Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Parent Perspective (page 1 of 12)

Should a Teen Sleep Over a Boyfriend’s or Girlfriend’s House?

Nearly two years ago I (Raquel) wrote a blog that surprised me as it resulted in the largest response I had ever had. The topic? Should teens that are dating be allowed to sleep at each other’s house and have a boyfriend/girlfriend teen sleepover? This blog post resulted in almost 150 comments, from parents and teens!

I honestly can say I did not expect such a huge response. But I was so happy to touch upon a subject that clearly needed to be talked about. I sure hope I helped some parents and teens with this difficult conversation. Given the high level of interest in this, I thought it was worthy of sharing a Top 10 list from the interesting feedback I received from teens and parents.

Original post from March 2014

Is it okay for boyfriend/girlfriend to sleep over at each other’s house?

My daughter recently went over to her boyfriend’s house last Saturday night to hang out like she has done in the past. I fell asleep and realized she wasn’t home and it was past her curfew. I looked on my phone and found messages from her saying she is sleeping over at her girlfriend’s house.  I am a bit upset over the fact she didn’t ask permission and I know she is lying!

I asked her why she didn’t ask me prior to now and she said she fell asleep. More lies. I decided I would let her stay over her “girlfriend’s” house knowing very well she is probably at her boyfriend’s. I knew arguing at this time of night wasn’t going to get me anywhere so I said we would talk about this in the morning when she comes home.

Next morning comes around and like I suspected she stayed at her boyfriend’s house! I was extremely upset because we had this discussion before and I am totally against it, as is her father. She tells me that she doesn’t understand what the big deal is? “Lots of parents let their kids stay at their boyfriend’s house.”

I said, “Well, it’s not okay with this parent.” She said my reasoning did not help her understand why it was wrong or inappropriate because she found nothing wrong with it. They weren’t doing anything and they are 17.

How do I talk to a teen rationally about this? I am spitting nails and fuming. My daughter would not let go of the fact that there is nothing wrong with the sleepover and that it’s not wrong.

So, I am asking… Am I wrong? Do you allow your teen to sleep over at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s homes? Have times changed THAT much? I need someone to please help me understand this or at least help me make my daughter understand.

I did explain to her that sometimes in life, just because we don’t think it’s not inappropriate or wrong, doesn’t mean it isn’t. There isn’t always a logical reason.

That same day my husband called my daughter’s boyfriend’s dad and told him that she was not allowed to sleep over and unless he hears it from us, don’t believe it is okay with us.

I mean, really? These teens nowadays have found a way to basically make everything a battle. Sleepover with boyfriends? Yay or Nay?

Top 10 Things I Learned After Reading Feedback on My Original Post:

  1. Talk with your child not TO your child. Sometimes simple conversations can go a long way with building a relationship with your teen.
  2. Listen to your child. You may not agree with what they say but give them a chance to talk to you if you want the same courtesy back.
  3. Be realistic. Teens of today are not the same from when we were teens so because you did not do it does not mean they should not. Don’t have expectations that your teen may not live up to.
  4. Do not judge.  You are not a bad person and you will not be punished if you allow your son or daughter to sleep over at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house.
  5. Teens are not sleeping over their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house for sex. They can have sex anytime. They just want to be able to relax the way they cannot at home.
  6. Teens need to respect and trust parents first! Parents want what is best for their teen and that may be not letting them “play house” at 17 or 18. So, until you are an adult and get your own place, parent’s house…parents rules.
  7. Communicate  and compromise. Consider compromising with your teens so they do not have to lie and go behind your back. Better to know where your teens are and that they are safe than to not know.
  8. Do not try to control your teen. Teens hate to feel controlled. They just want to be able to have some freedom.
  9. Trust your teen. If you have taught them about right from wrong and good from bad, then trust that your teen will make smart choices and will be honest with you on not about just sleeping over at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house, but on bigger issues.
  10. Teach your kids values and respect. That is more important than controlling them or allowing them to be a part of a sleep over.

