Friday, October 30, 2009

The Friday Information Corner --Kristen Routh

Do you remember your first crush as an adolescent? Maybe that special-someone grabbed your attention in the hallways at school? Your heart would beat a little faster when you spotted your crush in the cafeteria or you sat behind that person in class. It seemed like you could think of nothing else but getting to know your crush, talking with him or her, or maybe even “going out.” You used all means necessary to capture your crush’s attention: “accidentally” bumping into him or her in the hallway after rehearsing how you would smoothly apologize seconds later; leaving notes in his or her locker revealing you thought your crush was cute; or maybe even gathering enough courage to ask for your crush’s phone number so you could talk to him or her outside of school hours.

Many of your children are experiencing crushes like these. Just like you had romantic daydreams focused on someone who remained agonizingly out of reach, your children are becoming enamored with the idea of having a boyfriend or girlfriend and are conceiving plans to grab the attention of that special someone. However, with the accessibility of modern-day technology, your daughters and sons have powerful new tools at their disposal what can help them turn their innocent dreams of social connection into what could become dangerous realities.

Technology and cyberspace now add new dimensions to youthful socializing and romance. Adolescents are branching out on the internet and using other forms of technology to make friends, flirt, and even date. Research from the American College of Obstetricians (2003) suggests that more than 1/3 of teenagers in the United States have a computer with Internet access in their home and that percentage increases substantially in more financially-affluent neighborhoods. Most adolescents use the internet at home for personal use including chat rooms, instant massaging, and social networking. With the increasing popularity of teens socially networking over the internet, more teens are sharing personal information online, including photos and videos, without your knowledge or consent.

How are your children connecting using technology? Here are just a few of the ways:
Adolescents keep their social networks buzzing with news of who’s-dating-who, who’s-cute, who’s-meeting-up-later-for-fun. With the accessibility of E-mail on computers and cell-phones, notes left in lockers and passed in class are being replaced with quick e-mails.
Instant Messaging: More commonly referred to as IMs, these online communications allow your children to carry on conversations in real time. IMing is now more popular than the home phone as a way for teens to talk.
Web logs: Known as BLOGS, teens pour out their thoughts, feelings, latest news on webpages rather than the pages of a diary.
Websites: Online gathering sites like and attract young people who come to meet others or even vent their private feelings through “status updates.” Photos and videos can be posted for public viewing as well as, messaging, emails and “wall posts.” Kids can search for existing friends on-line, view pictures of potential “crushes,” and even send private “friend requests” to people who your children may or may not already know.
Chatrooms: These are essentially electronic conference calls with many people talking at once. Adolescents often set up their own private chats, but some bolder chatters enter discussions with strangers in public chat areas.
Cell phones: Most parents buy their kids cell phones for safety reasons, however adolescents often view this device as a lifeline to their social lives. They can call, text, send photos, e-mail, and even remotely connect to social networking sites. Cell phones allow kids to reach out even more to people without the necessity of a home-based computer.
Camcorders/Webcams: No longer reserved for capturing major life events, video recording devices are used by adolescents to capture images of their friends and themselves in often embarrassing situations. Posting their videos to websites like allows the entire cyber-world to view and comment on your children’s videos.

Although there are many positive aspects of meeting and greeting online, parents need to be aware that misuse can lead to broken hears and bashed reputations. E-mails and IMs allow rumors to spread like wildfire on the internet. Someone intent on damaging another person’s reputation can easily send a message, photo, or video to hundreds of classmates at one time, by pressing one “send” button. In a 2005 survey conducted by MindOHI, an education company that focuses on character education, nearly 80% of the teens surveyed said that they had read or spread gossip on line. When that gossip has to do with a young girl’s sexual reputation, the emotional damage to that girl can be devastating.

The same survey by MindOHI found that 50% of the teens surveyed had seen a website that made fun of their peers. Teens dump their boyfriends or girlfriends “publicly” on webpages, or even post photos of other teens after Photoshoping or morphing their faces into embarrassing creations. Teens often take camera-phone photos or videos of other teens caught in public displays of affection and upload the private moments to the internet or post to websites where millions may view it, causing deep wounds to teen’s reputations.

