Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

Video games are driving me crazy!

boys on xbox

“Get that guy! Nice shot! These phrases along with other yells and screams have been the background noise of my home this summer.

Video games are driving me crazy!

For some reason, when my sons have friends over, video games become the immediate entertainment. I know there is some benefit: it must help with hand eye coordination.  There may even be skill involved. It’s just that there so much noise from the soundtrack of the games and from  kids screaming at the screen that it makes me insane. Then, there’s the arguing about who gets the control next and who had the highest score.

It’s not only the actual playing into the wee hours of the night that’s driving me crazy. It’s the content, too.

Video games have been at the center of conflict between me and my sons this summer. Recently, my 14 year-old-son, Garret, and I had a battle at GameStop. He wanted to buy an M-rated video game and needed my permission. I asked the guy who works there why the game is rated M. He explained it is because of the extreme violence and scantily clad women with  big breasts jiggling committing destructive acts of terror. We left the store without the game!

The next day, I overhead my son plotting with his now 18-year-old brother, Jake, to take him to GameStop. It sent me on a rampage, screaming at my sons and asking why these games need to be so violent and why they need to feature half-naked women .  I have to give it to Jake, he explained it to me in terms I could easily understand. “Mom, their target market is horny 18-year-old boys!”

Action games with big battles are incredibly exciting, but it seems like the video game industry assumes girls don’t play them. There are not many female heroes in games. In a lot of video games, the default character is a guy. If you want to play as a female character, it’s not easy. Often you have to pay. That makes me furious. My boys don’t seem to be bothered by that — at all.

Last year, when I moved my daughter into her college dorm, I noticed the boys across the hall had not unpacked a single item of clothing or even made up their beds. Instead, they were deeply engrossed in playing Xbox. I recognized the  sounds coming from their room: “No way! You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s bullshit!” …. I turned to my daughter and said, “I guess Xbox even follows teens to college!”

Recently, when the sounds of explosions and gunfire from Xbox had give me a giant headache, I told my sons and their friends to go outside and play basketball or good old-fashioned hide and seek. Their response was to continue playing. It seems these all-consuming video games make it difficult to hear a mother’s voice.

Now school starts and we go back to homework and activities, the Xbox will go into hibernation mode. I will miss the lack of routine, but I will not miss the sounds that emanated from my playroom this summer. I realize I can’t fight the video game generation or the superfans the video game developers are targeting, but I can insist that school and homework come first. Most importantly, I have a shot at restoring some peace and quiet at home and I plan to take it. Score one for mom!

Let’s call them “Generation Strike A Pose”

I am on vacation, on top of a volcanic rock, and my daughter has given me her iPhone to take her photo. She is posing in an Instagram-worthy way, but I am realistic enough by now to know I will never be able to capture the pose to her liking.

On the occasions that I have tried to play photographer, my daughter has deleted my subpar attempts and replaced them with a more likeable shot that better captures her pose, usually a pic that another teen or sibling has snapped.

If you have ever browsed your teen’s Instagram feed or followed a teen on your own account, you will know the like-worthy poses my daughter and her peers aim to capture on their smartphone screens — the glamourous girl hand on hip shot, the lips pursed and eyes wide shot or the cool dude holding up two fingers in a  peace sign  shot.

As a mother of teens, I have learned that any location can instantly become a photo shoot. I might be driving along, transporting my  daughter and her friends somewhere when suddenly my backseat becomes a studio. The flash goes off over and over while my teen passengers mug for the camera. Watching them strike a pose, snap, delete, snap again and post, I wonder about the future for a generation that tries so hard to be viewed in a picture perfect way.

I think about the little camera with a disposable flash bulb that I had as teen. I remember how it took weeks to finish off the film, get it developed and either happily slip the glossy  3 x 5  into a photo album or tear it up and lose the paper memory forever. Unlike my teens, I didn’t walk around all the time with my pocket camera, and picture taking wasn’t an everyday  or every hour event. But then again, my friends weren’t glued to their smartphones giving likes to my newest selfie within seconds of posting.

