The truth about sneaky teens

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Have you ever been tricked by your teen?

Last night, my husband got tricked. He feels like a big fool. It wasn’t even his own kid that tricked him. A group of my son’s friends came back to our home after the high school homecoming dance. One of the girls put my husband on the phone with her father. The girl’s father wanted assurance that an adult was home. “We are here and we aren’t leaving,” my husband said.

What my husband learned this morning is that shortly after giving the girl’s father assurance, she left our home with a few kids, went to another party, got drunk and came back to our home. My husband got schooled in teen trickery 101.

It happens to the best of us, I told him.  Staying ahead of teens is hard work.  Teens are sneaky. Even the good ones. I think it’s just part of being a teenager.

There’s something about being young, trying new things, colluding with friends and wanting to be independent that makes teens take risks and keep secrets from their parents. Sometimes, they are being sneaky about small, stupid thing that empower them by letting them think they’ve pulled the wool over our eyes. Sometimes, they are hiding big things that could get them into real trouble.

I hate this part of parenting! There’s no winning. You’re either going to get accused of being too intrusive or played for a fool.

From sneaking out of the house past curfew to hiding alcohol in plastic water bottles, there are levels of sneaky behavior and a sliding scale of what I’m willing to accept.  Even with GPS devices and a public trail created by social networks, we just aren’t able to know everything our kids are up to all of the time. Maybe it’s their age that gives them the advantage.

I have learned is to follow my instincts and become a skillful observer. A teenager that’s normally relaxed may have a perfect story to tell that fails only because her shifty body language or lack of eye contact betrays her. Or, maybe there’s a loose thread your kid’s story that unravels when you throw out a strange question. (I found a blog post that offers some great advice on how to tell when your teen is lying)

I always tell my kids, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can NEVER fool your parent. If only I was convinced of that! After last night, my husband is not!

Important to treat your child’s depression

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According to the FDA, we must not let childhood depression go untreated. I read the article below and felt it was important to share it. My daughter suffers from mental illness and depression is one of them. Denial isn’t going to help her, but treatment is going to help. This article below hit close to home for me and I felt it probably would for many other parents, too.  Enjoy the read. Hope it helps.

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Every psychological disorder, including depression, has some behavioral components.

Depressed children often lack energy and enthusiasm. They become withdrawn, irritable and sulky. They may feel sad, anxious and restless. They may have problems in school, and frequently lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Some parents might think that medication is the solution for depression-related problem behaviors. In fact, that’s not the case. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any drugs solely for the treatment of “behavior problems.” When FDA approves a drug for depression—whether for adults or children—it’s to treat the illness, not the behavior associated with it.

“There are multiple parts to mental illness, and the symptoms are usually what drug companies study and what parents worry about. But it’s rare for us at FDA to target just one part of the illness,” says Mitchell Mathis, M.D., a psychiatrist who is the Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

The first step to treating depression is to get a professional diagnosis; most children who are moody, grouchy or feel that they are misunderstood are not depressed and don’t need any drugs.

Only about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Before puberty, girls and boys have the same incidence of depression. After adolescence, girls are twice as likely to have depression as boys. The trend continues until after menopause. “That’s a clue that depression might be hormonal, but so far, scientists haven’t found out exactly how hormones affect the brain,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Tiffany R. Farchione, M.D., the Acting Deputy Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

It’s hard to tell if a child is depressed or going through a difficult time because the signs and symptoms of depression change as children grow and their brains develop. Also, it can take time to get a correct diagnosis because doctors might be getting just a snapshot of what’s going on with the young patient.

“In psychiatry, it’s easier to take care of adults because you have a lifetime of patient experience to draw from, and patterns are more obvious” says Mathis. “With kids, you don’t have that information. Because we don’t like to label kids with lifelong disorders, we first look for any other reason for those symptoms. And if we diagnose depression, we assess the severity before treating the patient with medications.”

