Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

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Star says rehab is like summer camp: lots of teens

Kristen Johnston was 28 she was cast as John Lithgow’s co-star in the runaway hit sitcom, 3rd Rock From the Sun. Suddenly famous, she says was unprepared to handle the overnight fame. She turned to alcohol and pills. After popping an endless array of pain pills, she almost died in a London hospital when an ulcer in her stomach exploded. She spent two months in the hospital.

Kristen says biggest shock to her when she went to rehab was that it looked like a summer camp: lots of teenagers. She asked about it and one of the counselors said this is what all rehabs look like.

Wow! Kristen says she discovered 1 in every 3 teens meets the medical criteria for addiction and 1 in every 70 teens will go to rehab. Coincidentally, the New York Times ran a piece on Sunday about teen use and abuse of the Adderall, an amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Teens routinely pop these pills to study late into the night, focus during tests and get better grades. It’s happening the most among highly competitive students.

Kristen reveals some interesting stats on rehab: Eighty percent of rehabilitated teenagers who return to a regular high school will relapse within 90 days.

Johnston said her discovery led her to found the nonprofit, SLAM (Sobriety, Learning and Motivation). “We’re really devoted to making New York City’s first sober high school.” There are 25 of these schools across the country, but New York is not one of them. At a recovery school, 70 percent of rehabilitated teens will graduate clean and sober.

Did you know the rate of substance abuse and addiction was this high in teens? Would you know the warning signs if you saw them in your teen?

School is out. Now, what to do with your teen?

I know school is out and summer is here and that is all fine and dandy however, for moms with teens it can only mean one thing.. how to keep your teen busy and out of trouble!

I have my teenager going to NY to visit her cousin and family for 2 weeks. I started doing this 2 years ago when she turned 13. My parents use to send me to NY to stay with my cousins and family and I LOVED it! I had so much fun. I would send her up for more time, but if you recall she is working now. Not many hours due to her age but still, a responsibility and opportunity for her to make $.

When your child becomes a teenager they no longer want to go to camp because they are too old for that but they can become CIT’s, Counselor’s in Training.

Your goal is to keep your teen busy so they can stay out of trouble right? How do you do that? By having them work, visit and stay with out-of-town family, go on family vacation, playing summer sports etc…

My daughter, just made the 16 and under travel soccer team which is a year round sport, so she will be practicing with her team over the summer. Again, your goal is to keep your teen busy so they stay out of trouble and you don’t have to worry where they are, what they are doing and who they are with.

If they do stay home, set rules and boundaries up front so  both you and your child are ok with summer expectations… (going to beach with friends, going to pool party, going to the lake, going over a friends house to “hang out” etc..). If you are prepared up front, it eliminates disagreements and miscommunication and also make for a better summer vacation for your teen and a less stress one for you!

I am curious, what are your teen’s plans for the summer? What is your strategy? What is your plan? Any words of wisdom or great ideas you want to share with the rest of us pull your hair out teen parents?

What the snooze? Teens sleeping in class


My ego has been majorly deflated.

I’m a boring, old woman. That’s the only opinion I could possibly form of myself after speaking to a high school journalism class. I thought I was interesting. I had a jazzy Powerpoint presentation. I even had prizes to give out.

But mid-way into my presentation, I noticed a boy toward the back of the room who was sound asleep and snoring. Yikes! I had put him to sleep! I was horrified! Why was the teacher allowing this, I wondered?

That night, I told my kids what had happened. They informed me that kids sleep in every one of their classes every single day.  That shouldn’t have surprised me — but it did.

I immediately called my sister, a high school teacher, and asked her if students sleep in her class. Oh yes, she said. They sleep every day, in every class and teachers allow it because they get tired of fighting it, she explained.

Learning this, my ego has been slightly restored. But I now have a strong opinion about the need to make high school start later — 7:30 a.m. is just too early for teens whose body clocks keep them up late at night.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help launching into a lecture with my kids about how disrespectful snoozing in class is to teachers.

Parents, have your teens ever confessed to snoozing in school? Have you ever tried forcing them to go to bed earlier? If so, did it work?

Working at Publix UPDATE!

My 14 year old daughter Olivia has been working at Publix for over 2 months and I am happy to report, so far so good! Since she is only 14, she can only work weekends for a certain amount of hours. I have to admit I was a bit leery about how she would handle working and the responsibility behind it. She seems to like it but, I don’t know if that’s because her friends work there or she likes working there.

