Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Parent Teen Relationships (page 1 of 2)

Why mothers of teenagers worry so much

 

I am on the phone with the mother of a three-year-old when she tells me that her son wants to play with her keys all the time. “I’m worried that maybe he doesn’t have enough toys,” she says. I suppress a laugh when she tells me this because I’m quite sure her toddler has plenty of toys but prefers the keys. I’m also quite sure that worrying over his play choices is the beginning of a long list of things this mother will fret about.

In most households, mom is the designated worrier. From the day a mother holds her little bundle of joy, the worrying begins, as does the expenditure of emotional energy on concerns that will seem both deranged and justified.

The worrying manifests in ways unimaginable to our former selves, and turn us into people we don’t recognize.  As our children grow, so does the list of things we moms obsess about. When are children are young, we  worry about school. Is my child making friends? Does he have a learning disability? Is he reading on grade level? These questions become the topic of conversation with friends, family and other mothers. Each Facebook post by another parent raises questions about our own child’s progress.

But it’s the tween and teen years that send our anxiety into overdrive. Along with adolescence comes drama. As mothers, we must decipher between real problems and normal teenage behavior. We worry about our teenagers’ choice of friends, whether they are lying about their whereabouts, whether their grades are good enough to get into college, whether mental health issues are a concern or just normal teenage moodiness. Of course, we worry about the mundane behavior too — boys spending too much time playing video games and girls being left out.

As the new school year kicks in, the typical threats that our parents agonized about — sex, drugs and alcohol — still are top of mind, but now there are additional concerns because of technology, higher academic pressures and gun violence. Each time we listen to the news, we learn more about cyberbullying, distracted driving, sexting and sex offenders using social networking sites — contemporary risks that scare the heck out of us. Social media posts about teen suicide or young drivers killed while texting and driving send our anxiety soaring. For some of us, high school is as nerve wracking for us as it is for our teens.

Now as Labor Day approaches, many moms are confronting the college drop off, an experience fraught with panic. Our minds are racing with questions such as …Will my teen ever wash his bedsheets or do his laundry? We also wonder about bigger concerns such as…Does my teen understand the risks of binge drinking or the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases? Does my teen know the difference between consensual sex and assault?

Social media feeds our natural inclination to fret.  As one mom said to me: “You go on the Internet, and it fuels your fears when you see images and read posts of all the stuff that is happening.”

In his book Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It, child and family therapist David Anderegg makes the case that today’s parents are taking worrying to an unhealthy extreme. He argues that they worry too much about the everyday aspects of parenting, and says good parenting is about moderation and empathy.

To be fair, it is not just mothers who worry about their kids. Of course, fathers worry too. However, mothers seem to carry more of the emotional burden. In most households, we still are the primary caregiver, the parent who stresses about the logistics and the gender that most often gets judged over our parental decisions.

As my two older children leave for college, I want them  to be independent, to make wise decisions and to function on their own without my help.  I know as a parent, I can try to keep my teenagers safe, healthy and on a path toward total independence.  But it’s really in their hands. At some point, I will have to stop worrying,  but for now, I just don’t think I can. I have gotten pretty darn comfortable with being mom the worrier.

 

A Dad’s Perspective on Helping Teen Boys Reach Their Potential

Are you a frustrated parent  whose teen boy comes across as lazy or too busy with video games to give you his attention?

In honor of Father’s Day, we have a guest blogger who is a dad and a psychologist with a practice in New York City and New Jersey. If you’re a father (or mother) of a teen boy, Dr. Adam Price offers some extremely helpful tips for averting clashes with your son, especially during the summer months. I hope you find his insight as useful as we do.

–Cindy and Raquel (moms of teen boys)

The first things that comes to mind about boys and summer is to let them enjoy it. I often get concerned when parents say they want to make sure their sons’ don’t lose ground over the summer, and enroll them in academic enrichment courses, test prep courses, etc. There are some wonderful programs at college for students, but it has to be something the teen wants to do.

Kids are under so much pressure these days, and I really think they need time to decompress. That being said, they still need structure and supervision. A few weeks of sleeping late and lazing around is ok, but a few months is too much.