Talking to Your Son About Teen Sex

I have been talking to my youngest son, Garret, about wearing condoms when he has sex since he was in third grade. I know it sounds crazy to start so young, but when he came home from the Transformer movie talking more about Megan Fox than the plot of the movie, I knew I had to have the teen sex talk early. Because I have an older son, I gave them both the “always wear condoms”  sex talk at the same time. I explained that even if the girl says she has protection, unless they want to be a dad or contract a disease, they better not be silly and always wrap their willy to be safe.  They laughed and called me a crazy mom.

Now that Garret is in high school, I am having a different conversation with him about teen sex. It’s a conversation about emotions, actions and consequences.   I want him to know that sex can be a healthy way of expressing love in a good relationship. I also want him to know sex is more than a heat-of-the-moment action. Although he’s only 15, Garret tells me he has friends who are having sex, sometimes in their own homes, and usually without their parents knowing.

Even as I repeat my “wrap your willy” talk with him, there’s something I have to worry about in addition to diseases or pregnancy as a result of unsafe sex.  As soon as my son turns 18, sex can become a crime if there is an female involved who is under 18.  Let’s say Garret  turns 18 and has sex with a girl who is a year younger than him. In Florida, it’s considered illegal, even if the sex is consensual. The age of consent can vary among states, and some states differentiate between consensual sex between minors who are close in age (for example, two teenagers of the same age), as opposed to sex between a minor and a much older adult. But states some don’t.

It’s a scary thought that my son could run into legal issues for having sex with another teen who he might think legitimately wants to “hook up.”  If the girl’s parents find out she had sex, and she decides to say my son forced her into it, the penalties for him include prison.  So, already I’m giving Garret the lecture about how things change when he turns 18 and how he needs to know the risks. I’m also thinking about the advantages of legal insurance. ARAG  (a partner of RaisingTeens) offers legal insurance that works a lot like health insurance (but way more affordable). You can use it if your teen falls victim to identity theft, pulls a dumb prank that gets him into legal trouble, gets a traffic ticket, or needs legal help of any sort like in the situation I described involving sex. When your teen turns 18, a lot changes in the eyes of the law, and legal insurance gives you peace of mind because a lawyer is always available to help you navigate through any issues that arise with any family member.   I completely understand why 90 percent of people with ARAG legal insurance feel it reduces their stress.

As a mother of a teen girl, I’m glad the law protects minors who are forced into sex. But as a parent of boys, I worry about the gray area around teen sex, consent and the law.  Parents, what are you saying to your teen boys about sex?  Do you think it’s unrealistic to tell boys to stay away from younger girls once they turn 18?

 

 

Why teens are taking prescription medicine

I am sharing with our readers an article that was published  in my son, Matthew’s high school newspaper,  The Eagle Eye.

I was shocked but then again I wasn’t when I read this well-written article about prescription medicati by a junior at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Coral Springs, Florida. I am very familiar with Adderall because my daughter Olivia is on it for her ADD. I recall reminding her to take it every day and cautioned her about the side effects that came with taking it. I told her she would have loss of appetite and it would keep her up all night.  I also recall reminding her  that selling her prescription pills is a felony and told her not to ever even think of doing so, even if someone asks to buy one from her.  She was well aware of that risk and assured me she would never sell her pills and jeopardize her future. But, what is sad is that kids feel the need to use this ADD/ADHD medicine to help them get through all their school workload. Some teens are so desperate they illegally want to buy it off their friends. Parents, this is awful! This is a cry for help! These kids have no other alternative? Really?  Clearly, this medicine helps many teens succeed and do well, but at what expense?

Are the schools or teachers even aware that so many teens feel a need to take this medicine to stay awake and focused? If not, teachers need to wake up. Maybe our high schools should have classes for teens on how to handle stress or school workload. I am very worried about our teens’ stress levels. Some turn to prescription drugs,  some become depressed — and some do even the unthinkable, commit suicide.  We as parents need to do what we can to help our teens handle their stress levels, even if that means talking with their teachers.  My heart goes out to these teens who feel they have no other alternatives  to handle their stress other than medication or suicide.

