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.

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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.

Day 89 Shelter in Place: More Change

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The park near my home where I’ve been walking Waffles.

I have two big changes in my “new normal.” One, because our city pool hasn’t opened up yet, I finally dove into our backyard pool to swim. It’s too short to do more than ten strokes, so I ordered a swim bungee cord that connects to a velcro strap that goes around my waist. It took me a day or two to figure out this is really good exercise — although I don’t swim as long as I would at Masters in the city pool. When you swim against the bungee, it’s resistance training and I get really sore!

I’ve done five days of swimming and I’m making progress. My back and arms are killing me. I should have started this 88 days ago, but hey I’m doing it now! When I take off the contraption, I feel free like I can fly through the water. This has to be good for me in addition to my daily walks.IMG_5883

The second big change comes tomorrow. My girl and Waffles the pug have decided to return to their lives in the Bay Area. I do know this is for the best but wow. I am going to miss them both. I’m getting a little teary-eyed at the thought.

One of the blessings of this horrific pandemic has been the time we got to share together while sheltering in place. It gave us time together for several months that I doubt would have ever happened without COVID-19. I’m happy for her to move on with her life, but yes, I’m going to miss her and Waff.

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Waffles on my lap. I’m going to miss this good boy!

How is your life changing through these days?

 

 

Why We Fail at Motivating Our Kids

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My daughter was motivated to swim.

Do you know why we fail? Because motivation is an “inside job.” I heard that yesterday in a webinar by David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life, called Solve the Mystery of Your Child’s Motivation and Distraction Issues. Benzel is a sports parenting expert who works with USA Swimming and other youth sports organizations. I’ve been following Benzel for years now. He pointed out the difference between inspiration and motivation in this talk. My takeaway is that inspiration is external while motivation is internal.

Here’s one thought I wrote down from the webinar: “It does little good to want something for someone more than they want it themselves.” That’s a good point for parents. If we want something more for our kids than they do, we are going to be disappointed and our kids will feel stress and pressure.

An analogy that Benzel used to talk about motivation was “What makes a mouse run a maze? Is it the cheese?” I thought so, but the answer is hunger. Without hunger, the mouse will not go through the maze for cheese. (Of course, if it is a pug or a Labrador retriever, the correct answer would be the cheese.) Motivation is the result of an unmet need. If there’s no need, you won’t see increased activity. A person can be inspired, but not take any action. They could read a book that inspired them about climbing Mt. Everest blind (example used in the webinar) but it doesn’t mean the reader is going to put down the book and work on climbing Mt. Everest. That’s the difference between motivation and inspiration.

Here are some things motivate people to work well:

Pride in their work

Sense of accomplishment

Enjoyment of the work itself

Recognition and praise

To make a difference

What motivates our kids in their athletics?

Because it’s fun

To be with friends

To learn new skills

To receive attention and recognition

The enjoyment of competition

All those reason are valid and it’s obvious that those are unmet needs that are internalized.

During shelter in place for what seems like an entire year (but it’s only been 68 days, but hey, who’s counting?) many parents want their kids to take advantage of the time and work on intellectual activities or stay in shape for their sports. It seems like with our pools and teams closed, we can encourage our kids to run, bicycle, stretch, do yoga, or any other useful activities to keep in shape.

The best way to get our kids off their video games and doing what we’d like is not by bribing or threatening them — but inspiring them.

According to Benzel, here are a few things we can do to inspire our kids:

We need to be good examples ourselves. Paint a picture of what you can see them accomplishing in the immediate future with hard work. Remind them of how much they’ve improved and how far they’ve come along their journey.

If we tell them they “should” go running or take an online class, we’ll most likely get push back.

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My son was motivated in academics and music. Here he is at graduation with a friend. The ivy wreaths were awarded for taking four years of Latin.

What are you doing to encourage and inspire your kids during COVID-19 shelter in place?

 

10 Life Skills Our Children Can Learn Now

While we are staying home and hanging out with our kids, it’s a great time to make sure they are prepared when they do get to leave the nest. There are so many simple things that I didn’t teach my son when he left for college. Yes, he had good grades. Yes, he had the right “stuff.” But he was seriously lacking on a few life skills because I did way too much for him. I learned from my mistakes with my first child and spent time teaching my daughter the basics before she left home. She was better prepared for the daily tasks–although that doesn’t necessarily mean life won’t throw you some bumps in the road.

Here’s a story I wrote while my son was in college about 10 life skills kids need to know before they leave home.

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My son giving his high school graduation speech.

