Archive for ‘parenting’

September 26, 2014

Women place greater importance on steady employment when seeking a spouse

by Grace

Almost twice as many women as men consider it “very important” that their future spouse have a “steady job”.

… Never-married women place a great deal of importance on finding someone who has a steady job—fully 78% say this would be very important to them in choosing a spouse or partner. For never-married men, someone who shares their ideas about raising children is more important in choosing a spouse than someone who has a steady job.

20140924.COCGenderDifferencesMarriageMate1

Could it be that women still think they’d like to stop working when they have children?  Yes.  One recent survey found that 84% of working women want to stay home to raise their children.

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Wendy Wang and Kim Parker, “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married”, Pew Social Trends, September 24, 2014.

August 28, 2014

Make your college application essay memorable

by Grace

Franklin & Marshall College president Daniel R. Porterfield offers some advice for high school seniors dealing with “college mania”.  His thoughts on how to approach the college application essay seem particularly insightful.

write an application essay that’s so true to you that you’ll want to read it again in ten years as a snapshot of where you were at age 18. What experiences have shaped you? What questions obsess you? What people inspire you? How do you want to give and grow in college?

Approaching the essay this way may be a helpful tactic for applicants, but the piece matters most for its value to you at one of life’s turning points. And, as I’ve learned from my own applications for schools and jobs, when we honestly and authentically present ourselves and then don’t get selected, it doesn’t feel so bad. In fact, we’re often left with a strong sense of personal integrity.

I believe it’s true that most essay readers can tell if an application essay is authentic and genuinely reveals a student’s perspective.  So the advice to “put it in your own words” makes sense.  Thus the challenge sometimes becomes how a teacher or parent can help in editing an essay without changing the author’s voice.  The first time I tried helping with my kid’s essay, I found myself quickly falling into the trap of obliterating his message and inserting what I thought he should be saying.  I learned my lesson, and later I mainly left any editing to his guidance counselor, who seemed to know the right balance between minor corrections and sweeping modifications.

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Daniel R. Porterfield, “Six — Well, Seven — Pieces of Advice for College-Searching High School Seniors”, Forbes, 8/11/2014.

August 22, 2014

Many kids are not emotionally ready for college

by Grace

We already know that many college freshman are academically unprepared for college, but Professor Claire Potter finds that they are also emotionally and functionally unprepared.

By September, one of the biggest topics for discussion — and one of the biggest gripes — among many college faculty will be how emotionally, and practically, underprepared many of your kids are for their freshman year. Although I now teach the non-traditional, adult students who are becoming the majority of undergraduates, for years I welcomed fresh-faced 18 year olds whose academic preparation often far exceeded their ability to navigate school independently of their parents.

The two major changes I observed over those two decades was an increasing lack of emotional separation between parents and children (with an accompanying rise in students having difficulty making their own decisions); and an increasing tendency, on the part of first year students, to presume that college was more or less similar to high school in its expectations and practices.

Academic and emotional development are certainly related in some respects.

Some possible reasons for students failing to develop independence:

Technology has certainly enabled parents and children to remain emotionally close.  Constant texting can mean that young people are relying too much on their parents to make decisions for them.

I think trends in K-12 education have also contributed to this “over-parenting”.  From the early grades, the schools encourage the wrong kind of parental involvement.  Parents feel forced to help their kids with homework that is developmentally inappropriate, like third-grade projects that require sophisticated Internet research skills.  Then, success in middle school often requires advanced organizational skills that drive parents to intercede lest their kid falls behind to a point where he cannot catch up in high school.  Instead of helping develop independent students who will be ready to succeed in college, schools are inadvertently promoting excessive reliance on their parents and other adults.

Potter offers some advice to help parents in making their kid a “strong and independent college student”.  The first suggestion is to “reduce contact” with a college kid.

… If your kid is going away to college, let him go away. This means not texting and talking every day, or even every other day, or every other other day….

