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The Lonely Journey: Being THAT Parent of THAT Kid

By Jeff | Published February 5th, 2018

No one knows what it’s like to be THAT parent of THAT kid, until you are That Parent

When you have a child who is struggling, not only can trying to find the right help be agonizingly frustrating and even discouraging, it is often a very lonely journey as well. 

To show up at “drop-off” or “pick up” and have other parents suddenly get quiet when you approach … to find out that families that used to include your son or daughter all the time, just hosted a sleep-over birthday party  and yours wasn’t invited… To find out as one father I spoke to recently did, that kids are being transferred out of your daughter’s class and be told by the administration that it is just a logistical issue, but it is only the kids who used to be in her friend group who are all being moved together so clearly you know the parents have all conspired together to distance themselves from your kid… and you wonder what did my kid do wrong… or worse “are we failing as parents?”

  • When your child (especially a teen) gets labeled as being a Bad Influence and other parents don’t want their kids around yours
  • When parents play popularity games and deliberately exclude your child so theirs can be more “in” with certain people
  • When your child goes through a hard time that shows up in moody or impulsive behaviors, and rather than people stepping up and saying “How can I help” instead they gossip together and treat him or her like they are diseased 
  • When your child is struggling and people stare at you like you must be totally messed up people to be raising a kid who behaves this way
  • When you find out that parents who you thought were your friends, have not been open with you about gossip circulating about your child
I never fully understood this until I became a parent myself and lived through a period of it .  Our story is nowhere near as dramatic as that of some of the families I have worked with, but it stung.

Our experience of this happened when our older daughter was in Kindergarten and went through a rough period  as she coped with stress at home (a newborn baby sister demanding mom’s time, a move to a new town and new school, and adjusting to a new house all in a matter of weeks) and some developmental ones as she struggled with some sensory integration issues that often left her feeling stressed in conditions most kids could easily manage…

After a few meltdowns at school and creating quite a scene (climbing under chairs, laughing hysterically at inappropriate times, refusing to come in from outside one time), our 6 year old was quickly isolated and identified by the school as having problems.

Stories quickly circulated amongst parents in their predictable gossip circles and one day I showed up to pick her up, and the same parents who typically smiled and chatted with me, quickly turned away… A few weeks went by and birthday parties happened and she wasn’t invited and kids she normally played with were told by their parents not to play with her… Eventually, we pulled her from the school who clearly viewed her as a disruption rather than a child in need of extra connection and support, and soon found a new school who were amazing with her and where she is now thriving.

Going through that,  only one family bothered to reach out and stand by us and offer support… a family who the next year moved their own child away from that school and over the one we had chosen!

So when I hear from parents who are going through this lonely, isolating time, I understand in my bones what this is like.

Then comes the arduous journey to trying to find the way forward to a better future.

There is little in life that is more agonizing as a parent than to see your child struggling to be able to do things that seem to come easier to others . . . academics . . . making friends . . . basic self- confidence to try new things . . . cope with basic setbacks . . . 

That period years ago was a very dark and discouraging time in our lives. We didn’t know what was going on and we had “experts” like our pediatrician who insisted that we were spoiling her and all she needed was good old fashioned discipline and strict consequences… 

And yet we knew in our gut – just like every parent who has ever reached out to me in a time of crisis knows in theirs – there is nothing “wrong” with our child… She has some challenges, but she’s only 6 years old and there’s a ton going on in her little world right now, so with proper nurturing, support, learning, growth and input, she will turn out just fine.

So we embarked on a very long journey of seeking support and guidance and help for her and our family and now 6 years later she is  doing amazingly well and if you met her now, you would never know that for a brief period in Kindergarten she was “that kid!.

Of course the journey is not over. In many ways as she embarks soon on adolescence, it is just beginning again… But we know she is perfectly fine and she will be… and we know with deep compassion what it is like not just for the child who is struggling, but also for the parents, 

Both my wife and I feel deeply compassionate towards parents whose kids are struggling. When others move away, we move towards… When others gossip behind  their backs, we ask “How can we help?”… Sometimes our daughter gets upset with us that we insist she invite certain kids she is not close friends with to events we are hosting, and we understand from her perspective why this is – it is normal at 11 years old.