One mother recently wrote on her blog: “I doubt there’s been a day in the past two years when I haven’t argued with my teenage daughter about the amount of time she spends taking selfies and posting them online.” The mom says she can’t understand why her selfie obsessed daughter can’t just smile and instead has to pout provocatively or make the duck face.
When Madonna belted out Strike a pose, Strike a pose.. .Vogue, vogue  it’s as if  she was speaking directly to the selfie generation. So I have to ask, is all the posing and posting harmless, or have we birthed a generation that is preoccupied with being camera ready?

By some miracle, my daughter has deemed my photo of her on the volcanic rock to be Instagrammable. While I gloat over my success, I’m hold firmly to my inclination that picture snapping has taken on way too much importance in our teens’ lives. What are your thoughts on Generation Strike a Pose? Are they engaged in harmless fun, or obsessed with their online appearance?

“Now that I am 18..”

Well, my teenager daughter finally reached a milestone.. she turned 18!

She could not wait for the day she was legally an adult. The first thing she did.. buy a lottery ticket! That was the rite of passage to adulthood. She could go to the counter and ask for a scratch off. Oh, the freedom!

The day after her birthday, her voter’s registration card came in. The joy she felt now that she could vote, and that her opinion mattered to the world was so amazing. It was wonderful seeing the things we take for granted as full-grown adults versus the outlook of new adult entering the world. I have to admit, it was sweet and cute at the same time.

It wasn’t too long after that Olivia began reminding me that “now that I am 18..”, as if the rules changed, as if life would change, as if things would be different now. Did I miss something? Yes, you are correct Olivia, there will be changes. You can now legally vote. You can get arrested as an adult. You can buy a lottery ticket. You don’t need my permission legally for anything.  I need your permission to talk to doctors about your health or your health bills, and the list goes on and on. I didn’t understand the big deal of her wanting to be an adult so fast. I kept telling her, “Olivia, why are you in such a rush to grow up? Enjoy life. Stop and smell the roses.” She didn’t buy it. Maybe someday she will.

I did remind her that even though she was 18 and legally an adult, she was still my daughter and still had to follow the house rules, or she could go live somewhere else. I told her she had to respect the house rules whether she was 8, 18, 28 or 58.  Being an adult is knowing the difference between disrespect and respect and behaving in an appropriate adult, mature manner.

Eighteen is just a number. At 18,  you are legally an adult, but you are still a kid with a lot of growing up to do.  I told Olivia, “you are still my daughter and I will still discipline you no matter how old you are.” You don’t stop being a parent because your child is an adult. You never stop. The worries just get bigger.

The week of her birthday, Olivia decided to watch home videos of herself with her cousin, Amanda, and her brother, Matthew. I loved hearing her laugh out loud at how precocious and vain she was at such a young age. She loved hearing herself talk as a child and the crazy adorable things she would say. I think it was at that moment she realized that being a child wasn’t so bad — no worries, no drama, no responsibilities, just silliness and laughter.

That same week, we went to her annual physical to her pediatrician she has been going to since she was six months old. She told me, “Now that I am 18, I want to go to an adults’ doctor office, not a kids’ one.” I said fine. Well, her pediatrician congratulated her on turning 18 and  told her she could continue to go there until she was 21. Olivia said, “No it’s ok.” The doctor then proceeded to tell her how she looks amazing and takes great care of herself and how she remember when she was a baby and all the times she would come into the office. After the doctor left, Olivia said to me, “Mom, I think I am going to stay here after all. I like this doctor a lot.” I told her that was a smart adult decision.

Having your child turn 18 doesn’t mean the rough teen years are over. It just means the crazy adult ones are coming!

So, I ask all the parents out there, how was it when your teen turned 18? How did they react to becoming legally an adult? How did you react?

The Danger of a Screenshot

My youngest son, Garret, celebrated his 14th birthday last weekend with a pool party. At one point during the party, I noticed all the boys were huddled looked at something on a cell phone. They were laughing and acting suspicious, so I asked what was going on. I got the usual answer “nothing.”