I do have to remind her every Thursday to check her weekend schedule so we can make sure she has a ride. She has auto deposit into a savings account I opened for her and anytime she wants money for something, I take it out of her account. She now has to think about it if something is that important that SHE has to pay for it. I think I am enjoying her working more than she is!!

At the beginning before she had auto deposit, she would forget to pick up her pay check for 2 -3 weeks. I asked her after her first paycheck, when she was getting paid and she didn’t know. I had to go into the store and pick up 3 paychecks!! Apparently she doesn’t need the money?! I asked her, “do you work for free? did you not think about collecting a paycheck after 2 weeks?” She laughed and realized how silly that was.

She came home last Sunday with a packet from work and said, “I can get benefits!” It was so cute to see her so excited to be able to get benefits. I looked at her and thought to myself, wow, she’s growing up before my eyes.

Next month she turns 15 which means she can work extra hours and that is perfect timing with the summer break.

I am proud of the way Olivia is handling the responsibility of working and I hope she continues on this path and see the rewards from working hard. I love this adventure I am taking with her and cant wait to see what’s in “store” for us.

Would love to hear how your teen is handling working. Do they like it? Hate it?

Parents of Grads: What would you do differently?


Last night, I watched the two-hour special edition of Glee.  Seeing the students of McKinley High getting ready to graduate, about to head off to follow their education and their dreams made me tear up. I know my time is coming soon to send my oldest off to college and as a parent, I’m not ready.

This year, I began changing as a parent. I have a high school freshman and sophomore and when I saw my teens becoming more independent, I began to give them some room to mature. I watch my friends’ children and my nephew making college plans and securing their dorm assignments and I’m realizing that my time to influence my teens on a daily basis will be short-lived.

I’ve been asking my peers with kids off at college what they would have done differently as parents, what lessons they feel they may have neglected to teach their kids. Do their kids know how to do laundry, address an envelope, make a homemade meal? Do they know how to change a flat tire, french braid hair, write a check or keep tabs on the balance of a checking account?

Suddenly, I feel pressure. I know it’s the big lessons that count the most — how to be a good friend, how to be an ethical student or employee, how to communicate with someone rather than shut them out. But the small things count too.

So for those of you who have sent a high school graduate off to college or into the real world, what would you have done differently before they left? What lessons about work and life should I cram into the next two years before my oldest child graduates?


Teens using Facebook as a Diary Can Become a Nightmare

A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago to ask me what was going on with my son. She said he posted something kind of depressing on Facebook. Truthfully, I hadn’t been paying much attention to his postings so I quickly went online to check.

He had posted something about feeling really lonely and alone after breaking up with his girlfriend and then asking a girl out and being turned down. I could understand his sadness but I was horrified over making his feelings so public. I saw a few comments below the post and they weren’t particularly kind. I immediately got into his account deleted the post.

That’s when I began to wonder….Do teens understand that Facebook isn’t a diary? Do they realize that using it like a diary opens them up to kids they may barely know commenting publicly on their feelings? What a nightmare that could be!

Later that day, I sat down with my son. I handed him a small notebook to use as a diary and explained the difference between it and Facebook. I told him Facebook is a place to post things that he’s doing, places he visits or songs he likes, stuff like that…a place for fun and keeping up with friends.Then, I explained the diary was a place he could write his feelings, which are personal.

I think the problem is there is no rule book for Facebook and teens are trying to figure it out on their own. I just read a WSJ article about tweens whose parents wouldn’t let them have a Facebook account so they found ways around it by finding new social media sites unsupervised by their families. Does it surprise you that a recent survey found a third of teens say their parents don’t know what they do online?

Is it really possible to anticipate how our teens will use social media? Should I have sat down with my son years ago when he first got on Facebook and explained in more detail how to use it? Have you run into problems with the way your teen has used Facebook?


Do we confess our own poor choices?

When I was 16, I chugged wine coolers with my friends on the beach. Lots of wine coolers. We had no designated driver.  On the ride home, we sang at the top of our lungs to the blaring radio, further distracting the already drunk driver maneuvering the streets of Miami with a carload of teens.

Do you ever think about some of the things you did as a teen and cringe?


Even worse, have you ever been caught in a conversation like this:

“Mom, what age were you when you first had sex?”


“Mom. Be serious.”

At some point, as parents of teens, you will reflect on your own poor choices and wonder how you ever made it through the teen years alive. And then, you will be forced to confront them when queried by your teen who inevitably will toss an incriminating question your way when you least expect it.

Lately, I’ve resorted to mumbling my response. It’s the coward’s way out but at least it’s a language my teen son understands.

I’ll be doing the dishes and he’ll blind side me with something like, “Have you ever smoked?”