What she doesn’t understand is that we know what it is like for that child who gets left out because they are different or having challenges, and we know what it is like for the parents of that child to be in that lonely and isolating place.

And professionally, having been contacted by and hired by hundreds of families who, like us, bluntly rejected the conventional experts who wanted to pathologize what are understandable, normal yet complex growing up challenges, I stand  firm in my convictions on this point:

The greatest challenge most adolescents face is learning how to be  who they are and the kind of person they are, with their own idiosyncratic interests and challenges, in a world that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to be this way.

I’ve dedicated my life work to helping certain ones do this… and to supporting their parents for whom it can be equally as challenging…

While it may be unavoidably challenging, it doesn’t need to be isolating and lonely, in spite of the culture that too often makes it be that way.  

 

 

 

College In The Cornfields – When Adults Say Stupid S#!t To Teens

By Jeff | Published February 1st, 2018

COLLEGE IN THE CORNFIELDS – A MOMENT OF RAGE

I had a chance encounter the other day with a high school senior. A comment he made to me tapped into a bubbling rage that lurks barely beneath the surface inside me. I’m going to write/rant about this for anyone who cares to listen. I realize often times my social media is “preaching to the choir” on these topics, so if you care, please share.
 
This 17 year old boy I met last weekend, had no idea what I do for a living. He had no idea that I work with people in his age group on 4 continents or that I have 25 years of experience in helping people his age to launch into a thriving adulthood. No idea that I am considered some kind of “expert” and thought leader in this field… This background (mine and his not knowing this) is relevant to the story.
 
To him I was just the dad of the 5 year old little girl who his 15 year old sister was babysitting. I was just stopping by to pick up my daughter. I could have been an insurance salesman for all he knew.
 
As he and his mom were home at the time, both stepped up and politely introduced themselves to me as I stood in the doorway waiting for my 5 year old to put on her shoes so we could leave.
 
Our casual chat led to him revealing that he was a senior in high school. I responded with a playful comment along the lines of “So you are in that time when everyone asks you The Question…!”
 
He knew right away what I was referring to.
 
Ask any high school senior in a community like this about The Question and they all know this is the one about “where are you applying to college?” as this is just presumed and expected. Kind of like pregnant women who get asked The Questions (“When are you due? and “Are you going to find out the gender?”) it gets old being berated by adults who inquire and who all want to get their two cents in.
 
In a community like this where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is the added social pressure that comes from the general fixation on the name recognition and prestige of the college. It is more than a fixation actually, its more like an obsession.
 
Unlike many high achieving high school students around here who only look at the same 50 or so, name-recognizable colleges in the US, he revealed to me that he had actually researched over 200 colleges, before narrowing down his choices to 20 or so. He began with Loren Pope’s book “Colleges That Change Lives”, took it seriously and expanded from there.
 
He then told me he had narrowed down to a few top choices, three of which were really high quality schools but not well-known colleges, all based in more rural middle America.
 
If you are from middle America like I am, these are not so obscure.
 
If you are from California like he is, they seem like unchartered territory as almost every one who goes to his high school will wind up at a college on the west coast or in the Northeast… and if they got B’s in school they will wind up at the University of Arizona or in Colorado University in Boulder if they choose to leave California. (local people who are reading this, you know what I am talking about!)
 
Very very few will go anywhere that isn’t geographically based in these places or emboldened with serious name recognition like Michigan or Northwestern, which are Midwestern schools, but are also high up on “the list of 50.”
 

So when this boy told me the names of the 3 schools on the top of his list, I lit up and responded enthusiastically with “Wow! Very cool choices… its refreshing to hear someone name schools like that!”

 
He was caught off guard by my enthusiastic response and then said “It is nice to hear someone say something positive. Usually the only thing people say when I list these schools is something discouraging like: ‘Why would you want to go to school in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa??”
 
THAT IS WHAT INFURIATED ME AND LED TO THIS POST.
 
I CAN’T STAND THAT PEOPLE DO THAT TO THESE KIDS.
 
Not only is that not helpful to say to a 17 year old, it is utterly selfish and obnoxious.
 
How can anyone who talks to this kid know what is the right choice for him? Just because they themselves wouldn’t choose to go to a school in the middle of Iowa, how do they know it isn’t the best choice this kid could make? How do they know it wouldn’t have been a far wiser choice for they themselves to have made if they had known about it and been open to it?
 
