How can parents help kids with resilience?

I wrote this a couple years ago and I believe there is some useful information about resilience that is worth repeating.

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Resilience can be learned at the pool.

 

re·sil·ience
rəˈzilyəns
noun
1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”

I’ve read several articles about resilience in the last few days and it is interesting to learn why some people bounce back after defeat or failure while others collapse. It’s also enlightening to learn how parents can help their kids become more resilient. It reminded me of a conversation with a therapist friend, Nicolle Walters, R.N., PH.D., Clinical Psychologist. She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

For more of my interview with Nicolle read “The Instant Gratification Generation and Helicopter Parents” here.

That thought process is reflected in a Wall Street Journal article called “The Secrets of Resilience” by Meg Jay. Here’s an excerpt:

“What does it take to conquer life’s adversities? Lessons from successful adults who overcame difficult childhoods

“Does early hardship in life keep children from becoming successful adults? It’s an urgent question for parents and educators, who worry that children growing up in difficult circumstances will fail to reach their full potential, or worse, sink into despair and dysfunction.

“Social scientists have shown that these risks are real, but they also have found a surprising pattern among those whose early lives included tough times: Many draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success. A wide range of studies over the past few decades has shed light on how such people overcome life’s adversities—and how we might all cultivate resilience as well.”

I don’t mean to say that we’re failing our kids by caring for them and creating positive, stable environments. No, I think that will help them become positive and caring people. But, if they haven’t faced any problems or adversity, it may be a wake-up call when they do. In “Raising Resilience: Parenting Tips that Go the Distance” a blog by Julie Gowthorpe, PH.D. in Hitched, she writes about “how to better prepare your child for the ups and downs in life, it’s good to let them experience struggle.” She has several practical tips you can read in her article here. In addition, I’ve quoted a bit of her article:

“Every loving parent wants childhood to be a positive experience for their kids. When it comes to parenting however, only focusing on the positive is problematic because it derails children’s ability to develop resilience. Resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, is extremely important when teens move off to college and face problems independently.

“Since many young people seem armed with a sense of self-importance and confidence, they present as able to conquer any challenge. Unfortunately, high rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide attempts in college-age students indicate that this is not the case.

“Deluded by the belief that children should be protected from uncomfortable feelings (such as disappointment and sadness), some parents and school systems have completely undermined teaching the importance of work ethic and perseverance. The importance of learning to ‘try and try again’ has been left behind for ‘everyone gets a trophy just for being you.

“The problem with the latter is that it breeds entitled thinking patterns and disrupts learning the natural link between effort, skill and success. Without understanding natural outcomes, later-age teens can be psychologically devastated when they experience failure. With no tolerance for the emotional discomfort, it is no wonder that their mental health spirals and academic success suffers.”

I look at my kids’ lives and they both struggled more in college than I’d expected. They were coddled pretty much at home, by me. But, I do believe they faced challenges in their own ways and weren’t completely without experiencing failure during their formative years. Also, I firmly believe competitive swimming helped them learn the life lessons of hard work, not giving up, shaking it off after a failure and getting back on the blocks to reach their goals. They both have grit, which I think is related to resilience. If they truly want something, they don’t give up in their pursuit.

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My daughter giving it her all in the 1,650 despite having the flu at PAC 12s.

How do you view resilience in your own lives?

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Would you sue your kids?

 

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My kids, who haven’t yet come home to live with us.

Did you read about the parents who couldn’t get their 30-year-old child to launch?

Arwa Mahdawi wrote about it in The Guardian, in “New York judge orders man, 30, to move out of family home after parents sue:”

 

Michael Rotondo, who reportedly moved back home eight years ago, issued with eviction order after he thwarted parents’ efforts

During the hearing on Tuesday, state supreme court justice Donald Greenwood tried to convince Michael Rotondo, who reportedly moved back home eight years ago, to leave the family home in Camillus, near Syracuse, of his own accord. But Rotondo, who represented himself in court, argued that he was entitled to six more months of living with his family.

