What role do parents have in our kids’ anxiety?

child's birthday part at a swimming pool

My son’s second grade birthday party at the city pool.

I read that 65% of young adults are suffering from anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 crisis and 25% are contemplating suicide. Those are frightening statistics, which are worse than ever before.

Last year, in more normal times, I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And this was before the shut downs. Why was it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

blond mom and son at the beach

We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

This year the environment takes on a whole new meaning. With shut downs, lay offs, more and more young adults out of work, of course the environment is gong to cause problems. Without COVID-19, many of our corporate environments weren’t a good fit for young people. Many companies were working on allowing more flexibility and developing new employees with training. Now worries about working from home, isolation, or no work at all is a bigger worry than ever. 

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? How much of their suffering from depression and anxiety can be blamed on parenting? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

Helicopter parents butt into zoom school

brother and sister dressed up

My son when he was in second grade. I think I remember my daughter’s bangs had something to do with gum and big brother.

Can you imagine how hard it would be to be a helicopter parent in today’s world? Imagine if your child was on zoom calls for school. I’d think most helicopter parents would be sitting right there with their child.

In an article I read from Good Housekeeping by Gina Rich, there were quite a few funny examples. The article is called Parents Who Butt In During Remote School Are Just Trying to Help — But They’re Doing the Opposite.

Here’s an excerpt:

Child development experts have already firmly established why helicopter parenting and lawnmower parenting — or swooping in to rescue our kids from every problem — is harmful. Overly involved parenting jeopardizes kids’ independence and resilience, not to mention parents’ sanity. Yet months into a pandemic that’s forcing physical classrooms to remain closed, the unescapable proximity has caused many parents to struggle. It can be hard to let children muddle through the challenges of virtual school without intervening.

Earlier this fall in Berkeley, California, Allison Landa went to check on her 5-year-old son, a transitional kindergartener who is learning remotely. When Landa saw her child wasn’t following the teacher’s instructions to draw dots on a page, she decided to jump in. “I took the crayon and helped him swirl it on the page. Then I drew a dot of my own. Then I quizzed him: What color was the dot? How big was it?”

Across the country in upstate New York, Emily Popek was helping her third grader, who was suddenly the host of her class Zoom meeting after a glitch kicked the teacher out. Looking at the screen, Popek saw her daughter’s classmates — and a lone parent whose voice sounded familiar.

I realized I’d been hearing that parent’s voice,” she says. “You can never see her kid — it’s just her.” During the first Zoom meeting of the school year, the same parent had joined the conversation and started asking the teacher questions. “The student wasn’t interacting with the teacher at all,” recalls Popek, a school communications professional. “It was all being mediated by the mom.” And Popek’s story is just one of many: Playgrounds across the country are filled with whispered complaints of parents who interject during lessons, prompt their kids to give correct answers or complain that their kids aren’t being called on enough.

To be fair to parents who are trying to work at home and have their kids succeed in school, this year has thrown them a curve ball. They are trying to do what’s best. Although sometimes it’s better to do less. Let your kids take over their education. They will gain so much more, even if they mess up.

I remember when my son was in second grade, I volunteered to be a classroom helper. My role was to sit at the back of the classroom and correct papers as they were turned in. The teacher was fabulous and she stood in the front of the classroom making a list of five or six assignments on the board and keeping the kids enthralled with an occasional cartwheel. She had me call kids individually to go over their assignments with them. She said it was so much better for them to get instant feedback and learn from their mistakes right away. That’s why she used parent helpers.

Anyway, I would get antsy watching my son not do anything but fiddle at his desk while other kids were hurrying through their list of assignments. I’d walk up to him and try to encourage him to get started. The teacher would admonish me and send me back to my desk. “Mom, leave him alone! He’s got this,” she say. Then when it was almost time for recess, my son would miraculously start his work and get done in time to go play. And if not, he’d take his work outside and finish it at a lunch table.

It was tough for me to watch him dawdle. But he lived through it and so did I.

brother and sister in winter wear

My kids all grown up in their winter wear at a PAC 12 Swimming Championships.

If you’re a parent with your kids learning online at home, what are your secrets to making it work? Do you find yourself wanting to jump in and help? Or, take over?

Are Helicopter Parents Grounded During COVID-19?