So what kind of person, especially an adult, says that to an impressionable teen who is already going out on a limb by not applying to USC or NYU or UCLA or any of the same-old other schools the rest of his peers are guided to choose from?
 
Not a very thoughtful or sensitive or helpful one, to put it nicely.
 
How are these kids supposed to grow up and become truly worldly when they are being guided, judged and criticized by people who are being shallow, narrow and selfish?
 
The absurdity and irresponsibility it is for anyone to dissuade someone from pursuing learning and growth and their potential to launch into the stratosphere beginning at a “college in the cornfields” can’t be understated:
 
Ask Ronald Reagan who stood by his assertions that “everything good in my life began at Eureka College”…
 
Ask Warren Buffet who went to the University of Nebraska..
 
Ask any of the millions of others out there who lead deeply satisfying successful lives without having gone to one of “the 50”
 
(and FYI I went to two of the big 50, before finally winding up following my own path instead of the one my college counselor urged, finally getting my degree after transferring from Colby and Wisconsin, to instead go to the University of San Francisco – a not so acclaimed school that also happened to have one Professor teach there who was responsible for introducing me to the person who opened up the world to me… When I was presenting to over 2000 parents in China recently, or speaking at a Ted Conference in Greece, or headlining a conference in London or working with college students in Oxford or running a training in Mexico City or traveling over 2,500,000 miles around the globe doing work I love, I can say with certainty that quite literally, none of this would be happening had I not ignored the experts and trusted myself and wound up in an obscure class taught at USF – a course not one other university in the world was offering at that point…)
 
All this pushing them to fit into some narrow way of going about the journey to growing into themselves, is not only not helpful, it can be destructively hurtful. For all the kids I work who thrive in places like Michigan and Princeton and Stanford, I know just as many who thrive in places no one places on that list of prestige…
 
In my opinion, the only thing to be saying to a young man like this who is bold enough to venture on his own path in spite of the pervasive crushing social pressure around him to become an elitist conventionalist, is to ask “How can I help?”
 
The first rule of thumb in the work I do and as I see it, in our role as parents, is to recognize that this is THEIR JOURNEY and not ours.
 
We have to either help figure out how to help them grow into who THEY are are, or get the f#cK out of the way as they figure it out for themselves.
 
We are either part of the help or the reason they will need more of it.
 
I hope my brief words of encouragement to him last Saturday helped him.
 
I hope my insights and this rant tonight helps influence someone else who is not a professional who works with this age group but who unknowingly has lots of influence on them at an impressionable age, to think twice before you criticize the teen in your life for making choices that may not be glamorous on a bumper sticker, but may just make them shine brighter than anywhere else on earth ever could.
 

Another Category: Two Types Of Parents

By Jeffrey | Published September 21st, 2017

In my practice, I receive inquiries from two types of parents:

Those who it pains and saddens to watch their kids struggling

vs

Those who are just frustrated and annoyed with them for not just making better decisions.

The First Type:

Don’t get me wrong, those in the first group certainly have their share of frustrations with their kids like most of us as parents do, but the emotional toll of watching them struggle to put the pieces together, far outweighs the frustrations.

These parents are empathetic, remembering “what it was like” to be in this stage of life.

They “get” that the solution to adolescent struggles requires more than just “knowing what to do” because it also requires the confidence and inner-security and mindset,  to do it…  that the variables that impact adolescents are often out of their control (e.g. what their peers do), and that today’s world is far more complex, distracting and confusing than the one they themselves grew up in.

They understand that it is a journey to growing up and finding one’s way in the world… that no matter how much well intentioned people may say to youth “who cares what anyone thinks of you” they will still be impacted by the opinions and approval of their peers and others, until one day they mature out of this…

These parents will do anything they can to help their kids to grow into confident, respected, capable, successful adults… and they are in it for the long haul.

The parents in the other group are impatient, judgmental and ineffective.

They want someone to come in and “fix” their kid. Often, they think that enough “tough love” and consequences, should be enough to coerce them to change.

Most of the time I find that the dynamic between parent and child is not only keeping the “problem” in place, it is contributing to it even more intensely then the parent who is completely enmeshed and coddling their teen.