A summer job can be a great opportunity for a young man to take responsibility, feel effective in something other than school, and learn a little about ‘real life.’ So many boys I have worked with who have struggled in school really thrive at a job, even if it is scooping ice cream or working construction. If no job is available perhaps parents can pay their son’s to take on a project at home. One summer a friend and I painted my parent’s house. Not my favorite summer, but it worked out.

Depending on a family’s budget there are also many wonderful opportunities for travel, camp, etc. However, colleges are less impressed by a teenager whose parents paid for them to travel the world than one who went on a church-sponsored community service trip. One young man I worked with went on a Habitat for Humanity program and learned that some of the families he worked with lived on less money than his parents gave him each month.

If you are pushing your son this summer and he comes across as lazy,  you must realize that the phenomenon that presents itself as teenage apathy can have many sources, including adolescent psychology, parenting styles, family dynamics and sometimes learning disabilities. Laziness is not on the list. Calling your son “lazy” will only make him more oppositional than he already is. Here are a few other parental habits worth breaking (and summer is a great time to start!)

Stop telling your son how smart he is. Better to praise him for working hard. My son has 15 soccer trophies sitting on his shelf, most of them earned just for showing up to practice, a vestige of the 1960s self-esteem movement. Constantly telling children they are good at something actually discourages them from trying harder at it.

Stop doing the dishes for him.  Teens are not helped when parents take care of household chores because their children are “too busy” with homework, sports, a summer job or other activities. Treating teens like royalty whose only job is to bring honor to the family gives them an unrealistic message about life. Successful people tend to be those who are willing and able to do things that they really don’t want to do.

Don’t let him off easy. Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogul has written that it is easier for parents to feed, shelter and clothe their children than it is for them to set effective limits. But not enforcing consequences for the indolent teenage boy reinforces the notion, yet again, that he is special, and that the rules of the world do not apply to him.

Don’t make him shine for you. In a culture where teenagers scramble to amass credentials and gain admission to the best colleges is more intense than ever, being considered average or even a little above has become unacceptable. But by overlooking the good in the quest for the perfect, parents saddle children with unrealistic expectations. A college counselor know likes to say that a good college is one that fits your kid, not one whose name adds class to your car’s rear window.  Think about this during the summer months and let your teen boy be a teen boy. Most important, you be the parent who teaches him how to grow up.

To learn more, check out Dr. Adam Price’s Book on Amazon, He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe In Himself.

13 Reasons Why Not (Preventing Teen Suicide)

My daughter, Olivia, recently told me about the Netflix show “Thirteen Reasons Why which is based on a novel about a young teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves 13 letters behind to explain the 13 reasons why she did it. This show is somewhat disturbing, but yet so real and mesmerizing. It’s a subject no parent wants to talk about because it is incomprehensible to think of a child committing suicide, but face it, suicide is VERY real! Ignoring or avoiding the subject could cost your child his or her life.

I have to admit, there were times I worried about Olivia.  Four years ago, Olivia had a friend in high school she knew through her soccer team, Bailey Leal.  I remember meeting Bailey at the end-of-year high school  soccer awards dinner. At the dinner, Bailey was awarded  an iron for being the “iron girl” of the varsity team.  I remember thinking, “WOW, how cool is that to get an “iron” award!”  Little did I know how Bailey would be impacting mine and Olivia’s  lives, not to mention thousands of others.

On May 21, 2013, I received a text from Olivia saying Bailey Leal committed suicide. I remember thinking, “This must be a mistake. How can this be? ” I also remember thinking the bigger question.. “WHY?? ”

Within minutes, the news about Bailey’s suicide was all over our town. Teens  were devastated and parents were numb. Olivia at the time was going through her own personal problems and this did not help. Olivia could not comprehend WHY Bailey would do this? I remember her telling me , “Mom, she was beautiful, popular, everyone loved her. She was an All-American soccer star and got a  perfect score on the ACT. She had it all Mom. Why did she take her life?”

Olivia, couldn’t understand if Bailey had ALL of this going for her, what could be so awful that her only solution would be to end her life.  Little did I know how fragile Olivia was and how badly this would affect her.