I agree with this advice, and have found it surprising when I hear about some parents who are in constant contact with their adult children.  On the other hand, from personal experience I know that some kids are more verbal than others, and are driven to share many details of their lives.  As a parent, I can see the advantages and disadvantages of this.  Obviously there are some nuances to consider in following Potter’s advice.

Complete details on Potter’s recommendations can be found at the link below.

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Claire Potter, “Bye-Bye Birdies: Sending The Kids Away to College”, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 28, 2014.

July 11, 2014

Parents help sustain their adult children’s extended financial adolescence

by Grace

Most parents are providing some financial support to their children even after they graduate from college, thereby promoting a period of sustained adolescence among 20-somethings.

… nearly 85% of parents plan to offer their children monetary aid after graduation, according to a survey Tuesday from Upromise by Sallie Mae. Almost one-in-three parents plan to provide their grad with financial assistance for up to six months, and around 50% plan to foot bills anywhere from six months to more than five years.

The new normal means that adult children continue to rely on mom and dad.

So, what has changed since my son graduated a few decades ago? Sure, new graduates are entering a much more difficult job market than he did, and even those who do secure jobs are unlikely to have the job stability he’s enjoyed. But a difficult job market is only part of the story. Social norms have shifted so that accepting help from Mom and Dad well into your 20s is “OK.”

Psychologists call this trend “emerging adulthood.” As Eileen Gallo and Jon Gallo note in their paper “How 18 Became 26: The Changing Concept of Adulthood,” for a certain socioeconomic set, growing up and moving out—permanently—means downgrading your lifestyle. The authors quote sociologists Allan Schnaiberg and Sheldon Goldenberg as stating:

“The supportive environment of a middle-class professional family makes movement toward independent adulthood relatively less attractive than maintenance of the [extended adolescence] status quo. Many of the social gains of adult roles can be achieved with higher benefits and generally lower costs by sharing parental resources rather than by moving out on one’s own!”

Keeping their 20-something children on the family cell phone plan is one common example of how “sharing parental resources” makes it easier on young adults as they transition to financial independence.  Another example is health insurance, where Obamacare now requires family policies to continue coverage for children up to age 26.  Individually these are small examples, but in total many parents are heavily subsidizing their adult children’s lifestyle.

Retirement expert Dennis Miller says parents should consider tough love instead of risking their own future financial security.

Retiring rich is hard enough without paying for your child’s extended adolescence. The job market may be tough for new graduates, but forcing your child to navigate it anyway might just be the best way to help.

Miller believes it’s possible to be supportive without hindering a young adult’s financial and emotional independence, and has some tips that can be read at the link above.

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Kathryn Buschman, “The New Normal? Some Parents Plan to Aid Children 5 Years after Graduation”, FOXBusiness, May 27, 2014.

Dennis Miller, Paying bills for adult children? Try tough love instead, MarketWatch, July 8, 2014.

July 4, 2014

Executive function skills suffer when kids are over-scheduled

by Grace

The more time children spend in structured, parent-guided activities, the worse their ability to work productively towards self-directed goals.

Unsupervised playtime may benefit the development of executive function.

Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. The value of free play,  daydreamingrisk-taking, and independent discovery have been much in the news this year, and a new study by psychologists at the University of Colorado reveals just how important these activities are in the development of children’s executive functioning.

Executive function is a broad term for cognitive skills such as organization, long-term planning, self-regulation, task initiation, and the ability to switch between activities. It is a vital part of school preparedness and has long been accepted as a powerful predictor of academic performance and other positive life outcomes such as health and wealth. The focus of this study is “self-directed executive function,” or the ability to generate personal goals and determine how to achieve them on a practical level. The power of self-direction is an underrated and invaluable skill that allows students to act productively in order to achieve their own goals.

This may help explain the recent rise in diagnosed ADHD cases.  The structured lives of our children — including play dates, day care, and summer camp — is quite different from the mostly unscheduled days of youngsters growing up even 20 years ago.  Could it be that they’re missing out on an important developmental process?

