Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

Young teens and older siblings

When I was in middle school, my older sister took me shopping for makeup. At the time, I didn’t have much interest in it, but my sister had started wearing eyeshadow and blush and thought I should wear it too. I handed over my entire week’s allowance to the cashier for a blue eyeshadow kit that I didn’t know how to use but desperately wanted to wear to be as cool as my sister.

brothersThis summer, I’ve seen the same pattern with my youngest son. He wants to be a part of everything his brother is doing.  His brother is four years older and in college. So are his brother’s friends.  That makes everything they do or say intriguing.

Some days, I’m thrilled that my older son includes his younger brother when he goes with friends to the beach or the gym. However, sometimes I worry about it, and I even try to discourage it. There’s a big difference between high school and college and the conversations that take place among boys about drinking and girls and parties and “hooking up.”  When my older son wanted to go play poker with his friends and invited his younger brother to come along, I wouldn’t let him go. I encouraged the younger one to make plans with friends his own age.

As a parent, I now see from a different perspective how much a younger sibling can look up to an older sibling the good and bad that goes along with it. Inevitably, a younger sibling will be more advanced because of an older sibling’s influence. But I’m struggling with when that’s okay and when it isn’t.

Should you let your younger daughter wear makeup or high heels at an early age because she sees her older sister doing it? Should you let your younger daughter in middle school go to a high school party with her older brother?

These are tough judgment calls for parents of teens. The influence of older siblings is undeniable, and that can be  good . However, there are privileges and age-appropriate behaviors that will come to younger siblings in time and it’s sometimes it takes tough parenting to make them realize they aren’t ready for them yet.

A few years ago, my younger son begged to go with his older brother to an R-rated movie. I would never have said yes to my older son when he was the same age. But with both boys begging, I caved.  When my younger son came home talking about the explicit sex scenes, I realized I had made a mistake.  I want to protect my younger child’s innocence and often find doing so is a battle that’s hard to win.

Over time, I’m learning that it’s OK for parents to treat their individual children differently, especially where age differences are concerned.  My 19-year-old son has earned the right to stay out until 1 p.m. on a weekend. My  15-year-old son has not.  I’ve had to explain to him that one day, he will get the privilege, too. Of course, that doesn’t sit well with him.

What are your thoughts on the influence of older siblings? Should parents  be worried about the effect that older children and their older interests have on young siblings? How have you handled the dynamics in your house, especially when a younger child is expressing interest in something that is not age-appropriate?

 

 

 

 

Help! My teenage son won’t get off the computer!

boy on computerSummer is here! The sun, the heat, the bbq’s, the beach,  the fun vacation time,  and for parents with teenage sons.. so is the all day video game playing and computer time!

I have to admit my 14-year-old son LOVES his online video gaming and spending time on the computer. He is literally on it for hours and hours! My biggest challenge with him is his screen time and trying to get him OUT OF HIS ROOM! I make deals with him in which he has to do the following:

  1. Read at least one chapter in his summer reading book a day
  2. Ride his bike/Go outside
  3. Visit his Nanny (great-grandmother)
  4. Spend time with his family
  5. Do his daily summer online virtual school homework for high school Spanish
  6.  Do an activity with friends

If he doesn’t do any of the above, his computer time gets reduced.

Let’s just say it’s a work in progress. He is only doing TWO of the items above so far so I have been reducing his computer. I do have to get on him to make sure meets the other items on the list. It’s not easy. To get his attention to do anything but play on the computer is a bit of a struggle.  Every day I make it a point to enter his room,  talk to him  and ask him how his day was spent. I also give him a hug and make sure he read and went outside.

I know it’s the summer and kids should do what they want, but I also believe teenage boys need to get out of their rooms!

This is a HUGE challenge for me so I am very open to any suggestions  you may have.

I have to say he has gone with his dad to the movies, he is spending the weekend at his grandmother’s and I am taking him to visit my cousin who will take him fishing.  We are trying but it’s not easy to engage a teenage boy!

Look forward to hearing your ideas and advice.

 

Mom versus Gramma

When your teens were babies, it was great having your mother-in-law or mom help you out.  As  you well know, you can never have enough help when you have a baby. The more hands the better.

Over the years, you appreciate the help, the babysitting, the spoiling with gifts etc. But, as your children become teens, the dynamics change and it becomes  mom vs. gramma. Often,  when your teen doesn’t like the rules or gets angry with you, he or she will call Gramma.  In other words, they don’t need to stay at home because they have Gramma’s house. Gramma will take my side. Gramma will make me feel better. Gramma will listen and understand.

That’s all fine and good UNTIL Gramma undermines mom and sides with your teen and enables your teen in a way that it justifies his or her disrespectful behavior. Basically, your teen wants someone to side with them and who better than Gramma.

Well, what your teen doesn’t realize is he or she should never underestimate mom. In the end, SHE IS YOUR MOM, Gramma is NOT. She will win, trust me.