After the party, I asked my son again what the huddling was all about. He told me that one of the girls in his grade had posted a “booty shot” on Instagram. She had deleted the photo from Instagram a minute or two after posting it, but by then, one of the boys had taken a screenshot. The boy then forwarded the photo to all his friends, my son included.

I asked him to let me see it, and when I did, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a picture of a 14-year-old girl on a pool ledge taken from behind —  with her bikini bottom riding up her butt crack. No wonder the boys were mesmerized!

It was at that moment that I realized how the screenshot has changed our teens’ lives. All it takes is an instant to capture an inappropriate photo and blast it out to others. Once a teen posts something (or anyone for that matter) it’s out there. Even Snapchats that disappear after 10 seconds don’t really go away when a screenshot can capture the moment for eternity.

There is no such thing anymore as going back and deleting something off the Internet! That’s so scary to me!

I tried to use this opportunity to teach my son that putting ANYTHING inappropriate on the Internet is a risk. I explained to him the concept of thinking before you post and explained how adults are losing their jobs, their reputations and their families over something they post without thinking first. My son’s argument: “All the girls post booty shots mom. Why are you making a big deal?” (When I Googled teen booty shots, dozens of images came up)

“Maybe they do,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean they are using good judgment.”

I’m just not sure my son or his friends get it. When teens live their lives on social media, desperate for likes, I’m not sure that they fear the screenshot as much as they should.

Still, I haven’t given up trying to get my point across.

Have you had any situations like this? Do you think your teen knows what is inappropriate to post online?

Below is a real example from the Internet (one of the more milder ones):

teenbutt

Why high school graduation is tough for parents

grad2

 

The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it’s true. It’s emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.

Eighteen years later, a parent feel as emotional on graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life — maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, graduation day catches us off guard. Tonight, my oldest son, Jake, will graduate from high school and while he prepares for the pomp and circumstance with excitement, I face it with a strange feeling.

I wonder if other parents feel as I do. Part of it is bewilderment, the feeling that 18 years went by and I can’t account for every day of those years. Part of it is fear, the feeling that I am getting older and entering a new phase in my life as my son is entering one in his and I don’t know how it will play out. Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for him, which I have learned from benefit of hindsight. Of course, part of it is pride,  the feeling that I have shaped another human being and guided him to this day of accomplishment.

From having an older daughter, I know this life event is pivotal. Regardless of whether your son or daughter goes to college, high school graduation marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen differently,  You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level.

As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leaves home. It’s not easy but  you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only sit back and hope for the best.

As I head into the auditorium tonight, I will look around the room and see the faces of little boys who played dodgeball in my backyard, now young men who shave, and drive, and like my son are leaving home to go make their way in the world.

Somehow, I feel as if watching them graduate will be happening in slow motion. I  honestly can’t see the road ahead for any of us. But as strange as that is, it is also freeing. The responsibility for making sure my son’s homework is done, he gets to his activities on time and he gets to bed at a decent hour is behind me. Tonight my son graduates, and in many ways, so do I. There’s an interesting path ahead for both of us and tonight we are one step closer to taking it.

Teens who text while driving

One day my son came home with a dilemma. He asked a friend for a ride home from high school. Although she was doing him a favor, she began texting while driving and he didn’t know what to do. When he told me, I could understand his reluctance to speak up, but I explained that saying something could save both their lives. Teens today just have a hard time staying off their phones.

Our guest blogger today, Donna Fitzgerald, has an interesting perspective to share on teaching teens about texting and driving.  She is the mother of two teenage daughters, Chloe and Stephanie.

 

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Here is Donna’s perspective:

Raising teenage daughters can be tough- and overcoming the challenges of keeping your children safe when they first begin driving can be difficult. With the current age, teens are over-connected with their social networking platforms, through the constant use of smart phones. With new drivers, its often challenging to have our teens pay more attention to the road, than their phone.

I am saddened when I learn of teens who were severely injured, or lives were taken because of automobile accidents. Majority of the time, the teen was either texting on their phone, or engaging in some other type of distracting behavior. Usually, these accidents are very preventable and should be of more concern to parents raising teens today.

