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Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: Archie’s Demise

Posted on July 18, 2014 | No Comments

by Lina Herman, LMHC

 

I first was introduced to comic book character Archie in the 1950’s. My brother had a friend whose mother worked for a comic book distributor. Luckily for us, overstocked comics made their way to our house, in perfect condition (except for the missing cover, which had to be removed.)

About monthly, we’d be treated to comics. Of the variety that arrived, including Dick Tracy, Archie was my favorite. He was about as deep as I could handle in my early elementary years.  A couple of my friends had older sisters and I’d occasionally hear about their boyfriends, but dating was completely out of my realm.

Archie was a benign introduction to the subject of relationships.  For those of you  in the know about him, he had two girls interested in him: Veronica and Betty. I was fortunate to be naïve enough that the cast of characters in this upbeat, light comic met my requirements for lessons about the dating life in the fifties.

After a few years, I moved on, finding soon enough that the world was much more complex than I had thought at the time. I never looked back at Archie, assuming that, like Dennis the Menace, he had never grown up.

But grow up he did! And right into our contemporary times.  I missed the ensuing years, but the Archie of 2014 considers the hot topics of the day. Sadly, just when I learn that he is still out there, I find that he is meeting his mortal end.

Not through a car accident or illness, but at the hands of a gun-toting character who wants to kill Archie’s gay friend, Senator Kevin Keller.  Archie steps in front of the shooter and takes the bullet for the senator.

Wow. No naivety here.  The era of the “old” Archie is gone. You won’t find it on cable TV or the internet.   Now no topic is off limits. Is that so terrible? Some may think it is. You may want your children and grandchildren to hang onto their innocence as long as possible.

But perhaps today’s programming and Archie’s demise will serve a purpose: to keep the conversation going about the issues of the day. I’m all for that, as long as the discussion of our different views is done respectfully. Nothing is accomplished in a relationship, in a family, or in a country when one side shouts down or name-calls the other.  Let’s make room for future Archies, who can effectively generate discussion on a variety of topics, including immigration, gender issues, evolution vs  intelligent design and the best path for our nation’s future.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, Archie won’t even have to be killed off.

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Friday Food for Thought: July 4th, 2014

Posted on July 4, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman

The 4th of July, 2014

 

I’ve been alive for over sixty 4ths of July in my lifetime. As a child, I went to fireworks celebrations produced by Italian immigrants in Youngstown, Ohio.  Prior to the nighttime fireworks, my family attended a Romanian-American July 4th picnic.  The fifties were a time of relative innocence; we were not bombarded in the media about the alleged sinister underbelly of America that many are quick to put forth today.  Our families loved America and proudly displayed the flag.

Last week’s Pew Research report -http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/the-political-typology-beyond-red-vs-blue/–that only 40% of “Solid  Liberals” are proud of being American is in stark contrast to another story in the news: Children from Central America are flooding across our southern border. Estimates vary, ranging from 50,000 to 90,000, but they continue to come, the majority without their parents.

Why would they want to come here? To come to a country that tries to keep its people down?  That, by the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision -according to Hilary Clinton- is moving in the direction of countries that take extreme positions against women? Would Michael Moore recommend that instead they go to Cuba?

We know why they come here:  for better lives. I live in a city that is only 55% Caucasion. Kent, Washington, a southern suburb of Seattle, has taken in so many immigrants that the Kent School District is one of the most diverse in America. According to official reports, there are 138 languages spoken in the schools here.   www.kentreporter.com/news/212790641.html

 My city is diverse; my neighborhood is diverse. Some mornings when I walk I see no other “whites”. I commonly encounter  folks from Vietnam, Hong Kong, India, North Africa,  Mexico, and Samoa—sometimes  wearing their traditional garb. People aren’t patting themselves on the back for their cultural inclusiveness. They are just living their lives, working, raising families and,( as I write this tonight),  celebrating in the street  with family, friends and fireworks.

