The “What If’s” That Actually Happen…

Parents who have children, adolescents, or young adults who are struggling rarely get “time off” whether for a holiday, vacation, or any other routine break.  This is particularly true when, as mentioned last week, the denial issue remains front and center.  During those 2:00 a.m. think sessions that most parents have at one time or another, the “what if’s” rear themselves and the thoughts of the worst case scenarios start their one-act plays in our heads.  It’s just part of parenting, particularly when it involves a struggling child.

This weekend, I spent hours on the telephone with clinicians on behalf of a young adult located across the country who was in dire trouble.  These clinicians were making decisions about this child (and yes, those in their 20’s are still children) while this child’s parent did little to question or challenge the clinical decision-makers.  Even though what was being said needed serious questioning and the need to put on the brakes was apparent, it simply did not happen.  And while I take no credit for any actions taken on behalf of a parent or child, it was only when someone (i.e. me) who was not wallowing in denial jumped into the equation that rational heads and thinking emerged.  The alternative would have been catastrophic for the young adult, both short and long-term.

Here’s what needs to be said (actually, said again as it’s messages I frequently convey) to parents:

  • Even though someone has initials after their name, this does not mean that parents need to follow their recommendations without questions being asked, a clear and thorough understanding of what is being said, and knowing the steps in the process.  Even then, the answer of  “no” remains a parent’s right.
  • Every child — whether 7 or 24 — needs a parent advocate to help them maneuver through situations that are beyond their grasp, particularly in times of crisis.  Don’t let a child’s age be the determining factor in terms of whether they are “old enough” to handle whatever is coming their way.
  • Every parent *must* set aside their denial about the severity of the issue/s or situation and deal with the reality of what is before them.  Denial is a parent’s worst enemy because it basically takes the need to mobilize — and mobilize quickly — off the radar screen.

So often I find myself counseling parents to “get it together” and to remember that the issue is not about them, but rather about their child.  It is this denial and the delay that accompanies it that creates greater issues and challenges, not fewer.   Parents must never forget that their role in advocating for their children requires a clear head, open mind, and strong constitution.  Every parent has it — some just require a little “kick in the pants” to remember it.


What’s Worse…Denial or Fear?

Any parent would tell you that there’s nothing worse than thinking or knowing that something is wrong with their child.  The questioning about what did *they* do (or not do), the concerns that perhaps they missed some earlier signs, the worries about the long-term issues that their child may face.  All are very real introspective questions that accompany parenting a struggling child — it simply goes with the territory.  Many have said that it equates to the stages of grief.   I get it because I, too, have been there.

But here’s the problem.  Over the past several weeks (and for years beforehand as well), I have spoken with more than a few parents who have rejected the notion that indeed, something is happening with their child in school and that further investigation via evaluations is needed.  One parent stated that he’s “just being lazy” while another parent said that “he just needs to focus better.”  Another told me that “there’s nothing wrong with her that less time on Facebook won’t fix” and another said that while her child has already been diagnosed, it’s really not what’s going on.

Is this denial or fear?  And does it really matter?  The answer is this — whether it takes two weeks or a year to mobilize, the longer the parents wait to do so, the tougher the path for their child.  We all know parents who kick-it into overdrive immediately, exhausting every possible resource to find answers.  We also know parents who take a “wait and see” approach, certainly understandable when the issues are unclear.  The problems emerge, however, when parents either conclude that whatever is happening is just a passing phase or that a “good talking to” or removing privileges will set the child on the right path.

That expression “it’s all about me” comes into play in spades in situations where a parent, because of denial or fear, fails to take action to help their struggling child succeed.  The parent is leading with their own feelings instead of stepping back and realizing that no…this is not about me but rather, it’s all about my child.

Each day of lost learning often snowballs into years of struggle.   What starts as a child’s inability to read aloud in 2nd Grade often becomes a teen’s inability to succeed in a high school public speaking class.  A middle school child without a single friend is a sign that something is amiss.  A child exhibiting troublesome behaviors is communicating that there is something wrong.  Parents need to pay attention and sweep their own feelings aside until the child’s struggles are evaluated and interventions are in place.

Acknowledging that your child is struggling isn’t easy.  But either is raising a child.  If you know, whether from seeing failing grades, the inability to complete homework, or mounting social and behavioral issues, that your child is not doing well at their job — i.e. school, fearing what it “could be” or denying what it “is” and not mobilizing just delays acknowledging the fact… something is wrong and it’s not going away.

Parenting is as difficult as it is rewarding.  No one prepares any of us for the “what if’s” that come along with raising a child from infancy to young adulthood.  Yet parents *are* parents because we have the life experience and wisdom to make the difficult choices and decisions.  We can handle it because we must.


Train To Sustain & Retain

I count myself among those who believe that organizations can adapt and respond to fast-changing employee needs.  And indeed, many organizations do provide a range of programs and supports geared toward meeting some of these needs and keeping their employees happy or, at least, helping them to better manage their work/life responsibilities.

Yet there is a critical piece of the equation often lacking yet it surfaces periodically in articles and commentaries about today’s work environment and deserves more focus — the importance of training and supporting those charged with actually implementing many of these programs and supports.  Take flexible work options, for example.  Policies may be in place for employees to be able to work flexibly yet many state that they do not take advantage of these policies for fear that it will preclude them from … fill-in-the-blank — being considered for the next promotion, being assigned the upcoming project, or being asked to travel unexpectedly to a client site.