Getting the Proper Care

The second step is to decide on a treatment course, which depends on the severity of the illness and its impact on the child’s life. Treatments for depression often include psychotherapy and medication. FDA has approved two drugs—fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro)—to treat depression in children. Prozac is approved for ages 8 and older; Lexapro for kids 12 and older.

“We need more pediatric studies because many antidepressants approved for adults have not been proven to work in kids,” Farchione says. “When we find a treatment that has been shown to work in kids, we’re encouraged because that drug can have a big impact on a child who doesn’t have many medication treatment options.”

FDA requires that all antidepressants include a boxed warning about the increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults up to age 24. “All of these medicines work in the brain and the central nervous system, so there are risks. Patients and their doctors have to weigh those risks against the benefits,” Mathis says.

Depression can lead to suicide. Children who take antidepressants might have more suicidal thoughts, which is why the labeling includes a boxed warning on all antidepressants. But the boxed warning does not say not to treat children, just to be aware of, and to monitor them for, signs of suicidality.

“A lot of kids respond very well to drugs. Oftentimes, young people can stop taking the medication after a period of stability, because some of these illnesses are not a chronic disorder like a major depression,” Mathis adds. “There are many things that help young psychiatric patients get better, and drugs are just one of them.”

It’s important that patients and their doctors work together to taper off the medications. Abruptly stopping a treatment without gradually reducing the dose might lead to problems, such as mood disturbance, agitation and irritability.

Depression in children shouldn’t be left untreated. Untreated acute depression may get better on its own, but it relapses and the patient is not cured. Real improvement can take six months or more, and may not be complete without treatment. And the earlier the treatment starts, the better the outcome.

“Kids just don’t have time to leave their depression untreated,” Farchione says. “The social and educational consequences of a lengthy recovery are huge. They could fail a grade. They could lose all of their friends.”

Medications help patients recover sooner and more completely.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Parenting Openly Gay Teens

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My friend Robin is one of the most amazing parents I know. When her daughter told her she was a lesbian, Robin showed her support in every way possible, even encouraging her daughter to publish a blog called Oy Vey, I’m Gay.

Ours is the first generation to really parent openly gay teens because in past generations, teens were much more secretive. I had a close friend in high school who didn’t want to be secretive. He told his Cuban-born parents he was gay. His macho dad went nuts and through him out of the house. I don’t think that would happen today. Or, would it?

I was excited to see that Nick News With Linda Ellerbee will feature a half-hour special, “Coming Out,” premiering Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.  The special follows the everyday lives of gay kids as they face fear, acceptance, bullying, isolation, encouragement and ignorance, and shows how straight and non-straight teens can come together to triumph over bullying.

Here’s what the press release says:

“It takes bravery for a kid to come out,” says Ellerbee. “Being accepted by straight people is not a given.  Being young and ‘different’ is not easy. This may be tough to talk about, or hear about, but this is important stuff.  Not addressing it doesn’t make it go away.”

“In elementary school, I knew I was different from the other guys,” says Bradley, 16.  “When I realized I was gay, the biggest problem I faced was wondering if my family would accept me or not.  I’d heard stereotypes about families kicking their kids out and I was wondering, ‘Oh gosh that might be me.’”

“I’ll take a chance. With one heart-wrenching throwback out of this closet, I’ll say the words I’ve been meaning to say my whole life. I’m lesbian,” says Christine, 14.

“Coming out isn’t going to be a one-time thing.  You’re going to meet new people every day, says Lia, 16.  “You’re going to always have that burning question in the back of your head: Am I going to come out today? Am I going to come out tomorrow?”

“I’m not a special case,” Marcel, 13, said.  “There are many people who are my age, and are gay. And you (kids) can say, ‘Well, I don’t know any gay people.’ You probably do, but they’re probably not out to you.”

My daughter has a handful of friends — male and female — who have discussed with her their struggle with sexuality and their conversations with their parents.  She’s convinced that parents who react like idiots mess their kids up.