Parents may blame the Internet when something bad happens such as their child’s hurt feelings, or even more serious problems such as children meeting online strangers in person. However, blaming the Internet may backfire on keeping your children safe. Many adolescents who are teased or tormented in cyberspace withhold that informations from their parents, fearing that they will be forbidden to go online. Hey reason that it’s better to tolerate the teasing than to be cut off from their social world.

Here are some things to consider to encourage open communication with your children about the proper use of technology:

  • Focus on the behavior of your children, not on the technology. The technology may have changed, but kindness and decency should still be at the top of both you and your children’s list. If your daughter is going to break up with a boyfriend, she shouldn’t send him an e-mail or text message to do so.
  • Talk about public versus private with your teen. A young girl may think it’s okay to pour out her innermost thoughts on a public website. Point out how that information may be used against her or might be used to fuel rumors.
  • Consider your child’s age when buying a new technological device. Does a 10-year-old really need a camera phone, or will a basic model suffice? Can you be sure your child won’t misuse a webcam? If you decide to buy a technological device, instill the message to your child that there is a responsibility that comes with receiving the new device.
  • Talk about romance and relationships. Kids may have a lot to teach parents about new technology, but parents have more to teach their children about relationships and romance—on and off the Internet, with and without technology. If parents neglect to talk about the excitement of love, crushes, and relationships, adolescents will get their information from peers, the media, and the Internet.

    How are your children connecting using technology? Talk with them, and find out today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"But I am a princess!"

"What is a princess, and what is a queen? A princess is a girl who knows that she will get there, who is on her way perhaps but is not yet there. She has power but she does not yet wield it responsibly. She is indulgent and frivolous. She cries but not yet noble tears. She stomps her feet and does not know how to contain her pain or use it creatively.
A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed upon her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become it's vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power. Our kingdom is our life, our life is our kingdom." -Marianne Williamson

I have heard many people refer to this quote in many ways and so I thought I would just take the literal form and talk for a moment about giving space for girls to act their age. In the past couple of weeks I have been bombarded with the same questions from so many different girls. "Should I still talk to my ex even though he cheated on me?" "How do I know if I should give him another chance?" Girls are struggling with their first taste of grown up issues. One mistake that us as grown women make is applying our grown up experiences to our girls' issues. If a boy cheats, he may not be a future lifelong cheater; he may have discovered that girls will have sex with him. Boys who hurt our girls are not evil, well not all of them. Hating him will not heal her pain. Your anger is righteous but it needs to come second to her pain.

Broken hearts are timeless but the first ones are the worst. There is no right and wrong way to experience the pain. It hurts. As parents we need to take the pain seriously. It cannot be disregarded. It is not just emotional drama and she is not over reacting. Many girls lack the coping that it takes to come through immense pain. They may need help. The most powerful thing a mom can do is to sit in pain with her daughter.
In terms of giving advice, I always encourage girls that they can do their break ups however they need as long as they protect their self esteem, their pride, and their values. An example of a response to the question "is it ok to talk to my ex?" would be:

"Does it keep protect your self esteem?" When self esteem is low, the risk is higher that she will be operating out of that compromised sense of who she is. The goal is to hold onto what is left and rebuild. The best way to rebuild is to become aware of where she is at. Talk to her about the ability to do something and still feel that she has not crossed the boundaries that let any of her good stuff out or let any bad stuff in then let her do it. She may not do this smoothly and there will be many tears as she walks back and forth the line of self esteem.

"Does doing this cause me to lose any pride?" Many times when we sink to settling or doing something to comfort ourselves, we lose our pride. Help her recognize the difference between self nurturing and self comforting. (hint-self comforting makes us feel guilty and vulnerable) There is already a tendency to blame ones self in an effort to find the magic key to bring him back. Girls may feel that pride is a small price to pay for love. Remind her that boys need to earn her back, not be allowed to drag her around as she begs at his feet.

"Does it compromise my values?" There is no better time to do a values check in and talk about the temptation to sell your soul when the pain of wanting something is so strong. There is a higher temptation to give in to sex at this point with him or someone as revenge. She may want to fight, lie, and go all primal on his...sorry. Her values are connected with her core self. Her core self is the key to reconnecting her with her healing powers.

Notice nothing in these conversations tell her what to do. You have given her space, honored her pain, and loved her in a way that allows for her mistakes. Pain is required to pass from princess to queen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Presenting Presentation

I can't believe it is mid August! We have been so busy in our groups having fun that we almost let go of some of the purpose behind what we do here! Almost let go... but not quite.