 Their stories are frequently compelling. A  twenty-four year old Ukrainian immigrant I know came here as a young teen.  Now a citizen who does remodeling on the side in addition to his regular job,  he enjoys commenting on life in America versus Eastern Europe. “Back home,” he told me, “my friends do the same work that I do. Only there is no work. They just get drunk every day. There is no welfare, no unemployment, no social security.” There is little hope.

 He cannot understand the negative press about our country. He came here seeing not obstacles, but unlimited opportunity. “If you work hard, you can accomplish just about anything.”

 What a gift to see America through his eyes, rather than those of the naysayers. And what a gift for me to be reminded of that same spirit of enterprise that my Romanian grandfather possessed coming here himself as a teen.

Hoping you have had a great 4th and can find reason to feel pride in our country.

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Friday Food for Thought: Millennials and their Malaise

Posted on June 20, 2014 | No Comments

We thought that the Baby Boomers were the most written-about generation.  But we may be dead wrong, at least according to Raffi Wineburg, who wrote a guest column for The Seattle Times 6/19/14. (Guest: Millennials are not biology lab frogs — stop The Seattle Times)

According to Mr. Wineburg, millennials are under a “constant scrutiny” that is not helpful. “One day, we’re all just selfish, selfie-snapping pipsqueaks of the ‘Me Generation.’ The next, we’re selfless and deserve an official apology from The New York Times.”

I don’t think it’s that his generation is written about a lot that most troubles him, however. It is the reality of the world into which they have become adults.  According to The Atlantic Monthly www.theatlantic.com/…millennialsin…/283752/,  millennials have it worse than any prior generation.  Wineburg points to a rate of about 15% unemployment for today’s 16 – 24-year olds. That is not a happy picture.

Like Wineburg, a number of millennials who cannot get jobs seek internships. While common during their college years, internships have increasingly become substitutes for jobs after graduation. They are one way to acquire experience and to get a foot in the door of companies. Such “career moves” were mostly unheard of for us boomers. So indeed the millennials are facing a different employment climate.

The picture is even bleaker for those who are not getting college degrees. This group, according to a recent Pew Research study reported on in Salon.com,  is at risk of becoming a permanent underclass. In the 25-32 age bracket, Americans without a college education earn $17,500 less a year than their peers who have completed college.

One solution being tried in Seattle is the phasing-in of a $15 an hour minimum wage.  Thus, even if those young people lack education beyond high school, they can earn $27,300 in an entry level job working 35 hours per week.

Raising the minimum wage obviously is not the only solution. How about stimulating economic growth and job growth by giving tax incentives to companies that bring or expand business in various regions? How about that elusive pipeline? We are far enough away from alternative sources of fuel being commonplace that we should move forward with the pipeline that will bring fuel and jobs to our country.   We can bring the price of gasoline down and stay energy independent while putting thousands to work.

Finally, we can change the way high school education works through public-private collaboration in various vocational programs and apprenticeships.  Students in the trades would leave high school with a specific skill set leading directly to a job or more advanced vocational skill development.

The future belongs to the millennials and those coming after them. Let’s improve their prospects, whether they are headed directly into the workforce, vocational schools or universities.

 

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Friday Food for Thought: The War on women by women

Posted on June 6, 2014 | 2 Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

 

 

Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton, both college professors, give us an up-close look at today’s young college women through their five-year immersion in dorm life at a large Midwestern university. Their book, Paying for the Party, reveals their findings. We may like to think that the college experience and dorm life are the great equalizers for females post high school, but that simply is not the case.

Instead, there is a social hierarchy, based upon one’s family income, the degree of financial debt one incurs, social networks and financial prospects.  This hierarchy extends beyond the college years into life choices and career moves after university graduation.

