Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 16)

Why I’m Giving My Teen A Curfew

 

It’s a Friday night at 1 a.m.,  I’m exhausted and my daughter isn’t home yet. She is out with friends and tonight she’s the driver. I want to go to sleep. In fact, I’m in my jammies under my covers, but my eyes won’t shut. I’m thinking about that proverbial ditch that parents think their children are in when it’s late at night and they haven’t returned home.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you track your daughter with a cell phone locator? You were thinking that, right? The truth is I did track her and I know she is still out with her friends in the hopping area of town about 20 miles away. Here’s the thing… I haven’t given my daughter a curfew since she arrived home from college, and now as I lie awake, I’m rethinking the whole curfew thing.

Actually, this summer, the teen curfew has been on my mind A LOT.

A week ago, my youngest son got his driver’s license. By law in Florida, new drivers under 16 must be home by 11 p.m. What a blessing for this law!! Because most of my son’s friends who drive are 16, too, I have temporary relief from late nights awake, waiting up for him to arrive home. But in just a few months, some of my son’s friends are turning 17, and that means their driving curfew by law gets pushed to 1 a.m.

I just don’t want my son out that late. When my fellow blogger Raquel and I chat about our experiences raising teens, we have often discussed how nothing good happens on the road after midnight. I tell my kids often that anyone on the road after midnight probably shouldn’t be on the road. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be soooo dramatic…not everyone on the road late at night is crazy or drunk, but the chances are much higher.

Informally, I’ve been polling other parents of teens, asking them how they handle the curfew situation. I’ve gotten a mixed bag of answers. My one friend sets her alarm to wake up at the time her teen is supposed to be home. Another gives her teen a curfew depending on the radius he is away from home. Another has a curfew set in stone and he enforces it strongly. My sister, who has two teen boys, keeps a certain light on in the house and she knows everyone is home safe when she wakes up and sees the light off.

When I think back on my teen years, curfew brings back memories of negotiation —  begging for more time. My sister and I even devised a plan where we would set the clock back to our curfew time before waking our mother up to let her know we were home safe.  At least I’m now on to that trick as a parent!

While by law my son has to abide by the 11 p.m. curfew as a driver, I have decided to give him a midnight curfew when he isn’t the driver.  I searched around a little online for some guidance. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 12 to 13 years old should have a  10 p.m. curfew on weekends and 14 to 16 years old should have an 11 p.m. curfew. There’s not a whole lot of guidance after that. The  experts recommend setting a curfew regardless of age because it sets clear boundaries for your teen. But here’s the important part — If you set a curfew, you have to enforce it!

In their book “Raising Resilient Children,” Dr. Sam Goldstein and therapist Robert Brooks say the consequences should fit the crime and teens should be aware of the rules and consequences in advance.

Here are a few dos and don’ts of teen  curfews that experts recommend on healthline:

Dos

Communicate. Involve your teen in the initial curfew discussion and mention the agreed upon time before they leave the house. Make it clear that if there is an issue, you expect a call before the curfew.

Be reasonable. Make the curfew based on the event and be aware of who’s driving, where they are going, and the transportation issues. Sometimes, a teen who is a passenger can’t demand the driver take them home by a certain time.

Don’ts

Negotiate. After agreeing upon a time, stick to it. If curfew is broken, there should be consequences.

Overlook good behavior. If your teen shows reliability over a period of time, you might want to consider extending  the curfew a half hour.

While I plan to take those dos and don’ts into consideration, I have pretty much decided my weekend nights will never be the same with teens in the house. (Please ignore the bags under my eyes!) I just can’t sleep tightly until everyone is home and that means there is going to be a lot of negotiation and exhaustion. (Did I mention my husband sleeps soundly regardless of who is still out?) I think setting a midnight curfew for my 16-year-old son when he isn’t driving is a step in the right direction — at least for now.

I’d love to hear your experiences setting a curfew. Any dos and don’ts you can share?

Why your teen needs a summer job more than you realize

 

My youngest son, Garret, has been looking for a summer job for several weeks. He has applied online and in person. Part of the problem why he hasn’t found anything may be because he isn’t sixteen yet. Still, my husband is insistent Garret works this summer, not just for the money he will earn, but also for the character building that goes along with holding a job.