There were times Olivia couldn’t go to school. She couldn’t handle her emotions inside and was afraid of herself and what she was feeling. Bailey’s death brought all kinds of feelings to the surface. It made what she was feeling and thinking REAL and at the same time it scared her to death.  This changed my world as well because I didn’t know how to deal with teen suicide and what the signs were and how to talk to Olivia about it. She was suffering and I didn’t know how to get through to her and help her.

Bailey’s death brought everyone together in the community, teens, parents, families. They even created a club at school  called the HOPE club so kids can  get together and talk about what they are feeling and deal  those feelings together, no judgment. These teens had no idea how  Bailey’s suicide would affect them.  I know many parents became afraid that their child would be next. Bailey’s death brought awareness of how  thoughts of suicide can hide behind a smile, a laugh, a hug.

The point of my blog is to keep Bailey’s spirit alive through awareness of Mental Illness. Not every parent can recognize the signs because  teens are really good at hiding them. So  as a parent of a teen, what should you do?

Talk to your teen!! If he or she doesn’t want to talk to you, suggest they talk to someone else.  Not every teen has thoughts of committing suicide, but it’s okay to talk to them about it because they may know someone who they think does. Ignorance will not save anyone. It’s okay if your child is not okay. It is up to us, the parents, to be as involved in our teens’ lives as possible, even when they don’t want us to be.

Sad enough,  teens are committing suicide because they didn’t seek any help or they felt no one could help them. They are literally suffering inside in their own hell. Parents think their child is fine or  just moody or going through a hormone stage.  That may not be true. Your teen may be suffering from depression, anxiety,  bipolar disorder. But without really talking to them or getting them help,  you won’t know   until it is too late.

I have attached a video that was created for the one-year anniversary of Bailey’s death. I have to warn you, it will break your heart.  You will cry. I sometimes wonder how Bailey’s family got thought her death. How did they even want to wake up in the morning?  What I can tell you is that they did. It wasn’t easy, I am sure. And, I bet every day is a struggle. But Bailey’s mom is now an advocate for mental health and keeps her daughter’s memory alive through education and awareness of teen suicide.  I am in awe of her because as a mom, I don’t know if I would be as strong as she has been. So, all you moms and dads and teens who are reading this blog, I hope this opens your eyes  to mental illness and teen suicide and prevention.

I thought I would end with the 13 Reasons Why Not to commit suicide:

  1. You are not alone
  2. The pain can go away without committing suicide
  3. There is help
  4. The world needs you
  5. No one can replace you
  6. You will be missed
  7. It will make things worse for the people/family you leave behind
  8. Friends and family will be devastated
  9. Your life hasn’t even begun
  10. You can save someone’s life
  11. You are bigger than the problem
  12. You did not come this far in life to end it so tragically and so early.
  13. You are worth more and loved more than you think.
raquelmalderman@gmail.com has shared a video with you on YouTube

 

 

 

 

Remembering Bailey

 

by William Holden

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Mother feels jealous over son’s girlfriend

It’s  Video  Friday on our RaisingTeens Facebook page. In honor of Mother’s Day we explore a mom’s reaction to her son’s love of another woman (girl).

Can you relate to how Raquel is feeling? What was it like for you when your son got his first girlfriend?

You’re wearing WHAT to prom? Not happening

One of my friend’s called me today, asking me to mediate an argument. She is fighting with her daughter over her prom dress. Her daughter wants to wear a red, super-sexy dress that costs $800. My friend is having a fit. She says the dress is too expensive and too sexy. Her daughter wants to spend her own money that she made working last summer to buy the dress and says her mother doesn’t realize that girls wear these kind of dresses today.

As a mediator, I stink.  I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. But I figured some of you might be dealing with the same problem.  Prom dresses have gotten SUPER expensive and SUPER slutty. Okay, not all of them. But many of them.

However, if you’re a frustrated parent, there is hope.  I went on Amazon and found a brand called  Ever Pretty.  All dresses are under $100 and there are some nice ones that are a little sexy, but not too sexy. BCBG is a popular brand, too and has some reasonable priced, glamorous prom dresses.

