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logollady

Maturity, age and organization

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logollady

Ladies (and gents), I am in a conundrum. Any advice is welcomed and appreciated.

I am the parent of a DD16 who is in a high level Professional Training Program associated with a prominent company.  Our family is in the vicinity so she stays at home in lieu of living in housing as many of her peers do. She says she is motivated to succeed (wants a professional career), but seems to lack the necessary emotional maturity and organization skills to do so.

In addition to struggling to keep up with the requirements her teachers are asking from her (30+ hours of training plus extra work on specific issues), she is struggling to manage her extra time, her school load and all extra curricular needs such as cross-training, chiropractor, PT etc. I am at a total loss of how to help her as we have tried pretty much everything (without doing it all for her, which we feel is not helpful as she is close to needing to be on her own). I still do her laundry, help with schoolwork as needed, make most of her meals and clean up after her on occasion (not always, just as needed). We have worked with her on how to use a journal or calendar or phone as tools (but she "forgets" to use them). We have tried to take things away when she doesn't fulfill responsibilities (usually friend time or free time) but that seems to results in burnout (meaning everything is either school or ballet with no time for "decompression"). We have tried having loooooong heart to heart talks about how she is managing, but it often ends up in tears and her thinking she is "not good enough" and "can't do anything right", which of course we reassure her that she is still in process and is learning, but the truth is she ISN'T learning. She isn't doing. She "forgets" all the time and can't keep up. The school is not the issue. She is the issue. Of course her friend group are all either managing it well, or not managing it at all and it isn't affecting their stress levels (which of course affects casting, which in turn affects confidence and on and on). So it is like a cycle of yuk. 

So, my questions are:

  1.  Please tell me I am not alone. Isn't that what we all want to know, that our kids aren't anomalies? lol
  2. Please tell me there is some hope and maybe it is just an age thing. The hard part about this is that she has very little time to "get her act together" as this is the age kids are starting to audition for trainee-ships and second company positions. Perhaps we should wait to try for any higher level position until she shows some signs of maturity? 
  3. I would love to hear any suggestions on how you helped your kids manage their time and other resources as the pressure became more intense. 
  4. I don't know what else I want to know, many you know what I need to know?

Thank you for your gentle, loving responses. :)

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Polar

I can't answer your specific questions necessarily but as a parent what jumped out at me was, has your daughter ever been evaluated for attention deficit disorder? Learning disabilities? When someone has such a difficult time consistently staying on task and organized it's a possibility that should be considered and perhaps discussed with the pediatrician?

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logollady

Polar- Thank you for that advice. No we haven't had her evaluated. That is a good suggestion. I will look into it. 

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dancingjet

How many hours is she spending on other things? I see 30+ for training. How many hours on school work? PT/chiropractor/etc? Socializing? "Free" time? My first thought was "Wow, that's a lot of hours on top of trying to finish high school."

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logollady

dancingjet - She tries to do at least 3-4  hours of school a day, with extra time on the weekends. The rest of the time is spent at the gym doing cross training, extra time in studio to work on "issues" and occasional PT, chiro, doctor appointments, church etc. She takes 2 hours to get ready in the morning (breakfast, some homework if possible, etc.). She goes to bed around 10:30-11 so she can get a good nights rest. So basically the only time she has to do anything is at night is between 5-10pm and occasionally on Sunday when there are no rehearsals. This is when she has to fit in school and all the other extracurriculars.  We know that there is a lot of sacrifice at this level of training and are fully on board with that... but are now wondering if maybe she simply isn't emotionally mature enough to handle it all, especially with little hope for downtime or freetime because of her scheduling challenges. 

The hardest part for her is that other dancers are partying, shopping and not doing school (sometimes even skipping classes)... and they are succeeding and being recognized. She feels like she is "being a good girl" and trying her hardest and can't seem to get her act together. I feel so incredibly bad for her. :(

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popsicle1010

Another thought to consider is the significant, physiologically normal brain development that takes place during adolescence into early adulthood.  16 can seem so grown up in some ways but neuroscience has found that the brain's frontal lobe does not finish developing until the 20s.  This rate varies from teen to teen and it may simply be that your daughter is feeling the challenge of "the adolescent brain" more than some others around her.  

