5 Questions with Sally Koslow

Last month I posted a review of the book Slouching Toward Adulthood by Sally Koslow.  I remarked that while the book – about Generation Y’s slow pace

through life – was interesting, I found it rather sad.  Ms. Koslow, a Baby Boomer herself did a lovely job researching and writing about the history of both the Boomers and the Gen Y’ers.  I, a Gen X’er, simply found the whole topic irritating and wondered how my generation fits in between these two massive, sometimes self-centered, hugely influential generations.

Ms. Koslow was nice enough to agree to answer a few questions to help me get to the bottom of my concerns – as well as to help me (and you!) get to know her better. I am so grateful that this author, teacher, editor, wife, and mother took a moment to speak to me…Welcome, Ms. Koslow!

Dr. S: Given that Gen Y seems to be having a lot of fun traveling, teaching English all over the world, and living as long as possible without taking on adult-like commitments like mortgages and 401K’s – do you think the rest of us would benefit from adopting their worldview? Are we missing the boat by being too serious?
S.K.: I see a lot Gen X-ers and Boomers having fun. No one can accuse us of being too deep. And while sometimes the random acts of wandering you describe among Gen Y-ers allow them to hit on the magic combination to a padlock that frees up lasting contentment, for some people,–let’s be honest–this behavior is simply procrastination married to moral superiority. While researching Slouching Toward Adulthood, I met many Gen Y-ers who seemed to assume that there would always be enough time to do everything they want and that every light in front of them would always turn green. I worry that if they spend too many years in the activities you mention, they may miss out on other opportunities that they will enjoy. How many Gen Y-ers won’t evolve into cynics who wish that someone had kicked them in the butt when they were younger so they’d have already found a career path with which they can be reasonably happy and have started to build a life that makes it possible to provide a comfortable home for themselves and possibly children?

Dr. S.: As a Gen X’er I am interested to hear your thoughts about how my generation fits in between the Boomers and the Gen Y’ers? Or are we too small to be relevant?
S.K.: Many Gen X’ers are now thought leaders, rising in every profession. Your impact grows by the day.  You’re had the good fortunate to have graduated from college and professional schools when there was less unemployment than there is now. Gen Y-ers have drawn the short straw.

Dr. S.: What are you reading now?
S.K.: I’m in the middle of The Odd Women by George Gissing, a British author popular in the late 1880’s. This novel is fascinating and surprisingly contemporary, though a bit one-note. It’s set in London and explores hardships faced by single women as well as inequalities in and outside marriage. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose—the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Dr. S.: Please tell me a bit about your new book coming out in June.
S.K.: The Widow Waltz, my fifth book, is a coming of age novel. One of the women is 50–it’s never too late to grow up—and will be published by Viking, It focuses on a recent widow as well as her daughters in their 20’s and the paths their lives take after the death of their husband/father. It’s a story of resilience built on the infrastructure of a mystery.

Dr. S.: One of the things I often write about is how to manage stress. We all know yoga is great, but I love to hear about some more creative solutions to stress management. For example, I have written that one of my go-to strategies is watching House Hunters. What do you do to manage your stress?
S.K.: Besides reading? I watch funny movies that I’ve seen so many times I can lip-synch. Topping my current rotation are Bridesmaids and As Good as It Gets. A few years ago I would have named Clueless and My Cousin Vinnie. After dipping into any of these films for a random ten minutes I feel mellow.

Thanks Ms. Koslow! To learn more about Ms. Koslow and her other books check out her website – www.SallyKoslow.com.  Click here to buy Slouching Toward Adulthood.  After reading it, let me know your thoughts!

Pre-Election Stress Disorder: Tips for Coping

The other day, I wrote an article about Pre-Election Stress Disorder, in which I described the symptoms and signs of the diagnosis*.   While not a real psychiatric disorder, stress, worry, and anxiety around election day are very real.   The constant ads, news, and other messages may be exciting for some, but for others it can all become too much.  If you have symptoms of PESD, don’t worry – there are things you can do to cope over the next two weeks of political bombardment – and they don’t include moving to another country!  Some tips:

Turn it off.  Remember the good old days when the news was only on TV a couple of times a day and the newspapers were read just once in the morning? While our constant access to “breaking news” – via TV, internet, Facebook, etc – can be interesting, it certainly doesn’t do much for one’s level of anxiety.  News outlets would have us believe that in order to be an informed citizen, we need to check in several times per day, however, this is rarely the case.  Even in our fast-paced world, news doesn’t typically happen at break-neck speed.  With that in mind, it can be beneficial to have a set time to get the election (and other) updates once or twice per day.  Other than that, keep the TV, websites, newspapers turned off.