Adderall is physically and psychologically addicting, and has long-term side effects.  What about the legal ramifications if your teen gets caught taking it without a prescription? You can kiss your teen’s future goodbye because now they are in a heap of legal trouble.  Now, as a preventative or if your teen does get into legal trouble, I would highly recommend you reach out to ARAG, a national company that offers legal insurance to families.   I wish I knew about legal insurance  years ago, but I know about it now and I am very passionate about paying it forward and helping  other parents become aware of this resources they could tap  in case of an emergency.  There are so many things to worry about as a parent of a teen and  ARAG  (a sponsor of RaisingTeens) could be an important resource because having legal insurance can save you money  and peace of mind when it comes to your teen’s future.

So, parents, please read this article because your teen can have all the right intentions as to why he/she is taking  Adderall, but not realize there are physical and legal consequences for abusing it, and selling or sharing their medicine.

Students abuse pharmaceuticals to maximize efficiency for schoolwork

Teens don’t want their parents on social media

Is your teen on Houseparty?

 

Driving some teens to the beach last week, I listened in on a conversation going on in the back seat about a new social media platform called Houseparty.  My son, Garret, and his friends were talking about some girls whose “houseparty” they had joined. One kid was saying that he sneaked into the houseparty without everyone realizing it.  I was intrigued. Here’s the description of  Houseparty, a group video chat app: Welcome to the House, where the Party is always on. When you and your friends are in the app at the same time, you’ll see each other instantly.

Last night, I told my friend with two teen daughters about Houseparty. I told her it was likely her daughters were on it at that very moment. She immediately downloaded the app and discovered that sure enough they were on it and taking part in a houseparty on their cellphones. In a houseparty, you can see other people on your screen who are at the party, you may  or may not know everyone because a friend of a friend could be on. My son and his friends say it’s a great way to meet people.  Anyway, when my friend’s daughters discovered their mom had joined Houseparty, they weren’t happy. Not at all. One of them started begging for her mom to delete it immediately.

The whole situation got me thinking about teens and social media. I remember doing things as a teen that I didn’t want my mom to know about or participate in.   Maybe we should give our teens leeway to do the same. Or should we?

Facebook, started by college kids, was cool until parents joined. So teens migrated to Instagram. As soon as we got on Instagram, they moved to Snapchat. When I joined Snapchat, my teens weren’t happy about it. Very few of their friends accepted my friend request. (Maybe it’s creepy for a parent to friend their teen’s friend?) My two  teens told me even if their friends accepted my request, I shouldn’t look at their Snapchat stories. (I still peek) But when my two older teens traveled this winter break, it was their postings on Snapchat that allowed me to keep up with them and know they were safe.

Recently, I noticed that my son, Garret, and his friends are on Instagram Live. It’s a new feature.  It worries me that going live and letting people comment on what you are doing and saying might make it easier to bully kids, intentionally or unintentionally. Unfortunately, so much of our teens’ self esteem revolves around what happens on social media — their likes, comments, acceptance into groups. It just feels like parents should be aware of what our kids are doing so we can have conversations that guide their online behavior.

As a parent of a teen, I want to keep up  and make sure my kids  don’t get into any trouble online. But this is difficult territory to navigate.  It’s pretty clear to me by now that as a parent, I will never be able to keep up with everything my teens are doing on social media. I’m just not as digitally savvy.  The question is…how hard should I try to keep up?  Do our teens deserve the privacy we had without our parents hovering? Or is it different with social media?

Some friends of mine take a completely hands off approach. Others, stalk their kids as much as possible on social media. For now, I decided to stay off Houseparty and give my son his privacy. He has convinced me that joining will make me look like a creeper. But I have reserved the right to  join later if the conversation in the back seat of my car leads me in that direction.

So parents, how do you handle monitoring your teen on social media?

 

 

Tips on how to take a teen approved picture with an iPhone.

I don’t know about you but I cringe when my daughter Olivia asks me to take a picture of her alone or with her girlfriends.  I cringe because if the picture is not PERFECT, it’s my fault.   I get anxiety when I take a photo because I know she will get frustrated with me and have no patience  with my picture taking skills or so-called lack of skills.