From a 2017 article by two Harvard Medical School professors of Psychiatry:

"By adolescence, most of the brain has been myelinated except for the frontal lobe, the center for “executive functioning,” where planning, sequencing of activities, and prioritizing long-range goals take place.  Biologically, the long-range planning part of the brain is simply slower, less ‘hard-wired’ than the here-and-now-information-processing parts of the brain."

Full article link:

https://www.beyondbooksmart.com/executive-functioning-strategies-blog/the-adolescent-brain-why-executive-functioning-in-teens-is-a-challenge

If the issue is normal brain development, the things that will help are the passage of time (increasing age), sleep, a supportive structure/teaching of executive functioning skills and maybe patience.

Good luck!

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threegirlpileup

My dd is the same age and has some similar struggles at times.

 Although my she would not meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis (she’s too high functioning), she does have some real challenges along that spectrum (I am a clinical social worker which is probably why I picked up on it).  

A book we found extremely helpful is “Smart but Scattered for Teens.”  There is an inventory to evaluate executive functioning skills and then strategies to address areas of weakness.  What was interesting for us was we found that while there are some areas where dd is weak, there are other areas where she is strong.  This was so helpful because she also tends to be very hard on herself—so it let her see that (1) there are some specific areas where she struggles AND (2) there are some areas where she has real strength.

Once we had indentified weaker areas, we could target tools/skills to help her out—lists have been a lifesaver, for example.  Developing and implementing tools has made all the difference in both my dd’s functioning and her self-esteem.

This may not apply to your daughter but I thought I’d throw it out there.

 

 

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logollady

popsicle1010- Yes, this is very good information to be aware of, thank you!!! I have been doing a bit of research around this topic lately as I vaguely remembered the myelin sheath  from my college psych classes. I think the challenge with ballet is that the nature of the industry requires these kids to be so much more mature than they *usually*are at a young age. It takes a special combination of skills to be able to "make it", and I often wonder if early maturation is one of them (or at least the ability to fake it really well). Thanks so much for taking time to respond and for sharing the links, I will look into them. :) 

threegirlpileup thank you for your perspective and the book recommendation. :clapping: My daughter is in a similar boat, actually. She is very intelligent, high test scores etc. and VERY hard on herself. She always has been "good" at everything she does, so this is especially degrading to her psyche. The book sounds very intriguing, I am looking it up as we speak. <3

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dancingjet

[. . . .]

From my own mom perspective, your DD has taken on a HUGE challenge. Ballet alone sounds like a fulltime job between regular hours (30+) extra stuff to work on, and PT, chiro, etc. Add to that what sounds like another 15-20 hours of schoolwork plus the time needed for showering, eating, and decompressing, and I'm not surprised that she's struggling. It's a lot. Maybe some teens are naturally wired for a schedule like that, but I'd wager that most are not. The only dancers I've personally known that could train fulltime like that were not spending that much time on school. Their parents either followed an "unschooling" philosophy or the dancers were doing the bare minimum in terms of traditional schooling to get a diploma.

How does your DD manage during summer programs, when school is removed from the situation?

Edited by dancemaven
Removed second-hand information regarding a third-party, non-member.

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Fonty

Logollady, I really feel for you, but please don't give yourself too hard a time over this. I too have a DD who is 16, and sometimes I wonder if she mature enough to cope with everything. Without knowing your DD, I cannot comment on any particular developmental issues there may be, but to me, she sounds like a normal teen, doing something which is actually for most 16 year olds, very far from normal! You mentioned she is in a well regarded professional training program, so already she will have pressure on her shoulders just by being there. 20-30 hours dance training a week sounds like an awful lot, and even though this may include rehearsals etc she is probably exhausted, and no wonder she's dropping the ball a bit.

Is it possible that she could drop an academic subject? - I know that might sound drastic, but that's what we've had to do with my DD. In fact, she has dropped 2 since Sept. It is not ideal, as I do worry about academics, but it has helped her be more organised with the remaining subjects and less tears/stressed out, trying to fit everything else in. I find myself having the similar debate to you, about not helping DD learn for herself - I still also do meals, laundry, tidying, sewing pointe shoes etc etc, but on the other hand she has important academic exams in May, plus she's in the middle of audition season for trainee programs, and I just want to make her life as stress free as possible at this crucial time.