Greenwood called this demand “outrageous” and served him with an eviction order. Michael, in turn, called the eviction order outrageous.

Suing their son in state supreme court was a last resort for Christina and Mark Rotondo, who have spent the past few months sending Michael formal letters asking him to leave.

In a note dated 2 February, which has been filed in Onondaga county supreme court, they wrote: “Michael, after a discussion with your mother, we have decided that you must leave this house immediately. You have 14 days to vacate. You will not be allowed to return. We will take whatever actions are necessary to enforce this decision.

In an article in the Denver7, “How long should adult children be living in their parents’ homes?” Marc Stewart interviews Denver residents on their opinion:

A judge has ordered a 30-year-old man in New York state to move out of his parents’ house, after a short legal battle.

The case involves a 30-year-old man who was ordered to leave his parents’ home amid complaints he didn’t help with expenses or chores. Appearing in court, the man argued he was not given sufficient legal notification to vacate.

“A six-month notice is reasonable amount of time for someone who has been depending on persons for support,” said 30-year-old Michael Rotondo.

The dispute is prompting discussion from many points of view here in Colorado.

“I think it depends on each individual family. But we like the fact that our kids went to college and mostly didn’t come back!” said a woman named Anne, who lives in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood.

Others are more judgmental.

“My thoughts on that is shame on him. Because a man should be able to stand on his own two feet,” said Ben Duda.

Yet the reality is that a growing number of grownups living are home. According to Pew Research, 15 percent of millennials are now living with their parents. That’s up 5 percent from Generation X.

I have my daughter home with me now, but she’ll be leaving early in June to study abroad, and then move out of state to start her career. I’ll miss her terribly when she leaves. My son went from college at University of California Santa Barbara and shipped his belongings via AmTrak to the Bay area and drove up there from school. I almost wish I had more time with them. He’s asked to come home for awhile so he can apply to grad schools. It is always wonderful when they come home to visit. But, I’m not sure how it would be with them living here full time. I think it means we’re succeeding with our parenting to have them fly from the nest.

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With all their future dreams ahead.

 

What do you think about the parents suing their son? I wonder why they felt it was a last resort? 

Meet the 90-year-old Helicopter Parents

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I’m still working on not being a helicopter mom.

In a Boston Globe article called “Meet the Helicopter Parents: These helicopter parents are 90. Their kids? 65,” by Beth Teitell gives a number of hilarious examples of middle-aged grown-ups being helicoptered by their 90-year-old parents:

 

“My mom asked for the phone number of our school board to tell them they keep me out too late at meetings,” @bonitadee tweeted. “I am 57 and a school principal.”

The writer Roxane Gay captured the new reality. “My mom just texted me to curse less on twitter,” she tweeted on April 8. “I said stop stalking me. She said ‘I will not.’ I am 43.”

I too get unsolicited advice from my dad. I probably enjoy it as much as my kids like unsolicited advice from me. It’s not very often, though. And another thing I learned in this article is this: when the advice ends–you’ll be very sad. 

Another point, we are just as much at fault for allowing our parents to helicopter. Most adults don’t stand up to their parents or say anything at all. For example, my daughter has no problem telling me when to stop over-parenting or helicoptering. My son is more polite about it, but he tells me not to worry. “That he’s got it handled.” Me, I say nothing, or try to explain my point of view. Mostly, I view both my mom and dad as leaning to the “free-range” spectrum of parenting, rather than helicoptering.

Here’s more from the article:

Welcome to 2018, when people are living so long that baby boomers, the original helicopter parents, have helicopters of their own.

A growing number of middle-aged folks — accustomed to directing their teenagers and young adults’ lives — are also on the receiving side of the equation. In today’s world, you’re never too old to be somebody’s baby.

In 2012, 53.7 percent of people aged 55-59 had at least one parent living, compared with 43.6 percent in that same age group in 1992, according to Ashton Verdery, an assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University.

