Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

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When teen suicide hits home.

Today I found out from my daughter that someone from her high school varsity soccer team committed suicide. This beautiful senior with a full soccer scholarship, perfect score on her ACTs with plans to go to a top college hung herself. Why?

All my daughter could ask was why would an always happy and a great person, kill themselves? How do I answer her when I myself don’t know, and want the same answers.

How sad and hopeless can one be that your only option is death? How lonely and desperate could she have been? How could no one has seen the pain?

I can’t imagine what the family or mother must be going through. How do you survive this? How do you move on? As a mom, I can’t fathom it. I’d have to wonder why my daughter was in so much pain that this was the only source of relieving the pain.

I worry for my daughter now. Is she suffering and I don’t see it? Is she in pain and hiding it like her friend. All one can do from this is learn, learn to better communicate with your children and be more involved with them and let them know they much are loved.

I hope Olivia realizes how precious life is and not to take it for granted and to ask for help no matter how bad life may seem. I hope she and all the kids from her high school take this as a wake up call and take the opportunity to make a difference in life and not take things for granted because life can change in a blink of an eye.

My heart breaks for the family and my prayers are with them.  I wish peace for them to get through their horrific pain. I am so sorry for their loss.

So hug your child tonight and tell them you love them no matter what.  I know I will.


Why is prom so expensive?


My son, a sophomore was asked to the prom by a foreign exchange student. He turned her down. I wasn’t happy about it because I don’t condone hurting anyone’s feelings and I felt like she should get the American prom experience. But when he explained the expense involved, I understood his reasoning.

Tickets to prom these days can cost more than $100 a piece. And then there’s the $150 to rent a tuxedo and the expense of a dress for the girls. With girls, you also have the hair and nails expense and usually some new makeup. And then there’s the corsage.

And of course, there’s the transportation cost. These days, kids chip in to rent party buses so they don’t drink and drive. I’m all for not drinking and driving. And then, many of them stay overnight in a hotel room. That’s more money out the door. And professional prom photos are more than $100. By the time you’re done, prom can cost more than a thousand dollars.

ABC news reports the cost of going to prom — the perfect dress or tuxedo, a limo, and pre-dance festivities — has risen to a nationwide average of $1,139. That figure represents a 5 percent increase from the $1,078 in 2012 that American families who have a teenager attending a prom spent on all aspects of the dance.

That’s outrageous!

My son, who spends his own money on entertainment, explained to me that he’s just not willing to shell out big bucks when he’s only a sophomore and for a girl he likes only as a friend. I get that.

What surprised me was a VISA survey that found the families that could least afford it, spent the most on prom. Single parents spent more than married parents. According to Visa, on average, parents plan to pay 59% of prom costs, and their teens will cover the remaining 41%.

The worst part of the trend is that the expense of prom is expected to continue to rise.

There are parents who have come up with ways to rein in the costs.  It takes a lot of budgeting and pre-planning.

Here are a few tips from Time Magazine:

  • Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. Many outlets rent tuxedos and formal dresses and accessories.
  • Have make-up done at a department store’s cosmetics department or enlist a friend to help.
  • Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or simply drive.
  • Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use cell phones for candid shots at the events.
  • Work out a prom budget in advance and set a limit for how much you will contribute. If teens want to spend more, encourage them to earn the money first.

Like most parents, I’m a sucker for prom. I want my kids — when they are seniors — to experience the high school rite of passage. So, even with the high price tag, I’ll encourage them to attend and chip in to pay. But that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about the cost. Right?

My teen is NOT nice to me

These three loud women are a hoot! I particularly love the topic of today’s video segment. Let me know if you can relate…..

Mom the Enabler?

I recently have been told that I seem to enable my daughter and her behavior in order to avoid conflict. Now, that may be true to an extent but trust me all mom’s know every action they have with their child has a reaction as well. I pick and choose my battles as do most parents but since their isn’t a book on “How to Raise a Teenager”, I have to make the best choices knowing what the outcome will be.

For example, if my daughter texts me and tells me she needs a ride late at night after she told me she has one, should I make her walk? Some parents would say, that will teach her a lesson. I say, she is not safe at night walking by herself and I would prefer her safety over teaching her a lesson!