Another thing I started doing, was in the holidays, typing up a spreadsheet for her to help her be more organised with her time. She had 4 weeks home at Christmas, but every 1-2 days consisted of a private lesson, or an open class or the occasional PT appointment. The in-between days were revision and homework, but only for a morning or afternoon, and we made sure there was also a few days over that period to see friends/chill days. We only allowed her to go to one sleepover, and I bribed her to stay at home for New Year instead of to a party, as she had an audition workshop 2 days later at one of her top choices of school. This all appeared on the spreadsheet - color coded! When she saw it, after the initial sighing, she did seem to 'get it', about resting and homework. And by spreading the ballet out, she did go back to school feeling more organised, rested at fit. If I'd left it to her, she would have been on her phone for 4 weeks!

Also, don't believe that all her friends are highly organised, mature, sensible and managing their time!! I bet you they're not, and the majority of their parents are also feeling anxious.

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Justinitforfun

You've already gotten some great advice. When I was reading your post, my immediate first thought was that I wonder if she has ADHD (inattentive only type). Google some information about girls with inattentive ADHD and you will see a lot of similarities. Also, whether she does or not, the problems you describe are deficits in executive functioning skills. I was also going to recommend the book "Smart but Scattered for Teens" (threegirlpileup beat me to it!) Lots of people, kids and adults, with and without ADHD or other learning problems, have strengths and weaknesses in different executive functioning skills. I love that this book gives very specific advice for practical ways to support those areas that someone struggles with. 

My daughter is the same way. She is not on a professional dance path, but she does take her dancing seriously, and these issues have held her back from time to time. It is frustrating to watch. It was frustrating for her because while she felt she was working hard and trying her best, it came across looking like she just didn't care and wasn't putting in the effort other kids were. She felt like she was never good enough. We finally realized we had to stop telling her to try harder, and find ways to help her try differently. I hope you find some good suggestions in the book, and that your daughter has continued success in dance. 

 

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gasguzzler
12 minutes ago, Fonty said:

Also, don't believe that all her friends are highly organised, mature, sensible and managing their time!! I bet you they're not, and the majority of their parents are also feeling anxious.

I agree.

Also 30 hours a week plus 3-4 hours of schoolwork, you are talking about a 45-50 hour work week. That is a lot for most 16 year olds to handle. I would say that a 16 year old who would struggle with such a schedule is NOT an anomaly. I don't know if its possible but if it is, maybe she can cut something out of her schedule. I am familiar with the studies described in the article mentioned by Popscicle1010 and I was thinking the same thing. You are getting great advice here. Don't stop nagging about making calendars or filling out day timers or the importance of sleep. I said it over and over to my DD only to get the eye roll (when she thought I wasn't looking).

>Fast forward -(age 18 away from home), Mom visits in November. On her dresser I see a day timer all filled out with meals for the week, tasks to be done like laundry and grocery shopping and apartment was clean! Incredible. I honestly thought there was a very good chance she would crash and burn.(as I had one non DS who did) I mentioned my pride and she said, "well I get anxiety when things are messed up". I said, "Now you know how I have felt for the last 18 years, haha" she confided, "I keep thinking about how you used to say to me when my room was trashed, 'The state of this room is indicative of the state of your head'." And then she admitted I was right!

>Fast forward -Mom visits in December during Nut. Things are a bit more disheveled (not real bad but a visible downfall), no food in fridge. I notice the day timer is pretty blank since Thanksgiving. She comes home for Christmas by then appears stressed definitely in need of a break. She goes out with friends. She's back to staying up all night in front of the television (old habits of not admitting she needed her sleep which if she doesn't get, she gets sick). Then she loses her voice. Gets sick. I point it out AGAIN. I remind about the day timer. I remind about how she always used to get sick when she stayed up late. She wouldn't admit I was right, but according to DS who nonchalantly brought it up  she's back to the grind and she's using the day timer and seems to be very together again.

I'm by far no expert on parenting and at least as often as I feel good about my parenting I feel badly about it, but I say... Baby steps. You are not alone. Your DD is not an anomaly, life is tough, Keep reminding. Expect setbacks. and when they occur remember...Baby steps. You are not alone. Your DD is not an anomaly, life is tough, Keep reminding. Expect setbacks.