The task of having the first talk with your teens, to discuss the serious consequences of texting and driving can be overwhelming. You might ask yourself- where do I begin? Will my child take me seriously? How do I effectively communicate how serious texting and driving can be? With the teenage mindset, (my own daughters included) most of our children believe they have all the knowledge in the world regarding the seriousness of texting and driving.

I too, was a parent who struggled to have my two teenage daughters listen, and seriously comprehend my conversation with them regarding the topic. Most of the time, my daughter would say “Mom- I would never text and drive,” or, “Mom- do you actually think something like that could happen to me?” In reality, we are all thinking- Yes, it could happen to you (and you are wishing your teens would take you seriously)!

Recently, to overcome this sometimes extremely difficult conversation to have, I came across a resource designed to assist parents in communicating effectively with their teens. The resource, How to Talk to Teens about Distracted Driving, gave me excellent tips on ways that I can protect my two daughters as they begin driving. The guide was extremely easy to navigate, and extremely beneficial for helping your teens take you more seriously.

In my experience, one of the greatest and most compelling areas of the resource guide that my two daughters found useful (and actually listened to) was the section video titled “One Text, Two Lives – The consequences of Texting and Driving.” The video is located under the Q & A Section of the website.

Be sure to visit the site for tips regarding initiating the very important conversation with your teens. The site even features a section for teenagers regarding what they can do to protect their friends while driving.

My son wants to look like Zac Efron

zac

 

Zac Efron, you are making my parenting job difficult.

After watching you rip your shirt open on the MTV movie awards to reveal your amazing six pack abs,  my 13-year-old son has become obsessed with working out.

While it’s certainly good to be in shape, I’m concerned. Exercise is good. Obsession with body image is not.

As soon my son he returns from the small gym in our neighborhood, he asks me to feel his muscle. Ugh. What’s coming next? Will he ask me to buy him muscle shirts?

Maybe if Zac Efron didn’t get a crazy amount of media coverage every time he went shirtless, my son would think it’s okay to be fit without being ripped.

Anyone who thinks body image is just a teen girl issue doesn’t have a son. As one recent article I read pointed out: The terms ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ are not just descriptors of weight and size, they become descriptors of character. “A boy who is skinny is associated with being weak or small or maybe they are teased and called a ‘girl.’ A boy who is fat is associated with being lazy or unsuccessful.”

For some boys the obsession with bulking up has them turning to steroids, protein powders and all kinds of muscle-enhancing concoctions. Last night when my son came home from the gym, I talked to him about using exercise as a way to relieve stress and stay fit and warned him against getting preoccupied with muscles.

Of course, what teen boy listens to mom when bare-chested men with impossibly chiseled physique are they guys in the movies and on television scoring with the ladies?

So Zac Efron, please put your shift back on and use your personality to charm the ladies. It might not get you as much attention but it might help our sons realize they have more to offer than six-pack abs.

Parents, have you noticed boys becoming more obsessed with body image? How have you handled talking to your son about it?

 

What to expect from prom

prom

 

 

Ugh, it’s prom season.

Parents, get ready to open your wallet, suffer through emotional turmoil, and make some tough judgment calls.

My second time around, I’m an experienced prom parent. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ve discovered there are many components to the prom experience. If you’re a first timer, I ‘m going to share so you, too, are as prepared as possible. Remember, you can never be fully prepared.

Here’s what to expect:

Step one: The ask. If you’re the parent of a boy, get ready to help brainstorm a creative way to ask a date to prom. What? Did you just suggest a simple ask? (Eye roll, that’s not happening!) Today, asking a date to prom involves some grand gesture that could range from a surprise serenade to extravagant sign in the cafeteria to PROM? spelled out on a pizza. Promposals are a big deal and they are only getting bigger because they are getting share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My son told me his girlfriend already has a dress. Yet, I’ve spent the last week trying to help him come up with a creative promposal. Things were soooo much simpler when I was in high school!

Step two: The ticket, clothing, the limo.