Here’s are a few decent ones I showed my friend:



I explained to my friend and her daughter that the dress is just the first part of the prom prep. There are the shoes, too. You haven’t seen slutty until you see the skyscraper heels some girls wear.  Some of those stripper shoes are close to $300.  Again, if this is an issue in your home, I got you covered. I found a brand called Fergalicious (designed by pop star Fergie) The heels are glam enough for prom but  not too pricey or too reminiscent of a hooker who just crashed prom.

Now, there’s one more thing that completes the prom outfit — the bling. I’m talking about the jewelry, purse, hair accessories…all that small stuff that adds up to big money. Believe me moms, you will want to see this stuff before your daughter heads out the door wearing it and WAY before she gets to the cash register.

Once again, I’ve got you covered.

There are the  bejeweled hair pins, the sparkly headband, the strapless bra, and fun clutch purse.

Here’s another great tip. For the guys, you  often can buy a tux online for cheaper than renting one. Check out this Kenneth Cole one for $99.

Of course, most savvy high school seniors have found a way to ensure their dress pick is the one-and-only at their prom by using social media.  You need to check your school’s sites  before you buy the dress to avoid duplication and prom disaster!!! Yes, prom in the digital age is so different then when we were in high school — not yet sure if that’s a good thing???

It seems I have mediated a peace deal between my friend and her daughter. With a little online searching, we found an Ever Pretty dress that is similar to the red one she wanted from a local boutique but not as revealing or expensive. However, our prom girl gets to wear the stylish heels she wanted. Mom and daughter are both happy.  For now, I’m declaring victory!!!

A Father’s Perspective on Raising a Teen Daughter

Today we have a treat for you! We are featuring a father who shares his perspective on raising a teen girl. We hope you enjoy hearing another point of view on raising teens.  Please meet Tyler Jacobson. Tyler is a husband, father, freelance writer and outreach specialist with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today.  You can follow Tyler on: Twitter @tylerpjacobson and on LinkedIn.

 
I’m a father of three: two boys and a girl. My boys and I are close. We easily bond over food and roughhousing. However, I have to say it’s true what they say about dads and their little girls – ever since the day she was born we have had a very special connection.

Raising boys vs. raising girls…these are two very different things, especially for a father. When you are raising a boy, you notice the same things he does. Marketing targeted at boys today (TV shows, cartoons, toys, etc.) are the same as you remember growing up seeing.

As my daughter grew, her mother and I did everything to encourage her to find out who she wanted to be. More than anything, we wanted her to be comfortable with herself and not feel limited by our actions. Our daughter is a thoughtful, caring, adventurous individual and we tried to help her build on her strengths as well as discover her positive attributes.

However, after a while I noticed there was a different message for girls in the toys that are targeted at children. When we would go shopping as a family, wandering up one aisle and down the next, Legos, racecars and Nerf guns were the bulk of the “boys” aisle. While in contrast, the “girls” aisle was play makeup, stuffed animals and dress up items. It seemed that all the active toys were in the “boys” aisle with sedentary toys making up most of the “girls” aisle.

At first I wasn’t sure what to do, so I’d try to ignore outside influences and just reinforce her personal freedom. It about broke my heart when she asked if it was okay that she wanted a Lego set for her birthday. In her young and impressionable mind, the message had hit home. Some toys were only for boys and some only for girls. Even though I reassured her that her choice in toys was fine, I didn’t address idea that some things were right for boys and some for girls.

Now she’s a young woman

My little girl is 12 and I only wish the social pressure was about Legos again. Instead, my wife and I have had to start having many talks with our daughter about what is and isn’t appropriate for a young woman.

In one instance, when my daughter spent an afternoon at a friend’s house, she came home with a face full of makeup. From overdone eyes to an aggressive shade of red lipstick, my sweet 12 year old looked older and infinitely hardened.

It was hard not to demand she remove it immediately. Instead, we sat down together and talked about what she liked about the makeup. She told us all her friends were wearing makeup and that she was tired of looking like a little kid.

After more discussion, we reached a compromise. My wife would help her learn how to apply light makeup, and until she turned 14, she could only wear it on Sundays and special occasions at school.

I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear makeup to feel beautiful. I wanted her to stay my fresh-faced and happy little girl. But allowing our children to grow is one of the hardest things parents have to learn, and I don’t want to stunt her growth as a she becomes an independent young lady.

