Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

My daughter thinks her mom is annoying

If your teenage daughter has considered you annoying at some point in her life, know that you are not alone.

I have a great relationship with my teenage daughter. Most of the time.

Sometimes, I’m just plain annoying.

I am most annoying when I say the wrong thing. For example, yesterday, when my daughter told me she was going to borrow a dress for an upcoming party,  I asked her why she doesn’t wear the blue dress I bought her for a different event.  I continued on to tell her how good she looks in the dress. Big mistake. Just from her voice I could tell she was annoyed with me.

What is it about the mother/daughter relationship that lands a mother in the dog house with just a few wrong words? I am much more annoying to my daughter than I am to my sons. Most of the time, I don’t even realize what I’m about to say could be considered annoying. But once it’s out, I know right away what I have done.

One way I’m particularly annoying is the  habit I have of repeating myself. This is extremely annoying to my daughter.  How many of you mothers have offered a little bit of advice only to hear this response?

“Mom…You’ve told me that ten times!”

I’m also annoying when I excessively worry about my daughter’s messiness.

“Mom, no one but you cares if I make my bed.”

And let’s not forget how annoying I am when I don’t give the answer my daughter wants to hear.

“Mom, you don’t understand.”

By now, I have figured out the things I do most likely to annoy my daughter:

  • Offer life lessons
  • Remind her of something I want her to do
  • Tell her not to get worked up over something
  • Offer a solution to a problem
  • Ask too many questions

As a mother of a teen girl, I am resigned to the fact that I just can’t avoid being annoying. Yet, I presume my daughter believes I have some good qualities to offset my annoyingness because, despite how  irritating I can be, my daughter and I remain close.  I know in my heart when it really matters, I’ll be the one she’s talking to — and I will try really hard not to be annoying about it.

When did “Mommy” turn to “Mother”?

I recently saw the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2”.  In the movie, Tula, the bride from the first movie, has a 17 year old daughter and has challenges communicating with her. Tula asks, “When did  mommy turn to mother?”   When she said that, it got me thinking about how true that is.  I want back that cute 5-year-old who needed me and called “mommy” for everything. Now, I am called  “mom,” or sometimes even “Raquel,”  or “mother” when one of my kids are upset with me.

When did the transition happen?  Why does it have to happen? Watching our kids grow should be a happy time for Matthewus, but sometimes it isn’t. What can we do to change it? We didn’t change who we are or how we love our kids, but I guess our kids changed how they look at us. I miss my kids wanting to be around me and being the center of their universes. I miss the way my son used to look at me with such amazing love. What changed?

The other day we went out to dinner as a family and I went to hug my son who was sitting next to me in the booth. Well, he pushed me away saying  “mom, we are in public.” There was a time when PDA for my children was welcomed by  them.  Now, it’s utter horror. It hurt that the thought of me showing my son love was embarrassing. What I am curious to hear from all the moms, mommies and mothers out there is whether you have had a “transition” with your title? Would love to hear from the teens as well and get their perceptive.

 

Mother kissing teenage boy (14-16) on cheek, close-up

Mother kissing teenage boy (14-16) on cheek, close-up

 

 

 

 

Helping Your Teen with College Acceptances and Rejections

When my son got rejected from his college of choice, I didn’t know what to say.   I wanted to tell my son that everything always works out, but I didn’t because I knew that wasn’t what he wanted to hear while the rejection was raw.  (It turns out he is super happy at the university he ended up at). I wish I was better prepared as a parent to help my teen through this emotional part of the college process.

 

college letter

For all you parents facing March Madness, that time when the acceptance and rejection emails arrive , here is some great advice for coping from International College  Counselors, a Florida college advisory firm.