 A few years ago, my older son,  Jake, landed a summer job at a nearby pizza restaurant. He cleaned toilets, he bused tables, he served food and he rolled napkins. He also learned about teamwork, responsibility, and he saw people who worked two jobs to support families and make ends meet.

The more work shifts Jake took on and the more money he made, the more he loved the job. At the end of the summer, he didn’t want to quit. So, we worked out an arrangement in which he worked one weeknight and one weekend night throughout the rest of high school. Having responsibility and learning how to deal with all kinds of personalities in a workplace was as important as any lesson he learned in high school.

Now, my younger son, Garret has already learned his first lesson of job hunting. Convinced he would get the job he was interviewing for at Chipotle, he didn’t bother looking elsewhere as much as he should have. That job fell through because of his young age. Now, he’s out there scrambling with all the other teens looking for summer jobs.

As a parent, I have had to pull back and watch it all play out.  Here are the lessons I have learned about teens and summer jobs:

 

  1. Let them do it their way. Part of growing up is learning how to interview, fill out job applications and make an impression. Most teens don’t want your advice on how to do that.
  2. Encourage them to  revisit employers. The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees usually have high turnover. An employer that did not hire a couple of weeks ago might need more workers as the summer arrives.
  3. Discuss transportation. Landing a job is great but getting there may become an issue. This summer, several of us in my family with be sharing cars.  Who can take a bus or bicycle and who needs a car and when is conversation that needs to happen on the front end, before anyone find themselves stranded at work.
  4. Don’t let them quit. After landing a job, most teens will try to quit the first time they are asked to do something gross. Now that my older son has had to clean a toilet, he realizes that teamwork means someone has to do the dirty jobs.
  5. Encourage them to speak up. Many employers will try to take advantage of teens during the summer. This has happened to both of my older kids. Learning to speak up about compensation or work hours or ridiculous expectations is part of being an employee.
  6. Make them set their own alarms. Part of holding a job is being on time. As much as I wanted my teens to impress their boss, I realized they needed to learn responsibility and that means getting to work on time.
  7. Ask for references. When summer ends, it is the ideal time to ask an employer for a future reference (this goes for teens who have internships, too) It’s better to ask immediately than to try to track the person down months or even years later.

Last summer saw the strongest teen employment since 2013, but this year the hiring forecast isn’t as rosy because retailers who typically hire teens are struggling.

Still, there are summer jobs out there for teens — if they look in the right places, says John Challenger, whose company publishes annual teen summer job outlook. John suggests teens look for opportunities in industries that have been adding jobs so far this year, like transportation, hospitality and food service, or construction.

I think  Garret already has discovered it’s not easy to find a job as a teen. But hopefully he will soon be employed and by the end of summer, he will learn that having a job has a payoff, way more than just the money he earns.

 

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?

Your teen is having sex. Do you accept it or deny it?

 

Talking to your teen about sex is never an easy conversation.  But here’s why it’s worth doing.  A 2016 review of more than three decades of research found that teenagers who communicated with their parents about sex used safer sexual practices.

So, does that mean parents should accept their teens want to have sex, and talk to them about engaging in it safely?  In today’s post, Cindy and Raquel answer the questions you may encounter as parents of teens.

Do we really need to accept our teens are having sex?

Cindy: While in high school, my teenager daughter told me her friend was having sex with her boyfriend. Her friend’s mother refused to take the girl to get birth control and told her daughter she didn’t think having sex in high school was appropriate. But the girl was having sex anyway. Behind her mother’s back. My daughter was concerned because her friend had told her the condom had broken during sex several times. My daughter’s friend asked her to go with to buy a pregnancy test.  When my daughter told me this story, my first reaction was “That’s just scary.”  It made me realize that if you don’t accept your teen is having sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you are fooling yourself.

Raquel: I agree that you need to accept it.  You may not like it.  But you can not be everywhere your teen is and you don’t want your teen to get pregnant . I would rather have the sex conversation than the pregnant conversation.  I think the best way to be parent is to  make sure your teen – girl or boy- is protected. If they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, chances are they are going to have  sex with or without your approval.

Do you just need to worry if you have a teen girl?

Raquel: I have a girl and a boy but being the mother of a boy scares me the most. You have no control over the teenage girl’s decision to keep a baby if she gets pregnant. Your son may not be ready or want to be a dad and the girl will make that decision for him whether he likes it or not. That’s what you need to tell him.