Yet these parents typically don’t want to hear it and don’t want to accept responsibility. They don’t see that often they are so hung up on trying to shape their kids into someone they want them to be, that they are destroying the best potential for whom they actually could become.

In my experience, the “alpha father” is typically the one who thinks this way. He has a more sensitive or less competitive/ambitious son, and sees him aspiring to a standard that is less than “winning at all costs”, as weakness. Sometimes he has the daughter who is caught up in classic teen social drama, continually dealing with problems and waves of emotion that gets in the way of her just doing her best schoolwork and maintaining a competitive advantage. Sometimes it is the Alpha “LeanIn” mom who leads the rush, and sometimes it is just the parent who was raised by a “spare the rod, spoil the child” parents who think that anything less  than that (as is common today) is weak and raising kids of weak character.

Rarely is  any one this one dimensional of course.

All sane parents love their children and want the best for them. But there is a grave disconnect between those who understand that each child is unique and thus the “right and best” ways to help them grow into thriving adults, is unique and different for each as well.

Many years ago when I first began working with Summer Camps, I was frequently asked “So Jeff where are you going to send your kids to camp?” At that point I only had one child and she was still in infant. I had visited hundreds of camps and worked with leaders from many, many more than that. I also clearly had a bias towards the camp where I grew up and spent my summers in Wisconsin.

My answer rarely satisfied anyone who asked, but it was honest: “It depends who she turns out to be.”

Choosing a camp for a child solely because it is where “every one else is going” or because it is where the parents went, is a poorly thought out reason in my opinion. Choosing a camp (like choosing a school or career) based on which one best meets the needs and interests of a child, is a far better reason. Sometimes that means camp isn’t the answer at all. 

It is very hard to get this concept through to parents who are stubbornly frustrated with the child for not changing just because they say they should, and who just want someone to come in and fix them.

It makes perfect sense though to the parent who recognizes that something isn’t working, something is needed and for whom helping their child thrive no matter what it takes, is far more important than insisting upon how it needs to be done, how much it should cost, how quickly it should happen and how little they should have to participate. 

I know this is harsh, but having doing this work long enough I so clearly see the distinctions in these parents, and the suffering in the child of the second set of parents.

I also so clearly see the correlation between the deep and lasting impact of my work, and the partnership with thoughtful, engaged, open-minded and patient but persistent parents. Most of the parents who choose to work with me, see it too. 

 

 

Own Your Cool ™

By Jeffrey | Published August 19th, 2017

Own Your Cool  

Dedicated to all those people who have dumbed themselves down, sold themselves short, gotten discouraged and/or given up on dreams because of shitty things that happened to them when they were younger or because of some belief that is only a certain type of person who succeeds in life or some other reason that ends now!

It’s time to stop being cynical or discouraged or stressed or settling for less than you can have and be.

Coming soon… Stay tuned!

KGO Radio Interview Adolescence Not A Disease

By Jeffrey | Published March 19th, 2017

Many people seeking advice on their future career or college admissions seek a career counselor or life coach to help them to make a sound decision. In my practice in Mill Valley I am not a psychotherapist, but I see many teens and young adults having issues with promiscuity, alcohol or drugs. But these behaviors or prescription medications don’t provide lasting relief for this part of their journey to growing up.

For today’s teens a lot of what they are going through is actually normal, biological adolescent behaviour and it’s the intensity of competing demands on them at this stage of transition that is actually tending to make them seem oppositional, stressed out or wanting to escape.

Here’s a facebook live video from an interview held at San Francisco Radio Station KGO Radio where we talked about my book and some of these points.

Where your teen is doesn’t seem to be giving them, (or you) what they expected. The popular routes can be too much – causing anxiety or depression, and throughout it all there are peer pressures bearing down on them as well. This can be difficult to endure for a sensitive minded teenager who has different ideals for their future, and suffers alone, not knowing quite where they fit in.

You can hear the full interview below, where I go into depth about some of these themes and issues, that may be affecting your teen. The beginning of change starts with a simple small step. You are welcome to drop me an email or leave me a message to explore the possibility of working together.

The interview audio below runs to just over a half hour and is a wide ranging and interesting listen. Check it out and let me know what you think.

[Begins 3.24]

Just One Belief Away -” The Self-Sabotager”

de5768527399a1f25df614dd16c28ea823 year old Mark and I sat across from one another at a cool  alternative cafe near his college campus yesterday. When I walked in he was busy chatting with the manager and two girls who were waiting in line to order.