Starting at about age seven or eight I spent lots of time unsupervised by adults, although there were usually older kids around.  During the summer I kept busy riding my bike, going to the library, playing with Barbie dolls, swimming at the neighborhood pool, hanging out with friends, watching TV, and doing other similar self-directed activities.

Ann Althouse had a similar childhood.

When I was a kid, virtually all time not spent in school or sleeping and eating was free play time. Nobody ever spoke of “executive function” or projected developmental improvements of any kind….

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Jessica Lahey, “Why Free Play Is the Best Summer School”, The Atlantic, June 20, 2014.

July 3, 2014

Advice for surviving, and even enjoying, your boomerang kid

by Grace

Many millennials are living at home with their parents.

Graduating with major student debt but without plans, as well as dropping out of college, unemployment, underemployment, poorly paid first jobs, sky-high rents and breakups or emotional upheavals can all create a perfect storm and send 20-somethings seeking shelter with mom and dad.

Thanks to closer parent/child relationships, smaller families, a later marriage age and the pressures of hard economic times, that’s a sharp shift since today’s boomer parents were launching their lives. Back then, one of the major milestones en route to adulthood was moving out of your parents’ home after high school.

Forbes offers five tips for surviving your 20-something child’s return to living at home.

  1. Encourage a plan.
  2. Treat grown-up kids as the young adults they’ve become.
  3. Let them know your expectations…before they move in.
  4. Have the money talk.
  5. Consider couple relationships — yours and theirs.

Are most adult kids who live at home paying rent to their parents?

… About half the boomerang kids who move home pay some sort of rent, and almost 90% help with household expenses, according to a 2012 Pew Report. But there are many ways to divvy up what it takes to run a household.

I have a boomerang kid at home, and two things I’ve found very helpful are making sure to treat him like an adult and finding agreement on a plan toward self-sufficiency.  I give some advice, but I also try to understand that he is in charge of his life.

Until a few years ago, I was resistant to the idea of a college graduate returning home to live.  But the high cost of living in my area along with the sorry state of the jobs market have softened my stance.  In fact, living at home is sometimes the better choice since it may be a way of getting a head start on saving for retirement.

Related:  “Parents have lower expectations for kids becoming financially independent” (Cost of College)

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Elizabeth Fishel and Jeffrey Arnett, 5 Steps To Survive Your Adult Child’s Return Home, Forbes, 6/26/2014.

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June 10, 2014

Is the dreary jobs outlook the reason we are pessimistic about our kids’ future?

by Grace

Why are Americans so pessimistic about their children’s future?

Some 63% of all Americans said most children in the U.S. won’t be better off than their parents. This dour view comes despite most respondents, 54%, feeling they are better off than their own parents.

This is a “stunning reversal from CNN data at the end of the last century (1999 to be exact) — when two thirds of Americans predicted that children would grow up to have it better than their parents”.

Some key factors seem to influence this pessimism.

The vast majority of Americans have higher incomes than their parents, but that’s in large part because most families have two earners now, she said. Only half have more wealth, she said. Meanwhile, the savings rate is low and unemployment is high. College costs are rising faster than inflation and student loan debt is exploding.

But income mobility “has not changed significantly over time”.  And college completion rates have continued to increase over the long term.

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I agree with the majority view, and the bleak jobs picture is a primary reason for my pessimism.

Although the latest jobs report showed that payroll numbers have finally returned to pre-recession levels, there is a negative side to this news.

As good as that might sound, surpassing the previous high-water mark in terms of payroll employment is cold comfort for recent graduates and other new entrants into the work force, as well as for the legions of Americans who lost their jobs in the Great Recession. While payrolls may be back to where they were before the downturn, the working age population has risen by roughly 15 million over the same period.

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According to one calculation, the country still needs a “whopping 7 million”  jobs to accommodate the needs of a healthy economy.  The outlook is dreary.