As live-in observers of dorm life, the book’s authors saw first-hand the way in which this hierarchy played out in the dorms.  Olga Khazan  writes about their new study published in Social Psychology Quarterly, in The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/05/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-slut/371773/) . The conclusion of Armstrong and Hamilton was that economic inequality “drove many of the differences in the ways the women talked about appropriate sexual behavior.”

New to me was the term “slut-shaming”. Calling someone you didn’t like a slut was a guaranteed way of making her feel bad. Interestingly, there was class division in how this term was viewed and applied.  The affluent young women considered casual sex (outside of steady relationships) okay, as long as vaginal intercourse was not involved.  Thanks to President Bill Clinton,  frequently “hooking up” with guys for oral sex is not considered slutty behavior by these women.

The less affluent women tended to have what sounded like a more conservative view. To them, all sex and hooking up belonged in steady relationships.

Hurling the term “slut” at one another was not limited to commenting on one’s sexual behavior. It could be used when wanting to insult someone for being rude or uncool. While most of the slut-shaming was done privately, the affluent young women were more likely to publicly humiliate those of lower socioeconomic means. This happened when the less affluent dared try to break into the richer social clique.

Why is this the case? The affluent women apparently felt themselves superior to the unaffluent.  It was not enough that they had more money, access to the sorority system, better social connections and more choices. They actively sought to do damage to the other women. That sounds like a war on women by women to me.

I’m guessing that all of the young women went through diversity training in high school or college. Surely they learned to have respect for other groups, based upon race, gender identify, and ethnicity. But they must have missed the course on how to treat others of lower socioeconomic standing.

 

We can and should do better.  Check your daughters’  and granddaughters’ attitudes toward others, especially those they consider  their “lessers”. A crash course in character development may be needed before they head off to the dorm next Fall.

 

2 Responses to “Friday Food for Thought: The War on women by women”

  1. Sheila Ball says:

    I think the social hierarchy is the same for men-especially the ivy league schools. Great article!

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Friday Food For Thought: The Future Look of College Education

Posted on May 23, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

 

Recently I defended the position of students paying for their college educations for a Wall Street Journal debate.  As one might expect, reactions ranged from full support to scathing reproach for my position.

The naysayers to my position might benefit from learning about today’s college student population. According to data from Complete College America (2011), “There is a new American majority on campus.”    They report that only 25% of college students on campuses are full time students attending residential colleges with their parents footing most of their educational and living expenses. (from the US Department of Education).

The rest of Americans attending college (75%) have an entirely different experience. They are commuters, balancing work, families, and school.  A full forty percent of college students can only attend school part time. So while some may idealize parents paying for their children’s educations, the reality is that the majority of students do not have that kind of monetary support.

A large majority of students are unable to complete college in four years.  Recognizing the challenges for these students led to the formation of Complete College America. CCA defines itself as a “national nonprofit with a single mission: to work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.”  College attendance has more than doubled since 1970, but the number completing programs has not changed.

CCA  has the participation of thirty-three of our state governors in trying to solve the college completion dilemma. They are recommending changes in how universities go about their business. For example, they say that time is wasted on remedial classes.  Instead, they suggest that remediation be “embedded” into the regular college curriculum. They want students to be able to proceed toward degrees or certificates at a faster pace, using shorter academic terms,  less time off between terms and year-round scheduling. If students can demonstrate competency in a given class, they should have the opportunity to move forward to other classes.

CCA also recommends “block scheduling”, in which class meeting times are fixed and predictable, allowing students more consistency in planning work around their schedules. Coupling this with supports like peer groups and learning networks by major, City University of New York has launched Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) which has tripled the graduation rate of participating students.

The state of Tennessee has a statewide approach that has increased  the graduation rate of students from its 27 Tech Centers up to 75 % (sometimes 100%).  Their approach is one of providing whole academic programs into which students enroll, rather than individual classes. There is a set schedule running from 8:00 am to 3:00pm daily for classes, effectively simplifying and streamlining their programs.

