What Dreams Are Made of

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

I talk about making dreams come true a lot. That sounds so…frivolous, so hokey—so why do I keep saying it?

Because it is so important to kids’—and adults’—mental health, that’s why. Read more

Mastering the Mental Side of Hockey—Or Anything Else

I was working with a Division I hockey team when an assistant coach asked the D men to stand up. “Now, boys,” he said, “Sit down when I hit the right number. Ready? Hockey is 20% mental.”

No one sat.

“Thirty percent.”

“Forty.”

He kept going: 60, 70, 80… at 90% his guys started to sit down.

The coach went on to say, “We spend 90 to 100% of our time on our bodies, lifting, conditioning; on our hockey skills, shooting, skating; and so on. But how much time do we spend on our mind and our emotions?” Read more

Are We Having Fun…Ever?

One thing I ask parents frequently is how much fun their family has. The reply is often that their child loves their organized athletics, or music, or whatever afterschool activity that their child does, and that is fun for their child.

It is true that some children love those activities. But some children don’t. They do them out of a sense of duty. They do it because their parents make them. Or they do them because it has been impressed on them, either consciously or unconsciously, that they have to do it to get into college—for their résumé, in other words. And many of them never tell their parents that they would rather not do them, or do them quite so much. When you have Outcome Fever, it becomes very hard for your kids to be honest with you.

But even if your child loves their extracurricular activity, that is different from plain fun. Unlike organized activities, fun has no responsibilities, such as practicing, attached. Most importantly, the fun I’m talking about has no outcomes attached. Read more

The Basics: Why Life Coaching?

I was recently called in to help an anxious and depressed 11-year-old. When his mother ushered me into his room, I saw an overweight, sad-looking kid. I also saw a guitar and asked him if he played. He immediately brightened up, and we launched into a discussion about music. After a while, and with the expected coaxing, he picked up the guitar and started to play “Stairway to Heaven.” No, correct that: he CRUSHED the tune. When he was finished, he was able to tell me that he wowed everyone when he played it at his school talent show, and we were able to start a discussion about how he was able to do that: what gave him the confidence? And then we were off and running on what was bothering him and how to deal with it. Read more

When Trauma Defines You

How do you define yourself?

That isn’t something many people think about much, but it actually is a crucial question.

First of all, what do I mean by “define yourself?” I am talking about the things that contribute to how you feel about yourself in your baseline state.

Of course, there are lots of things that do this. As I see it, there are two basic categories: things that happen in your life, whether it is something you consciously strive for or something that just happens, and who you are intrinsically. So one is external and the other internal. Read more

Confidence Coaching

In my work with athletic teams and other groups of kids, I have found that even the highest-functioning kids often lack confidence. In today’s highly structured and scheduled world, kids can get pretty far just doing what they’re told and completing tasks, so it sometimes comes as a surprise to both the student—and their parents—when they come up against a situation where deep-seated, steady confidence is needed, but it just isn’t there to be called upon. Coaches and educators frequently bring this up, and it seems as though parents are catching on.

The Confidence Coaching program is the result, and I think it can help just about any teenager or 20-something. If your kid is struggling but not in real trouble, it can help a lot. (If your kid is in real trouble, I can help with that, too, but that requires a different approach.) If your kid is an über-achiever, I think you will be surprised at how injecting a dose of confidence will bring more imagination and joy to their achievements. The program is fun, insightful, and powerful, and most kids love it. It can also be something that friends can enjoy together: the program works great with small groups. Usually it only takes a few sessions to see results.

Want to know whether Confidence Coaching is right for your teenager or 20-something? Give me a call or drop me a text at 603-496-0305, or use the form below to email me, and let’s talk about it.

Here’s the brochure, and FYI — many adults can benefit from Confidence Coaching as well!

Here is more information how I work with teens, 20-somethings, and their families.

Hand-Me-Down Vows

The definition of a vow is a “solemn promise,” which implies a conscious decision. Yet what I have found in my work is the unconscious also makes vows, often destructive ones. Uncovering these unconscious vows and then breaking them can be hard going, but it is possible and can be incredibly healing. Read more

Opiates and Outcome Fever

I spoke to a father of three teenage boys recently, a very reasonable, bright man. He expressed concern about the fact that opiates are out there, and we talked about striking that parenting balance around drugs and alcohol, about finding that sweet spot where you don’t issue blanket prohibitions that are impossible to enforce, nor do you become overly permissive.