He’s good looking, outgoing and an extrovert, and though he is about to graduate from one of the more prestigious Universities in the US, he’s a pretty legitimate  underachiever.

If there was an award given out for “self-sabotage” Mark would be a finalist.

The number of times he has slept through a critical exam, forgotten a deadline or left his car parked in a no parking zone just long enough to get ticketed and towed is almost laughable. None of this happened because he was just an irresponsible kid or was so “ADD” that he was incapable. It literally happened as he got lost in stress and worry and insecurity that came from feeling so much pressure to survive as an outsider in ways that were real (financial) and imaginary (social) and just plain wrong (that his GPA & status amongst his classmates alone would make the difference for his career, the way it did in high school). 

His story is not so simple.Though he looked like your typical U____ student, he wasn’t. 

Unlike many of his classmates, he is not at this very prestigious and expensive private school because did well in high school and his parents are wealthy and have the money to pay for it. He is here because he was an academic high achiever in high school and money was left for him in a trust designated only to pay for his college education, Otherwise, he was very much on his own.

When others wanted to join Fraternities, their parents wrote the check. He was excluded from this aspect of campus social life, and it really marginalized him.

 When others needed a new laptop, wanted to go out to eat with friends and or just needed new clothes to dress up for an interview, they used the credit card their parents provided. Not so for Mark.

Everything that was easy for most of the kids around him was never easy for him. He had to work, often two jobs, and had to choose between getting enough hours to pay rent or go to class and lose his job. He had to find ways to study and learn material without the help of tutors. He lived in a closet one year because it was all he could afford.

But the worst thing of all to him was the way he never lived up to his potential academically. His grades were often at best average. He so wanted to be a stand-out student like he was in high school so that his professors would write raving letters of recommendation. He wanted to be the guy who impressed all the Alums and was offered that killer job that everyone else in the Business program yearned to get.

Instead he was just a mediocre student who would get his degree, but not stand out and probably not even be remembered by many of his peers, sadly, because he couldn’t afford to party with them or be their Frat bother.

And while he sat there with me berating himself for having just missed another deadline, and looking discouraged and despondent, my only thought was: AND NONE OF THAT MATTERS.

NONE OF THAT MATTERS.

This is a story about Mark, and the millions of other Marks and Margarets out there. It is a story about every Millennial youth who has had their soul get crushed into anxiety by being CONVINCED that their worth and hope for their future is measured by their GPA, Class Rank, the prestige of the name on their college degree AND their place in the social rankings of their peers.

Any potential employer, investor or business partner only cares about One Thing: YOUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE RESULTS that matter to the business. 

RESULTS

Any potential employer, investor or business partner only cares about One Thing: YOUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE RESULTS that matter to the business. 

They don’t give a damn about your grade point average, where you went to school or what you wrote your Senior thesis about. If you can produce results, they want you. If you can’t, they’ll encourage you to wipe your ass with your pretty diploma or at the least, caution you to not let the door hit you on the way out.

Mark’s task is to convince potential employers that he can Produce Results. Period. 

The most valuable skills he can learn now, are how to go from stranger to hot commodity.

The most valuable skills he can learn now, are how to go from stranger to hot commodity.

All this comparing himself to others, not feeling socially accepted by them and feeling insecure about this, is a 100% complete and utter waste of his time.

And I told him this, in an animated way. 

“I REFUSE  to spend even 10 more seconds listening to you mope about how bad you feel because you didn’t get the grades or the praise you wanted here!  If that’s what you want to do, go hire a therapist who’s happy to take your money and listen to you pout about shit you can’t change and that doesn’t matter in the least!”

At one point the young woman at the table next to us, stopped typing on her laptop and began listening in on our conversation.

I told him he only had TO CHANGE ONE BELIEF AND HIS ENTIRE LIFE WILL CHANGE, HIS FUTURE WILL OPEN UP AND HE CAN LAUNCH INTO HIS LIFE.

And it’s not an easy one to give up, but it is the only one to change to get everything he wants.

It is the belief that how he did in college and who he was socially accepted by in his college peer group matters in any way whatsoever.

The moment he can change that, he is liberated. LIBERATED.