It’s one thing for people to wring their hands about the problem of getting students to the point of degree completion. It’s a wonderful “other thing” to see states making real changes that are already bearing fruit. Let’s hear it for CCA and the governors who have signed on to be part of it.

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Friday Food for Thought: Like She Told Me….

Posted on May 9, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

“I’m only doing this for your own good.”

“If you don’t clean your plate, you won’t get any dessert.”

“Put on your sweater; I’m cold.”

“Always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.”

 

Do  these sound familiar? They are right from the mouths of our mothers and grandmothers, and collected in a delightful book called Momilies; As My Mother Used to Say. Michelle Slung, the author, published the first edition in 1985, subsequent editions in 1986 and 1987 and a 20th Anniversary Edition in 2006. I’ve always loved her books and thought this weekend a perfect time to revisit them.

Without fearing for the effects on our self-esteem, and without an ounce of psychobabble, our mothers told us how to make our way in the world.  Ms. Slung offers mothers’ words of wisdom on a number of topics from love and romance, to how to dress,  behave, be a lady and a gentleman. Starting with North America, she collected mothers’ quotes from around the world.

“Momilies” are always being created and expanded upon, yet are timeless. My mother-in-law, age 97, has a favorite saying I’ve heard over a hundred times in my forty years of marriage to her son:  “Love many; trust few, always paddle your own canoe.”  (Saco High School Motto, Saco, Montana,  Class of 1933)

Here are a few from my mother:

On feeling a bit full of ourselves:   “ Don’t get too big of a head.  You want to fit through the door.”

Her sewing advice:  “Always have the underside of your garment neat enough that you could wear it inside out.”

On health:  “ One day you’re sick; the next day you’re sicker than hell!”

On stuck-up people: “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.”

On worrying:  “Don’t borrow trouble.”

On a snow-covered driveway:  “The good Lord put it there; the good Lord can take it away.”

Sometimes my age shows in my therapy sessions when a time-honored quip escapes my lips. Yes, I have   reminded  a few female clients of the saying, “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?” Not all young women have heard that, nor do all immediately understand the sage advice implied in the question.

Momilies are a treasury of accumulated wit, wisdom,  and occasionally nonsensical  adages that mothers pass on to their children.  Although I generally advise parents against unsolicited advice-giving, sometimes we mothers just cannot help ourselves.

What are the momilies in your family? Perhaps you’ve added new ones.  Don’t stop. To do so would interrupt a universal oral history on parenting. And that, my mother would say, “would be a crying shame.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Food for Thought: Time is on your side

Posted on April 26, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

Time is on your side. Yes, it is.

I  love it when families follow up with me to let me know how things are going. Despite my telling people it is fine to call to say “things are great”, for the most part clients re-contact me when situations flare up again.

However, recently I had the opportunity to visit with someone I’d seen several years ago. Her concern at the time was the apparent lack of maturity on the part of her young adult son.  He had gotten his girlfriend pregnant when they both were 18; they were living with this lovely woman and her husband.   My client’s spouse wanted them gone from the home (“old enough to be parents; old enough to be on their own”).  My client  felt the tug on her maternal heartstrings to be supportive in any way the young couple wanted. For the new parents, this meant camping out in the basement with their new baby, while they supposedly got their lives together.

The baby grew into a toddler, and the resentment of the grandparents grew as well. It was full-fledged when they came to see me, as there was absolutely no growth in the employment department. Determining that at least one of these young parents could be working while the other babysat, I coached the grandparents on clearer communication about what they needed in order to continue the living arrangement.  I fully believed that the young couple, quite stuck and now used to the familial safety net, would not move forward without some firm guidance. I also knew that the parents’ small monetary “gifts” and loans   were doing nothing but suppressing any motivation  the young parents may have had.  They truly did not have to work.

The situation, while not hopeless, was not looking terribly bright a few years ago.  Would this young couple get out of the basement and on with their lives? Would the parents (i.e. the homeowners) make them leave?

