Category Archives: Parenting

Youth Sports and Parents: How to Use the Words Unlucky and Brilliant to Your Advantage

Nora Golfing

Unlucky.

This is what the Brits would shout out when something didn’t go well on the football (soccer) pitch.

We were living in England for 5 months. Our older daughter was attending Oxford University and our younger daughter was a 7th grader at a local school in the county town of Northampton-shire. My wife had orchestrated a 5 month teaching exchange at the University of Northampton.

Living in the UK was hard. It rained nearly every day. Except when there was this thing they called “freezing fog.” I recall steadily hoping the temperature (in Celsius) would be higher than the wind-speed (in MPH). Typically, I was disappointed.

It was also hard to find a girls’ soccer team for my 7th grade daughter to play on. But we did. It was amazing and weird and good all at the same time.

What I liked best was the behavior of the parents on the sidelines. In the U.S. parents would often let off steam in rather unruly ways. And in response, the U.S. soccer refs (IMHO) behaved as if they had the proverbial chip on their shoulders. But in the U.K., when things didn’t go well, you’d hear shouts of “Unlucky” in a British accent. How cool was that? Not as cool as what they would shout out in response to good plays. Then, they yelled “Brilliant!” with their British lilt, and it was as if all was well with the world. Later, the refs and parents and coaches would share pint or two.

I have a lot to say about youth sports. And I even got to say some of it during our recent podcast. At least until Dr. Sara Polanchek put me in time-out for bad fan behavior. Yes, I lost my cool, but if you want to hear more, you’ll have to spend the 25 minutes it takes to listen to the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast. We’re in the process of making it big as podcasters, but until then, we’re still small. We’re also brilliant. You can listen on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

Or you can listen on our Libsyn site:  http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

In closing, I have a favorite book and a favorite quotation about coaches. The book is The Brother’s K, by David James Duncan. Here’s the quotation:

“Bobby Edson, like most coaches, was a kind of mystic: he believed the cosmos was endowed with an ineffable muffling system that rendered all the racist, sexist, tasteless and denigrating remarks made by coaches inaudible to the students about whom they bellowed them.” 

I had some Bobby Edson-type coaches. I’ve also heard some Bobby Edson-type parents, yelling from the sidelines.

Unlucky.

 

Saturday Night (or Monday morning) Listening!

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Dr. Sara Polanchek and I have been cranking out podcasts at a dizzying pace. Well, maybe not dizzying for you, but as I get older, it hardly takes anything to get me dizzy.

Being dizzy is my excuse for why I’m just now letting you know that our latest podcast “How Parents can Help Children with Grief” even though it’s been available since LAST MONDAY!

This is a tough, but important topic. Because life and relationships are complex, often grief for children and parents can be complex and so getting some guidance is strongly recommended.

This episode, number 14 if you’re counting, is about 29 minutes and packed with critical information about how to help children cope with grief. Once again, Dr. Tina Barrett is the special guest and she answers my questions with grace and wisdom.

I hope you’ll listen. I hope you’ll let me know if you find it helpful. If you listen on iTunes, who knows, you could be the 20th person to rate our podcast.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

As always, feel free to post your ideas or reactions or email me with comments and/or recommendations for our next podcasting topics.

http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

 

Dealing with Your Grief before it Deals with You

Bulldog

When it comes to caring for our own mental health, most Americans are asleep at the wheel. There are road signs, signals, and exits everywhere, but most Americans are committed to keeping their eyes shut and snoozing right through anything remotely resembling mental health awareness.

Okay. This judgment is a too harsh. But, I’m thinking this way because, not long ago, I watched the film, Manchester by the Sea. Casey Affleck plays the lead character, Lee Chandler. Obviously the film got me a little worked up.

Early on, Lee Chandler’s negligence leads to his children dying in a fire. By any and every measure, this is a trauma and tragedy of immense magnitude. Chandler is emotionally desperate. He tries killing himself. He ends up choosing to live.

But how does Chandler handle his traumatic grief? He continues to drink alcohol and numb himself. He lives like an automaton. Who can blame him? His grief must be so huge that it can’t be addressed. Right? Well, not exactly.