If you find out your teen is sexually active, do you let him or her have sex in your house? Would you rather they do it in the car, or at a park, or somewhere else?

Raquel: Of course you don’t want them to do that, but you also want them to be safe.  If they do have sex in my house, I would rather not know.

Cindy: I’m with you on that one Raquel.

Do you take your daughter to get birth control?

Raquel: Yes.  You need to build that trust. Some of the choices and decisions your daughter makes might not be one you would have made as a teenager, but it’s not about you. It’s about your teen and what’s best for her. If she asks you to take her to the doctor to get birth control, not bringing her does NOT mean your teen will not have sex. It just means she will have it without birth control.  You have to make a decision.

Cindy: I feel like teen girls should go on birth control their senior year of high school. They may not have sex until college or even after college, but at least you, the parent, can take her to get it and have a discussion about the responsibility that’s involved in being on the pill or some other form of birth control. It could also be a good time for the conversation about self respect.

Do you buy your son condoms?

Cindy: Yes. I bought a box and put it in the bathroom. I let my son know it was there. By the end of high school, all of his friends had used them. At least I knew they were all having safe sex.

If you learn your son or daughter is having sex on a regular basis with a love interest, do you let the parent of the other teen know ?

Raquel: No. It’s so personal. If the teen doesn’t want to share with his or her parent that’s his or her business. It’s that unspoken truth and you just don’t go there.  You don’t advertise it.

Cindy: Of course, that answer is much easier if you don’t have a relationship with the parent of the other teen. If it’s the son or daughter of a close friend, you will need to prod a little to find out what her or she has revealed.

You see a pregnancy test in the garbage. Do you ask your teen about it, or leave it alone?

Raquel:  I was in that situation and I did ask my daughter. It turned out it was a friend’s who didn’t want to do the test at her own home.  Whether or not that was true, I took that opportunity to tell my daughter to please make sure she doesn’t skip a day of her pill and I explained that being a teen mom wasn’t just a fun reality show.

When you have a conversation about the risks of sexual activity  — pregnancy, infection, the potential for heartbreak – do you also have a conversation about the rewards such as intimacy and love?

Cindy:  It’s easy to talk to teens about the risks. It’s much harder to talk to have a  conversation about why we are sexual beings, or how we express love. I once read that it’s better to have short meaningful conversations about sex and relationships over time than one big conversation they will brush off. I have tried to follow that advice. I think the most important thing is let your teen know they can talk about sex with you rather than being sneaky or hiding it.

Okay parents, we tackled some pretty awkward questions in this post. If you disagree with our answers or have your own take on these scenarios  please share, or send questions our way and we will do a follow up post.

Is Your Teen a Picky Eater or is it Selective Eating Disorder?

Family dinners are supposed to be easy and nice but when the dinner is at your teen’s girlfriend/boyfriend’s house, do they get nervous or anxious because they have to try new food?

My son Matthew was invited for a family dinner at his girlfriend’s house last Saturday. Simple enough right? Wrong.

Matthew was terrified! He is a very picky eater or as he calls himself a Neophobe.  Food neophobia   is generally regarded as the reluctance to eat, or the avoidance of new foods. In contrast, ‘picky/fussy’ eaters reject a substantial amount of foods that are familiar (as well as unfamiliar) to them.  I don’t think Matthew is a Neophobe, but I do believe he may  have ARFID- Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), also previously known as selective eating disorder (SED), which is a type of eating disorder where the person limits the foods he eats based on appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation, or a past negative experience.

So, this eating problem is a BIG problem for Matthew.

Matthew gets extremely anxious when it comes to eating over people’s homes.  He avoids situations where there may be food he won’t like. When Matthew was a little boy he ate everything, but when he got older his diet  choices got smaller and smaller. Now mind you, Matthew is healthy and never  gets sick — thank goodness–  but still, his eating habits are not the greatest.

He JUST started eating sandwiches for the first time in his life —  peanut butter sandwiches on Wonder bread. That in itself was a miracle! He  didn’t want to start high school eating only fishies, pretzels and chocolate chip cookies for lunch.  Matthew recognizes he has a problem and has been struggling to overcome his fear of new foods. I have come to learn that the more I push him, the more reluctant he becomes to try new foods.