Relationships between adult children who are 65+ and parents who are 90 and up are new enough that the National Institute on Aging is funding a study.

Kathrin Boerner, the principal investigator of the “Aging Together Study,” and an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said she was surprised at the amount of advice and support that flows “downstream,” from very old parents to senior adult children.

1915364_1296704101497_7996135_nAre you an adult with helicopter parents? What do you say when they give you unsolicited advice?

What is white space and why do we need it?

 

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White space to be superheroes.

In a parenting article in the Herald-Tribune from Sarasota, FL called “White space is important for kids to develop interests,” Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, parenting experts, explain what white space is and why kids need it.

In my opinion, we all need white space in our lives. It’s a time to reflect and think, without the TV on in the background, or checking out your social media on our phones.

From the article:

In art, the white space is sometimes called negative space. This offers an interesting play on words because many parents view the white space — the unscheduled, empty time in their child’s day — as something negative, something to be avoided.

But just as negative space is critical to art and rests are vital to music, white space is critical to a child’s ability to develop thriving interests.

In practical terms, white space is totally unscheduled time. It’s time when kids don’t have homework or activities or chores or screens or visiting friends. It’s time when they are left to grapple with themselves — alone — probably bored, thinking to themselves, discovering things.

White space can be challenging for most people at first, especially if they have been conditioned to fill quiet and empty moments of the day with people, tasks or entertainment. But it is in the white space that human imagination is called upon, an inner-thought life develops and significant interests can develop.

Many parents are afraid of white space. They think it is unproductive, maybe even a waste of time. They think it’s an opportunity for kids to get in trouble. Some are afraid their kids will drive them nuts or make a mess or wreak havoc in some other way. Some parents even fear their children will miss out on other things. Others are afraid their kids will resent them for enforcing times of white space.

Ultimately, these parents do not have faith in the process. But the truth is white space allows kids time to learn how to think about things. When there is no other voice but their own telling them what to think — no friend, adult, video game, TV show, YouTuber or even the author of a book — they have to grapple with things on their own, in their own minds.

In these moments, a deep inner-thought life can develop. The skill of communicating with oneself and learning how to think about things begins to take root. And often, from this inner wrestling match, deep interests may arise.

In my children’s lives, they were extremely busy. I do think a lot of their time in the pool, staring at the black lane on the bottom of the pool, gave them time to think. Also, the full days at the beach allowed them time to be creative and create everything from sand castles to kitchens and lie back and stare at the blue sky and ocean waves.

As for my own thought process working on a mid-grade children’s novel, somedays it may seem like I’m not getting anything done. In reality, I’m thinking. I’m mulling things over. That’s when problems get solved and creativity is allowed to spark.

 

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Time to explore and figure things out.

What are your thoughts about white space and how do you use it in your life?

 

What’s the best advice from your mom?

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Mom and me in the early 90s.

“The Best Parenting Advice My Mom Gave Me” from the HuffPost and written by Taylor Pittman has nine quotes from staff members about what they learned from their moms, like “Never say, ‘My child will/would never do that.’”

Here are three more quotes from the article:

“The sink won’t remember if you cleaned it every night before bed. The laundry won’t mind staying unfolded for several days. The kids will remember time with Mom. Your husband will appreciate the 10 minutes you spend together.” ― Valeria Nijm

“Be willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake to your kids, and apologize.” ― Jen Hall

“This nugget came from my mom, who got it from her mother. If something bad happened, my grandmother would say, ‘Oh, well!’ She’s right, you just have to roll with the punches and move on from things.” ― Wendy Pitoniak

This article made me reflect on advice from my own mom. One of the best thing she’d stress to me was that she didn’t care about my grades, probably because she had so much pressure to be perfect and valedictorian.

The other thing she would say was that it was a parent’s job to let go and let your children fly out of the nest. She believed in a mostly hands-off approach and she said if she did a good job as my mother, her job would be over. Her goal was to be out of a job as the parent.

