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Should you post about where your child is going to college?: #Decisionday dilemmas

If you are in a community with lots of college bound kids you may have noticed a few (or a few hundred) shares in your timeline recently about where seniors were accepted at college and where they plan to attend. In Chicago, where I live, families are also posting about acceptances to high school.

This can get tricky–for kids who may not want their parents to post, for young people who won’t be attending their “dream school” and for anyone who is feeling anxious about the future. Especially after a very tough year of pandemic high school.

Admissions season can be hard for parents who have young adults on a different path. Maybe your son or daughter is considering trade school, an apprenticeship, community college or heading into the workforce. Maybe their gap year will be an epic year of service or maybe they are planning to work and save while they figure things out.

If you have a teen looking at credit recovery after a rough year of remote school, know that you are not alone. And so many teens have had their progress upended by a mental health crisis. There are also many families that don’t have tuition money right now who are having to make alternate plans.

Some parents have told me they wish other parents just wouldn’t post about college choices. Young people have told me their parents’ posts make them cringe. Many of the teens I spoke with are very sensitive about bragging and concerned about making friends feel bad. They have been thoughtful about letting friends know one on one, especially if they are applying to the same schools. High school students are also very supportive of friends who don’t get in. We can learn from their example.

I spoke to Julie Jargon about this for the Wall Street Journal. Often, teens have had more social media experience than their parents and use Instagram and other apps in a more nuanced way. Some applicants also seek solace and commiseration in the genre of college rejection Tik Tok.

Here are a few suggestions about getting through this season to save for next year:

1) Consent is everything. Most importantly–as with any social media post– but especially in the face of big deal news–get permission. If they say no, just don’t post.

2) Timing is important. Has your child shared with the folks they want to tell? Don’t steal their thunder.

3) Consider the audience. We are all hungry for good news. I am not suggesting that you hold out on grandparents who are eagerly awaiting updates, but take a moment to consider: Who really needs to know? If it is just family and close friends, can you simply send a text or jump on FaceTime?

4) Don’t share til they are sure. If your teen hasn’t decided, sharing the list of possibilities may create pressure for them, as people may ask them about these different schools. Also, posting each acceptance one by one may be a bit much for your followers.

5) Have empathy for yourself and others! Parents are going through a lot right now, and even in a non-pandemic year, sending teens out into the world is emotionally fraught. Over-posting may not be the best way to deal with anxiety, but…have compassion and feel free to use the “unfollow for 30 days” feature or something along those lines if someone’s posts are making you feel stressed. And have empathy for that person’s teen, who may be cringing (or blissfully ignorant) about parental posting.

6) Unplug and take a break. If you or your child is stressed by the “seniors on Instagram” that some high schools create, or the flurry of sweatshirt-wearing, pennant waving posts….take a break from social media. Go outside! Ride your bike. Find a way to unplug from mid April to mid May at least. See above about unfollowing the folks who are getting to you.

7) Remember life is complicated! Some 17-year-olds may seem to have their future planned out. Of my adult friends, I have one or two who had the correct guess about their adult career path at that age. Many of us are in careers that didn’t exist when we were 17. Your undecided kid who can admit they are not sure what they want to do is being honest with themselves and with you. It will be OK.

Finally, congratulations. We’ve almost made it through this tough school year.
Whether you pandemic homeschooled, masked up for in-person, or managed remote school…You are here! Whether your child got good grades or will have to do summer school… You are here! Our families, our communities and our world have been through a traumatic experience. And it isn’t over.

If you are reading this, then you are lucky enough to still be here. So, take a moment to breathe in and out.

Don’t scroll if it is hurting you. If you do scroll, send empathy towards all who are posting and all who are not posting. We all need it.

screentime rules

Is learning to use a smartphone like learning to ride a bike?

screentime rulesAfter a few recent warm days, we optimistically went out and bought our son a bigger bike. They guy at the store says he’ll “grow into it.” It is so big that I can ride it. After all, he’s only about two inches shorter than his mom as a just-turned-twelve year old.

He’s still getting used to the bike. The wobbly start feels like a metaphor for challenges of re-entry as we start to cautiously socialize outdoors after a cold and isolating winter. For kids thrust back into the daily thrum of school, it can be a little overwhelming. Remember, everyone else is a little rusty, too.

