Visible Tattoos and a Sugary Breakfast Habit for 04/07/2018

Visible Tattoos and a Sugary Breakfast Habit for 04/07/2018
Dear Family Coach

Dear Family Coach: My son will be 18 in a few months. He has been accepted into college and will be moving to a big city in the fall. He says that once at college, he’s going to get a tattoo on his hand or wrist. I don’t mind a tattoo, but I’m concerned about him losing job possibilities because of his tattoo being too visible. But he will be 18, and the only thing I could do is threaten to take away his college money. Would that be a mistake, or is this decision too big to allow a young man to make? — Purse Strings

Dear Strings: I am never a fan of using the purse strings to keep young adults in line. If your son is wasting your money, blowing off classes and failing semester after semester, then it’s time to pull the plug, or at least change the deal. Otherwise it’s time to let your son grow up and make his own decisions.

Updated: Sat Apr 07, 2018


Visible Tattoos and a Sugary Breakfast Habit for 04/07/2018

Lonely Mom and Dealing With Miscarriage for 03/31/2018

Lonely Mom and Dealing With Miscarriage for 03/31/2018
Dear Family Coach

Dear Family Coach: I have two kids. When my oldest was born, I had lots of friends to meet for play dates. Those friends provided me with a lot of social and emotional support. I never realized how much until I had my second son. My youngest has a severe form of autism. He is difficult to be around, and thus, I have pretty much lost all of my friends. I am lonely and exhausted, and I feel abandoned. How can I help my friends see how much I need their friendship? — Alone

Dear Alone: It can feel exceptionally lonely to be the parent of a child with special needs. I am sorry your friends didn’t rise to the occasion.

Updated: Sat Mar 31, 2018


Lonely Mom and Dealing With Miscarriage for 03/31/2018

Emma González and the Unknown Costs of Early Activism

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

I’ve been watching the Parkland survivor advocates feeling simultaneously in awe of their courage and fearful for their futures. I am absolutely astonished at their strength, power and passion. They have been able to achieve what many exceptionally accomplished adults have not. They have advanced the discussion on gun control, and they deserve our never-ending gratitude. Yes, we owe them for what they are trying to do for our children and country. But we also owe them for the potential damage they are unknowingly inflicting upon themselves.

Emma González, the face of the movement, is barely a day into adulthood. She believes she can change the world, and she’s certainly putting in her effort. But at 18, she doesn’t know about the pain of banging your head against the wall trying to help people understand why they should collectively care. She doesn’t know that she just lost her last bit of privacy, and that her life will never go as she originally planned. She doesn’t know how PTSD may affect her in the future or even what the effects will be of having lived through a mass shooting and watching friends die. She hasn’t had a second of time to grieve. As a social worker and parent I can’t help but worry about what the recent fame and opportunity is costing her and her friends.

In an essay for Harper’s Bazaar, González laments: “I’m 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual. I’m so indecisive that I can’t pick a favorite color, and I’m allergic to 12 things. I draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider—anything productive I can do with my hands while watching Netflix. But none of this matters anymore.” Right now her life is all about gun control. At the same time, she is still developing her identity of who she is and who she wants to be. She still naively thinks everything will return to normal as soon as the adults wake up and change the laws. She writes, “We want to fix this problem so it doesn’t occur again, but mostly we want people to forget about us once this is over. We want to go back to our lives and live them to the fullest in respect for the dead”

An icon at 18, González has a verified Twitter account followed by 1.4 million. Emma and her friends don’t know what twitter trolls can do. Unfortunately, they are getting a crash course. Just yesterday a doctored animated video made the rounds on social media. It featured González ripping up a copy of the constitution. The name calling can be venomous by the anonymous. However, loads of people have no problem attaching their names to vicious hate speech. Take Leslie Gibson, former candidate for the Maine house and a man who called González a “skinhead lesbian” on Twitter. That’s one of the nicer comments I read.

Being an advocate and activist has a price, and Emma González and the other young people fronting this movement will pay it for us. It may take years but the price will come. I worry about anxiety and depression. I worry about PTSD and suicidal ideation. I worry about social isolation and credible threats to their safety. I worry about the toll of prolonged anger without outlets and something positive to balance it. These worries aren’t hyperbole or dramatic exaggeration. It’s the sad reality of being a nationally-recognized activist.