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My favorite place to be a helicopter parent — at the beach.

In a Wall Street Journal article this week called Has Covid Brought an End to Helicopter Parenting? by Anne Marie Chaker, how parenting has changed due to Coronavirus is discussed. Not only are parents working from home, but they don’t have school or childcare to help take care of the kids. The result is relaxed parenting standards, like letting kids go out of the house unsupervised on their bikes and allowing more screen time.

Parents are tired. They are cooped up. They are letting go of their helicopter parenting tendencies. It’s called survival for many. In some ways this is a good thing for our kids, although the increased screen time doesn’t sound like a benefit.

Here’s an excerpt:

Kim Lucasti recently made a parenting decision she never would have permitted before the coronavirus pandemic: She let her 14-year-old daughter ride a bike into town without an adult alongside her.

In the past couple of months, Ms. Lucasti, who lives in Longport, N.J., has given more freedom to her teenage daughter and 12-year-old son. It’s partly because the kids are restless without their usual scheduled activities, and also because she needs space to handle her own tasks. “I have never left my kids alone in the house so much,” she says. Gone are the days of helicopter parenting: “I have let the helicopter down,” she jokes.

Doctors see benefits in giving kids greater independence and freedom to make decisions. It would mark a departure from the hypervigilant approach adopted by many parents since the 1990s, which critics said harmed kids’ ability to develop problem-solving skills, navigate conflict on their own, and create an identity separate from their parents.

But with a less hands-on style come other concerns: Unrestricted screen time, which doctors worry can lead to inactivity, sleep disruption and anxiety. And the pandemic has brought myriad other stresses into family life—a lack of routine, schooling and socialization among them—whose long-term consequences remain to be seen.

About half of 2,067 adults said they are allowing their children to go to bed later (46%), wake up later (51%), and are allowing more screen time (49%), according to a May survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix. A separate poll found that nearly 30% of parents said their child-rearing styles are at least somewhat or much more relaxed than normal, according to a June survey of nearly 900 parents by Pittsburgh-based consumer-research firm CivicScience.

This parenting sounds like more of throw back to how I was raised. We could leave the house after breakfast, return for a sandwich at lunchtime and the only rule was to be back home at dark. When we lived in town, we played in each other’s yards, and dusk often brought a game of “work up” softball with kids of all ages playing in our dead end street.

In second grade, we moved to “the country” and we’d ride our bikes for miles and miles to visit friends, or go on a scenic loop along the river. Or, my brother and I would be armed with machetes chopping our way through berry brambles to forge a trail and build forts in the woods.

My parents didn’t seem to care where we were as long as we were home for dinner. The one thing mom did have control of when I was very young was screen time. Back then screens were a TV with less than a half dozen stations. Mom allowed two half-hour shows on PBS per day.  I remember the weird feeling at 3 p.m. in the middle of a game of touch football or tag, the neighborhood kids would run home to watch “Dark Shadows.” Of course, we were not allowed to watch that show. Oh well. When we were in junior high, our parents gave up on screen time, too.

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Me and my brother when screen time was limited, but we could play outside all day long.

How has your parenting changed with COVID-19?

True Confessions of a Former Helicopter Mom

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

Binky's

Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

My two kids.

My two kids.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?

Are Parents to Blame for Our Children’s Angst and Anxiety?

I wrote this months before the pandemic hit and we began sheltering in place. Now that I’ve spent 109 days in my home without my normal activities of meeting friends for lunch, traveling, volunteering and hanging out with my swim friends, I’m learning that more and more people are suffering from anxiety and children are being hit the hardest. A friend of mine who is a psychologist for teens said she’s talking to a record number of kids who are talking about suicide. It puts a new perspective on our kids’ angst and anxiety.

randk 3I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

randk 1

We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

When Parents Do Too Much for Their Kids

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My young Piranhas. They are never too young to learn responsibility for their actions.

I read an interesting article that a friend posted on FB called “8 Things Kids Need to Do By Themselves Before They’re 13” by Amy Carney. Carney is the mother of triplet teen boys and two other younger children and she’s got parenting down.