******************************************************************

He’s LUCKY TOOSt-Patrick-Minimalist-Clover---1.0.0-2400px
Many of the people I meet are about 9 beliefs away from getting everything they want. He is only ONE. 

your-beliefs-pave-your-way-to-success-watermarked

 

My work now is to assassinate that one all-encompassing stupid ass belief and liberate him from the bondage of giving a shit about the opinions of the wrong people and of believing that his GPA in school matters in REAL world out here. 

Stay tuned. This story is just about to get interesting. 

I believe it, just as I believe in him. 

The Overwhelming Cost Of Overwhelming Teens

By Jeffrey | Published February 25th, 2017

95% of the teens and young adults in our world who are struggling, are not mentally ill and don’t need psychological treatment  even though they are receiving it in record numbers. 

That’s not to say they don’t need help, because they do.

I start from the belief that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM, but there is A LOT WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM AND CULTURE and what is being demanded of them and the extreme pressure it puts them under. 

 Thus, WHAT THEY ARE IS OVERWHELMED AND STRESSED to the point where it is hurting their well-being.

The SOLUTION IS is to equip them with the skills, strategies, mindset, perspective and capacity to manage the things that come their way. It is to help them grow to be mature and sophisticated enough such that these things no longer impede them. I have spent 20 years approaching the work with this population this way and have hundreds of success stories, often seeing enormous results in just a few conversations.

60% of my clients come to me AFTER they have “tried” conventional psychotherapy and not gotten results. 

Talking about how things felt may be comforting, but it does nothing to equip them so that next time they face these challenges, this doesn’t happen.

 Don’t subscribe to the medical/pathological model that wants to tell your kid has Depression or an Anxiety Disorder that needs Treatment. ADDRESS THE CAUSE not the symptoms. 

Here are the most common “Overwhelms” youth are succumbing to:

  • boy-stress-sat-deskOverwhelmed by the volume of school work. 
  • Overwhelmed by the volume of deadlines 
  • Overwhelmed by the immense pressure to compete for what they are warned are scarce opportunities to attend a college that is credible enough to give them social and financial status and success [a bold face arrogant small-minded lie]
  • Overwhelmed by the temptations and distractions of technology and instant gratification entertainment media
  •  Overwhelmed by the demands of keeping up with their social image 
  • Overwhelmed by the demands of keeping up with their social world (the volume of texts and instagram posts and snapchats) 
  • Overwhelmed by details and frustrations of bureaucracies (from college applications to the DMV)

Growing Up Doesn’t Just Happen Between 9 & 5

This blog posting shows real "screen shots" of text messages 
that were sent to me just in the last few days.  I think this 
gives a real glimpse into the world of today's adolescents. 
This is especially for those who are seeking to better understand 
the model and methodology of work I do with Evolution Mentoring. 

Growing Up Doesn’t Just Happen Between 9 and 5.

 Many life challenges can’t wait until a week from Tuesday at 4:00pm before the therapist or consultant is willing to be available. They need resolution now.

We’ve all been there! Something happens and we need to make a decision, pronto.

We need advice before the 5pm deadline.

We find ourselves in a difficult relationship situation and need to figure out what to do about it or what to say to this person – and they are on their way over right now.

We come home from a night out to find our teen decided to throw “a little kickback” that turned into a full-fledged teen party. Now we need to decide how to handle it.

A promotion offer came in just days before we were ready to accept a new job at a different firm. Should we stay or should we go? How do we handle it with everyone this impacts?

 

Appt schedule3This one to the right is from a college senior. He just learned that the application deadline for a highly selective government job that he is applying for was moved up by two weeks.

He called seeking two things:

  • Advice about how to best rewrite two of his essay questions. He keeps me on his short list of 5 people he turns to for these things (his father, two Professors, one of his close friends and me).
  • Help keeping his attention in the right place so that he stays calm and focused. He knows how to do this and has built an amazing capacity to do so over the years. This is one of the rare times he has reached out for this and it makes sense given the significance of the circumstances – a true “once in a lifetime” opportunity. (can’t say more given the confidential nature of this)

 

 

Appt schedule2This one to the left is from a college freshman. He’s been in a real funk. Thinking of changing his major and questioning whether or not he’s at the right school.