Not long after his children die, Chandler’s brother dies. This is terrible and sad, but suddenly, Chandler gets a second chance. His 16-year-old nephew needs an adult role model. Chandler is the best option.

The film is about pain.  Chandler is devastated. I get that. But instead of showing a glimpse of what it might take to face grief, instead, the film shows Chandler studiously avoiding anything resembling counseling or psychotherapy or education or the possibility of any genuine human interactions that might be helpful.

To be blunt and unkind, Chandler is an emotional chicken. He doesn’t face his emotions or embrace an interest in improving himself or his relationships. He doesn’t do that before or after his traumatic grief. Why not? One reason might be because doing so would be against the cultural norm for real men. . . because real men avoid looking in the mirror and engaging in emotional self-awareness. Seriously? Is this all we expect of emotional development for men and boys? I hope not.

Chandler could have done better than that. We can all do better than that.

What do we know? There’s substantial scientific evidence supporting several ways Chandler might move toward addressing his grief, his depression, his alcohol abuse, and his damaged relationships. He could have been a better person a better man, and a better uncle.

Okay. I’ll calm down now. I understand this is just Hollywood . . . which is why I feel so free to attack Chandler for avoiding what might have been good for himself and his nephew.

All this brings me to my point. In the latest episode of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast, Dr. Sara and I interview Dr. Tina Barrett about how to talk to children about death and loss. Then, in the following episode (watch for it next week), we interview her again about how to help children through the death of a loved one.

If you don’t know who Dr. Tina is, you should. I met her in the mid-1990s, hired her at Families First in about 1998, and have followed her amazing work ever since. In our podcast, she provides wisdom and guidance and insights about death and dying. I hope you’ll take time to listen (and avoid being like the character Lee Chandler). Tina has some great ideas that might just contribute to your (and your children’s) emotional development.

As usual, you can listen at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

Or you can listen on Libsyn: http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/

Teenagers and Depression

Every year, every month, and every day, many teenagers complain of feeling down, depressed, or sad and some of them just act with immense irritability. You probably knew that. But, how many teens are experiencing symptoms of depression?

Estimates are wide ranging. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that approximately 12.5% of U.S. youth from 12-17 years-old experienced at least one episode of major depressive disorder. That’s a huge number of American teenagers (about 3 million).

Add to that the many more teenagers who complain of feeling depressed or down, but who don’t officially meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression. By some estimates, that brings the number to close to 50% of teens who are consistently bothered by sad, bad, and irritable feelings.

If you’re a parent of a teen, it’s easy to feel concerned about your teenager’s emotional health.

You may have questions like the following

  • Is my teenager clinically depressed or just going through the normal emotional ups and downs of adolescence?
  • Should I take my son or daughter to a mental health professional?
  • What about medications? Are any of the antidepressants safe and effective for teenagers?

The answers to these questions are complex. It’s hard to tell whether a teenager is in a normal emotional angst or experiencing something more insidious and chronic. And, the answer to the question about whether antidepressant medications are safe and effective with teens is a solid: “Maybe, but maybe not.”

In the latest Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast, Dr. Sara and I take on the serious topic of teenage depression. There are no laughs or giggles, but you’ll get to hear Sara ask me many questions about teen depression, and you’ll get to hear me try to answer them, which is sort of funny. You’ll hear the answer to my favorite trivia question: “What percent of children “recovered” from their depressive symptoms in the first-ever double-blind, placebo-controlled study of antidepressant medications?” And yes, once again, you’ll hear Sara find a way to mention sex during our podcast.

If you have teenagers yourself, or you know someone who has teenagers, or you’re a helping professional who works with teenagers, this podcast may be of interest or helpful to you. Check it out here on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2

If you listen and like it, please share it, and then do us one little favor—rate the podcast on iTunes. That way Sara and I can keep climbing up the charts in reality—rather than just in our imaginations.

JSF Dance Party

Calling All Parents

This post is an invitation for you to participate in a research study. We’re evaluating the effects of listening to the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcasts.