This brought up some things I’ve been mulling over:

  1. Why are so many teenagers sniffing and shooting opiates, boys and girls who, a generation ago, wouldn’t have even entertained a thought of using them?
  2. What are the more complex dynamics in middle- and upper-class schools and families that are causing kids to use opiates?

Actually, I would argue that “good” kids are taking risks with many aspects of their lives, not just opiates. In fact, many of their choices can be seen through the lens of addictive behavior, whether it’s sex, working out, drinking, video games, even schoolwork. Read more

The Beauty of Mindless Tasks

For some reason I don’t understand, many kids today are not ever asked to do housework. They are never asked to do a dish, vacuum, do laundry, mow the lawn, or any household chores. Perhaps parents think their children are too busy to waste time on mundane tasks? I would argue that these mindless tasks are anything but mundane. Read more

Kids Are Not OK

One thing I am called upon to do often is decode kids. A great thing about being a life coach who does home visits is I get to meet the entire family and see how they relate to each other. Not surprisingly, many parents struggle to communicate with their teenagers and 20-somethings, and I get called in to decode. Often the parents are surprised, or even shocked, to hear how their kids are really feeling.

Although many kids may seem OK or even to be doing well to their parents, they really aren’t OK. They’re digitized, anxious, addicted to gizmos, aren’t resilient, and don’t know how to push themselves outside of school and sports. They are supremely focused on goals and ambitions to the exclusion of their dreams and simple joy. They achieve, yet they often feel completely powerless. They appear to be successful, yet so many are sad.

I am not the only person who is reporting this: most of the professionals with whom I talk—pediatricians, teachers, coaches, school administrators, and some worried parents—are all seeing the same things.

Why is this happening? Part of this is cultural. We, the Analog Generation, knew that if we worked reasonably hard in school and stayed out of major trouble, we’d be fine. The messages we received, both consciously and unconsciously, from the adults in our lives went along these lines:

“The world’s a good, fun safe place.”

“You can trust most adults.”

“The people in Washington probably know what they’re doing.”

“The earth will last forever.”

“Your parents have some issues, but basically they’re there for you.”

“You can and should respect your teachers and coaches, and they’re really looking out for you.”

The Digital Kids don’t enjoy that kind of reassurance. We all know the messages that are swirling around them at all times: ISIS, global warming. A “media” that reports the news sensationally in great detail 24/7 and promulgates fear. There’s a fractured political system that has forgotten about respect and compromise and seems oblivious to the people it’s supposed to serve. It’s everyone being on their smartphones all of the time (making Einstein, who said, “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.” very prescient, indeed), trying to use communication devices as connection devices, which doesn’t work.

A noted psychiatrist, D.W. Winnicott, coined the term holding environment for that positive, safe, predictable environment parents create in their home for a baby. Well, the cultural holding environment, in a scant generation, has begun to radically tear.

And because of all of this, many parents are afraid—so afraid—in their efforts to protect their children from all of these awful things, they have neglected to prepare them for adulthood. They haven’t allowed their kids to be kids. Many of these children might have every material gadget possible, but they rarely get to play outside. They are hardly, if ever, allowed to go out on their own, get into trouble, get out of trouble, find out who they are as individuals. They have not been allowed to fail or face consequences. To take risks. To have fun with their friends in unstructured, unsupervised play. And the result is stressed-out, anxious, sad kids.

These kids hold a secret kept even from themselves: They do not feel in control of their lives, do not enjoy contentment, and do not experience excitement about the whole of living.

Most of their parents aren’t in on this secret and, in fact, don’t have a clue how their children really feel. We’re raising a generation of kids who are using devices, Snapchat, sex, work, working out, stress, drugs, alcohol, and achievement to feel alive. Kids who don’t know how to truly connect.

There are a lot of things parents can do to improve this situation, and that is a big part of my work with kids and families. But it isn’t easy, as it means bucking some trends. It means making a conscious decision to NOT keep up with the Joneses. It means changing things up with your kids, and, as you know, change is not easy or immediate, and you will be met with resistance. But when you see that big grin on your child’s face when she or he realizes that life is about the journey as much, if not more, than the destination, and you are sharing their joy, maybe for the first time in ages, it will feel great.

In addition to my direct work with families, I have a program on this subject for both large and small groups of parents. It’s appropriate for PTAs, libraries, religious organizations, businesses (I do a lunchtime program), or even just a group of friends who are interested in these issues. Please contact me for details.