Fast forward three years.  The young couple are fully engaged in the parenting process and love watching the progress of their son. He is doing well in a co-op preschool, where his mom helps out regularly.  The adult son has gotten a job and recently obtained full medical benefits for his family. They are still in the basement, but have begun looking for an apartment. My former client says that the four of them are having normal conversations and are enjoying some of their meals together. She babysits only on weekends, or if one of the young parents has some job-related activity during the week. They haven’t loaned money to “the kids” in a couple years.

 

What changed? My client and I chatted about this for a while. We concluded that indeed a significant factor was the more helpful stance she and her husband had taken with the young couple. They gave them help in the form of having expectations and holding them accountable.  But something else was happening as well: Her son and his girlfriend grew up.

Time was on their side.

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Friday Food for Thought: Parents, Pot and the New Laws

Posted on April 18, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

The horse is out of the barn in Washington State. Our politicians, many drug enforcement folks and citizens alike are happy that we have made recreational marijuana legal. Our first pot stores are set to open in July.  What that will do to the illegal pot trade remains to be seen. The hope is that it will undermine street selling of cannabis.  Another nearly certain hope is that the new law generates loads of money for the state.  Colorado, according to CBS (www.cbsnews.com/…/cannabis-a-multi-million-dollar-tax-win…) collected a total of $3.5 million dollars for the month of January in licenses, taxes and fees for the marijuana industry.

But not everyone is getting a high from the anticipation of our new growth industry. Kathryn Russell Selk has written a compelling article for Parentmap.com: “Primed for Abuse? A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids in the New Pot State”. (www.parentmap.com/article/primed-for-abuse-a-parents-guide-toraising-kids-in-the…)  In her balanced piece, she addressed the “basics” of the new law, parental concerns, and suggestions for how parents can talk to their kids about  pot and the new state rules.

Here is some of what she tells us.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) plans to hold a tight reign with their new marijuana regulation system. Stores cannot be within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools and playgrounds. Products cannot be visible from the street and store size is limited, as is the size of signs. Labeling and packaging rules will be strict e.g. no cartoons on the packages.  Packages will be child-resistant. (How they will do that with edibles, like brownies, cookies and candy is not clear to me.)

She recommends that ALL families “have the talk” about pot  and the state’s new rules. She cites a Washington State Healthy Youth Survey which showed the danger for families not having conversations and setting clear expectations about pot use.  In such families, children were almost three times more likely to try pot by grade 8, and three times more likely to be “frequent users” by the 10th grade.  In the same survey, children of parents with “favorable attitudes” were five times more likely to have used pot by grade 8, and eight times more likely to be “frequent” users.

Ms. Selk quotes Dr. Leslie Walker of the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, who tells parents to talk about pot use, their concerns and the law, not just once but throughout their various growth stages.

Ms. Selk also points to the growing evidence that brain development is affected by THC, the active chemical in marijuana.  For example, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse cites negative effects on attention, motivation, memory and learning. But the effects don’t stop there. Fox News Health (4/15/14) just cited new research findings from Northwestern University that young adults in their study who use cannabis just once or twice a week have significant abnormalities in two brain regions—those responsible for processing emotions, making decisions and motivation.

So, what do we conclude from this?  The horse (of liberalized pot laws) may indeed be out of the barn.  But that doesn’t mean we let it roam freely. In fact, we have all the more reason to be careful of the messages we send to our children and grandchildren about the grand new era into which our state has ventured.