Using Gramma against mom is not smart and Gramma should know that her  job should be to talk with your teen and reason with him or her to see what mom and dad  are trying to communicate or what lesson they are trying to teach.

What will make it worse is when Gramma starts fighting with mom because she agrees with your teen! Really? Who is the adult? Who is the teen? Now mom, has two people to deal with but,  mother-in-law dearest or mom should know better. How would they like it if you  or your husband did that when you were a child. It’s ridiculous that you now have to reason with your mother-in-law or mom when you shouldn’t have to! You have a teen to deal with!

Remember that help they gave you when your teen was a baby? Well, they certainly aren’t doing it now!

So, parents, teens, does this sound familiar? Do you have a mother-in-law/mom that makes matters worse? Do your teens run to Gramma whenever things get tough at home? What do you do to resolve this?

 

Signs your sweet baby boy has become a teenager

It’s 10 p.m. and my 15-year-old son Garret is still in the shower. He’s been in there for quite a while.  Music is blaring. Loud rap music. Very loud rap music. He is singing along like he’s the only person left on earth and no one can hear him.

For months, I’ve started to see the signs but I tried to ignore them. My sweet baby boy has become a teenager. A few days ago, he was with me in the supermarket and he asked me to buy him a razor. I looked at him puzzled. “What are you going to shave?” I asked him. “That little bit of peach fuzz above your lip?” He smirked a little and said, “I just want a razor.”

Last week, he asked to join a gym. He paid his own money to join for the summer and his brother has been taking him there. Every now and then, I catch him flexing his muscle, trying desperately to bulk up.

boy eatingAnd then there’s the non-stop eating. My always hungry growing boy is fully capable of finishing off as an afternoon  snack a whole lasagna or a giant sub sandwich that would have been dinner just a few years ago. I have become used to the continual question, “What’s for breakfast?” followed by “What’s for lunch?” and then an hour later, “What’s for dinner?”

A now, there’s the digital era sign of a teenage boy: flirting with girls on Snapchat. I’m driving along when I see my son next to me in the car making flirty faces into his phone. The first time, I questioned him: “What the heck are you doing?” Annoyed, he explained that he was sending a snapchat to some girl. By now, I am immune and don’t even ask anymore. I just assume that every car ride will involve selfies.

Lastly, there is the change in internal body clock. At night, my son goes to bed way later than I do (and I’m a night owl!) In the morning, I can’t get him up. Long gone are the days when he would pop up in the morning ready for the day ahead with a smile on his face. This morning, I woke him up at 10 a.m. and he groggily asked me why I was waking him up so early. I kid you not, when my older son was in high school, one summer day he slept until 3 in the afternoon. I was horrified!

As a mom, I know that watching your son grow up into a young man is a wonderful thing. But at the same time, it’s hard to see your baby boy mature before your eyes. It makes me feel old and miss the days when my son would cuddle with me and want me to tuck him in at night.  Some days, I want to hand him his Lightening McQueen toy cars and say “Remember these? Why can’t you be a carefree tot and play with these again?”

So parents, what are the signs you have seen that your son has become a teenager? Are they overt or subtle? As a parent, how have you handled the transition?

And that’s a wrap folks! Next stop..College bound!

My Olivia has graduated high school. Class of 2016 is moving on to bigger and brighter adventures!

I can’t believe when I first started this blog Olivia was  a young teenager and now she has graduated high school! I never thought this day would come with all the hurdles, challenges and obstacles we have had to overcome. This day seemed like an eternity away, and yet here it is. Next step.. college — an even bigger hurdle I am sure.

Olivia has been wanting to go to college the moment she started high school. She always wanted to be older and hurry life along. That has always been my challenge with her, to slow her down. I hope as she takes on the next chapter of her life, she has learned from her mistakes and will use those lessons to make smart choices and do well in college.

I asked Olivia how it felt to cross the stage and get her diploma. She said “amazing”. I told her, “Now imagine when you graduate college how that must feel. That’s what you need to achieve next.”

Now that Olivia is off to college, I am sure I will have much to blog about her adventures and dramas.  At the same time, my  14-year-old son Matthew will be starting high school in the fall.  Needless to say, I am far from over blogging on raising teens!

Who know what lies ahead? All I know is I am sure it won’t be dull and boring, just one big exciting rollercoaster ride. I just need to hold on tight and enjoy.

Next stop.. college!

Let me know how your high school graduation felt and about your teen’s new adventure to college.

 

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Letter to Mom from Son at Graduation

Just last year, I was one of the thousands of parents of a child who was graduating from high school and moving on to the next phase. It felt strange. I was happy and sad at the same time. I even felt a little lost and wondered what my home life would be like with one less child around. If you’re experiencing that right now, know that you are not alone.