Dealing With Social Programming

After the makeup incident, I knew I had to get ahead of future problems if I didn’t want them sprung on me again. I began to research what other parents were dealing with while raising teenagers and how to help my daughter deal with social pressure.

I found a few resources to help me understand how to deal with the media, and also what my daughter may be going through with the body image pressure she’s getting from every direction.

Together, my wife and I worked to open lines of communication with our daughter. We began with simple topics like her current hobbies. As she became more comfortable talking to us, stronger trust was established and she began coming to us on her own about her concerns.

Over time, I pointed out subtle influences in the media she was consuming, pressuring girls to be a certain thing, and asked her what she thought. Once she knew what to look for I didn’t have to bring attention to anything.

My daughter has always been precocious, but it makes me so proud to see her open up and define her sense of self outside of what society is trying to sell her. My daughter is strong, independent, and beautiful exactly as she is and if I have anything to say about it, she’ll grow up to be a confident woman who will be able to think critically about what the world says women should be.

Oh no, is this a lecture? Talking to teens so they listen

 

 

 

 

 

We were driving in the car with our son Garret when he noticed a Maserati on the road next to us. He started excitedly showing us the car and telling us how he wants one.  Noticing his excitement, my husband started talking about saving up for things he really wants to buy rather than taking on debt just to be flashy.

It took all of a second for Garret to completely tune my husband out and say, “Oh no dad, is this a lecture?”

When your kids hit the teen years, that line between talking and lecturing gets thinner. My husband and I think we’re just having a conversation but the next thing we know, we’re imparting some wisdom and our kids say we’re lecturing.

The thing is as a parent, these “little lessons” just spill out of our mouths. Sometimes they come out in the form of a question in the heat of the moment, as in “Did I tell you about how I earned my own money when I was your age?”  Sometimes they come out in the form of sarcasm, “Right, you’re just going to hang out at some guy’s house when his parents aren’t home and nothing is going to happen.”

The problem is teens often think they already know whatever wisdom you’re trying to impart… as in “I know that mom!” So instead of listening, they blow you off, get annoyed and retreat to their phones where they can immerse themselves in what their friends are saying on Twitter.

One day, my daughter told me I have a lecture voice. She said I put it on when I “think” I am saving her from mistakes. I HATE to come across that way.  The only thing I have found that works is to listen more and talk less. It’s not always easy but with my daughter, I force myself to just listen and not react. Instead of trying to problem solve, point out the  ways she’s being irrational or launch into  anything that comes across as a lecture, I take a deep breath and stay quiet. Then, I tell her I hear what she is saying. It’s a strategy I picked up from a friend who says it’s the only way she survived the high school years with her daughter.

I’d love to hear your strategies. How do you guide your teen without the perception that you’re  lecturing? Is it possible to get through the teen years without offering unwanted “life lessons” that they find annoying?

Open or closed bedroom door policy with girlfriend/boyfriend over?

Last Sunday,  my son Matthew asked me if his “girlfriend” could come over?   This would be the first time his “girlfriend” would be over since they have been together.  Until now, Matthew has been going over her house after school. At first,  I was happy that I finally get to meet her after they have been together for a month.   On the other hand, I was nervous. Will she like me? Will I like her?  Will she be rude? All the mom concerns were coming at me. This is really happening. Matthew is growing up! UGH!

She finally arrived and I walked into Matthew’s bedroom to introduce myself. She was cute and sweet, a typical 15-year-old teen. So far, so good. Matthew had his arm around her and was smiling, and for a second I had a weird feeling come over me; Matthew cares for someone else now. I am not his world anymore. I saw how happy he was and  you know what? I was a little bit jealous. Yep, this mom was jealous of a 15 year old. I wanted Matthew to hug me and love me like he did when he was a little boy and I was his everything.  Part of me was sad, but the other part was happy that this girl makes him happy.

So I left the room, and when I got into the family room, my husband told me  to make sure the bedroom door is open. Well, how the heck do I do that? Do I go back and open the door and embarrass them? Matthew would kill me for embarrassing him. I texted him to please keep the door open and you know what? I walked back toward his room and the door was open! That was easy! I was expecting a text back from him arguing with me about it.