When we spoke that night he told me :

“I went to the Counseling center on campus, figuring they must deal with this kind of thing all the time. They gave me a 20 minute “drop in” appointment then told me I could come back for a full appointment on February 20th – a month from now, which was their next available appointment. I said “no thanks” and that’s when I reached out to you!”

 

How common is that in today’s world? What a difference it makes to have someone who will answer a message and be available that night.

Appt schedule

This one to the right is from a 19 year old who is needing to make a decision about how to handle a complicated relationship situation. I wrote about it in yesterday’s blog entitled Looking To Play Chess In A Candyland Culture.

Sometimes things come up that can feel too awkward to bring up with parents. Sometimes they just need to hear the words from the right source.

Sometimes they need to speak with someone who they know and trust can really “see” them, will not sugar coat it and who knows enough about the complexities of the world they are living in at their age.

 

 

Appt schedule9

 

This one is from a 17 year old High School Junior. A classmate friend of his has been spreading some very unkind rumors that are negatively effecting relationships in their friend group. 

He wanted to discuss ways he could handle this. Rather than just talk about this girl behind her back, he wanted to step up and directly address her. 

 

 

 

Appt schedule6

 

 

This is from a 16 year old high school student at a boarding school, who wound up having to switch out of her dorm after her roommate began having all sorts of disturbing issues. She was forced to deal with and confront some very “grown-up” circumstances, including not being able to openly discuss with others what went on and why things changed. 

 

 

 

 

Appt schedule7This is from a 22 year old who is dealing with some very difficult changes in her friend group. She wanted some advice and perspective on things she’s observing, and how to have appropriate boundaries given the realities of all involved. 

As she lives in New York, it was possible to just meet up in person a few days later. I travel to the east coast once a month to see clients in person. I worked with her extensively when she was younger. Now she just reaches out a few times a year when things like this come up. 

 

Looking To Play Chess In A Candyland Culture

By Jeffrey | Published February 14th, 2017

openrelationshipI received a call  today from a college student client who was concerned about something going on in his relationship with his girlfriend.

In short, she came to him last week wanting to have an “open relationship” – meaning one where they can be free to have sex with others, while still being boyfriend girlfriend. Only the sexual side of the relationship becomes “open” while the rest remains closed.

While it is still the minority who do things like this, it is something that is not uncommon amongst his generation. 

To his credit, he recognized instantly that this didn’t “feel right” to him. Recognizing internal signals like this in the moment and boldly acting on it, is a skill set and practice that I heavily emphasize in my Mentoring work with adolescents.

So without needing to think further or make excuses or apologies, he boldly  told her that he isn’t comfortable with it. He clearly stated that it doesn’t work for him. He understood that this meant that their relationship may have to end.

When he called today he asked me if I felt he had “done the right thing” and wondered if he “might just be being too uptight about it”.

I’m not going write out the entire dialogue from a 45 minute skype conversation. My answer though came down to two things:

  1. Regardless of whether or not both his and my values stem from some kind of outdated conservative upbringing (as many people who subscribe to this kind of noncommittal sexual free-for-all lifestyle will say), for now (and most likely, forever), it is who we are. To override this always comes at a great cost. He is at an age where he needs to take responsibility for what his values are and where he’s going to be uncompromising. He can always change it later, but to only do so when and if he is ready and only for the right reasons. In my opinion and experience, compromising his values just to try to keep some girl in bed with him a little while longer, is not the right reason.
  2.  Couple playing chess“Don’t get lost in playing Candlyland when what you really want is Chess I told him. He lit up with a smile when I said that metaphor. It resonated.    We live in a culture dominated by people who just want to play Candlyland whereas he is seeking a partner to play Chess. One is simple, shallow and filled with immediate gratification. The other is deep, complex, demands commitment and long term focus.

 

It’s much easier to live a happy content life in this current culture for people who are extroverts (they like being around lots of people lots of the time) outgoing (they are comfortable approaching people and starting up conversation) easy going (they shrug their shoulders and let things roll off very easily, satisfied to distract themselves with a good netflix binge of Breaking Bad rather than to dwell on things that happen that they don’t like) comfortable with competition and risk (they don’t mind it, even better if they love it) are academically adept (getting good grades in school comes relatively easy to them) and they are satisfied solely  by monetary success (having money and the materials and status associated makes them feel rich, often with less regard for  what job they have to do to make it).