The bigger bike our son is adjusting to also feels like a metaphor for smartphones: powerful machines that we give to kids, often at about that age. Their first efforts may be wobbly. They will need mentoring and possibly some training wheels to get good at using these sophisticated communication devices.

Luckily, if you are reading this, you have lots of great resources for mentoring tweens through that transition and many others as they grow up in the digital world.

Resources for you

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. My days are full with supervising zoom school, taking walks and writing my new book and my evenings are spent zooming into different communities to talk about pandemic screen time, games, kid’s friendship and finding a balance.

Some communities are back to school in-person, others are hybrid, and others (like us) are still doing remote learning. I’ve zoomed into Boston, Indiana, Brooklyn, and Seattle and families are grappling with transition and new decisions everywhere. The Q and A period of every talk has been filled with great questions from families.

Here are some resources that respond to these inquiries and to recent events:

Want updates like this and tips on kids and tech in your inbox? Go here.

remote school

Secondhand Stress for Parents from Remote School? It is a thing.

Is remote school stressing you out?

Several stressed out parents and really smart experts were kind enough to speak with me for this story in the Washington Post.

“We’re a fly on the wall in a room we were never meant to be in,” said Robyn Silverman,  host of the How to Talk to Kids About Anything Podcast.

remote school

When parents overhear a teacher calling on their child when they are unprepared, or when we overhear a not-nice interaction with a classmate, “you can’t help but put yourself right back there” to your own school experience, said Silverman, who has a son and daughter  who are learning at home.

“As much as possible we need to separate our kid’s experience from our own,” says Tina Payne Bryson, a psychotherapist and co-author of  Whole Brain Child. If your heart races when you see emails from their teacher, you can try to center yourself and separate your experience from your child’s, says Bryson.

But parents need to be aware when their own school experiences can affect how they react to their children’s.

Psychologist Regine Galanti reminds us to remember that remote school is putting an “impossible burden” on parents and that self-compassion is needed.

Read the rest here, including some tips on how to deal with all the email and texts and other communication coming from school.

Need some help with pandemic parenting and screens?

I am offering limited numbers of one hour coaching sessions for parents navigating remote school, pandemic screen time and more. Happy email chat with you to see if it is a fit.

Social Media Shaming, for CNN Opinion

While a very public outing and social media shaming of a few young people here and there might offer some satisfaction, it unfortunately lets too  the rest of the community — students, parents and educators — off the hook. Finding the racists and exposing them becomes the focus, instead of how the grownups – the educators and parents — can support Black, indigenous and students of color and offer all students a thoughtful education.

Finding the teen who is imprudent about using a slur on social media focuses all the anger on that young person. What about the student who anonymously leaves a note in a locker? What about the student who keeps other kids off the team. What about the kids who quietly make it so uncomfortable for “outsiders” that some extracurricular activity is completely closed to kids of a certain orientation, ethnic group or gender? What about a school counselor who systematically counsels African American students away from advanced classes?

Read the rest on CNN Opinion

 

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Six Ideas for Getting Through Pandemic Holidays

A Light in the Darkness

pandemic holiday ideas

It’s getting dark so early that it feels like by the time I am ready to take that second walk of the day, the sun is already going down. During these short and sometimes lonely days of the pandemic, it is powerful to think about how many traditions have holidays that focus on a light in the darkness this time of year. Diwali, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Chanukah, Winter Solstice and more.

As we scramble to prepare for 8 days of Chanukah with just the three of us at home, I wanted to share some ideas to make the these winter holidays and upcoming school break a little easier and less stressful.

Six Ideas for Getting Through Pandemic Holidays

1) Remember that traditions can be adapted…and invented. If Aunt Leela isn’t coming this year with her usual dish, can she zoom with you and your children to teach you how to make it at home?

2) This winter break is a great time for a film festival. Spirited AwayPan’s LabyrinthDo The Right Thing, and Yellow Submarine are on our list. What films on yours? Can you coordinate with your kid’s friends families or your own extended family to watch a movie in each home and then chat about it afterwards?

3) Getting kids involved in making and choosing gifts for others is so much fun for them. Don’t let them be all about receiving. Give them stickers and markers to make some cards, or even some digital money to spend on siblings, or cousins (if they don’t have their own money saved up.) Choosing a gift for someone and anticipating and enjoying their reaction is a pleasure that kids can learn to relish.