How to Help Your Child Cope with College Admissions Results
 
1. Say positive things.  Let your child know how proud you are of him or her for getting through high school and wanting to go to college. Even before knowing if your child was accepted or rejected at schools.
2.  Stay supportive. This is a hard time for a student whether they get into their first choice college or not. If your child gets rejected, this may be the first time they’re dealing with major disappointment. A parent’s job is to stop this from damaging self-esteem. For students who get in, after the initial euphoria, they’ll start thinking about what going to college really means. Leaving home, leaving friends, leaving a comfortable routine, having to find themselves, and make their own way is difficult. Understandably, this may feel overwhelming.
3.  Talk it out. Allow your child to be emotional. Talk about getting accepted and rejected and turn it into a teachable moment. If your child is hurt over a rejection, be sensitive and acknowledge the pain of disappointment. Then help your child accept that he or she didn’t get in and move forward with the opportunities that do present themselves.  Children who get accepted have a right to be proud, but help them understand that it’s important to be sensitive to the feelings of their friends who may not be so happy with their admissions results.
4. Focus on what’s important.  Let your child know that getting into a first pick college is important, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t. Let your child know you don’t love or like them any less and they shouldn’t love or like themselves any less either. College is one step on a long road. Much of the college admission process was out of your family’s control. College admissions are highly subjective. A high GPA isn’t the only thing that counts. Maybe the band really needed a new oboe player.
5.  Get help.  Call or meet with your student’s International College Counselor advisor once all the results are in.  One of our expert college counselors can go over the pros of the schools a student was accepted into and there are a number of colleges still accepting applications.
6. Don’t let your child take rejection personally. Someone at the college just didn’t think your child was the right fit at the time. Your student may actually be better off someplace else.  Your child can have a great experience no matter where he or she goes.
7. Practice gratitude.  With your student, thank the people that made a college acceptance possible.  Think of the parent who shared the responsibility of driving hours and hours of carpool, a teacher writing a thoughtful college recommendation, a coach staying a little bit longer after practice, and a principal making sure the student got the classes he/she needed.  No child gets into college without a supportive team.
8. Say Yay!  Celebrate all the college acceptance letters your child gets. Getting into any college is great. Talk to your child about how he or she will let friends know.
9. Reframe the future.  Truly worried students may relax knowing that there is always the option to transfer. Our recommendation is to keep this as a back pocket option and not as a goal. Students who go to college with the intent of transferring won’t be able to enjoy the full college experience they can have. Once they settle in, many students are actually very happy.
10. Do something nice. When all the letters are in, celebrate the end of this intense time.  Go out for a nice family dinner, or give a student a meaningful gift. Make this time positive.

 

 

 

How do you know if your teen is smoking pot?

 

So parents, have you been grappling with figuring out whether your teen smokes pot? Do you just assume your teen will try it?

Some parents are in denial, others really don’t have an issue with it. But then again, it’s legal in Colorado. By the way, don’t even think about calling it pot to your teen. He or she will immediately tell you it’s called weed these days.

In a world where there are so many other worse drugs, is fighting over pot worth the battle?

Why does your teen sneak out of the house?

As a teen growing up in the 80’s, I had a curfew like most teens did. I never thought of breaking that curfew or disobeying my parents. It just wasn’t done. It’s called respect.

I recall the many times Olivia as a teen would sneak out of the house through her bedroom window unbeknownst to her father and I.  At first I didn’t know because as a parent you assumed your childsneaking out is sound asleep. It wasn’t until I saw her screen popped out of her window that I questioned her about it.  She said  “the wind probably did it.”   Hmm.. the wind isn’t that strong but we want to believe and trust our kids. In addition, I have an alarm in the house so there is no way she could get out of her window without the alarm going off. Even if she disarmed the alarm, I would hear her doing it. Well, one day as I was cleaning her room, I noticed the sensor for the window alarm was off. I knew right then and there Olivia was sneaking out. So the question was how do I confront her?

I showed Olivia the window and the sensor that was removed.  Crazy enough, she said “Oh, it broke and fell off.”  Okay, I’ll bite, and I went along with her response knowing she was lying. I said I would glue the sensor and if it was off again, I would know it was because she removed it. Every day I would check it until, you guessed it, one day it was off again. I confronted Olivia and told her to stop lying. I told her I know  she is sneaking out and just be honest about it.

Well, she decided to be honest. All her friends had later curfews and were still out while she had to be home because her curfew was earlier.  Olivia was a freshman and her fiends were juniors and seniors, so of course their curfew was later!!  I I told Olivia lying to me and her dad was no way to gain trust or get a curfew changed. Just the opposite,  we would take away time.  Mind you, Olivia had a decent curfew time for a 15 year old. I think midnight for a 9th grader is  more than generous but to a teen, it’s never late enough.

There were times Olivia got creative. She would put pillows in her bed to make it look like she was sleeping, or she would take the screen and hide it under her bed.  We changed her door handles to ones without locks so she couldn’t lock herself in her room. We eventually locked her window so she couldn’t sneak out, but even then she found a way to unlock it. Our last resort was putting the hurricane shutters up on her window. Now, she couldn’t sneak out. It was sad we had to do this, but unfortunately her actions caused these extreme consequences. Olivia was grounded and had to earn the trust back and it was a tough,  long road gaining that back. We spoke to her about the rules of the house and having respect enough to obey them. But rules to a teen are just something they want to break, not adhere to.