A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the pain and suffering of young people who were suddenly thrown into the activist rolls. Due to various causes, five people from the Black Lives Matter movement have died in just the last two years. The kids from Parkland are already receiving death threats. González reported on 60 Minutes that she fears bombs being thrown through their office windows. This weight would be extremely difficult for an adult to handle, let alone adolescents. There is a lot of sacrifice and suffering that accompanies anyone shouting for change in the public eye. But the effects are more intense when the advocates are still coming of age.

It remains unclear how the #NeverAgain movement will affect Emma González and her peers from Parkland. They are doing a service for their country, and they should be recognized as such. I just hope the price tag for their effort isn’t irreparable damage.

Snooping Mistakes and a Pesky Pacifier for 03/24/2018

Snooping Mistakes and a Pesky Pacifier for 03/24/2018
Dear Family Coach

Dear Family Coach: My 16-year-old daughter tells us nothing about her life. So when she goes to bed, I sometimes browse through her cellphone. At first I just noticed typical teenage girl gossip. But then I read about a boy she likes and is trying to attract by wearing tight clothing and sending him racy Snapchats. How can I address this with her without telling her that I’ve been on her phone? — Snooper

Dear Snooper: Stop snooping right now. Your daughter chooses not to share her life with you. It would be helpful to figure out why. Is she just private, or is she worried about the potential lectures she will get if she tells you anything? Either way, I can guarantee she will be even less likely to share her life details once she finds out you’ve been snooping. Furthermore, once you read or see something upsetting, you can’t unknow it. That’s the danger. You don’t know what you will find, or even how to handle it.

Updated: Sat Mar 24, 2018


Snooping Mistakes and a Pesky Pacifier for 03/24/2018

A New Dress Code Policy & A Win for Girls

Sometimes a small change can make a massive difference. Today I found out my school district changed it’s dress code policy. What might look like minor language alterations actually add up to a huge development.

Last year my 13-year-old daughter was objectified, mortified and singled out due to her size (tall) and gender. First we were told girls couldn’t wear yoga pants because the boys can’t control themselves. Then various school administrators gave my daughter two dress code violations stating that her shorts were too short. Frustrated and embarrassed by what she had to wear the rest of the day my daughter wrote an email to the principal expressing her thoughts on the dress code. The principal wrote back that it was out of her hands as she was just following district policy (LAME).

I was livid and fed up with the policy and its implementation. I wrote a tongue in cheek letter to the principal inviting her to take my daughter shopping. The letter struck a chord, for better or worse, with so many. I received hundreds of notes from women and girls thanking me for expressing their frustration. I also received loads of well-meaning folks telling me I was raising a slut and a snowflake. Everyone is entitled to their opinion although I respectfully disagreed.

The dress code singles out girls. Although tall and overweight girls are disproportionately more likely to be cited. The not-so-subtle message of the dress code is that girls’ bodies are a distraction and girls need to be responsible for making boys comfortable. In the age of #MeToo it is clear that we need to be sending different messages to both the boys and the girls.

This year my daughter entered high school where miraculously the dress code isn’t enforced much. Life went on. However, I just spotted an understated post on the middle school Facebook page that simply says, “Dress Code approved 1/16/2018.” I clicked on the link and immediately smiled from ear to ear.

The new dress code states that kids must wear a shirt, pant, shorts or a skirt, and shoes. No one can wear clothing with profanity, violent images, any illegal item or hate speech. That’s pretty much it.

The best part of the new policy actually doesn’t relate to the dress code, but to how it can be enforced. School staff may NOT publicly call out a student for attire. Staff may NOT require students to bend, kneel or measure skirts or straps. And most important, school staff may NOT accuse students of distracting other students with their clothing. When I read that part I became teary from I place I didn’t know was still hurting. This is a huge advancement and a win for all the kids in the district.

I don’t think my letters to and about the principal had any influence over this policy. But I do think that our collective voice across the country is being heard. This policy shift may seem small and insignificant. But right now I feel hopeful, and that’s not nothing.

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