Here’s what my friend Robin wrote to me: When my daughter came out to me, it was a relief in a way because I knew she was struggling with something, I just didn’t know what. I was not at all upset or disappointed. I was thankful that she felt close enough to me to share. My advice to her was not tho let that one part of her define her. I told her I’m a mom, wife, flight attendant, volunteer…but not one of those things defines who I am.

Robin also says: I try to empower my daughter in every way as I do my other two daughters. I set the same boundaries for her in any relationships.

Robin is awesome, but not all parents are as comfortable with the news.

I’m sure that having a child who is gay is scary and emotional. I’m sure it takes some self-introspection.  Still, I can’t see myself rejecting my own child for who he or she loves — could you? If you’re parenting an openly gay teen, what are the emotions you went through and what advice was most helpful to you?

Does your teen talk to you?

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I know every kid is different. But it can get frustrating when you have one child that tells you everything and another that’s tight lipped.

My son and his girlfriend broke up last weekend. I’ve been trying for days to find out what went on but when I ask, he tells me he doesn’t want to talk about it. I really don’t know how to respond to that.

Why wouldn’t he want to spill his guts to his mother? Doesn’t he realize that mothers need to know what’s going on in their kids’ lives — every sordid detail of it? Doesn’t he realize that a mother’s advice is the best advice any son could ever get since mother knows best?

I’m ashamed to admit in my quest for info, I’ve resorted to stealth tactics that would make James Bond proud. I’ve tried listening outside his door when he was talking to a friend. I’ve tried searching through Facebook for clues. I’ve tried sending my younger son in to see what tidbits he could learn. I’ve even tried stretching my eyes to catch a glimpse of his text messages.

Finally, I gave up. I gauged my son’s mood and he seems okay so I decided he would share what he wanted with me when he felt ready.

A friend of mine with adult children gave me this advice for raising teens: “stay available.”

Last night, my son was in a pretty good mood and I asked him if he had spoken with his ex-girlfriend lately. I almost fainted when he responded with a small conversation and some details rather than a grunt.

By now, I know better than to give advice. Telling a teen that hurt feelings will pass is not effective because they live in the present an their pain is immediate. The only thing I could say to him was “breakups are a learning experience.”

By now, I would have known every sordid detail if the break up would have happened to one of my other kids. I have no choice but to accept that my son is more private. It makes me think about how tough it must be on parents whose kids keep bigger problems to themselves.

One mom says her opportunity to learn what’s going on happens when her son’s friends are over or in her car. “I just keep my mouth shut and listen.  My kid knows I’m there but he is more willing to say things than if I was speaking to him directly.”

How important to you think it is for parents to know what is going on in our teens’ relationships and friendships? Parents, how do you get your teen to open up to you? Do pointed questions work for you?

 

Coping when your teen leaves for college

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My world just shifted. I took my daughter to college hundreds of miles away from home.

The reality of this life event is something for which a parent never can fully prepare. It is bittersweet realization: I have one less child to cook for, one less lunch to pack for school and one less schedule of activities to coordinate.

As I kissed my daughter goodbye, I reminisced about the night I got stuck working really late at the office and cried because my babysitter had put her to bed before I had returned home. I felt guilty and crushed that I had missed an entire day of my infant’s young life. If only I knew then that work life balance was less about one day and more about the next 18 years.

The truth is I enjoy the chaos that has ruled my life as I have juggled writing deadlines with chauffeuring her to soccer practice, sleepovers and movies with friends. It was through that chaos that I built a bond with her that will only strengthen as it evolves.

Now, I face a new reality: My daughter becoming independent doesn’t just mean that I suddenly have more free time. It means that my entire home life has changed in ways I had not anticipated. Walking past her quiet bedroom, I miss her and know it is  going to be a tough adjustment for me. But watching her explore her passions in life is going to be exciting. She already sounds happy, meeting new friends and exercising her independence.

With two children still at home, I am savoring the daily chores that I used to consider annoyances. I am packing lunches with a new appreciation and giving homework help with more enthusiasm. Suddenly, I see a future where my mom duties less needed. It’s scary. I’m not sure I will ever be prepared for that life transition. For now, I’m trying my best to shake off the feeling that my chest is a bit heavier and my house a bit emptier.