Today, our guest blogger is Raffi Bilek, a former teenager and current parent of school-age children.  Raffi is a family counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, where he offers parenting workshops and counseling to parents, teens, and families. He loves his mom and wrote a letter to her from a teenage perspective. We enjoyed reading it and thought you would too.

Raffi sent a photo of him and his mom that he took on an instamatic camera. It’s not the best quality, but it gives a great feel for the sentiment he was experiencing at the time.

Me & Mom

Hi Mom,

Thanks for coming to this meeting.  I know you’re really busy with other projects but I’m glad we were able to take time out for this.

I figure the best way to do this is just be direct.  Mom, I’m downsizing.  Now that my corporation, Me, Inc., has been around nearly a decade and a half, it’s really become clear that we don’t need the complex management system we’ve had all this time.  You and Dad have been great managers, no doubt, but at this point, it’s really overkill.  In the past you’ve taken on a lot of different assignments around here, which have obviously shifted with the company’s needs over time, and just aren’t so relevant anymore.

Feeding and changing was a big one when we were just a tiny startup. Remember those days? Novice mistakes and setbacks, long hours, few days off if any… you sure put in a lot of time and effort, and I definitely want to appreciate what you did for the company back then, Mom.

Then there was scheduling and logistics for many years around playdates, school, baseball practice, dentist appointments.  You’ve certainly survived a lot of conflicts between the staff of Me, Inc., and your upper management team. And let’s not forget your expert direction of Me, Inc.’s Food Services Unit, your leadership in running the infirmary, and your clever efficiency improvements in areas ranging from Tantrum Weatherization to Homework Completion to Household Budgeting.

Yep, you’ve worn many hats around here.  But the point is, it’s just becoming less and less necessary.  As the founder and president of Me, Inc., I see the need for your skills dropping off as we move ahead into the bright future of adolescence.  So, like I said, I’m downsizing. I’m afraid that, effective immediately, you and Dad are no longer managers at Me, Inc.

I know this comes as kind of a shock to you, but in truth, the signs have been all over the place for some time now.  You’ve gotten a bit behind the times and have failed to notice the shifting winds that started in the pre-teen years.  You sometimes treat me like a startup instead of the burgeoning corporation that I am, and it has kind of gotten in the way of progress.

Look, it’s not as bad as it seems.  After all, this is really what you’ve always wanted – an independent, growing business that isn’t tied to your every move, that can function and even expand even when you’re not at the office.  I’m sure you’ve had retirement in the back of your mind all along (even if you thought it was in the distant future).

And, just as importantly, please note that I said we no longer need your skills.  But the truth is – and the guys in the back room will kill me if they ever heard me saying this – Me., Inc. really still needs you.  We need what you have to offer – your knowledge, your years of experience, and not least your moral support.

So, think of this as a door opening, not a door closing.  Take some time off to come to terms with being laid off.  I know it isn’t easy.  But when you’re ready to shift roles, I’ll tell you what – Me, Inc. really needs a good consultant or two.  We need someone who can help guide the company from the sidelines while taking a much more hands-off approach.  Someone who knows the company inside and out.  Someone who really cares about the company’s growth and success.

I think you’ll be great for the job.

Raffi

Please re-subscribe to RaisingTeensBlog

Hi Raising Teen Blog readers,

We don’t know about you, but we are more than ready for the school year to be over. And then …. summer!

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We look forward to lots of conversation and sharing with you on the hot summer days ahead!

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Should you let your teen drink alcohol?

alcohol at prom

 

This time of year, the topic of teens and alcohol  comes up more often. There are after-prom parties and after-graduation parties and end-of-year parties and most of them involve drinking alcohol.

As a parent,  do you forbid your teen from underage drinking? Do you say it’s okay for him or her to drink as long as he or she doesn’t drive? Do you explain what drinking in moderation is all about? Do you trust your teen to know his or her limit?

There are many different points of view on the answers to those question. One mom I know bought the alcohol for her daughter’s after prom party and told me she would rather buy it, serve it and monitor it than have the kids sneak it and drink irresponsibly. Another mom forbid her daughter from drinking at prom, but her daughter did anyway and lied about it. (The mom found out through someone else at the prom)

For parents, there really is no single correct  way to deal with teens and alcohol, and there is a lot at stake.  I think the important thing is the conversation you have with your teen about the consequences of driving drunk, losing your inhibition around the opposite sex, and drinking to excess.  Now, there’s also the risk of someone posting drunken photos of your teen on social media. So, I guess that needs to be discussed, too.

There’s also the tricky question for parents of whether to drink around your teen. How do you handle it when they want a sip of what you are drinking? My 14-year-old son always asks for a sip of beer when my husband is drinking it.  So far, my husband has been giving it to him. But I’m worried that soon he’s going to ask for his own bottle.

Parents, what are your experiences with your teens and drinking? How have you been dealing with the end of the year celebrations and alcohol? Have any of you ever bought alcohol for your teens to drink at prom? If so, how did that work out?

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

 

 

 

 

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