So, according to my daughter here are some tips to take a good photo of a teen with an iPhone:

  1. Make sure there is proper lighting! This is key! Have your teen check for lighting by taking a practice  photo to make sure the picture looks good in the light.
  2. You have to focus on the faces and hit the box  that is on your faces to focus. God help you if you don’t do that!
  3. Then, immediately after you do that, you click the camera button to take the picture. This has to be timed precisely right or the picture will come out dark or blurry and you will have to deal with a bad picture and the wrath of a teen.
  4. Be patient because you will not be taking 1 or 2 photos, try  5-6 and they will all be different poses. Be prepared to help come up with different poses if necessary.
  5. Their  phone will always be better than your phone to take pictures. Period.  End of story.

In addition to the above tips from Olivia, here are my tips to survive this task:

  1. Ask if you don’t know  what to do but, be prepared to have  a huge sigh and “OMG mom, you are so annoying”.
  2. Do exactly as your teen instructs. 
  3. Practice makes perfect, You will get it after the 6th time!
  4. Have a sibling – your other son or daughter –  take the picture! They  would do a better job than you.
  5. Compliment the picture always. Teens need that reassurance or you will be taking  pictures of them forever!

There needs to be a section in the Apple store for parents with teens to learn how to take the proper teen approved picture with an iPhone. I know I would attend!

Please share your photo taking memories of your teen or any insights or photo taking skills you may have. It could save a mom or dad!

Helping your teen through exam stress

teen-studying

It’s 10 p.m. at night and you know what’s about to happen. You sense that the mood is about to shift in your home.  Your teenage daughter is stressed about end of semester exams and a melt down is just minutes away.  Yep, here it comes…the tears, the drama, the no-win effort to calm her down.  Are you ready to pull your hair out yet and long for the days of diapers?

It may be years since I graduated high school, but as a parent of a teen, exam hell is far from over! When my teen is suffering, I must suffer, too.

With three children,  I have experienced both extremes of exam hell. You may have as well. Either you have the kid who doesn’t seem one bit concerned about the gravity of mid-term exams (but needs to be), or you have the teen who takes it so seriously that you actually start to worry. This is when parenting gets difficult.

How do you make a teen more concerned about his grades? How do you calm a teen who is so stressed she can’t sleep?

Here is what experts say we are not supposed to do:

  1. Say things like:  “Shouldn’t you be studying?” or “You are getting way too crazy about exams!”
  2. Interfere with how they study.  I know it’s hard to hold back but we’re not supposed to say, “How can you think with that music blasting?”  (This one is going to be hard for me!) Apparently, some teens can study better with music or the TV on in the background.
  3.  Nag them about what they are doing instead of studying.
  4.  Bribe them with money to study
  5. Fight with them about their cell phone use. (This one is super hard for me. I hate when my son studies with his phone by his side. )
  6. Tell them to stop stressing  (This has the opposite effect!)

 

Here is what we are supposed to do:

  1. Be lenient about chores, messy rooms and untidiness as much as possible.
  2.  Give them a break and understand lost tempers and moodiness
  3.  Encourage them to work hard for their own satisfaction, not just for the grade
  4.  Schedule small  rewards for the effort they are putting in or suggest a special evening out as a treat to look forward to when exams are over.
  5.  Encourage them to put a single exam into perspective. The world is not going to end.
  6. Discourage cheating
  7. Encourage them to find some outlet to de-stress. (Maybe offer to talk a walk with your teen after a solid hour of studying?)

 

So if exam pressure is building in your household and a meltdown is moments away, give your teen a reassuring hug and try not to say much.  Know that teenagers are programmed to overreact and rant to their parents. Take it from a mom who has been there…there is no easy way to navigate exam season. But then again, there is no easy way to parent a teen!

 

What is it with the lack of respect among teen boys?

I am sure many of you moms have teen girls who have had or still have boyfriends. Like any mom, you want your daughter to be respected.

I am finding more  teen boys have no filter, and no respect when it comes to their girlfriends.  Recently, my daughter Olivia sent me a text from a girlfriend whose ex- boyfriend felt the need to call her a “trashy whore” among many other things. I looked at Olivia and said, “How on God’s green earth could your friend allow ANYONE to treat her or talk/text her like that,  particularly her boyfriend!” I told Olivia that she should be respected, not only by her friends,  but especially a boyfriend who “loves her.”  I  said to my daughter,  “Olivia,  it is disgusting that a boy would text your friend such disrespectful things and think it’s OK. I would love to know if he talks to his mother like that.”

