The Upside Down Teen

Written by Parenting Expert Janet Philbin, LCSW, CHt

Many parents have been coming to me and sharing their worries and concerns about their tweens and young teens staying up very late into the night, around 3 or 4 a.m., playing on phones and video games. Parents are looking for a solution for the problem. Their first instinct is to punish their child and take away their devices. In most cases this has led to resentment and to children ‘lying” in order to find a way to get back online.

This is causing a lot of pain for the parents. They are having a hard time embracing and fully understanding that their teen is struggling or in pain right now. Developmentally, a 12-16-year-old does not have the emotional coping skills to deal with the pandemic and how it has turned their life completely upside down: they have no more school, no more sports, no more extracurricular activities, no more socializing, parties, or plans. Their worlds are shattered and confusing. What is happening in their lives is being mirrored by the new patterns of sleeping until mid-afternoon and staying up all night. They are upside down.

As parents, we also have never coped with anything like this. However, we still have to get up each day, take care of the house, kids, ourselves and work (if you have a job inside or outside of the home). Our schedules have not changed, even though the routines may be different. Parents are having the same hard time coping with the pandemic but have more emotional resources to deal with the stress.

As parents, we feel the need to react and control. The time our children are going to bed is very concerning. Have you ever stopped to ask what is really going on with your child? What is your child really looking for when he or she stays awake until 4 am? Are they looking to feel connected? Is their body not tired enough to fall asleep? Your gut reaction may be to remove all video games, to unplug the modem, to take away the phone and lock it up. But I want to offer you another solution first. Because if we continue to take away more and more for longer and longer periods of time, it will only lead to mutual resentment.

I offer you this as an alternative:

  • Check in with yourself. What is happening within you that is getting triggered when your child is up so late and on electronics? Are you fearful, worried? Are you in the future with all sorts of thoughts of what will go wrong in his or her life if all they do is play videos all night? Are you worried about their health because their sleep patterns are reversed? Are you worried about how they will be able to reset, and get back to school? Pause and check in with yourself. What are your deep fears? What are the fears you have not said aloud to anyone? Ask yourself, where do the fears come from? When and why did you learn to even be fearful about these things? How are these fears impacting you in your day to day life now as you watch your child struggle?
  • Stay present. Being in fear and worry is all about the future. It is not about what is happening now. Worry creates anxiety and when we are anxious we are not in the present moment. The present moment gets stolen and we spend our energy doing our best to control the environment and others. Is this happening for you? If it is, the first step is to pause. Take a long, hard pause. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, because these are your feelings and not your child’s.
  • Work through your own feelings first. Let your feelings rise to the surface and greet them. Take out a pen and paper and journal about what you are feeling about all of this and why. Take time to meditate and clear your mind. Go out and take a walk or exercise and give room for the feelings to move through and out of your body. Once you have done this, and it may take a few hours or a few days, then you will be ready to approach your child and this problem with new energy.
  • Create healthy boundaries. Once you’ve gone through these other steps you will have clarity about what is going on with yourself, which will give you more clarity about how to make a decision about boundaries for your child. You are now ready to engage your child in a conversation. Ask for their opinions and feelings, really listen to what your child is saying. Connect to their heart, hear their struggles and their pain. Validate their feelings. Your child’s voice counts. Together, come up with a plan they also agree with. One in which he or she is also deciding on boundaries. This will take compromise. Be patient as you may need to revisit the conversation more than once before you have a solution that works for everyone. However, once your child feels like he has a choice and a voice in the process, they will more than likely comply.

Remember, all our children want is to be seen, feel secure, validated, to know they matter and that they are loved. Taking the steps and the time to first check in with yourself allows you to respond to their needs from a loving place within yourself instead of reacting from a place of fear and worry. Be a team, brainstorm solutions together. Approaching the upside-down world of your child from a place of alignment within yourself is the place to start.


Janet Philbin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Hypnotherapist (CHt) that helps people solve the emotional mysteries that has plagued them and kept them “stuck” in their lives. Additionally, Janet is a Certified Conscious Parenting Coach. She was certified by Dr. Shefali Tsabary’s Conscious Parenting Coaching Method Institute. Janet works with clients to uncover and heal the issues of the inner child which are influencing their adult life and parenting in the present. She is also the author of Show Up For Yourself: A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth.


