WellesleyWeston Magazine

SUMMER 2016

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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parent to parent. According to the professionals interviewed, this is treacherous territory that should be avoided. "Parents need to learn how to not intervene," says Mitchell. "It is really important for the parent/child relationship." A Wellesley mother tells of calling a longtime friend whose daugh- ter had been part of a hurtful group toward her daughter. "These girls had been friends since they were two years old, but the call really didn't go very well," she acknowledges. "The other mom denied the behavior and nothing really got solved." While the temptation to make things right can be overwhelming, it might be that offering validation and some handholding might be more important. "Don't just jump into problem solving mode if your kid comes to you in despair; acknowledge their feelings. Tell them that you understand that it's really hard. Don't negate or minimize the problem," says Geltman. Another Wellesley mother described how she and her husband handled the tough new reality when their high-school-aged son became inexplicably shut out of a long-time friend group. "We did a lot of talking and hanging out. We just tried to be supportive, to let him know that things would get better," she said. Not to say it was easy. "It was torture really, to see him so lonely and perpetually wondering why it happened." And while it feels contrary to being supportive, giv- ing kids that space to feel sad is another way of validating them. "Acknowledge the loss," advises Geltman. "Part of your job is to teach your kids how to handle their emotions. And this is a brand new emo- tion; it has no history." It doesn't help when a child is clearly struggling but won't allow any discussion of the problem. "It is critical to cultivate a relationship with your adolescent so he or she can feel safe coming to you if they have problems," says Dr. Herzig. "Ideally the groundwork for that relation- ship is laid out in early childhood." Dr. Herzig advises parents to use statement sentences rather than direct questioning when broaching the delicate topic of a changing social landscape. "Better to say: 'I notice that you have been spending more time around the house lately,' than 'How come your friends aren't around?'" he says. Statements that don't demand a direct answer can offer a few different ways to begin a conversation. In short, a neutral statement can diffuse defensiveness and shame. Another way parents can help redirect a drifting social life is by becoming a bit of a sneak. If a parent notices that a child has suffered some friendship attrition, it doesn't mean that there aren't other options out there. "Parents need to ask themselves, 'Who is my kid? What does he like to do?' Then be on the lookout for like-minded kids whether it's on the sidelines or through some teacher feedback," says Geltman. This strategy worked well for the mother whose son struggled with his neighborhood gang. "We talked about other kids, literally going through the class list with him," she says. "He was totally against it of course, but when I met a mother on the sidelines of his soccer game, I realized that she was a mom of a boy who my son identified as a family matters "a safe place in the world emotionally" 156 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 6

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