Get ready to shell out some serious cash. I feel fortunate that my second child is a boy. Buying that dress last year was emotionally and financially draining. By the way, lots have changed since you went to prom and simply bought a dress from the department store. Today’s dress stores  now have a registry of each high school and they won’t sell the same dress to more than one girl at each school. The girls also post pics on Instagram to stake their claim to a particular dress. Don’t think you’re finished once the dress is bought and the pic is posted. Your daughter will need earrings, shoes, and her hair styled. She also will need her nails done.  Parents of boys, you will come to discover that tuxedos cost a pretty penny too. (Look for coupons!) While tuxedos are still mainly a rental item, boys are investing in high-end accessories, such as bow ties, suspenders and silk pocket squares seen on celebrities or sports figures. A survey out this week estimates teens with spend an average of $919 on prom this year. Yes, I know, it’s ridiculous!

Step three: The photos

Pre-prom now require a picture spot and lots of tissues. A lot has changed since we snapped a few photos on the way out the door. Picture taking is a highly orchestrated gathering of teens and their weepy parents. This is an Instagram extravaganza where pics are posted almost as quickly as they are taken. A some point, the limo or party bus arrives, teens jam inside and parent stay behind stunned, talking amongst themselves about how quickly time has passed and how grown up everyone looked formally attired. This is when the tissues come in handy.

Step four: The after party.  The hotel, the alcohol, the indigestion.

No one goes straight home from prom. Most couples and their friends rent a suite at a hotel or spend the night at a designated friend’s house. Some kids drink. Some kids throw up. Hope yours is not one of them.

Step five: The recovery

The next day, your child will arrive home. You will ask how prom was and they will reply with a sleepy grunt. You will ask again. They will slip under their covers and go to sleep. They will wake up and you will ask again. You may get some small details, but not the comprehensive account of the evening you as the parent so desperately want to hear. You will think you will get more details over time. You won’t.

 

That’s the prom experience from my perspective. I hope I have prepared you!

 

Lose your virginity to a friend or boyfriend?

Recently my daughter Olivia and I had a conversation about sex and she happened to mention to me  that “it is better to lose your virginity to a friend than someone you care about and get your heart-broken.” She went on to tell me, “I know girls who lost their virginity to someone they care about or their boyfriend and they ended up getting their heart crushed. It’s not worth it. If you lose it to a friend you won’t get hurt.”  WHAT????

How do I even comprehend or answer that? I was speechless. I could NOT relate to that. I told her that it seemed very impersonal and cold when you are giving the most valuable thing you have to someone.

She responded: “Mom, are you kidding? This isn’t when you went to school and you had to be in love. No girl wants to do that and get hurt.” I told her,  “It seems like you are just having sex and not being intimate. I hope you are not just having sex all the time with friends.

She explained that teens are being cautious with their feelings and their body and they would rather give themselves to someone who won’t use or hurt them. I guess I have to respect the fact that they care enough about themselves not to just give  the sex away like a hug.

I am old-fashioned I know.  I told Olivia no matter what, never sacrifice your morals or the one thing she controls .. her self-respect!

This is  such a touchy subject to many parents, and you may choose not talk about it with your teen. But know that they are doing it, so being in denial does you no good.  Knowledge is power. I need my daughter to be able to talk to me about anything so she won’t turn to someone else when she needs someone to talk to about things.

I didn’t like talking about this subject with my daughter. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but  at least I now know how she thinks about sex and that she does care about her self respect — even if it’s not in the fashion my generation would have done it.

So parents, I am interested in your thoughts on this. I am curious if your teen has shared the same views.  Have you talked with your teen about his or her thoughts on first time sexual experiences?

 

How Parents Can Survive College Admissions Madness

 

 

 

college

 

As a mother of a high school senior who is waiting to hear from colleges about acceptances, I really appreciated this article in the New York Times called How to Survive the College Madness. It talks a lot about how getting into your first college of choice shouldn’t define who you become.

Here’s a link to the article:

As part of the article, author Frank Bruni includes a letter from parents’ to their son regarding college acceptances and rejections. It struck a chord with me and I want to share it with all of you who will someday be in these parents’ shoes like I am right now.

Dear Matt,

On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted — and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided.

If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them.

We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again — and to wherever you are headed.

Mom and Dad

 

 

 

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