This Week In Parenting…

Parenting presents you with a variety of challenges at all stages–there’s no escaping the stress of it all, but there are ways to better manage it. If you don’t learn how to practice more self-care (one of our big intentions for 2020!), or tap into a bigger network of friends and family for help, you’re likely to burn out. Being mindful of how much you are taking on and asking for help when you need it will make all the difference this year.

How to Know If You Are Burnt Out

A certain amount of stress is reasonable every day, especially as parents, but how can you tell if you’re on the verge of burning out? This article from SELF Magazine defines burnout and lays out 4 different signs that the stress you’re feeling might actually be burning you out.

Dads Today Spend More Time With Kids

Good news: dads today are spending more time with their kids than dads of prior generations. In fact, research shows that modern dads spend three times as much time with their kids as their fathers or grandfathers did. And attitudes about a father’s role in both marriage and raising children are far more progressive and egalitarian than ever before. Society hasn’t totally caught up yet, though, as some people still make comments about dad’s “babysitting” their children when mom is away.

It Takes A Village

Writer Anna Nordberg explains why kids need a strong network of supportive adults to thrive for the Washington Post. Nordberg encourages this support network to include “teachers as well as family friends, and parents should welcome these relationships, as long as boundaries are being maintained.”

Helping Teens Succeed In Careers

College isn’t necessarily the best option for every child. If your teen doesn’t want to go to college or isn’t particularly academic, don’t panic; this article lays out all the reasons why you should consider having them learn a skilled trade so they can go on to have a successful career as an electrician, or a plumber, or a carpenter.

Moving Into A New Year With Intention

There are so many emotions wrapped up into this time of year: stress and anxiety about holiday shopping, holiday parties, and seeing extended family, merriment and joy in spending time with loved ones, and hope looking towards a fresh start in a new year.

If you’re anything like me, the new year always starts off with good intentions and resolutions, but they all seem to fall flat by the time mid-February rolls around. So this year, instead of having good intentions, I plan on being more intentional in the way I approach this year ahead. I’m not focusing on weight loss, or better eating habits, or sleeping more–I have to think bigger. Here are the intentions I’ll set for 2020:

Practice More Self-Care

This is the top of my list because this is something I don’t do often enough. As mothers, we tend to put everyone’s needs before our own, and usually at our own expense. I definitely don’t spend enough time on myself. So in 2020, I don’t care if this self-care comes in the form of exercise, sleep, eating right, manicures, massages, or a weekend away with girlfriends–the important thing is for me to simply set the intention to take that time for myself.

Be More Present With My Children

I really try to not be addicted to my phone, but it is challenging sometimes, especially since I spend time on social media for clients. And when I am working, that is fine, but there’s really no need for me to check my email while I’m at the park with my kids, or waste time on Twitter while they’re splashing about in the tub. Being too connected to technology is not necessarily a good thing; my intention for 2020 is to disconnect from my phone more, so that I can connect with my kids more completely.

Find More Room For Creativity

So many moments in my life are planned, which leaves very little room for spontaneity. But I need those spontaneous moments, or the moments in between plans to be creative. I am a creative person by nature, and I don’t have enough time to create for myself, for pleasure. I used to paint, write, read–all types of leisurely pursuits that I haven’t prioritized in the past few years. My intention for 2020 is to make more room in my life for creativity.

What are your intentions for 2020?

Are you planning on setting intentions for the new year ahead? If so, share them with us in the comments below!


Screen Time Guide

The Screen Time Struggle

Pediatricians, parenting experts, and teachers alike have long been warning against the dangers of too much screen time for kids of all ages. A recent study released by researchers at San Diego State University and University of Georgia found that children as young as two-years-old are developing mental health problems as a direct result of the use of tablets and smartphones. For the study, researchers analyzed data provided by parents of more than 40,000 American children between the ages of 2 and 17 in 2016 for a nationwide health survey. The results determined that just an hour a day of screen time can be enough to raise the risk of depression and anxiety in children, and have a negative impact on their emotional stability and self-control.

Professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell worked on the research study and said that the findings support the current guidelines laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is a maximum of one hour per day for children between the ages of two and five. Their study also found that a similar limit should be placed on school aged children– a maximum of two hours per day.