The sad thing is, it is not the first time this boy has done this. I have seen previous texts from the boy to Olivia’s friend. I know if it was  my son Matthew who did it, I would be ashamed. I wonder if that boy’s mother knows  what her son texted to  his ex-girlfriend.  Are these boys not taught about respecting  girls and women?

Olivia knows I can not and will not stand for disrespect at all  and she should not either.

When I was dating my husband, never in a million years, even when we fought, did he ever ever call me names especially awful, disrespectful ones like the one Olivia’s girlfriend’s ex did.

So, for all those moms out there with teen girls and boys I would like to request the following:

Teen moms/dads with teenage girls:

  1. Make sure you  talk to your daughter about respect a1eb02545d42e076568b6c1d861d4a04bnd  being respected.
  2. Inappropriate  and foul language is unacceptable period —  end of story.
  3.  Value yourself, have some self-respect.  People can’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself.
  4. Any boy who disrespects your daughter does not need to be in her life.
  5. Talking is better than texting to resolve issues with your boyfriend.

 

 

 

Teen moms/dads with teenage boys:

  1. Make sure you  have the same talk with your son abo31f7eaad7d0505a3bf82eff061553468ut respect and being respected.
  2. Talk to him about how texting foul language to a girl — or anyone — is not right (and can be forwarded).
  3. Tell your son his  actions will define his character.
  4. Explain why he should want to be respected and how it will prevent him from  being alone in life.
  5. Remind him that talking is better than texting  to  resolve issues.

I have a 15-year-old son Matthew, and trust me I have this talk with him about respecting others and how I will not stand for disrespectful actions or language.

So moms and dads, what are your thoughts? Has your daughter been disrespected? If so, what did you do or say???

 

What to say to your teenage daughter after the election

I woke up this morning thinking about what I wanted to say to my teenage daughter about the future.  At first, it felt like an overwhelming task. I saw a clip on television of a woman at the Hillary Clinton reception. The woman looked up and said to the camera: “The glass ceiling is there and it’s fully in tact.”

Clearly, as a mother, that’s not the message I want my teenage daughter to take away from this election.

I also do not want her to take away the message that degrading women is okay or that walking around in shirts that say “Trump that Bitch” is acceptable behavior. I want to my daughter to believe that there is a level of respect for women in the United States and that young women today have every opportunity to achieve whatever they set out to do. I want young women to believe that their husbands, fathers, brothers and male friends are okay with women having power in the workplace and in the political arena.

My daughter watched the campaign results in her sorority house, surrounded by young women who had voted for their first time. This morning, I told my daughter I was proud of each and every young woman who voted. As a child, my mother hammered in the message that women worked hard to get the right to vote and I must never let them down by failing to exercise my right. It’s the same message I have repeated to my daughter.

As a journalist, I have been writing about women in business for two decades. I have seen firsthand how difficult some of their journeys have been to achieve success in their fields. But I see progress.

This morning, I encouraged my daughter to be proud of how far women have come and to realize that having a female presidential candidate is an accomplishment. I told her that young women today need to educate themselves about politics, business and social issues. They need to know who and what they are voting for and why. They need to demand respect at work and in the world and refuse to accept anything less.

I am encouraged by the reaction of a young woman at Wesley College who said this morning: “Today, we put on our pantsuits and fight on!”

Yes, young women, we need you to fight on!

Over the years, I have seen that the success of women is the success of families. I have seen that when women break the glass ceilings in their fields, they achieve feats that better all of mankind.

There are two things that Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech that I wanted my daughter to hear:

 

Hil

“To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”

Then, Clinton went on to say something equally as encouraging to the next generation of female leaders:

“To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

So parents, talk to your daughters today about what the future holds for them. Give them the encouragement to dream big and to understand that achieving high goals may come with obstacles but navigating them is part of life.  Show them examples of women who are admirable and encourage them to address disrespect. Most important, let them know there is a lot of work to be done and I’m hopeful that there are many young women who are smart, self confident and enthusiastic enough to make positive change for years to come.