Olivia is now 18 and when I remind her of when she use to sneak out,  she acts as if it was 10 years ago when she was a kid so it doesn’t matter. I quickly correct her and tell her it was only three years ago.  The point I make is that while mentally to her it feels like long ago because she has grown up physically, it wasn’t that long ago. To me, it seems like yesterday. I don’t miss that at all.

I asked some ofsneakingout my friends if they ever snuck out ,and by gosh, some did! I guess I was the only one with a guilty conscience and enough respect for my parents wishes not to do it.

I have to ask this to all the parents and teens out there… Has your teen ever snuck out and if so, why?  Rebellion? Friends? Parties? Boyfriend? Girlfriend?  Or, just because they could? It baffles me how teens could have little to no respect for their parents wishes.  Is it just a teen stage that many of them go through?

Ohhhh…that smell! Must be a teenage boy

I am standing on the sideline, waiting for my son to emerge from the group huddle after his lacrosse game has ended. Within minutes the team is coming toward me and already I smell the familiar scent of sweaty teenage boys, also known as body odor.  It is a scent that can make you turn your nose away the closer your sweaty son gets to you and one that has you thankful you’re not riding on the team bus home.

For any parent who has opened a gym bag with worn sports gear, you know the smell to which I refer. momIt is a scent like no other.

On the sidelines, I commiserate with other parents. We talk odor control strategy: what spray works best to eliminate the stench from cleats, how often we wash uniforms and gear, what scent reducer we stick in the gym bag.  We also compare notes on deodorant, body wash and shower habits.

From those discussions I have reached this conclusion: There is no deodorant strong enough, nor odor reduction product powerful enough to eliminate the smell of a teenage boy’s sweat.  An online search reveals there is a scientific reason:  Teenage boys smell peculiar because of the hormones they secrete in their sweat during puberty. The smell gets better as they mature — or at least that’s what one website holds out as hope.

smelly teen boy

 

While my son douses himself in Axe, I find myself wrinkling my nose a lot more often. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find the best sneaker storage spot that will prevent smelly feet odor from lingering and becoming toxic. Don’t even get me started on my battle with stinky socks.

I know I will miss that teen boy smell one day, but for now I am busy figuring out how to breathe it in without passing out.

We’re on ABC Nightline!

 

Are you worried about what your teen daughter is doing on social media?

Raising Teens blogger Raquel Alderman and her daughter Olivia tackle the topic on ABC Nightline!

This topic gives  parents lots to think about….

 

Are group chats the new digital cliques?

A few months ago, my son Garret, a high school freshman, got a new iPhone. He set it up right away and joined a few groups chats. By the next morning, he had 400 text messages. The teens in the groups he joined had been texting all night!

If your teen has a cell, chances are high that he or she participates in group chats. Group chats are where teens are dishing about everything happening in their teenage lives.  With group chats, regardless of who starts the conversation, everyone  in the group can chime in instantaneously. My son explained to me that weekend plans are made in group chats. Homework is discussed. The latest fashion trends or social events are talked about.

Lately I want to ban my son from group chats. One day last week, I looked over his shoulder and I noticed that some of the girls in one of his group chats were saying mean things about someone’s unibrow. “What’s that about?” I asked. “Oh, some of the girls are roasting on my friend,” my son explained.  That’s when I realized that sometimes group chats get downright mean. That chit chat in the hallway about the ugly dress some girl wore to school, or gossip about the way so and so was flirting with so and so now gets typed and disseminated among a group of kids with a touch of the enter key.  “Sometimes, even if you didn’t say something mean, you feel guilty just because you’re in the group,” my son admitted to me.

On top of that,  sometimes, someone is intentionally left out of a group chat —  or taken out of the group without their okay. It’s that exclusion we all endured in high school years ago, but today, it’s digital. Yes, cliques have gone electronic!

Even if you’re in a group and no longer want to be, the challenge for teens  is that when you want to get out of a group chat, it’s difficult because there’s always the chance you will “look like a jerk” if you leave.

I could spend all day and night trying to monitor what is being said  in group chats, but there is no way I could keep up. These teens are WAY too prolific and they are fickle about where they hold their group chats. My son recently showed me how the chats have moved from text messages to Instagram group messages.

On a rainy day last week, my son’s phone was pinging nonstop with incoming messages from group chats.  I nudged him to participate with caution.   I reminded him that a group text (and anything shared online) can be captured by a simple screenshot and shared outside of that group.  “A digital conversation is never “secret” or “private”,  I reminded him.  “And, a misinterpreted conversation easily can lead to hurt feelings.”  He nodded, and then went right back to looking at his phone screen.

