MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on March 17th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 17, Other People’s Children

It Takes a Village: Modern Family Swaps Kids

The Framework
Tonight’s plotlines revolve around new combinations of children and adults when the three families swap kids for the day.

Alex and Manny are off to an art exhibit with Mitch and Cam.
Alex: Thanks for inviting us to this.
Mitch: No problem. You know I’m surprised that this particular foursome doesn’t hangout more often, considering…
Alex: That we’re the cultural ones in the family.
Mitch (with a smirk): I wouldn’t say that … outside this group.

But later, Cam (to camera): To be honest, I was a little nervous about holding my own with those three … My backup plan was to touch a painting and get kicked out.
And later still, after Cam leaves to wait outside, Mitch (to camera): To be perfectly honest, I needed Cam to stay. The minute he goes, I’m the dumb one. I took an art history class once but that was just to look at naked Italian dudes.

Meanwhile, Lily is at the mall with Gloria and Claire – the two adults her dads picked to pick out Lily’s flower girl dress for their wedding.
Gloria (to Lily): We’re going to get you the perfect [dress], even if it takes us all day.
Lily (looking through a store window at Belle’s “Beauty And The Beast” dress): Found it.
Claire: Oh, no, sweetie, that’s a costume. You can’t wear a costume to a wedding.
Lily: Why not?
Gloria: Princess dresses are not the only pretty dresses.
Lily: I wanna be a princess! I wanna be a princess!
Gloria: Stop that right now! Your dads want you to have a flower girl dress. And that’s what we’re going to get you. So march!

With Gloria and Lily busy shopping, Jay takes Luke to his toolshed to build things.
Luke: I can’t really build stuff. I mostly take apart and apologize.
Jay: You gotta know how to build things … We’re going to start by building a simple toolbox. First I’m going to show you how to cut the wood.
Luke (pointing): What’s this thing?
Jay: A table vise.
Luke (singing to Rogers and Hammerstein’s tune): Table vise. Table vise.
Jay: No! I already went through this with Mitchel. That’s what we’re here to prevent. Didn’t your dad teach you any of this stuff?

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
In their quest for independence, our teens battle to extend away from us and dismantle our authority. But the more they are truly on their own, the more at risk they are.

Kids seem to get this. Scientific surveys show that the vast majority of teens say it’s important to have caring adults in their lives. Many teens even crave adult closeness and guidance. Just not their parents’ closeness. And not their parents’ guidance.

This can be truly frustrating – sometimes even painful – for us parents. After all, we’re there. And we care. Why can’t we be that person? What’s wrong with us?

We can’t be that person because we’re the ones our teens are working hard to extend away from.

Non-parental adults have less of an agenda. They tend to be more objective and to be less attached to a particular outcome when helping a teen with a problem. Plus these other adults don’t have the history we have with our kids or the parental hyper-vision that causes us to extend our worries years into the future, (e.g., What is this going to mean for them in college?)

BottomLine
Cam: How ‘bout that daughter of ours? She marches to the beat of her own drum, huh?
Mitch: Exactly. So why are we so concerned with what two nerdy teenagers think of us? Even the true mark of intelligence is being able to admit what you don’t know.

Being smart is also being able to admit what you can’t do as effectively as someone else can.

Despite Cam and Mitch’s worries about not keeping up, the “Modern Family” teens seemed to relish the attention from other adults during the one-day swap. And in spite of what Cam said about Lily marching to her own drum, that little girl marched to Gloria’s directive in a way we’ve never seen her respond to either of her dads.

Most kids can benefit from some adult closeness and input away from home. In fact, studies show that kids who have three or more caring adults (besides their parents) who support them feel happier and more hopeful. These kids do better in school. And they’re less likely to rely on drinking or drugs to feel good or to fit in.

So don’t think you have to do it all. Enlist the help of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Ask them to do something special with your teen. Chances are they’ll both enjoy it, and perhaps they’ll decide to get together on a regular basis, giving your teen one more connection to a significant adult.

Sometimes extended family members are already close to your teen. It’s just as likely, though, that the adult(s) closest to your teen will be outside your family. These adults are in a position to be most influential and helpful to your teen. But it can feel daunting to approach and enlist the assistance of adults you may not know well.

What’s a Mom to Do
Below are some of the best suggestions I’ve found for making use of other adults that are already in your teen’s life.
– Plan for a face-to-face conversation with this adult. Before speaking to them, find out what you can about them by asking other parents, teachers, or kids. This along with your own intuition can help you determine how much to share and how much to ask.
– Let this adult know that they have a special status in your teen’s eyes. This person may not realize this until you tell them.
– You don’t need to give this adult all the details about what’s going on at home. They’re not your teens counselor or psychologist. But you’ll want to give them a general sense of what’s going on with your teen or in your home.
– Don’t be too directive about what you want this adult to say and do. Your teen respects and trusts this person because of who they are and you don’t want to risk changing their relationship with all of your expectations.
– Once you’ve had this conversation, step back and give their relationship time and space. Don’t call this person for a daily progress report.
– Invite this adult to contact you if they notice a concerning change in your teen’s behavior. Encourage them to call you even if they have no proof but just a hunch.

Later, after our teens have extended away from us enough to have a better sense of who they are and what they’re capable of doing, they’ll come back around and be closer. They’ll probably even seek our guidance (to a point). But during their teen years, our kids are likely to look to other adults as guides, mentors, and role models.

Your Parenting Experiences
More often then not, our teens benefit from their relationships with other caring adults. But as the below exchange between Luke and Jay reminds, not all adults will have the same expectations and hopes for your teen that you do.
Jay: You got any more questions, Luke?
Luke (pointing to the bottle of beer Jay just opened): Just one – can I have a sip?
Jay: The beer? Sure. What the hell.
Luke: Awesome! My first drink of beer!

How would you handle this if you were Luke’s mom and you found out about it? What do you think your teen would say about this exchange between Luke and his grandfather? What would they say about how it actually played out in the end?

Sources: Staying Connected to Your Teenager by Michael Riera; Get Out of My Life, but first could you take me and Cheryl to the mall? By Anthony Wolf; Tips for Connecting Your Kids to Other Caring Adults by Gene Roehlkepartain



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