My parents were never overly involved but gave us plenty of real-life experience with chores and responsibilities. We suffered consequences for our own actions. I was highly motivated to do well in school and would set my alarm early before anyone would wake up, make myself coffee and study Chemistry every morning before school. Each day we would have a quiz and I would literally memorize my textbook so I would be guaranteed a seat near the top of the class. (The teacher came up with a new seating chart daily based on our cumulative scores.) My mom did nothing to make me do this. It was my own motivation.

She made sure I was prepared for adulting. I knew how to do the laundry, change a tire, check my oil, bank, grocery shop and cook. I never liked cleaning and my room was usually a disaster, but my parents didn’t care, so long as I kept the mess confined to my own room and shut the door. I had to keep the rest of the house clean and trade off vacuuming and cleaning the rest of the house with my brother.

 

 

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Me and my daughter.

 

What is the best wisdom your mom shared with you?

 

How can parents help with college recruiting?

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Signing day.

There’s a balance we need to find as parents during the exciting, whirlwind process of recruiting for college athletics. I look back on my daughter’s recruiting experience as a great memory. We helped her but didn’t overtake the process. There is a fine line, and often parents don’t do enough—or do too much.

In USA Today, I read a valuable article about college athletic recruiting by Jaimie Duffek, NCSA Head Recruiting Coach, called “How college coaches recommend parents help with recruiting.” Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes who are part of the Next College Student-Athlete team, a top recruiting network.

Joyce Wellhoefer, a former Division I, Division II, and NAIA college coach for more than 20 years, recalls a recruit she removed from her prospect list, even though she was a top athlete.

“We invited her on a visit, but the whole time she was there, I never got a chance to connect—or really even talk to her—because her mom kept answering questions for her,” she says.

College coaches evaluate a student-athlete’s personality just as much as their athletic skill set. At the end of the day, they want to recruit someone who is going to be the right fit for the team’s chemistry, and who is coach-able. The best way to learn that? By talking to the student-athlete.

When the parent is the one calling the coach, sending emails, and answering their questions on visits, it doesn’t give the coach a chance to bond with the student-athlete. College coaches know that you want the best for your child, just like they want the best fit for their team. So don’t hesitate to sit back a little and encourage your athlete—especially a shy teenager—to be confident enough to talk directly to the coach.

How parents can help their student-athlete in the recruiting process
Now, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “That all sounds great, but there’s no way my child can do this on their own.” You’re right. Not a lot of teenagers have the time to take on their recruiting on top of all their many responsibilities. And college coaches recognize that you’re a big part of the process. In fact, getting to know the parents is important, too.

“Having support from parents is extremely beneficial for college coaches,” says Emily Johnson, who coached at Division II and III schools over a 17-year span. “As a coach, you are recruiting the whole family. It’s important to talk to the parents and get to know them.”

Bottom line—coaches know this is a big decision for the whole family, and they’re looking for parents who are invested but who don’t own the recruiting process. They support their athlete but give them the responsibility. So, here are ways you can do that according to our coaches.

 

Here are a few headings from the article of how parents can help:

Introduce yourself at the right time

Help your athlete stay organized

Help them explore their college options

I’ve interviewed many collegiate swim coaches for SwimSwam magazine and they do look at parents during the recruiting process. Overall they say that parents can be extremely helpful, especially in research. With all the universities’ information online, it’s a lot of material to sift through. That’s one thing that parents can help with. They agree that parents shouldn’t be the ones sending the emails to coaches and answering them. Coaches can tell when it’s a student or a parent’s voice, regardless who’s name or email it’s coming from. Also, two coaches told me that it was especially informative to see the relationship between the student-athlete and parents. For example, during one recruit trip, a coach listened to a student berate her mom over the cell phone. That coach said she had no interest in a swimmer who was so disrespectful to adults because she said she would refuse to be treated that way and her role eventually evolves to that as a surrogate mother.

