March 4, 2013 marks the day my baby turned into a young man. Again, I defer back to the eHow article and would like to highlight tip number 1 on communicating better with your teenage son:
Respond Instead of React.
When Rachel’s teenage son announced that his best friend Josh was smoking dope, Rachel reacted with: “You can’t hang out with him any more. I mean it. That’s it. I’m calling his mother. He is not allowed in our house anymore.” This knee-jerk reaction did not go over well and led to a big fight resulting in her son retreating to his room and refusing to answer her questions. When a teenage boy says something you don’t understand, disagree with or disapprove of, the outcome will be more productive and results more satisfying if you step back, count to 10 or 100 and respond with a inclusive comment such as: “Are you worried about your friend?” or “What do you think about that?” or “Do you think that’s a problem?” or “What is your opinion about smoking pot?” Strong reactions from parents shut off and close down communication, while thoughtful, honest responses have the possibility of keeping your connection strong.
The typical afternoon conversation after school was anything but; instead he revealed to me his fears and concerns about me losing my job earlier this year. On top of that, his B minus in US History is now a C plus. Oh and by the way, “Mom, I told grandma you lost your job and she offered to give you five hundred dollars if you needed it.”
Although I have put this succinctly into three sentences, our conversation was much longer and although my emotions inwardly were on a roller coaster ride, outwardly, I was the perfect picture of a mom in complete control.
In response to his concerns, I gave him reassurance.
In response to his fears, I gave him logic.
In response to his grades dropping, I asked him questions that prompted him to problem solve.
In response to his grandma (my ex’s mom) giving me five hundred dollars, I said “No, thank you.”
#Lessonslearned: Responding through conversation by leading them into a solution rather than berating him with emotion is definitely the key to communicating with my teenager!
(I wish my mom knew this when I was growing up! Still love you mom!)
Never in the months following my layoff had I realized my son would take it to heart. I thought I had done my best at providing the same or even better family environment by spending more time with him. I planned RedBox nights, YouTube nights, visits to the local skatepark, made sure we had home-cooked meals instead of takeout – heck we even rode 55 miles for Tour de Palm Springs together! Despite all of this, I could not prevent him from worrying about me or our home.
There is no “unemployment guide” that prepares you for when or how your child reacts. Instead, I have come up with my own plan of action and because I have established measurable goals for myself, it gives me confidence to know we will be alright. For example, tonight my goal is to locate an individual health insurance plan that covers doctors visits and trips to the emergency room. Disappointed to see that insurance is so expensive, by the way. If I had not received a generous severance plan, I might have gone into a total meltdown by now!!! The key is to become your own project manager and treat the job search as a project plan. I learned this at my outplacement workshop with Lee Hecht Harrison (Love them!). It has definitely put me in the right frame of mind to pursue my goals.
As we discussed his C-grade in US History, his eyes brightened up in response to an epiphany: “Mom, I am cutting myself off from Minecraft for a whole month! I mean it. It is distracting me. My projects and assignments have not really been that good.” We fist bumped as an affirmation that he not only thought of the punishment himself, but that he realized there were consequences. (Ok, he fist bumped hesitantly because I am not officially cool.) I was so proud of him! Moms wait ages for their teenagers to become self-aware and develop their problem-solving skills right?
Thirteen years later and voila – I am so happy I could ride a Llama!
Then we come around to talking about his grandma and how she had offered to give me five hundred dollars for miscellaneous expenses. Mind you, my rent each month is three times that amount! Although, with fuel prices the way they are, it might be useful. Then I come back down to earth…Although I would love to accept her generous offer, I have sour pains from perceived “help or assistance” my ex’s family had provided in the past. I told myself, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Hell no!” Of course, all of this negativity I kept to myself. Instead I responded with, “Tell her I appreciate it, but for now, we are okay.”
Yes, I think we will be just fine.
p.s. Ok I lied, there are plenty of resources that help you cope with unemployment. Here are a few I found practical and helpful.
An article from the Department of Human Development & Family Studies: http://mtt.cahs.colostate.edu/resources/unemployment/Default.aspx
A handbook called “A Survival Guide to the Stress of Organizational Change” which my former boss purchased for everyone in anticipation of the layoffs: http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Guide-Stress-Organizational-Change/dp/0944002161
Image courtesy of http://fc07.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/262/1/0/happy_llama_day_by_milakuruchi-d5f8zf6.jpg