Remember what’s important.  Not to say that national politics are not important, but keep in mind that they do not transcend all of the other things in your life and/or community.  Maintaining your health, relationships, professional life and hobbies are all important – don’t abandon them or forget about the real, day-to-day influence they have on your life.  Keeping in mind all the things that make your life your own, can help in remembering that the presidential election – no matter the outcome – is just one small piece of the puzzle that makes up your life.

Do what you can, leave behind what you can’t.  Here are some things we can do to affect change in our political system:

  • vote
  • work with a political campaign by knocking on doors, putting up yard signs, raising money
  • donate money
  • attend caucuses, rallies, etc
  • write to elected officials, visit their offices, etc
  • run for political office ourselves

Here are some things that do not affect change in our political system:

  • watch and read election/political coverage for hours each day
  • agonize over the fate of the election
  • threaten to move to another country if the election doesn’t go our way
  • give more weight to the election than it is due
  • fight and argue over who is right and who is wrong

Good luck managing over the next couple of weeks!

*Disclaimer: I made up Pre-Election Stress Disorder – it is not a real psychiatric diagnosis.  However, the stress, worry, and anxiety that folks feel around this time every 4 years is very real.  If worry and anxiety about this (or other) issues are negatively affecting you, please contact your health care provider.

Pre-Election Stress Disorder: Do You Have It?

Who us? Causing you stress?

Dr. Stephanie is now on Facebook – check it out!

Does anyone else feel completely overwhelmed by the election?  I don’t care what your party affiliation, presidential elections (and their accompanying nastiness) can be a huge source of stress for many people.  Even if you aren’t involved in a campaign, it’s tough to get a break from the candidates’ ads on TV, postcards in the mail, talk on the radio, and posts in the blogosphere.  Commentators’ rhetoric and opinions are often enough to push me right over the edge.  Does the same thing happen to you?  Do you have PESD?

What is Pre-Election Stress Disorder*?

  • Underlying or overt feelings of worry or anxiety when exposed to campaign coverage
  • Preoccupation with the political campaign and coverage/inability or difficulty turning off coverage of the election
  • Feelings of fatigue surrounding political talk/un-heathy lack of interest in the election (i.e., becoming so frustrated you no longer want to vote)
  • Disappointment, disgust, or depression surrounding either: 1) The state of our country 2) The integrity of our people 3) Your own future
  • Desire to spend the next two weeks in a foreign country with earplugs and a sleeping mask on

Any of these things sounds like you?  Well, you might have PESD! Tune in tomorrow and I will give you some tips for coping.

*Disclaimer: I made up Pre-Election Stress Disorder – it is not a real psychiatric diagnosis.  However, the stress, worry, and anxiety that folks feel around this time every 4 years is very real.  If worry and anxiety about this (or other) issues are negatively affecting you, please contact your health care provider.


Disney Characters Get an (Unhealthy?) Makeover

One of my colleagues, Dr. Elaine Ducharme, recently alerted me to an announcement by Barney’s about an upcoming ad campaign featuring

Image via Barneys.com

Disney characters.  She was pretty upset about the drastically slimmed-down Minnie Mouse among others.  Dr. Ducharme’s concern got me thinking, too.  Are the plump characters of old really out of date?  Have we become so used to super-thin models that our beloved cartoon characters need to put in time on The Biggest Loser?  To read Dr. Ducharme’s complete article about the dangers and signs of eating disorders and distorted body images, click here.  Here’s a glimpse of her article:

We have developed a society that shouts to us all from billboards, television screens, movie theaters, magazines and just about everywhere we look, that happiness comes only with being thin. The old saying that “you can’t be too thin or too rich” is just not true. And now, even Disney characters will be shouting this message to our kids.

What can you as a parent do when you see a child struggling with these issues? First, you can consistently and throughout your child’s life encourage independent thinking and have open discussions about healthy life-styles. Be aware of your own problems and concerns about weight and eating. Be wary of sports or dance coaches that encourage your child to lose just a few more pounds. Because most eating disorders begin while patients are in their teens or early 20’s be particularly aware of excessive exercise patterns and unusual restriction of caloric intake. Be aware of distortions of body image, signs of depression and low self-esteem. Many teens struggle with identity issues and in today’s highly competitive world, many achieving kids feel they should still be doing more. Help your child set realistic goals for themselves and strive to keep open lines of communication. If they frequently appear upset, and most teenagers do have down periods, ask them if they are just having a bad day or if they have been feeling depressed for a long time. And, if you suspect an eating disorder is developing, consult with your child’s physician, a psychologist or other mental health professional that has experience working with eating disorders. Once an individual admits they have a problem and are willing to seek help, they can be treated effectively through a combination of psychological, nutritional and medical care.