At a rate of 217K per month with 150K needed to keep pace with population growth, how long will it take us to catch up to that 7 million? Oh …. eight years and nine months.

Meanwhile, American “women are having fewer kids, and demographers don’t know why”.

Perhaps this lowered fertility rate is partly a consequence of the pessimism expressed by the latest poll.  Paradoxically, lower birth rates could be exacerbating the downhill slide of our economy.

The consequences of America’s recession baby bust are already significant. “We’re getting to the point where it’s dropped far enough and for a long enough period of time that it’s going to have serious implications” for the population and the economy, Mather said. With declining fertility, the U.S. population would age, and ultimately the labor force would decline as older workers retire — a trend already well underway with the Baby Boom generation reaching their mid-60s.

The financial crisis “has had the most punishing impact on demographic trends of anything since the Great Depression,” Johnson said.

Perhaps the jobs crisis is fundamentally transforming our nation, but in ways that were not foreseen.

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Tami Luhby, “The American Dream is out of reach”, CNN, June 4, 2014.

Nelson D. Schwartz, “217,000 Jobs Added, Nudging Payrolls to Levels Before the Crisis”, New York Times, June 6, 2014.

David Leonhardt, “‘The Great Shift’: Americans Not Working”, New York Times, August 27, 2013.

Joseph Lawler, “Women are having fewer kids, and demographers don’t know why”, Washington Examiner, June 7, 2014.

Ed Morrissey, “May jobs report: 217K jobs added, jobless rate steady at 6.3%”, Hot Air, June 6, 2014.

May 28, 2014

American teens are not interested in summer jobs

by Grace

Fewer teens are working.

… In 1978, nearly three in four teenagers (71.8%) ages 16 to 19 held a summer job, but as of last year, only about four in 10 teens did, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of July analyzed by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas . It’s been a steady decline, seen even during good times: During the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, when national unemployment was only about 4%, roughly six in 10 teens held summer jobs….

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And they are not very interested in getting jobs. Only 8.3% of teens who were not working last summer said they even wanted a job.

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This doesn’t mean that teens are simply tanning by the pool or binge-watching Bravo (though some certainly are). Challenger says that many teens are in summer school (rates of summer school attendance are at one of the highest levels ever, he says), volunteering, doing extracurricular activities to pad their college applications and trying out unpaid internships. And all of these are worthwhile endeavors (well, minus the tanning and Bravo), especially as it becomes more competitive to get into many elite colleges.

Lack of work experience can be a disadvantage.

That said, experts say that paid work has value for a number of reasons — and that teens (even those who plan to go to college) who don’t do it may be at a disadvantage. “It’s critical for teenagers to work, to begin to understand the working world, the value of a paycheck” says Gene Natali, co-author of “The Missing Semester” and a senior vice president at Pittsburgh investment firm C.S. McKee. “Choosing not to work a paid job has consequences.”

The good old days?

One of my older relatives had a job in high school delivering both the morning and afternoon newspapers.  He and a friend would rise early each day to roll up and deliver papers before their first class, and then repeat the routine after school.  He was also in the school band, played varsity tennis, and maintained good grades, clearly demonstrating he was able to manage his time effectively.  A generation or two later, it’s hard to imagine many kids successfully maintaining a similar schedule of activities. Many of them need reminders to take their Adderal in the morning, and think they are too busy for a part-time job.  Maybe my relative was a remarkable young man, but many of his peers also worked during high school.

Times have changed.  Expectations have changed.  Kids have changed.

Related:  “Teens are too busy preparing for college instead of working” (Cost of College)

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Catey Hill, “American teens don’t want to work”, MarketWatch, May 3, 2014.

‘Teen Summer Job Outlook Teen Employment Culd Remain Flat as More Say “Nah” to Summer Jobs’,  Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., April 28, 2014.