I would love to know if other parents experienced this situation and how they handled it. What is your door policy when a girlfriend or boyfriend is over? Open? Closed? Cracked? Inquiring mom wants to know.

 

 

Social Media: Deathtrap for teens?

I recently reviewed a book  called The Boss of Me…is Me and was impressed, horrified, scared out of my wits and grateful  to the authors all at the same time.  The authors  have written an eye-opening book about  how social media can  lure teens into some scary and awful life-altering situations. They  give some  edgy scenarios as real-life examples.  One of the most shocking was about a young teen who had befriended an 18-year-old on Facebook, slipped unnoticed from her home to meet him, and walked into her death trap. As I was reading the book, all I kept thinking was how I could so see this happening.

The  book is filled with tips and intended to  empower teens with the life skills they need to be the boss of their own thoughts, attitudes and actions.    The authors address a variety of relevant issues including suicide, shoplifting, child molestation and runaways.   The book is designed to equip teens to think and act quickly to avoid going down a path that ends in death, prison and suicide. It  basically helps prevent teens from becoming  a victim and  a statistic. As a mom of two teens, these scenarios scare the heck out of me and infuriate me at the same time! I am still shaking my head that these threats to our teens are  really happening in our society, but I shouldn’t be.

I like that this guidebook helps teach teens that there is always a way out of these awful situations they get themselves into, often because of their social media activities. The guidebook is in a notebook form so teens can write in it and basically have a lifetime of references when completed! The notebook does not come in a digital format because the authors wanted to ensure parental supervision however, the guidebook is in digital format. The guidebook empowers parents to facilitate and engage in conversations with their teen and that’s what is most important!  Without the parents being a facilitator, your teen wouldn’t learn or grasp the true meaning and value of the message(s) the authors are trying to convey.

Parents, because you haven’t physically seen or been exposed to this DOES NOT MEAN it’s not happening or could not happen to you and your kids. Your child could be a victim!  No one is immune. Educate, be aware and talk to you kids. Better yet,  BUY them this book so they can learn first hand about the crimes that are happening to teens.

As a parent, I encourage you to  have them read it! Get the electronic version since you know teens prefer technology to actual books. I hope this books builds awareness but most importantly, saves lives.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase The Boss of Me…is ME ! It is also available at www.cablepublishing.com, Amazon, and all major bookstores. (25% of all proceeds will be donated to The Youth Connection in Detroit, MI.)

By the way, the authors’ backgrounds are impressive:  June Werdlow Rogers  is a retired federal agent with a PhD in criminology,  Rayfield Rogers Jr  is a retired district chief of security for a school district in Michigan,  Grenae´ Dudley PhD is CEO of a youth center.

Parents if you have encountered scary scenarios with your teen as a result of social media, or know someone who can relate, please share your stories.

Don’t forget to breathe Mom!

I think many moms can relate having to remind their teen to do their homework, take a shower, make their bed, put deodorant on etc. Well, my son Matthew does NOT like to be reminded of anything.  He says, “Mom, do you think I’m stupid that I can’t remember things?” But  what Matthew doesn’t recall are the many times in middle school he would forget homework, forget to give me something to sign or fill out for school,  forget to put deodorant on or forget to take a shower.

In the past if he forgot, I wouldn’t remind him.   Funny thing is, when he would forget, he would say, “Mom, why didn’t you remind me or why didn’t you check my backpack?”  So, explain to me how I am supposed to remind him if he doesn’t want me to remind him? UGH!

I don’t want him to get a bad grade because he forgot his homework in high school. But then again I can’t keep enabling his forgetfulness. He needs to remember on his own.

Many times when I would go in his room to remind him of things,  he would say, “Ok mom, and don’t forget to breathe.”  I asked him why he said that and he answered: “Because that’s how silly you are reminding me of things I know.”

Good advice from a 14 year old. I do need to breathe, not because he was proving a point to me,  but because I need to trust him and let him remember on his own to do his homework, take a shower, do his chores. It’s the helicopter mom in me. I need to step back and exhale.

So, here is advice from my teenage son, Matthew,  for all the moms out there: Don’t forget to breathe.

mom breathing

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