I know banning my son from group chats is a losing proposition. But it sure is tough to parent when a majority of our teens’ communication is a 24/7 digital stream!

 

 

group-chat-in-ios-8

Does taking away your teens cellphone really work as punishment?

My daughter’simages.jpg1 friend Tina recently got her phone taken away for lying to her mom and dad. When I asked her why, she said that she was driving a golf cart and accidentally hit her brother’s  foot. Well, her brother, Ryan, started crying and their mom freaked and wanted to know what happened. Tina,  for fear of getting in trouble, lied and said he ran into the cart.  Her brother said that was not not true, Tina ran into him.  Her mom asked a neighbor who happened to have seen the incident and she supported what Ryan stated. Well, Tina’s mom was not only disappointed in Tina for lying, but extremely upset because  she could have seriously hurt her brother.

Tina’s phone was taken from her as punishment and she does not know when she will be getting it back. Now, I understand what Tina did was wrong, but I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. I know every parent disciplines differently, but I would have at least told Tina her exact punishment — a day or two  without the phone —  or I would of had her do the laundry for  a week.

I told Tina she needs to apologize to her brother for hurting him and apologize to her parents for lying and hurting her brother, even if it was an accident. Accidents happen, but lying  will only hurt you in the end.

 

I have to wonder what punishment would Tina have gotten if she snuck out of her room and went drinking with friends at midnight. Would she  have the phone taken away for a month? It’s unrealistic and I don’t think would work.  If you keep taking the phone away as a punishment for everything your teen does, do you think it’s really going to continue working? For some teens, the first or second time their cellphone is  taken away  becomes their last. They realize it is too painful to be without it.  Yet, some other teens become immune to losing their cell phones. Or, parents give in and give the phone back.

So, I pose this question: Does taking away a teen’s cell phone really work as punishment?

 

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I’m Devastated by Teen Boys Committing Suicide

Yesterday, when I heard a teenage boy at University of Florida appeared to have committed suicide, I was devastated. How sad that a young man could feel hopeless enough to take his life!

My nephews, who knew this boy well, are grief stricken. This boy was close with his younger brother, belonged to a fraternity, had lots of friends and  played on the university’s hockey team. Through an outside observer’s eyes, he seemed to be living an ideal life.

When I was in high school — a school with about 2,500 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even in my college years, suicide among the teens was a very unusual event that I rarely heard of.

Yet, in the last year, two teenage boys with whom I have a connection have committed suicide and I regularly hear of others in cities across the U.S.  This morning, I stumbled onto a website with a post by Mark Gregston , founder and executive director of Heartlight, a residential counseling program for struggling adolescents.  He gave these statistics:  Before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Gregston explains that between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

For the last 24 hours I am consumed with this horror. I’m scared for our teens and for parents who aren’t sure  how to avert this sad scenario.

Ask any parent and they will tell you that the pressure on teens today is much greater than it was when they went to high school. The pressure to achieve academically, socially and athletically has reached crazy levels and our kids are paying the price. Combine that pressure with the angst from social media and we have created a society of highly anxious and often depressed teenagers who are flooding campus counseling centers looking for ways to cope.

How does suicide happen? Gregston says teens who feel pain and despair don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.” They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment.  When you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. They react on suicidal thoughts without thinking it through.

As a mother of a son in college who doesn’t communicate well with me, I worry.

So, what can we as parents do?

Gregston says we can talk to our teens when we see any signs of trouble and encourage them to seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional.

Here are some more of his recommendations:

  • If you ever hear your teen say, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don’t walk away. Don’t wait.  Get them to a hospital or counselor immediately, even if they don’t want to go or say they were just fooling with you.
  • If you see mild warning signs, ask your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide.
  • Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they’ll let you or someone else know.
  • If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously.
  • Recognize that a depressed teen generally doesn’t have the ability or strength to solve their own depression.
  • Listen to your teen and try not to be judgemental or accusing. Being a teenager is hard today and your child is justified in their feelings, even if you may not agree or understand. When you realize this, you can help your child.
  • Remain in contact; even if you no longer have any control over your teen’s life. It can make all the difference.

Parents whose children are suffering from anxiety often feel embarrassed or don’t want to talk about it with other people. The reality is more parents are dealing with this than you realize.

Also, I feel like it is increasingly important to talk to our teens about how to respond if they have a friend who suffers from anxiety or depression.  Their reaction in a situation can be just as critical to how it plays out.

When a teen commits suicide, the entire community grieves. Yet, we aren’t making enough headway in preventing this tragedy. What are your thoughts on the increasing rate of teen suicide? Is it too late to dial down the pressure on teens? What do you think can be done?

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