As we gear up to getting back to school, we shop for clothes, supplies, and even give ourselves new mini makeovers to become who we want to be for the upcoming year. We feel armed with things that smell new and look crisp. This external arsenal is all in place to help project the full image of who we want to be and all that we are capable of. Yet it is all external. If we do not take time to prepare ourselves internally with an arsenal of skills, we will fall short when things begin to wrinkle and wear.

We need to learn the skills of presentation. By definition the word presentation is:
1. The act of presenting. or b. The state of being presented.
2. A performance as in a formal introduction or a social debut

We present in differing modalities in order to elicit a response. When we want someone to commiserate with us, we are a victim; when we feel like a victim we become dramatic. In an exercise and discussion around the topic, the teen group found it amazing to realize the relationship of how they portrayed themselves to how their peers perceived them.

Our society seems to have experienced a shift. The fifities and early sixties were all about presentation. To quote from MadMen "We are the portrait and it is our responsibility not to let anyone see the brushstrokes". The cost for this type of presentation was high and when the later 60's and 70's hit we were giving up all presentation in order to "be". Somewhere in the mix between then and now, our permissiveness in expression has left children vulnerable to become prey of materialism and consumerism who begin to appeal to a girl's sex appeal as young as 5!Read this article from the UK on the decision to pull playboy themed clothing for 7 year olds!

We have heard that everything is permissable but not everything is beneficial. I believe that the time has come to blend the extremes and learn to present with authentic grace, learn poise, and take responsibility for how we want to be seen. We do not have to become Martha Stewart, to take responsibilty for what we put into the world. We have the opportunity, a long hard earned one, to express ourselves in a loving authentic self that brings joy and tolerance to the world in everything from our speech to our dress.

The girls who attend our classes, groups, and events, have the opportunity to practice and learn skills to take them this direction. From handling embarassments to handling stressful conversations they learn to be poised and open. We know that those nice crisp fashions and extras don't hurt either! We love to feel good on the outside. Let's make sure our girls know how to do it on the inside also.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Power of Two

I recently held an event for mothers and daughters entitled The Power of Two. The event was created for girls from 9 to 12 in order to help them navigate their entrance into adolescence and help to avoid the common conflicts that arise between moms and their daughters of this age. We did a group sharing and private sharing. We sculpted the metaphor of our relationship and did a blind communication exercise. Mainly we opened up and talked about what was hard, what was scary, and what we needed. We expressed a lot of love.

Yet truthfully, this is a difficult workshop for me. Mainly because while I am helping other mothers and daughters, I am a mother to a 12 year old girl. I think about this relationship often and I wonder why our communication changes, why there are more hurt feelings (on both sides), how I got into the beginning of a power struggle, and where the sad overall sense that you start to lose your daughter comes from.

I remember holding my daughter in my arms in the hospital and feeling a bit sad that at one point we were going to have conflict. I was prepared for her becoming a tween in many ways but was not prepared for her to become her own person. I have known her as my daughter her whole life but at this age where she is branching out into the world, with all of the strength of who she is, I realize that in many areas I don't know even know her. She is becoming her own person and is asserting herself into her life and into her relationship with me. Everything from clothes to food, movies to music, and how she decides to handle relationships with her friends is her way and not mine at all.

I realize that it is just the relationship that needs adjusting. I believe that when we cannot adjust the relationship with mutual respect and understanding, that there lies the conflict. As I say to all the mothers I work with, there is not a right and wrong anything if it is coming with love, pure intent, and authenticity. Your daughters were chosen to be your daughters for the main reason to experience the authenticity of who you are as a mother. Yes we will make mistakes, but we will come back and apologize. Yes, we will misunderstand, but we will come back to listen. This very act is the creation of resiliency in your daughters. If they can do this with us, they can do this with friends, teachers, bosses, and partners. We can guide them as women and love them as mothers as long as we give them a chunk of space to become. This is their emergence from the cocoon and they need to struggle to build their strength. We will hold them and sit in that struggle with them balancing the line of protecting and preparing.

As my daughter continues to show me who she is, I am starting to allow her space to simply become. I am not taking a back seat yet I am not in control. I am watching, observing, complimenting, and trusting. Trusting in her and trusting in me, but mainly trusting in the Power of Two.