Me: grumble, grumble, grumble.

Him: Oh.

Then, if you’re like me, you will wonder when your child’s real mother will show up. You know, the one with the flawless past who did everything exactly the way you’re telling your teen to do it.

So, while I don’t advocate lying to your teen, I do suggest being prepared. Teens will use parents as their guideposts and they seem to sniff when we are BSing them.

Recently, Madonna said on TV that she’s horrified that her daughter Lourdes was photographed smoking a cigarette. She said she thinks she may need to become a tougher parent.

Then NBC correspondent Harry Smith brought up a music video of Madonna, ahem, smoking, to which she responded: “I don’t smoke. That’s just an accessory, Harry. There’s a difference.”

Apparently, Lourdes didn’t think so.

Readers, how honest are you with your kids about your teen indiscretions? Do you skirt around the tough questions or confess and offer an explanation? Do you think your teen would buy into a do-as-I-say-not -as-I-did approach to parenting?

Is it EVER going to get easier?

I am sitting here during my lunch hour at work contemplating how my husband and I are going to deal/handle yet another “drama” with our daughter, Olivia. Just when I think there’s hope, the mask comes off and here comes reality staring me in the face.

I just grounded Olivia.

I decided to type up a contract that basically lists what she is grounded from, why she’s grounded and how she can get all her privileges back. One of the items on the list was that I decided to turn off Olivia’s cell phone until her father and I see changes in her. We want to see that she is focused on what’s important, like school!
I understand Olivia is a “typical teenager.”  But, after a while, that phrase just doesn’t cut it anymore. That excuse has been overused. I know I will get a call from her friend’s phone telling me her phone is not working. When I tell her I shut it off, she will of course say “why”?
I am hoping this “contract’ will help Olivia get back on track. She has too many distractions and it’s my job as her parent to eliminate them and get her focused.
I wish there was a book that could give parents the answers whenever we have issues with our teenagers because raising them is not getting any easier as they get older!

So parents of older teens, I ask you.. “Is it EVER going to get easier?” How long do I have to wait?

Why I’m considering a teen driving contract

My stomach has been in knots since last Monday when my daughter got her driver’s license. She has taken to the streets — in my car!!!

I’m a wimp. I hate her out on the road. Since she got her license a week ago, I’ve only let her use my car to go on short errands. Slowly, I’m getting used to the idea that she’s behind the wheel of my car without my supervision.

Recently, a mom in my neighborhood mentioned she made her son sign a contract when he got his license and a car. I thought that was a great idea and asked my neighbor for a copy of the contract. She hasn’t shared it with me yet.

But in the meantime, an email landed in my inbox that convinced me this is something I need to do. These contracts are agreements between parents and teen driver that explain what to expect when the automobile is driven responsibly and when its driven by the teen driver irresponsibly.

“Teen Driving contracts are easy to create, and really do help save lives,” says Aurelia Williams of parentingmyteen.com.

Williams has provided a sample contract that you can use for your teen: Click here.

I’m going to modify the contract a little, playing up the no cell phone use a little stronger. But this sample is definitely a good starting point. If you teen isn’t driving yet, you might want to print this sample contract. I think it will prove to be helpful when the time arrives.

Parents, if you have a teen driving contract that differs from this sample, please share. If you are totally against the idea of a driving contract, let’s hear about that, too.




The Choking Game, what’s it all about?

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Oh no! Another thing for this stressed out mama to worry about: The Choking Game.

Do you know what the choking game is? I didn’t until I saw a report on ABC News and heard about it also on NPR this week. Apparently, this worry-worthy concern, the choking game, has become increasingly popular with 13 and 14 year olds.

Teens are learning how to play the choking game from YouTube videos and from their friends. As a parent, it’s scary as hell.  It makes me crazy that teens are always so eager to try things they think will make them seem cool.

Here’s the deal: Kids are choking themselves to feel that light headed sensation you would feel right before you pass out. It’s a way to get high without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. Once a teen succeeds in getting high the first time, they usually try again, and some times, they go too far, killing themselves or causing brain damage.

Parents whose kids have died from it say they wish they had seen the signs –bruising or red marks around the neck, headaches and bloodshot eyes.  The thing about the choking game is “it’s practiced by ‘good kids’ who do not want to do drugs so they perceive that this is a ‘legal’ way to get high.”

Here is a website that describes it in detail.  I bet your teen knows exactly what it is. But do you think they know how deadly it can be? Doctors believe most kids who play it have no idea of the risks.

Just figured as long as I’m talking to my kids about it, you might want to do the same.



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