 

 

When Teens Leave After Summer

parent-goodbye

 

When I moved my two older children into their college dorms what I didn’t foresee was their return home. They came home this summer more mature, more independent and had lots of their own ideas and thoughts about politics, equality, meal choices and curfews.

The first few weeks with everyone home it was a big adjustment for the entire family. I had to pull back my natural inclination to do things for my older teens and let them buy their own toiletries, fill their own prescriptions and make their own doctor’s appointments. When my two older ones were in high school, I  always waited up at night for them to get home. This summer, I had to let go a little bit, ease up on the curfew and get comfortable with going to sleep before they returned home.

As the summer went on, we settled into a nice place as a family. My daughter and I had amazing conversations about life and love and spent time together as friends. My son and I talked about religion and travel and had a few deep conversations about life. Now it’s September and my two college students have returned to campus and I must cope with change once again. In some ways, it’s more difficult this time. They didn’t need me to help them choose classes and they seemed excited to go back.  Now that they are gone, so is the chaos that surrounds them, their friends who congregated at our home playing games, laughing and socializing. I miss it.

With one child still at home, I still feel the normal  angst that parents experience when the new school year kicks in. What is different though is the sense that my life revolves around my children as it did for so many years. I now know that my teenagers will leave and return and leave again and that I must create a new sense of self that plans for the good times ahead and learns to be okay with the house emptying and filling and emptying again.

Rather than complaining, I owe it to myself to realize change is part of life. Whether our children are leaving the nest, whether we’re relocating to a new city, whether we are taking on a new job, a big life change can be an adventure. It can be a time to meet new people, identify new interests, have new experiences and create a new chapter in our lives.

Summer officially is over, the new school year is here, and I’m  making the emotional adjustment to enjoy all that lies ahead.

As many of my friends drove their teens to college for the first time and returned home without them, I gave them this advice: ” You will miss them, but if they are happy, you will be too.” Now, I have to take my own advice.

The Day I Switched Cell Phones With My Teenage Son

Teenagers using cellphones

Teenagers using cell phones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was dropping my son at school yesterday when he realized he left his cell phone at home. Tragedy! Big tragedy!

I told him he would make it through the day without his phone, but he explained that his AP History teacher gives extra credit points to students who put their phones in her basket when they enter the classroom.

“Please, let me use your phone today,” he begged.

“I will let you use mine, but I need to use yours,” I told him. So, we made a deal and he provided me his password to unlock his phone. “What a bonanza!  I legitimately had completely access to his phone!”

As soon as I picked it up and unlocked it, the phone already was buzzing and pinging with incoming messages.  Let me just say that my day quickly turned into a learning experience about teen cell phone useage, particularly what teens talk about and what goes on in high school.

First, my son received a text invitation to a birthday party. It was pretty high tech with lots of pop ups. I was impressed!

Next, he received a series of complaints about various teachers. Boy, kids complain about teachers A LOT! They complain about everything from their appearances to their demeanors to their attitudes to their fairness. I decided I don’t want to be a high school teacher.

From the messages that followed, I learned who made a new twitter account, who posted something funny to Instagram and who had made an awful musical.ly video. It made me wonder if teens can make it through a day without social media? Probably not.

What really cracked me up were the group texts. They had such hilarious names like APaulaDeen and FrackiesPlus2.  One clever message poster call himself Lord Farquaad, after the villain in Shrek, and had a lot to say about who he considered as hot as Princess Fiona.  Teens are quite creative and funny in group texts.  They also are busy posting all day long — even when they’re supposed to be participating in class.  I began to understand why my son’s  teacher had enticed her students to leave their phones in a box at the door.

I also learned  from text messages that teens are pretty helpful to each other as far as sharing info about homework assignments and what chapters the next day’s quiz is going to include. I started wishing we had cell phones when I was in high school.

On the flip side, my son saw all my text messages coming in. I’m sure he found them boring compared to his. Meanwhile, I couldn’t call anyone all day because I don’t have any cell numbers memorized. I realized I rely way too much on my contact list.

Still, I enjoyed a peek into the teen life — even if it was just for a day. I only can imagine what I would have learned if I had gotten to have my son’s phone for the night, too.  Oh well,  a mom can dream….

 

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