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.
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My daughter with Waffles.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

Day 50: Shelter in Place

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Someone is sporting some fancy toenails! 

It’s a milestone day. I seriously thought this was only going to last for 40 days and 40 nights. That seemed reasonable and I thought if Noah could last that long confined to an ark with a bunch of smelly animals, then we could do the same in our home, with one cat and a pug.

But here we are on day 50 and there’s really no end in sight. Except they may open the tennis and pickle ball courts. But I don’t play those sports. No word about the city pool or when my team will be back in the water. I hear that retail is opening up for curbside pick up. But when you’re not going anywhere — what does anyone really need?

On the bright side, we’re saving a ton of money on gasoline, dry cleaning and nail and hair appointments.

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Views of Mt. San Jacinto from my neighborhood walk.

I’m walking 10,000 steps a day.  Other highlights are riding bikes, kicking in our backyard pool and playing the occasional game of smashball in the water. I’m also reading, writing and watching music documentaries. That’s my week in a nutshell. It’s not a bad life. It’s just weird to walk with a face mask and feel like I’m taking my life in danger every time I go to the grocery store or post office.

Some days I’m motivated and have lots of ideas and make lists of what I want to accomplish. Other days, not so much.

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I found a pirate hiding in the bushes!

Any idea of how many days this shelter in place will last? Are things opening up in your area? What are you busy doing during these strange days?

Day 40: Shelter in Place

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Robolights

Amazing that it’s been 40 days and the three of us are still speaking to each other. I will say the novelty of my husband working from home has worn off. Having my daughter home has been a rare treat — although I’m not sure she’d say the same.

We have to walk early in the morning because the sun gets too hot by 8 a.m. What is surprising is the number of people out and about has quadrupled this week. I think it’s because we’re all out at the same time to avoid the heat. Yesterday and today, I went for my daily walk to the park and just don’t want to be that close to other people. So, I’ve veered off to walk the streets of our neighborhood. I enjoy looking at the architecture and landscaping. One house is famous for its Christmas display called Robolights. The artist, Kenny Irwin, has worked on this place for more than 30 years and it’s quite fascinating even without its hundreds of thousands — or millions — lights that glow during Christmastime. Here’s a story about the future of Robolights which may move out of the city due to unhappy neighbors and zoning regulations.

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Robolights statues.

Something fun we’ve been enjoyed is playing smash ball in the pool. It’s a game we played at the beach for years. We end up laughing and smiling and staying cool while it’s more than 100 degrees outside. We’ve played so much that I can barely raise my arm.

Major accomplishments that my daughter and I have done are cleaning out the food cupboards and the laundry room plus making homemade tamales. I’m almost done with another goal — cleaning out and reorganizing all our files. That’s something I’ve dreaded doing but have needed to do since we remodeled the guest room a few years ago and everything got thrown into boxes. A few more weeks of this shelter in place and my home may be more organized than it ever was before.

Life seems scary at times, but we are all in this together. I love my family and friends and I don’t know if we’ll have a new normal or not. But, we will continue on.

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Frank Sinatra Estate

What are your favorite things to pass the time during shelter in place?

 

Day 17: It’s a Good Day to Shelter in Place

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The Wellness Park during my morning walk.

I’m in a great mood today! I finally sent off the last of four magazine stories that were on deadline. It fills like a great weight has flown off my shoulders. WooHoo! Now what?

I feel like I can do all the things I’ve been wanting to do, but didn’t have any time, like cleaning out the laundry room, my closet, do the taxes and make tamales with my daughter. We’re also going to try DIY pedicures later today.

The stories I’ve been working on were for trade magazines and I found them interesting, but challenging. I had to call to interview various business during “Shelter in Place” for most of the nation. I made a ton of calls to get a very few live people on the phone. Mostly businesses have a message that they are closed due to COVID-19. But, I eeked out enough and talked with some very interesting people. I learned how they are coping with these strange and uncertain times in places around the country very different from where I live. It was educational to say the least.

Now that I’m done, I’m proud to report that our Shelter in Place is going well. We are all getting along. That’s remarkable, since we have three adults working under one roof.

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Too much raw pork makes pup’s tummy ache.

The only problem we encountered was Waffles, who ate last night’s dinner of pork chops while it was defrosting. I had the package out on the counter. My husband moved it into the sun on a bench in the back yard. Waffles jumped up and ate a pound of raw pork and plastic wrap while nobody was watching! He’s finally getting back to normal a day later.

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My new scarf-mask look when I leave the house.

What’s going on in your part of the country with Coronavirus? Are you sheltering in place and working from home?