It becomes incrementally, then very quickly exponentially, more challenging to live in this world the moment any one of those character traits is different.

This is true for a person who is more of an Introvert (preferring less time with people or smaller friend groups coupled with needing more alone and quiet time), OR less outgoing (harder to get themselves to approach new people or speak up in public settings) Or more sensitive (whether emotionally or physically) or less competitive or risk taking (either not inclined towards or if it causes more stress) or less academically adept (school is harder whether for intellectual reasons or mismatched learning style needs) or who are seeking more substance/meaning or have a higher standard of personal excellence in life (for whom monetary success and social status will never deeply satisfy and/or for whom casual relationships will always feel hollow).

Adolescents who have these kinds of traits are the ones I work with. It may not be easy being the kind of person they are in the world we currently live in, but easy does not mean better.

For the boy today who passed on the opportunity to have sex with lots of girls instead of just one, he may have lost some opportunities to have experiences that would make him the envy of many of his peers, but I would argue that he gained something far more important and valuable – a chance to have something with one, that almost every one out there not so deep down yearns to truly have: Their own Chess partner in the game of life.

What Porn Is Doing To Teen Boys

By Jeff | Published February 7th, 2017
I remember the first time a perfectly healthy 17 year old boy told me he was concerned he suffered from sexual dysfunction. He was concerned because when he had sex with his girlfriend he didn’t “last long” and after that had become so anxious that he couldn’t get an erection. His basis for comparison was what he had been watching in porn.
 
In the 12 years since that conversation I have literally had this same kind of conversation hundreds of times in different ways with different high school and college students who share these concerns privately in my practice and in my programs, all of whom think there must be something wrong with them as their performance anxiety and degree to which they equate sex with their worthiness as a man, is insane. All of whom use porn and “locker room talk” (mostly illustrated by memes shared in group text chats) as their basis for what it should be like, most of whom are addicted to porn or at least have a strong compulsion towards it.
 
I have also had dozens and dozens of conversations with girls this age who tell me that they think they may be lesbian or asexual, not because they are sexually attracted to women, but because they just don’t enjoy the sexual experiences they are having with the boys in their lives. Most of them rely on alcohol to get themselves in the mindset to allow it to happen.
 
These girls are barely even beginning to become adults and already having negative experiences where they are stressed, anxious and unsatisfied. The most common line I hear from them is “I just get up the next morning and feel so used.” And it quickly leads to the conclusion “guys only want one thing” and “guys are just assholes”… and as this article reveals and I can confirm in my conversations with this generation, it is true that a growing number of them thanks to porn seem to be infatuated with that part of anatomy, so it is no wonder girls perceive them this way.
 
I’ve had many parents hire me because they are concerned about their son’s moods or lack of motivation in school, and then have no idea that the work I did with their son that changed his life was to teach him to be okay with being human and how to be human, beginning with how to actually connect, communicate and bond in a healthy vibrant way …
These boys had no idea that the angst they felt had nothing to do with their performance in bed, and everything to do with how deeply lonely they were as a result of having pursued a completely misled orientation to relationships, life and their manhood.
 
Getting on my righteous pedestal for a moment here, but this is frequently on my mind these days:
 
It’s as old as human thought and reason, but the sins of gluttony, hedonism, greed, etc are the destroyers not just of personal happiness and well being, but of entire cultures. While this article and the studies it quotes do not delve into addiction, it might as well… and while porn may be the addiction of choice for many adolescents (and I suspect a lot of others too), it is not the porn that concerns me nearly as much as living in a “more is better immediate gratification” culture that lacks any dominant leadership in discussion and dissemination of importance around what it means to have “enough” or of the en mass effective sharing of basic wisdom around what it really means to be human and to connect in the most humane ways.
 
When I started this work I thought it was about things like problem solving and helping people learn skills and recover from traumas and be more self-confident. Then at some point along the way I realized it was really about something else entirely, of which those results are the byproduct.
My work is not about “healing” the way 99% of the self-help profession thinks of itself and where it fixates, but instead is about learning to be a thoughtful, vibrant, charismatic, adventurous, courageous, soulful, morally tempered, compassionate connected contributing human. At this point I am convinced this is what is needed more than anything else.
 
 

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