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My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

What are your suggestions for parents duties during the recruiting process?

Parents are helping kids cheat on SATs

 

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Move-in weekend for college.

 

Here’s a strange trend, The number of parents asking for special accommodations for their high school kids taking the ACT and SAT has more than doubled in recent years. In “Rich parents are using doctor’s notes to help kids cheat the SATs” by Doree Lewak in the New York Post this trend is discussed:

“The ACT says that roughly 5 percent of students taking the test receive accommodations, most commonly for extra time. Prior to 2003, it was less than 2 percent. The College Board, which administers the SATs, along with the PSATs and AP exams, says that it’s also seen an uptick in accommodations in recent years — from 1.4 percent in 2012 to 3 percent last year.”

Some parents, who aren’t able to pay $4,000 to $6,000 for a psychological evaluation and the coveted doctor’s note, are calling foul. One mom named Kim Gronich is considering suing her teen daughter’s school.

“She’s coming up against all of these kids who bought extra time from a doctor’s note. It’s outrageous and it’s rampant,” says Gronich, who is considering filing a lawsuit against her daughter’s school for helping so many get special treatment. “The other kids are there for hours more … These are the children who are cheating and getting away with it.”

When it comes to getting into top colleges, well-heeled parents will do anything to give their kids a leg up on the competition. An increasingly common tactic is getting kids extra time on the ACTs and SATs because of a psychological diagnosis that may or may not be legitimate. Previously, the testing companies alerted colleges when students received extra time, but they stopped doing so in 2003, opening the door for abuse.

“Parents with means will stop at nothing to get their kid into college — that’s what they do,” says Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, an education lawyer and staunch opponent of the accommodation abuse.

I find these tactics so discouraging. Are parents today not learning anything? Can we not let our kids be kids? I’m sure these doctor’s notes are in addition to paying for SAT and ACT tutors or expensive prep classes, too. When we were kids, we showed up on a Saturday morning to take a test completely unprepared. The test score was what it was. A test score. Also, not that many students bothered to take the tests in the first place, only those applying to colleges that required a test score.

What type of diagnosis can give students accommodations on the test? And are they guaranteed to get more time? From the article it states:

Both the ACT and the College Board say that more than 90 percent of those seeking accommodations are successful. To get extra time, parents can pay thousands of dollars to have their child evaluated for a learning disorder by a private neuropsychology evaluator, typically a psychologist of some sort. If they’re not successful, they’ll often try a different psychologist, ponying up thousands of more dollars. Common diagnoses include ADHD and processing issues. The evaluation is sent to the school, where it’s typically accepted. In the unlikely event, it’s not, some parents hire a lawyer to appeal. When it comes time for a student to register for a standardized test, the school usually sends out a request on behalf of the student.

“More and more people are claiming to have these disabilities,” says Sam Abrams, a Manhattan academic and professor at Sarah Lawrence College who closely follows this issue. “Diagnoses can be trumped up. Severe anxiety disorder is ramped up like nobody’s business. It’s a catchall that nobody can argue with — it’s self-reported. If you don’t like the diagnosis of one person, you’ll find someone to find another therapist to diagnose your ‘anxiety.’ It’s so easy to get those diagnoses today.”

My son scored very high on his tests—without a prep class or tutoring—or special accommodations. Even with a perfect 800 in English and high 700s in Math, he didn’t get into an Ivy League school, which was his dream. I think we’re putting too much emphasis on test scores because they don’t really determine a thing. We need to back off and not try to fix everything for our kids. Also, my daughter, who was diagnosed with Scotopic Sensitive Syndrome, which is a sensitivity to light, could have gotten more time. There was no way she wanted it. Why on earth would she want to be stuck in the test for more than three and a half hours, was her take on it.

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One of my favorite pictures when they were young at Aliso Beach.

 

What are your thoughts about parents going the extra mile for special accommodations for the SAT and ACT?