Psychology, Self Esteem, and Photoshop

Photo via People Magazine

Do you recognize this celebrity?  I didn’t, even though she’s one of my favorites.  Believe it or not, it’s Taylor Swift.  She’s not retouched in this photo, and is sans makeup as well.  Still cute as a button, but certainly not the image we’re used to seeing.

Every few months a new story pops up about the absurdly doctored photographs of celebs and models that show up in magazines and on-line.  For some reason this article on Shine really caught my attention.  The images of Princess Kate and Britney Spears are particularly ridiculous.

It’s important we, as adults, see these photos.  But it’s perhaps even more important that we show them to the young girls in our lives.  Super thin arms, legs, and torsos balancing buoyant breasts and bums just isn’t natural – or biologically possible – for anyone but Barbie.  And even though we might “know” this intellectually, it is helpful to have a reminder every once in a while that even the most glamorous, sexy women have cellulite and blemished skin.

Appreciating what we have, downplaying what we don’t, and working towards achievable goals are all important aspects of mental health.  By understanding that many media photos are simply fantastical images born on the screen of a Photoshop-wielding graphic design intern, we can all feel a little more confident in our own skin.


The Mommy Wars – Get Over It!

Did you hear about Hilary Rosen, the woman who seemed to discount Ann Romney because she has never “worked a day in her life?”  The internet sort of blew up after this comment.  With good reason.  Why anyone would say something like this about a person who raised 5 boys and is married to a politician (isn’t that a job itself?) is beyond me.  Perhaps it was a goof, maybe she got a little nervous during her live TV interview and it just slipped out.  Maybe not.  Maybe Ms. Rosen, like so many other women before her got caught up in the “Mommy Wars” which pit woman against woman in the argument about whether it is better/harder/more worthwhile to work inside or outside of the home.

Seriously, can’t this issue be over already?  It’s been going on for decades, and no one ever wins.  I have two thoughts about this on-going and fruitless debate:

1. Most women are too busy doing whatever it is they do (raise children, take care of parents, sell cars, write books, make dinner) to engage in this debate or really care about how other women choose to spend their time.

2.  The vast majority of women (and men) are doing the best they can with what they have.  The Mommy Wars debate has always struck me as elitist and irrelevant to a huge percentage of families.  What about the women who have absolutely no choice but to work?  What about the women who would love to work but don’t have access to jobs, childcare, or the skills needed to find one?

Get over it ladies, gentleman, and the media especially.  We all have too much work to do.

TV: Love to Hate it, Or Hate to Love It?

I like pop culture.  It’s silly, often funny, and almost always a great way for me to escape reality for a while.  When I think of the positives of TV, movies, and other sorts of “screen activities,” I think of stress management (laughter) and the making of fun memories (sitting on the floor of the sold out theater watching Dirty Dancing and wishing I were Baby).  But of course, there are many negatives to screen time too, especially when kids (and adults) spend a large part of their days and nights forgoing other activities (exercise, social interaction) and instead sit glued to a screen.

I was recently interviewed for this article on the website About Kids Health.  The reporter, Jonathan Link, did an outstanding job of highlighting the pitfalls when kids and families spend too much time in front of a screen.  I provided some tips about how to cut back on TV and other screen time, and talked a bit about my own experiences during Screen Free Week a couple of years ago.  Read the complete article here.

Role Models for 2012

Good role models are hard to come by.  TV news, print media, and the internet are filled with stories of people making bad decisions, acting selfishly, and treating others poorly.  It can get downright depressing watching all this bad behavior.  It makes me wonder who my kids might look up to as they grow up.  Are there any “good” people out there anymore?

The answer is yes.  There are plenty.  In fact, there are probably many more kind, giving people in the world than there are nasty ones – we just don’t hear about them much.  So I’ve tried to come up with several of my favorite make-me-happy, positive-role-model type folks.  Here are a few:

Ron Weasley.  Ok, so he’s not a “real” person – but a good role model nonetheless.  Sure, his BFF Harry Potter was the easy pick, but Ron’s the one I really like.  He’s less popular than Harry, not as smart, rich, or athletic, but he is a true and constant friend.  He has a sort of stick-to-it-iveness that I admire, and he isn’t above admitting his mistakes.  On top of all that, he gets the girl in the end.

The Cast of Glee.  All my regular readers know that I am a HUGE gleek.  One of the reasons I like the show is its unabashed enthusiasm and happiness.  Could a show choir really be a show choir without those qualities?  Probably not – with all those jazz hands and everything.  Glee has the added benefit of promoting acceptance of differing cultural backgrounds, sexual preference, and physical and cognitive ability.  Keep it up, Glee!