 

 

 

 

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Friday Food for Thought: Grandparents as Parents

Posted on April 11, 2014 | No Comments
By Linda Herman,LMHC
Last week I wrote about these heroes, grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. I knew I had to take the topic further, especially when I read that 10.5% of America’s children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives.
The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists is a great source of information about the challenges facing grandparents in the parenting role as well as their grandchildren.  Here’s some of what they say:
The children in these situations often have developmental, physical, behavioral or emotional problems.  They are more at risk for learning difficulties, poor school performance and aggression. They often have issues of hurt, guilt and rejection, and anger related to their parents’ not being able or willing to care for them.  Frequently their parents’ behavior is unpredictable and brings significant stress into the home when they do visit.
As for the grandparents, here are some of their challenges:
Their own lives and futures are significantly altered. Because their adult children are having significant  problems, many feel both angry with them as well as guilty about their behavior.  Grandparents frequently face legal challenges with their grown kids, their own financial problems, and energy and physical limitations. Those challenges are in addition to the daily task of raising at-risk and frequently special -needs children.
Grandparents feel multiple losses, including possibly a retirement, the inability to just be the grandparent, and the loss of time to activities other than parenting.
They may be prone to depression as they are “sandwiched”  in their  own way, between feeling responsible for caring for their grandchildren and feeling perhaps responsible for and helpless about their children.
 If you are in this situation or know someone who is, here are some suggestions from AAMFT and myself:
Keep your grandkids on as much of a schedule as possible.  That has usually been lacking with their parents.
Do not put down their parents in front of them.  No matter how abusive or neglectful a parent has been, children often come to their defense if someone else makes negative comments.  Plus, being negative about Mom or Dad can only add to their stress and confusion. They often don’t understand  how their parents can not take care of them and may blame themselves.
I have seen many children with  very dysfunctional parents.  Rather than criticize the parent, I focus on the child’s feelings. Validate their feelings and acknowledge that they may have very mixed feelings. I sometimes say that some people have a very hard time being a parent, or that they have such problems that it interferes with their being a parent.
Be a good listener. There are times when just listening without advising is exactly what they need.
Don’t forget to get some breaks or self-care time. You can’t be at your best if you are burned out.
Look for and join support or meet-up groups for grandparents in your role. You can go to www.grandfactsheets.org  for both national and state by state.

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Friday Food for Thought: Heroes Among Us

Posted on April 4, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

They don’t stand out. They don’t make the Reality TV circuit. While they may not garner attention, they give plenty of it to others of another generation.

Who am I talking about?  Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

Last weekend I had the honor to speak at a retreat for parents.There were thirty-some women in attendance and about five men.  While the men were busy with an activity I spoke to these lovely women, who likely ranged in age from their twenties to about sixty.  All were mothers who have concerns about their children.  Among this group,  there were those who had double the concerns.  These were the women who are parenting their grandchildren.

Not the easiest task under the best of circumstances, but one about which I heard not a single complaint. More important was the goal of doing a good job when their adult children were unwilling or unable to raise their children themselves.

One of the challenges brought up was that of being in a dual role. How these women would love to be a traditional grandmother; one who can “spoil” the kids a bit, and not have to worry about day-to-day matters such as homework completion, baths, toilet training, and meting out discipline.

“It’s a matter of switching hats,” one woman commented, from grandma to parent and back again. Another put it very well: (and I may not be getting her exact words):“When I am being the grandma, I do what my grandchild wants. When I am being the parent, she does what I want.”

I did a little research to see what the trends are in this area of parenting. I learned that according to the US Census  (2000), 2.4 million American families are those in which a grandchild is living with his/her grandparents. This is a 19% increase from 1990. Of grandparent –maintained families, 2.3  million have a grandmother and 1.4 million have a grandfather.  In addition, about two-thirds of these households also include one or both of the children’s parents.

Six percent (3.9 million) of the nation’s children live in a grandparents home, up 76 percent from those who did so in 1970.

This is a significant trend which shows no sign of let-up at this time.

The reasons for this can be discussed another day.  For now, I want to commend these heroes among us, who, having raised one generation of children, are now raising another. This cannot be done without considerable sacrifice, although I never heard one word about that in this workshop.

Is there a more noble task than to give of yourself in this way?

 

 

 

 

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