power of what happened in that conversation with her son.  She invested, worked at, and built a relationship with him that has proven itself.

So parents, be encouraged!  Know that if you truly work at and build a relationship with your kids that isn’t about things or providing services… but a real relationship that includes vulnerabilities, failures, time together, joys and even sorrows… it will be worth it!  You will profoundly impact them as a human being for the better.  What can be a more rewarding payoff for a parent?

Written by Lisa Smith