To participate, click on the link below. You’ll be taken to an anonymous online survey. It has 57 items and should take you 15 minutes or less to complete. If you’ve already listened to some or all of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcasts, that’s okay, you can still participate. Just click on the link and get started:

Practically Perfect Parenting Podcast Survey — Pretest

After filling out the survey, sometime during the next week you should listen to episode 2 (Practically Perfect Positive Discipline, Part I) or episode 5 (Sleep Well in 2017) [or both] of the Practically Perfect Parenting Podcasts. To find the podcasts, go to iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/practically-perfect-parenting-podcast/id1170841304?mt=2 or go to Libsyn:  http://practicallyperfectparenting.libsyn.com/.

After listening to the podcast, please click on the link below and complete the questionnaire again.

Parenting Podcast Post-Test

If you want to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of the book, “How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen,” either “like” or comment on the podcasts using Facebook or Libsyn between now and April 30. The winner of the book will be announced on May 1, 2017.

Thank you very much for helping us with this research project. We will post a summary of the results when we’re finished.

Sincerely,

John SF

John and Davis Improve their Moods
John and Davis Improve Their Moods

Handouts from South Carolina

This past Thursday I had the honor of offering a full-day workshop on “Tough Kids, Cool Counseling” to the South Carolina Association of School Psychologists. For anyone who has misplaced their handout or who wants additional content, I’m including two handouts in this post.

The first handout includes all the powerpoint slides (except the cartoons and empowered storytelling).

SCASP 2017 for Handout  

The second handout includes additional content corresponding (mostly) to the content in the powerpoint slides.

SCASP Extra Handout

For more information, you can check out our Tough Kids, Cool Counseling book, published by the American Counseling Association, https://www.amazon.com/Tough-Kids-Cool-Counseling-User-Friendly/dp/1556202741/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491153299&sr=1-10&keywords=sommers-flanagan:

Tough Kids Image

Or you can check out our book on working effectively with parents: https://www.amazon.com/How-Listen-Parents-Will-Talk/dp/1118012968/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491153770&sr=1-4&keywords=sommers-flanagan

 

Goodnight, South Carolina

Some days . . . the news is discouraging. Some days . . . evidence piles up suggesting that nearly everyone on the planet is far too greedy and selfish. On those days, I can’t help but wonder how our local, national, and worldwide communities survive. It feels like we’re a hopeless species heading for a cataclysmic end.

Sunset on StillwaterBut then I have a day like yesterday. A day where I had the honor and privilege to spend time hanging out with people who are professional, smart, compassionate, and dedicated to helping children learn, thrive, and get closer to reaching their potentials. I’m sure you know what I mean. If you turn off the media and peek under the surface, you’ll find tons of people “out there” who wake up every day and work tremendously hard to make the world just a little bit better, for everyone.

For me, yesterday’s group was the South Carolina Association of School Psychologists. They were amazing. They were kind. About 110 of them listened to me drone on about doing counseling with students who, due, in part, to the quirky nature of universe, just happen to be living lives in challenging life and school situations. The school psychologists barely blinked. They rarely checked their social media. They asked great questions and made illuminating comments. They were committed to learning, to counseling, to helping the next generation become a better generation.

All day yesterday and into the night I had an interesting question periodically popping up in the back of my mind. Maybe it was because while on my flight to South Carolina, I sat next to a Dean of Students from a small public and rural high school in Wisconsin. Maybe it was because of the SCASP’s members unwavering focus and commitment to education. The question kept nipping at my psyche. It emerged at my lunch with the Chair of the Psychology Department at Winthrop University.  It came up again after my dinner with four exceptionally cool women.

The question: “How did we end up with so many people in government who are anti-education?”

Yesterday, I couldn’t focus in on the answer. I told someone that–even though I’m a psychologist–I don’t understand why people do the things they do. But that was silly. This morning the answer came flowing into my brain like fresh spring Mountain run-off. Of course, of course, of course . . . the answer is the same as it always has been.

The question is about motivation. Lots of people before me figured this out. I even had it figured out before, but, silly me, I forgot. Why do people oppose education when, as John Adams (our second President) said, “Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially for the lower classes of people, are so extremely wise and useful that to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

The answer is all about money and power and control and greed and revenge and ignorance. Without these motivations, nearly everyone has a “humane and generous mind” and believes deeply in funding public education.

Thanks to all the members of the South Carolina Association of School Psychologists, for giving me hope that more people can be like you, moving past greed and ignorance and toward a more educated and better world.

Good night, South Carolina. It’s been a good day.