 

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Thyme

As an occupational therapist, I 100% agree with the resources and thoughts on brain development that you have been given. As the mother of a now 19yo DS I remember your pain!! I think is it remarkable our DS survived those years without injury (from me:P). He drove me nuts. Constantly forgetting things, basically very goofy. As a pragmatist, my/our decision was to drop the things that didn't matter or at least mattered less. Our choice was to reduce the emphasis on school. In the end, no matter what the reason it seems to me that when we aren't coping, something needs to be changed.

With all respect to the other posters, I would be cautious of medicalising your DD's behaviour with ADHD type labels. She is trying to achieve in an unnatural situation that few 16yos would thrive in. If she was struggling in this way in a normal high school schedule with lots of down time, then perhaps this would be a concern. That's just my two cents on that end of things.

I too feel that what we ask of our young adults is extreme. DS completed a high school diploma which does not qualify him for university entrance. That was our compromise. There is no way known to man that he could have done the full high school curriculum and danced full time. He would have fallen apart. He does not do things quickly. Nothing. Hates to be rushed. This is just the nature of the beast. He did work hard and had long days. We were all ok with him achieving lower grades than he was capable of. The main thing was to learn and get it done. He can be academically brilliant at another point in his life.

So our answer was to reduce, modify and lower the demand until DS could achieve what he needed to without losing his love of dance. I couldn't stand the prospect of him hating his days and being distressed. 

Oh and we also know from neuroscience that our young people have to have down time. Their brains need to have regular periods of calmness to grow and sustain. If they spend all of their time in a very alert/stressed/focused mood, their neurons will be hard wired for fatigue and over arousal. It is vital that regular periods of just being are included in any schedule.

The good news is that this period passes. Young brains are in a period of reorganisation after late childhood. I know that our DS became so much better organised very quickly. It came in leaps and bounds. The trick is to get them through it with their self esteem and nervous system intact!

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threegirlpileup
3 hours ago, logollady said:

threegirlpileup thank you for your perspective and the book recommendation. :clapping: My daughter is in a similar boat, actually. She is very intelligent, high test scores etc. and VERY hard on herself. She always has been "good" at everything she does, so this is especially degrading to her psyche. The book sounds very intriguing, I am looking it up as we speak. <3

Lolollady, I just wanted to come back to say that I also think it's good to acknowledge that what these young artists are doing really is hard.  Although my dd is not on the same track as yours (she is headed towards a BFA college program rather than a traineeship), she devotes a similar amount of time to the dance studio, and fitting in everything else is an ongoing challenge.  She was (yay!) recently cast in a new piece for her company AND selected to choreograph a piece for that same company--but this also resulted in panic when she realized how much more time these two things were going to take up--it's like there is just no wiggle room.

One choice we made (which I well realize is probably not a fit for you) was to spread high school over 5 years/take a gap year (we homeschool, so it amounts to the same thing), so that we could relieve some of the academic pressure without cutting back on dance or shortchanging her education.

The other thing I would put out there is that I think we get the message a lot as parents that we need to be tough on our kids and let them fail (i.e. not bringing them something they forgot).  In my experience, it's more nuanced than that and what works will depend on your kid.  I guarantee you, when my kid forgets something, she is beating herself up for it long before I do--she doesn't need me to reinforce that she's screwed up!  If anything, my kind support can help her collect herself so that she can actually do better next time, instead of just deciding that she is hopeless and not even trying.  Also, we respond to a fail by looking at what systems/tools/supports we can put in place so that it won't happen again.  It's not reasonable to just expect our kids to do better without helping them figure out HOW to do it.

Good luck.  Teens are hard!  Mine is easier than most but still confounds me when she's such a, well, TEENAGER!

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Monet

You have gotten some great advise here.  I would highly caution even considering dropping school classes.  Education and school is still highly important in developing a well rounded person.  However dropping an extra curricular activitiy may not be a bad idea.  I would say school should come before cross training and hate to say it but even ballet.  I know I may be in the minority in this belief and it is only my opinion.   Also without knowing your DD my opinion as a neuropsychologist, she sounds pretty normal!  Too much on ones plate can manifest in appearing scattered.  

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