Among the findings:

  • Adolescents spending more than seven hours a day on screens are twice as likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression as those who spent an hour.
  • Among 14 to 17 year olds, more than four in ten (42.2%) of those in the study who spent more than seven hours a day on screens did not finish tasks.
  • Links between screen time and wellbeing are stronger among adolescents than young children. Even moderate use of four hours is also associated with lower psychological well-being than one hour a day.
  • About one in eleven (9 per cent) of 11 to 13-year-olds who spent an hour with screens daily were not curious or interested in learning new things.
  • Pre-schoolers, aged five and under, who are high screen time users are twice as likely to often lose their temper and are 46% more prone to not be able to calm down when excited.

If you’ve been struggling with how to manage your child’s screen time, some of the Revolutionizing Parenthood parenting experts have weighed in with helpful tips and advice for how to win the screen time battle at every age. Enter your email into the form below to download our special screen time guide.


Screen Time Guide

Parenting Is Hard, And Other Revelations

It turns out that the internet is a wealth of information about parenting! Although most of it is terrible, and you can be driven crazy with information overload. Here are some of the interesting parenting expert-approved articles that we found on the internet this week:

The Dangers of Burning Out

A new study from researchers takes a look at parental burnout and, unfortunately, the results are not good. The study identified parental burnout as symptoms characterized by “an overwhelming exhaustion related to one’s parental role, an emotional distancing from one’s children, and a sense of parental ineffectiveness.” The researchers discovered that parental burnout strongly increases a parent’s desire to leave the family unit, as well as neglectful or violent behaviors towards their children. Looks like the excuse you needed to indulge in a little more self-care has finally arrived.

The Financial Impact of Parenthood

This New York Times article explores how unspoken expenses of parenting are impacting  our lives. First person accounts cover a variety of topics, such as fertility treatments, working two jobs to support a growing family, and the insanely high cost of childcare. This article may not help you feel less anxious about your financial situation, but it will help you to feel less alone in your struggles.

A Blueprint For Raising Successful Kids

The mother to two of Silicon Valley’s most successful female CEOs (Susan is the CEO of YouTube, and her sister Anne is the CEO of 23andMe), and a doctor, Esther Wojcicki, lays out some advice to other parents who want to raise successful, kind, resilient kids. Some of her tips include encouraging them to be active in their community, focus less on money and more on happiness as a metric for success, and help them find purpose in order to create a meaningful life.

Recognizing When Your Child Needs Therapy

This article from Huffington Post about how to tell when your child needs therapy cites some scary facts about the state of our children’s mental health here in the U.S.:

  • More than 4 million kids have been diagnosed with anxiety
  • More than 2 million children have been diagnosed with depression
  • Only 20 percent of kids with a diagnosable mental health disorder are getting the help that they need

If you’re unsure about whether or not your child might be in need of therapy, this article identifies some telltale signs that they could use some extra help with their mental health.

Back to School

How to Have a Calm Back to School Experience

Back to SchoolThis time of year is always bittersweet; the laid back ease of summer is winding down (goodbye summer Friday’s and long weekends at the beach!), and the hectic, frantic scramble of back-to-school lies ahead. For many parents, this time of year can be really overwhelming. There are school supplies to purchase, arguments about new school clothes, the adjustment of a new schedule, the re-introduction of homework assignments after a summer off, and even anxiety about starting a new school or making new friends, both for kids and for parents. Although there is a seemingly endless list of things to do before sending your kids back to school, it doesn’t have to be as stressful as you think.

According to Parent Coach Erin Taylor, there are two ways to take the pressure off of yourself and your child this time of year. The first is to encourage children to maintain realistic expectations about school and school achievements by staying optimistic and excited about their school experience.

“Keep school in the larger context of life,” says Taylor. “I see so many parents who put a tremendous amount of pressure on their kids to achieve some standard of perfection that is unachievable for most kids. And when they do achieve it, they’re so stressed and anxious in their lives, that school isn’t fun anymore.”

Taylor also recommends easing kids back into their school routine as summer draws to an end. Incremental changes to their schedules can have a more gentle impact on your children than an abrupt shift in their summer routine.

“As it gets closer to the beginning of school, start winding back the bed times, and get them back into the school routine if their bedtimes have gotten later through the summer,” Taylor says. “Don’t expect them to hit the ground running from Day One and not get tired.”

Additionally, Taylor recommends having honest and open conversations with your kids about how they are feeling about the new school year ahead in order to try and better understand where they are coming from. By keeping the conversation relaxed, you create an environment in which they can feel more relaxed about communicating with you throughout the year if they are struggling.

Enter your email into the form below to download 4 additional tips from parenting experts about how to have a calm back-to-school experience this year.