Last year we went on a cruise and he tried the steak and loved it. So guess what he ate every night for dinner?  You got it, steak and fries. Breakfast is pretty easy for Matthew, he eats cereals and waffles and pancakes and drinks 2 1/2 gallons of milk a week. So he gets a lot of Vitamin D.

Lunch and dinner are the challenges. Now that he’s a teen, he can’t eat his favorite food, chicken nuggets and french fries every day like he did when he was younger.  So, he added black beans and rice in for variety but those are the only two things he will eat for dinner,  To say it has been a challenge is an understatement!

So, here lies the dilemma that happened last Saturday. Matthew got invited to dinner at his girlfriend’s house! I asked him what they were having because I know Matthew hasn’t most likely eaten whatever food was being served.  He said they were having “pasta”.  I told him that was very broad and he needed to find out what kind of pasta. Well, it was spaghetti. Now, here I am driving him over to his girlfriend’s house and I am literally trying to calm him from his anxiety of eating  the pasta. He really wanted to try to food for his girlfriend. He said this was a good test to try new foods. I told him most likely they would have the pasta with spaghetti sauce. He said, “I don’t like red sauce.”  I told him he could add butter to it, but without anything it would taste bland and awful. I also told him to just ask for a small bowl and say he had a late lunch, which he did. I also told him to  honest and let her parents know his fear of trying new foods so they didn’t get offended. Honesty is always best. 

Matthew started to get hot in the car, even though the  cold AC was running. I told him Matthew, “It’s just  food. It won’t hurt you or kill you. What are you afraid of? “He said that he was afraid he wouldn’t like the taste and that it would make him sick. I then told him well we all have tried new foods we didn’t like. I tried sushi and I really really didn’t like it. But, it didn’t kill me. I thought it tasted awful, but I survived and he, too, will survive.

When I dropped him off, I told his girlfriend that he must really like her. I also told her to take a picture. So here is Matthew trying the spaghetti.  I texted him asking him how it was and of course he said “okay” and “plain.”  I said,  “Of course it’s plain! You put nothing on it.” I told him I was proud that he tried it.

So, now you know about my Matthew and his fear and anxiety over trying new foods. Do you know anyone who suffers from the same disorder? How did they overcome it? Would love to know of some suggestions and recommendations.

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!!!

Video games, clothes, food…where would your teen spend his/her money?

My son, Garret, kept asking us for money on the weekends to go out with friends. It really became a problem. So we decided to give him an allowance and a debit card. My husband tracks where he spends his money, but doesn’t question him about it because we want him to make his own choices.

Recently, we noticed that Garret spends most of his money on food.  That kid loves to eat. He and his friends are big fans of Chipotle. Now that my son’s friends are driving, it’s where they go on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s also where they go on an early release day from school. If you ever go to Chipotle, you will notice a ton of teens there. Chipotle tends to put its locations near high schools and universities. Pretty smart, huh?

Even though my son is a foodie, I am now learning  that he is pretty normal in his spending habits. Teens are spending most of their money on food. Yes, they are spending more on eating Chipotle and drinking Starbucks than on clothes, sneakers and video games. Even while we complain about our teens being less social because of their electronic devices, they are spending their money on eating out.

Piper Jaffray, which has surveyed teens about their spending habits for 17 years, has just released its 2017 Taking Stock With Teens research survey.  The survey found  food is the most important category within a teen’s wallet at 24 percent of spending. Clothing comes in second at 19 percent.

“We are seeing teen spending continue to shift more toward experiences — eating out and leisure,” Piper Jaffray senior analyst Erin Murphy said in a release.

Starbucks is the only public brand to maintain its double-digit share among all teens. It tied with Chick-fil-A at a 12 percent preference level.

Here’s another pretty interesting finding: Teens would rather buy athletic apparel than fashion brands. That kind of surprised me.

Other interesting takeaways:

  • 81 percent of teens expect their new phone will be an iPhone, the highest level ever seen in the survey.
  • Move over Facebook: Snapchat was listed as teens top social media platform at 39 percent. Instagram was second at 23 percent. Facebook and Twitter tied for third at 11 percent apiece.
  • Disney films were the clear winner for the most anticipated moves list with “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” grabbing some of the top spots.
  • Bad news for console gaming: The percent of teens who plan to digitally download more than half of their games increased to 45 percent from 37 percent in the fall of 2015.

Do you keep track of how your teen spends his or her money? Would you agree that food is the most frequent purchase?

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?

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