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April 25, 2014

Decline in teen birth rate

by Grace

The teen birth rate in the U.S. is at a record low, dropping below 30 births per 1,000 teen females for the first time since the government began collecting consistent data on births to teens ages 15-19, according to National Center for Health Statistics data.

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Why is the teen birth rate falling?

In addition to the correlation between declining birth rates and a distressed economy, other reasons have emerged.

 … Less sex, more contraception and more information.

For one thing, there has been a significant decline in the percentage of never-married teenage females who ever had sex, from 51% in 1988 to 43% in 2006-2010, according to National Survey of Family Growth data. Furthermore, among never-married teens who have had sex, 78% used a contraceptive method the first time they had sex, 86% used contraception during their most recent sex and 20% used dual methods (e.g., a hormonal method and a condom) during their most recent sex, all significant increases since 1988.

Pregnancy prevention programs and messages directed to teens may also have played a role. A recent Brookings report found that the MTV programs 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, reality TV shows that follow the struggles of teen mothers, may have contributed to up to a third of the decline in teen births since they began airing in 2009.

Teen abortion rate has also dropped.

But teen pregnancy rates have fallen, too, over the past 20 years. Looking at data reaching back to 1976, the pregnancy rate peaked among teens ages 15-19 in 1990, at 116.8, and has fallen 44% since then. The abortion rate among females ages 15-19 has also fallen over roughly the same time period—from 43.5 per 1,000 teens in 1988 to 16.3 in 2009. Of the roughly 700,000 pregnancies among teens in 2009, about 58% are estimated to have ended in live births, 25% in abortions and 17% in miscarriages or stillbirths.

The marriage status of teen mothers has changed dramatically since 1960.

… Back in 1960, most teen mothers were married—an estimated 15% of births to mothers ages 15-19 were to unmarried teens. Today, it has flipped:  89% of births are to unmarried mothers in that age group.

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Eileen Patten, “Why is the teen birth rate falling?”, Pew Research Center, April 21, 2014.

April 18, 2014

The trend of less talk and more medication for patients with mental disorders

by Grace

Clinical psychologist Brandon A. Gaudiano wrote in the New York Times that psychotherapy is in decline while the use of medication is on the rise for the treatment of mental disorders.

…  In the United States, from 1998 to 2007, the number of patients in outpatient mental health facilities receiving psychotherapy alone fell by 34 percent, while the number receiving medication alone increased by 23 percent. This is not necessarily for a lack of interest. A recent analysis of 33 studies found that patients expressed a three-times-greater preference for psychotherapy over medications.

Yet psychotherapy for the most common conditions is considered the best treatment “of first choice”.  What is going on? The benefits of psychotherapy seem fuzzy to many potential patients, but pharmacological treatment enjoys “clearer, better marketed evidence” of its efficacy.  Some of this comes from the failure of psychotherapists to take a scientific approach to patient treatment.

But psychotherapy’s problems come as much from within as from without. Many therapists are contributing to the problem by failing to recognize and use evidence-based psychotherapies (and by sometimes proffering patently outlandish ideas). There has been a disappointing reluctance among psychotherapists to make the hard choices about which therapies are effective and which — like some old-fashioned Freudian therapies — should be abandoned.

Psychologists need better, well-defined treatment guidelines.

There is a lot of organizational catching up to do. Groups like the American Psychiatric Association, which typically promote medications as treatments of first choice, have been publishing practice guidelines for more than two decades, providing recommendations for which treatments to use under what circumstances. The American Psychological Association, which promotes psychotherapeutic approaches, only recently formed a committee to begin developing treatment guidelines.

Lack of clarity is also a problem in diagnosis. Gary Greenberg, a practicing psychotherapist and author of of The Book of Woe: The Making of the DSM-5 and the Unmaking of Psychiatry, argues that another problem is the method used to diagnose mental disorders, which “is not scientific, but political and bureaucratic”.

Psychiatry and psychology just seems fuzzy all around, more art than science.

Related:  ‘Every 20-something I know is in therapy for something’ (Cost of College)

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