4) If your usual volunteering in the community isn’t safe this year, find other ways to give back. Leave some food in your neighborhood’s grab and go box, or round up coats for a coat drive. So many people need so much right now, and getting our kids involved with giving is the perfect way to get into a grateful space and help your neighbors.

5) Decorate! I admit that I am NOT usually very excited to hang up holiday decorations. It is not a tradition I grew up with. This year, when we couldn’t trick or treat, I hung up some spiders and other Halloween decorations with my son, and it made coming home to our house, where we are spending more time than ever, unexpectedly cheerful. Getting kids involved in making place settings, ornaments or other holiday decorations is very engaging. If decorating isn’t your speed, you can walk, bike or drive by someone else’s over-the-top holiday decorations as a fun outing. We biked all over town checking out Halloween decorations. Even a skeptical tween or teen may secretly enjoy the neighbor’s reindeer on the roof.

6) If you are giving tech gifts (like a new phone, gaming console, or tablet) remember to plan. This present might be better as a non-surprise. Or the surprise could be a wrapped box containing a picture of the item. Don’t hand over the actual device until you can give your full attention to setting expectations and setting up the new item in a mutually agreed on fashion. Generous grandparents and others should check with primary caregivers before giving the gift of technology! If you are getting a new phone for a kid in the house, consider signing up for Phonewise. Phonewise is my self-paced course for parents of new phone users. It is on a holiday sale for the next 8 days .

Digital Wellbeing for Teens Devorah in conversation with Rosalind Wiseman

In this live conversation, parenting experts Devorah Heitner and Rosalind Wiseman will discuss how to help kids navigate ALL. THE. SCREENS. How can we help them find the balance with tech when so many other options have been taken away? How can we help them navigate friendship drama and conflict online and offline that may come up during this time? July 16, 6pm EST, 5pm CST, 4pm MST, 3pm PST 12pm HST

Moderated by Susan Borison at Your Teen Magazine.

During this webinar, you will learn…

  • Strategies to support your child’s wellbeing and balance technology
  • How to understand and empathize with the ways social media can be challenging right now
  • Skills to help young people understand and process the news cycle–for some kids this is an activating inspiring time, for others it can be overwhelming
  • How to help our kids deal with anxiety during this time.
  • Best practices for setting family agreements and routines around technology.
  • How to manage your reactions with your own digital use. How can we model thoughtful tech use and wisdom?

Bring your questions! We will open it up for Q&A at the end.

A recording will be sent out after.

By registering for the webinar, you agree to receive communications from Devorah Heitner, Cultures of Dignity and Your Teen Media.

Grab Your Spot!

Speakers

Devorah Heitner

An expert on young people’s relationship with digital media and technology, Dr. Devorah Heitner is the author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World and founder of Raising Digital Natives. Her mission is to cultivate a culture of empathy and social/emotional literacy. Dr. Heitner’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine and Education Week. She has a Ph.D. in Media/Technology & Society from Northwestern University and has taught at DePaul and Northwestern. She is delighted to be raising her own digital native.

Rosalind Wiseman

From where we learn to where we work, Rosalind Wiseman fosters civil dialogue and inspires communities to build strength, courage and purpose. She is the co-founder of Cultures of Dignity; an organization that shifts the way communities think about our physical and emotional wellbeing by working in close partnership with the experts of those communities–young people, educators, policy makers, and business and political leaders. A multiple New York Times best selling author including Queen Bees and Wannabes that was made into the movie and musical Mean Girls, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post and other publications and international speaker, she lives in Boulder Colorado with her husband and two sons.

Susan Borison

Susan Borison founded Your Teen Media in 2007 to help parents of teenagers find support and advice during the turbulent years of raising teenagers. As the mother of five, she knew those parenting teenagers was lonely and scary. Your Teen is the village that we lose as our kids get older. After practicing law followed by 15 years trying to figure out the parenting thing, Susan discovered the solution at Your Teen Media, where parents and experts share their hard earned secrets. Your Teen Media: The Advice You Trust. The Community You Need.

Raising A Digital Kid? Empower them to Mindfully Add Contacts

If you can empower your child build their contact list slowly and deliberately, this can help them to avoid overwhelm later on when they scroll through their contacts and don’t recognize half of them. Make sure your child  knows it’s perfectly fine to simply ignore requests from people she doesn't know or don’t want to chat with.

Read more