Her article listed things that parents need to stop doing or we won’t have independent well-functioning kids. I thought it made some really good points, and I wish I would have heard about this list before my kids were in middle school. I have been known to bail my kids out, rushing to school with their forgotten homework or lunches. Their lack of planning on big projects became my emergencies and stress. I wasn’t helping them at all by picking up the pieces. In truth, I bailed out one child more than the other, and that child almost failed out of college his freshman year. He was not ready to go because I was doing everything for him, including waking him up in the morning.

Here are four of the eight things on her list. To read her complete list click here.

1. Waking them up in the morning
2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch
3. Filling out their paperwork
4. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you.

We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

What happens when we do too much for our kids? In my opinion, they aren’t allowed to grow up. They have no consequences for their actions or lack of action. They don’t know how to plan, be responsible or own up to their mistakes. If you’re a parent who is continually jumping in to save your child, stop. You can’t move into the college dorm with them and by then it’s too late.

 

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When they were young and at the beach.

Both of my kids swam from elementary school through high school and one continued in college. I liked having my kids in year-round swimming because it taught them there was a direct correlation between their actions (how hard they tried) and outcomes (getting faster.) Also, practice every day, six days a week with a few doubles thrown in, taught them time management. They were responsible for their own equipment, too. There are tons of life lessons in the pool. But, because of how busy and dedicated they were, I overcompensated in other areas of their lives.

 

Here are a couple of SwimSwam articles I wrote on the subject:

In 11 Tips for Parents on What Our Kids Need to Know Before College, I have created a list of life skills that we should check off before the kids move out.
In 12 Hints You Might Be a Hovering Helicopter Swim Parent, I write about the little things we do for our kids without a second thought, that will put them at a disadvantage when they move away.
What are your thoughts about getting kids ready for the real world? Are we helping or hurting our kids by doing too much for them?

Who believes Operation Varsity Blues parents are innocent?

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Proof my daughter swam her way into  college.

Seriously? The attorney for the famous couple of the Instagram influencer is saying that they are innocent to charges of bribing USC to get their kids in. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times today called New evidence backs Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s innocence, lawyer says explains why they think they are innocent.

Rick Singer was the college consultant who set up a fake charity and took large sums of money from parents to guarantee admission to universities. In Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s case, they paid $500,000 to have their daughters admitted to University of Southern California on the crew team — and neither daughter had ever been rowers. I guess we’re supposed to forget that the parents had pictures of their daughter taken on an erg or that they had someone photoshop their daughter’s head on a rower in a boat. That’s not suspicious at all, right?

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

BOSTON —  Lawyers for “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, said Wednesday that new evidence shows the couple is innocent of charges that they bribed their daughters’ way into USC.

An attorney for the couple said in a legal filing that prosecutors provided the defense with notes written by the admitted ringleader of the college admissions cheating scheme that support the couple’s claim that they believed their payments were legitimate donations, not bribes.

“This belated discovery is devastating to the government’s case and demonstrates that the government has been improperly withholding core exculpatory information, employing a ‘win at all costs’ effort rather than following their obligation to do justice,” attorney Sean Berkowtiz wrote.

The filing came on the eve of a status hearing in the case scheduled for Thursday at Boston’s federal court in the sweeping college admissions bribery case. It was expected that the judge would set a trial date for the parents still fighting the charges at that hearing.

Now, the couple’s attorneys are asking the judge to postpone the setting of the trial date in light of the new evidence, saying “it is the only fair way to protect the defendants’ rights.”

Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither was a rower. Authorities say the money was funneled through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme.

Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli have argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or to support Singer’s charity. They have accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.

It comes down to some notes by the less than honest Singer that supposedly hold exculpatory evidence for Loughlin and Giannulli. Do you think that it will be enough to prove their innocence? I guess we’ll find out in the fall when the parents go to trial.

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

I am particularly annoyed with these parents in the college admissions scandal because I watched my son get rejected by eight of the nine universities he applied to. He worked so hard in high school to get into the schools of his dreams. He was valedictorian, had great SATs, participated in extracurriculars like swimming, Junior Statesmen of America, and wrote and performed music with his band. My heart ached for him and now I learn that many of the spots were taken by parents cheating the system for their kids. Also, my daughter earned her scholarship through years and years of hard work as a student- athlete. How many of those spots were taken across the nation by kids not even in a sport — and taken away from someone else who worked for ten or more years to get there?