Policies that are not utilized need to be examined and more times than not, there are obstacles both on the “giving” and “receiving” side.  Without question, the obstacles are rooted in a lack of understanding, familiarity, and skills to enable both parties to have a win/win so that the programs and supports — often touted as being a critical part of the organization’s retention efforts — are actually used.  With the ever-increasing competition to be recognized as a “best” company, organizations need to move beyond the offering stage to ensure that what’s offered in writing is being used in practice.

If a manager has never managed someone who is telecommuting two days per week, they need training to understand how to do it.  This makes the policy sustainable because, well…it’s being used.  If an employee needs or wants to utilize a program or service yet is reluctant to do so for whatever the reason, internal communications vehicles need to assess this and determine three things:

  1. What is the obstacle (or obstacles);
  2. What is the reason for the obstacle/s; and
  3. What do we need to do to remove the obstacle/s to generate and increase usage.

It usually falls to an employee’s manager to give the “go-ahead” whether verbally or otherwise to proceed.  And while the words can be “yes,” more times than not it’s the non-verbals that convey otherwise.  Organization-wide training is essential when any new program or service is offered and the training needs to go well beyond describing what it is, who can use it, how much it will cost, and when it begins.  The training needs to continue well into implementation for there’s a huge difference between offering something and using it.

Value-added training drills down into the culture of the organization to understand the opportunities and barriers.  It enables organizations to know how change needs to be introduced and what adjustments need to be made along the way.  As we all know, change often comes slowly and this is definitely the case when an organization is providing employees with an opportunity to do things differently.  Even with the good stuff, it’s essential to train in order to sustain and to retain.

Ninja Employees & Parents

While talking with a friend earlier this week, I indicated that I won’t “be a ninja” in the situation we were discussing.  Yet as I thought about it, I realized that in two areas — work and parenting — being a ninja is precisely what separates those who make due and those who *do*.

The definition alone is wonderful — a person who “commits a crazy act with unbelievably good results.”  Think about it for a minute … it doesn’t describe a ninja as someone who is aggressive or “takes no prisoners,” alienating everyone in their path.  It says that the person is thinking and/or doing something “out of the box” to generate stellar results.  Isn’t that precisely what every organization wants — employees who are not afraid to think creatively, to develop new strategies and solutions, and to help generate stellar bottom-line results?  It’s employee engagement on steroids.  And isn’t it precisely what every parent wants?  Stellar results (defined very differently for each child) for their children in school?

Many organizations are striving to develop innovative ways for employees to contribute to the health of their companies.  They are encouraging cross-functional collaboration, allowing for flexible work options which can often generate creativity, and “loosening the reins” so that new products and services make it into their pipelines.  It’s one critical way to enable employees to make their talents known and voices heard.  They become ninja employees.

Many parents are striving to do the same as they work to jump the hurdles necessary for their children to succeed.  Working with different people and teams, bringing creative thinking into problem-solving, and changing their own status quo.  Often times, in business and parenting alike, the first step involves asking the right questions which may seem basic — e.g. who, what, where, when, why and how.  Then, the “what to do next” phase is where ninja mode comes into play.

I like the ninja concept.  It paints a picture of an employee and a parent not afraid to question and think innovatively and describes a person willing to take some risks in order to achieve “unbelievably good results”. It’s the difference between shooting wildly and aiming carefully. Wouldn’t it be great if more organizations encouraged ninja thinking and allowed every employee to assume an ownership role in the health of their companies?  And imagine what would happen to the millions of children failing at their job — i.e. school — if their parents became “ninja parents”.  My sword quivers at the mere thought of it all…

One Year Ago…

We began sharing our thoughts with you in an effort to “raise the volume” on critical issues even when immediate or easy solutions were not apparent.  Kicking things into gear (i.e. ideas, behinds, whatever comes our way) is what we are all about.

Some things remain as they were since last fall and warrant another quick go-around:

  • Companies concerned about employee engagement, productivity and retention need to recognize that supporting the fast-growing number of *parent employees* raising children who are struggling in school has a direct correlation to the bottom-line;
  • The numbers of children being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities and “hidden differences” continues to skyrocket and this equates to complex issues (e.g. families, finances, health) facing the parents standing beside these children;
  • All children and teens deserve every opportunity — along with the services and supports they need — to succeed in school for school is the pathway to life;
  • Bullying of any sort (i.e. school, cyber) must not be tolerated and each adult has a responsibility to intervene at every turn *and* to teach the social thinking and behavior skills needed to end this epidemic; and
  • Parents … every Mom and Dad … hold the keys to their child’s ability to succeed in school and beyond.

Last year around this time, some statistics were eye-opening to many yet supported what we already knew:

  • That 68% of 8th grade students cannot read at grade level;
  • That 85% of children with special needs report being bullied; and
  • That 100% of all children need an adult — whether a parent, guardian, or extended family member — on their side to advocate for their needs.

We can all discuss policy change, education reforms, teacher accountability, school choice, testing, and a host of other child and education-focused issues and each has their place and importance in the realm of raising productive children into adulthood.  Yet one thing is for certain — it all starts with one parent or parent team armed with the information and strategies necessary to turn their child’s frustration and failure into progress and promise.  We hope you agree.