 

 

Ugh! Is anyone else dreading “Back to School”?

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Well the time has come.. it’s “BACK TO SCHOOL” time! The time of year I dread! I dread it because I feel like I AM IN HIGHSCHOOL AGAIN and because of the following TOP 10 reasons:

1. Fighting moms  at the mall with back to school shopping clothes

2. Buying ALL the supplies for school and then having more to shop and hunt for after the first day!

3. HOMEWORK!! who do you think helps? Moms and Dads ! and trying to get it all done before soccer practice!

4. TEST! EXAMS!  again, who do you think helps them study??

5. Traffic will now double in the moring and afternoon! as well as we have school zones to slow us getting to work.

6. Keeping up with all the school meetings!

7. Early morning wake ups! Love trying to get everyone up and  out on time.

8. Driving them to school.There goes that extra time we had in the morning to ourselves.

9. Crazy rushed mornings getting everything done.

10. Last minute runs to buy items for a school project that is due the next day.

So, I ask you, Is anyone else dreading it?

Should you stalk your kids on Facebook, Instagram?

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My daughter is a summer camp counselor and LOVES every minute of it. I know this because she has been posting photos on her Facebook page of herself with other counselors doing a group high 5 or dressed head-to-toe in blue for color war. Peeking at her Facebook page gives me a glimpse into her world without having to bombard her with questions when she comes home. Sometimes the comments on her status updates are the best part! For parents, the key definitely is to refrain from asking you kid anything about what she posts.

Admit it. If you’re a parent, you have looked at your teen’s Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter update for the sheer purpose of knowing who your kid is hanging around and what they are doing or saying without them knowing you’re as interested as you are. God forbid they think we’re nosy!

In the fall, my daughter will be off to college and you can bet I’ll be trying to sneak a peek at what she’s up to by checking her social media pages. At the school’s recent orientation, they showed parents a YouTube video to warn us not to go overboard stalking our kids on social media. The video, a satire, is pretty hilarious.

In the video produced by The Onion, E-Mom’ Gloria Bianco shows two TV news anchors how geographical distance is no longer a roadblock to shamelessly interfering with the lives of your children.

It cracked me up so I  had to share it with all of you.  Whether you have a kid going to college or not, I hope you’ll find it as funny as I did.

 

Time for the permit..give me strength

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My daughter Olivia, turns 17 today. I know she was hoping by now she would have her permit and possibly her license, but circumstances stopped that from happening because of her poor choices. I have to admit, I am very relieved she hasn’t been driving. However, I know its time for her to get her permit… UGH.. the one thing I am dreading!

I signed her up this summer at a high school to take Drivers Education  for 4 hours a day for 3 weeks. She loves it. I want her to be taught properly the rules of the road and the law as well. She is really enjoying it and is getting school credit as well.

She is suppose to have a driving log, which means I am suppose to drive with her weekly. I told her that I don’t think I could do it. It just freaks me out the thought of her in that crazy traffic world. It’s scary for me. She has not clue how crazy and stupid other drivers are and that if she doesn’t drive defensively she could end up dead. I know she is excited and this is a big stage in her life, but Mom doesn’t like this stage of life. Mom wants her daughter safe at home. I know that isn’t realistic. Sooner or later, Olivia has to be able to live and deal with the real world.. ugly as it may be at times.

I told her I would pay for a driving school because I simply can not teach her myself. I am a nervous wreck and that will not help her while she is driving.

Funny thing is, now she corrects me when I drive. Maybe I need to go back to drivers ed?

Do you drive with your teen? Do they make you nervous?  Did you teach your teen to drive or do you think Driver’s Ed is the way to go?

 

A mother’s thoughts at her daughter’s high school graduation

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(Me and My Graduate!)

 

 

Years ago, I was driving home from work late at night and tears came to my eyes. A late-breaking news story had kept me in the office and I had missed the entire day with my baby daughter. As the sitter filled me in by phone on my baby’s day, I was overcome with guilt.

