Coffee Break: Parent for the long haul

March 27, 2014|By Kate Rogers

Liz Jorgensen, an award-winning speaker and therapist prized for her irreverent, piercing presentations on the parenting of teens, was the guest speaker for Coffee Break Wednesday at Top of the World Elementary School.

She pointed out that parents have no difficulty sharing tips and strategies when our kids are little, and asked why this open, supportive environment is missing during the teen years when the stakes are so much higher.

With humor, insight and plenty of studies backing her up, she covered simple, inarguable facts. She went over the now-familiar truth that children's brains aren't fully functional until they reach well into their 20s, particularly the critical judgment area of the prefrontal cortex.


And she allowed us to fully comprehend this with a new sense of the inevitability of their misbehaviors and limit-pushing, and a growing compassion toward these awakening young adults. Her message was simple: We, as parents, must "love them for who they are" — something we all get an A-plus in — but importantly also provide limits to their behavior.

"Limits are love," she explained — in this we get perhaps an F-plus.

Jorgensen quoted Peter Lanza, the father of the infamous Newtown, Conn., shooter. While he speaks from unspeakable horror and sorrow, his message is universal: "We need to parent for the years and not for the day …" meaning that if we are always going for the warm, fuzzy experience in the now and are not expecting more from our children, we will jeopardize their development and futures.

We all have to be willing to wear with pride the button that claims we are the meanest parent in town (which was handed out at the conclusion of her talk). Only then can we really guide our children through their inevitable goofs as they stumble through their teens.

Jorgensen also pointed out that we are living in an age of social experimentation; this is a relatively new era of raising children without corporal punishment.

Particularly relevant to Laguna Beach parents, affluence has been cited in a study as a "unique qualifier" for increased drug use, depression and suicide. She explained that the perceived higher expectations put on such children combined with their greater sense of distance from their parents create a tremendous, even toxic stress.

Jorgensen had much to offer this roomful of parents, finally reminding us that we are all each other's posse in the process of parenting our children from children to adults. To see the video of this talk, visit

KATE ROGERS is a mother of three and a member of the Coffee Break committee.

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