Tim Tebow.  Colorado has pretty much gone crazy for Tim Tebow.  I have to admit that I am on the bandwagon, too.  Now, I don’t know enough about football to be able to analyze Tebow’s quarterbacking skills, but what I do know is that my mother (never previously a football fan), and 2 young daughters (who still have trouble telling football and basketball apart) all have Tebow Fever.  Why?  Because of his positive energy and his refusal to say or do the negative things his colleagues often do.  He’s grateful, humble, a super hard worker, and I once heard him say “golly” in an interview.  Now that’s someone to look up to.

Photo: timtebow.com

Lady Gaga/Taylor Swift.  These two singers are likely not friends, but they embody several things that are important to me in female role models: They are smart, mature, and successful – and they don’t make excuses about it.  If you’ve never seen interviews with Ms. Gaga or Ms. Swift, I highly suggest watching one on YouTube.  While both are in their twenties, they are poised and well-spoken and know exactly what they are doing with their careers.  In addition they are supremely grateful to their fans, and stick up for the underdogs among us.  Sing on, ladies!

Who am I missing? Who are your favorite role models?


New Tips for Tantruming Toddlers

Image by origamidon

Have you heard about the new research out of Yale University suggesting that how many of us respond to our toddlers’ temper tantrums is all wrong?  If you haven’t read about Dr. Alan Kazdin and others’ research, check it out here.  Among other things, Dr. Kazdin encourages parents to pay attention to what’s happening before the tantrum (i.e., the child is hungry or tired) and do what you can to fix that situation before a meltdown occurs.  He also suggests we totally ignore the tantrum, but be effusive with our praise when our child behaves how we want them to (i.e., “Jill, I am so pleased that when I asked you to sit down at the table you did it right away. Nice job.”).

Dr. Michelle Borba (one of my favorite parenting experts) posted an article on her blog today chock full of tips for parents of toddlers.  Check it out here.  I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, and don’t feel I have a whole lot to add about how to deal with kids who are losing it.  I do, however, have some thoughts about how parents can manage their own emotions when their child is about to explode.

Your child doesn’t hate you.  While it may seem that your 3 year old loathes you and everything you stand for, it is extremely unlikely that that’s actually the case.  Tantrums don’t equal hate, they just equal a frustrated toddler with few communication skills trying to exert their independence.  It’s not personal.

You’re not a bad parent.  Tantrums are a good thing.  Seriously.  It means your child is developing normally and starting to exert her will in the world.  None of us want to raise a pushover, right?  While there are times when temper tantrums may signal a more serious problem, and there are certainly better ways for dealing with them than others, the fact that they exist doesn’t mean you’ve failed at parenting.

The tantrums will end.  Barring serious injury or disability, your child will stop having toddler-like tantrums, I promise.  While tweens and teens have super frustrating behaviors of their own (eye-rolling, anyone?) flailing on the floor and crying is rarely one of them.  Hang in there and it will improve.

Happy Parenting!



Teen Sex and Glee

Oh boy.  Last night’s Glee was a good one, and chock full of great potential blog topics: love triangles forming, childhood dreams dashed, and underage

Image: Glee on Fox

drinking.  For those who devoured watched last night’s episode though, it’s obvious that the most important topic was teen sex.  Rachel and Finn (Finchel) and Kurt and Blaine (Klaine) both “did it” for the first time in the episode – storylines that are burning up the blogosphere at this very moment (read some of the buzz here here and here).

Here’s my two cents:  In the best of all possible worlds, teenagers wouldn’t be thinking about such weighty topics as sexual relationships, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual orientation.  Instead they would be busy singing and dancing, running and playing, reading and writing.  But, we don’t live in a fantasy world: we live here.  And where I live, teens have sex on the brain.  Almost all the time.  And guess what?  It’s been that way for a long time – generations in fact.  To deny this is dangerous and narrow-minded, and can lead to some scary consequences for teens and parents (unwanted pregnancies, life-threatning diseases, sexual abuse, and more).

So while I would have liked to see at least one of the couples decide to wait to have sex (in the interest of showing both sides of the argument), I think the folks over at Glee did a nice job portraying Finchel and Klaine’s first times.  Safe sex was discussed, the pros and cons of sexual intimacy were presented, and no hot-and-heavy scenes were shown.  Moving forward, I hope the writers include the heartbreak and regret that can – and often does – accompany a teen’s first sexual experience.  In the interest of showing teen sexuality as it really exists, I think this is essential.  Perhaps Rachel might begin to regret the event, Blaine might become jealous of Kurt’s other friends, Finn might realize that sex with Rachel isn’t all that much fun, or someone posts details of the event on Facebook.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store in the episodes to come.

In the meantime, here are some ideas for talking to the teens in your life about sex:

Mayo Clinic

Dr. Laura Berman

Psychology Today