Eighteen years later: My daughter, wearing a cap and gown, enters the auditorium to Pomp and Circumstance to say goodbye to high school. That one day I missed with my baby long ago has become far less important, overtaken by a series of bigger moments that became the basis of our close relationship.

Around me, other parents also silently marvel at the swiftness of time and wonder if we have properly prepared our kids for their journey into the real world.

As mothers, our parenting “jobs’’ perhaps have been more complicated than those of generations past. Today, 68 percent of married mothers work outside the home (and among single, divorced or separated moms, it’s 75 percent).

Almost all working mothers and fathers, including myself, harbor some regret with our kids — a recital or tournament we missed, a day we sent our child to school with sniffles, that time we lost our temper after a difficult day at work. I regret field trips I couldn’t chaperone because of deadlines and car rides I spent on my cellphone with work instead of talking with my children.

As I surveyed fellow parents of graduates, I found that I wasn’t alone. The biggest regrets came from those who felt they shortchanged themselves by working too many hours, or sharing too little down time with their kids. Yet those at the other end of the spectrum who had devoted most of their time to kids also expressed angst; what will they do now?

If we have been good role-models, our success at combining work and family will inspire our children.

Dads like my husband, who balance work and coaching their children’s sports teams or sitting through recitals, face their teens’ graduation day with similar introspection. More fathers today want to be more involved with their children than in past generations, but they struggle to break free of the constant electronic communication that keeps them tied to their work. On this day, they tuck away their devices to relish the seemingly-fleeting time with their children.

I think about the candy sales, the mad dash to sports practice and the parent-teacher conferences that have been so much a part of my life in years past. As some of those activities fall off my calendar, I realize that my daughter and I are both moving on to new adventures and adjustments.

As she flips her tassel and heads off to college, I hope my daughter remembers not to accept what other people expect of her, to explore all options and do what she finds fulfilling. I have impressed upon her that hard work will beat out talent, that life never goes exactly as planned, and that it’s okay to make unpopular choices if she thinks they are right for her.

We all walk away from graduation with something. For some, it’s the lessons learned from juggling parenthood and careers. For me, it is motivation to appreciate the career and life choices I made and look ahead. The ultimate reward of working motherhood will be to watch my daughter pursue her passions — as I have mine — and to marvel at where the journey takes her.

 

At what age do boys notice girls?

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This past weekend, I was the water mom for my son’s lacrosse team. As I sat on the bench refilling water bottles, I listened as the 13-year-old boys were dissecting each play and how much game time each player was getting on the field. They were completely focused on the game — until a group of girls they knew came up behind them.

Because the bench was pushed back against a fence, the girls came up in a cluster and began flirting with the boys, urging them to come see their game. The entire bench of boys turned around to look at and talk to the flirty girls.

I found it amusing. The coach did not. “Girls, leave! You’re distracting my players,” he shouted.

My youngest son has noticed girls practically since birth. When he was only about three years old, I had to tell him to look older girls in the eye and not their chests. My older son really didn’t show an interest in girls until he was about 13. For him, that was the age when girls became less of an annoyance and more of a species that smells good and laughs at his jokes.

On the few forays I’ve had into relationship conversation with my older son, I’ve violated every basic rule of parental control, starting with “don’t give love advise to a teenager” and “keep the mood light.”

Some mothers will tell me their maturing son shows no interest in girls and wonder at what age that will change. They ask me if they should bring it up. I’m sure each kid is different, but when it happens, moms usually figure it out. All of a sudden, your son is putting on the Axe, brushing his hair and staring when an attractive girl walks by.

I’m worried that there’s some secret love advice I should be passing on (Be a gentleman? Don’t be patronizing? Text? Call?) 

Frankly, I‘d like my 13-year-old son to stay young, focused on the game and facing forward on the bench for many more years. But reality has hit and there’s no going back. He notices girls and so do most of his friends and teammates.

What age do you remember taking an interest in the opposite sex? Was there any love advice your parent gave you that you plan to pass on?

 

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