Am I enabling my daughter if I fold the laundry for her because she has to study or I want it done right then and there?  Probably, but I don’t care, there are so many other lessons she needs to be taught and I just can’t be on her for every single thing or all she will learn or remember from being a teen is that mom was a nag and just cared about chores and not her. I need to focus on how to better communicate with her so she and I can have a strong trusting relationship where she can come to me for bigger issues not laundry. As she tells me, I need to be a better listener.

My hubby on the other hand would say I need to be better at NOT ENABLING our daughter. Look I am trying to listen, communicate, love, care, nurture, protect my daughter all at once so if enabling is in the mix, so be it. Like I said, there is no book on how to raise teens, so all we can do is try our best and make the best choices for our kids with what we know and pray it was the best choice. Will I continue to enable, probably but I truly believe or at least pray that as she gets older things will get better.

So, are you an enabling mom? or an enabling dad?

Are you a Spy Mom? What some moms have learned about their teens on Facebook



A few days ago, I noticed my son’s Facebook page was up on his computer screen and he had wondered off. My first thought: Opportunity had knocked, and I was going to take it!

Just as I was scrolling down, reading away and absorbing the 411 about what teens say online, my son came back and caught me. He immediately closed his laptop up giving me only enough time to take my fingers off the keyboard.

“What are you doing?” I screeched.

“You’re being nosey,” he replied and shooed me away, claiming he had online research he needed to do on his computer. Oh well,  I’ll just have to be nosey more covertly next time.

Clearly, Facebook has created a who new category of us nosey moms….just call us “Spy Moms.” We may complain about our teens social media addiction, but parents today have the opportunity to spy on our kids in way our parents never had (or maybe never needed?)

A new study by Education Database Online found that nearly half of all parents using Facebook joined so they could spy on their kids. Nearly three-fourths of parents check their children’s Facebook profiles more than four times a week.


This mom is stressed over the college thing




I never thought the day would come as a parent when I had sending my kids to college on my mind. I have one word to describe it — stressful!

All you have to do is say “college” and my brain starts to hurt!

First, I went on the in-state college tour with my kids over Spring Break. Then, last night I went to a college application process workshop at the high school. And, in between, I’m talking to parents whose teens are about to graduate and go off to college. My brain is about to explode.

I’m a mess and I’m excited at the same time. I made great friends in college and have wonderful memories. I feel like I graduated with a good education, too. I look at my daughter and I see a young lady who I know will enjoy becoming independent. But I want to be at a college where she’s happy and I want her to leave school ready to enter the real world with the right skills to get a good job — isn’t that what every parent wants?

Last night at the high school workshop, the presenter told parents: “The college process has never been so easy — or so hard!”

So much has changed since most parents went to college. Did you know 17 million students attended colleges last year. That’s a lot more than it was when I applied and it’s the reason that the college application process has become extremely competitive.

My daughter will be a senior, so I’m about to face round one with her: application deadlines and essay writing  UGH!

Over and over, I hear the same phrase from college admissions officer. Grades are important, so are test scores. But even still, your kid has to STAND OUT. It’s that third thing that stresses me out because it seems so subjective.

And then, comes the even harder part, being on the same page as your spouse about in-state vs. out-of-state tuition, taking out college loans and applying for scholarships and financial aid.

It seems like the whole thing takes sanity survival skills. I look around and I see lots of parents who survived – whose kids are not only getting into their colleges of choice, but also getting jobs when they graduate. Those parents, they’re my heroes.




9 Tips for Choosing the Right High School Classes

When it comes time to high school course selection, I turn into game show contestant, trying to guess the right answer. I really don’t know what colleges are looking for these days. If I tell my kids to ask their school guidance counselor, they laugh. “What’s so funny?'” I ask. “Guidance counselors are a joke,”  they tell me. Apparently, in a big high school like ours, counselors oversee hundreds of students and don’t really provide much guidance.

So today, when an email from International College Counselors hit my Inbox, I couldn’t wait to hear what the experts had to say. I found it so helpful that I wanted to share it with all of you.


9 Tips for Choosing the Right High School Classes 

If success in the college admissions process is important, then your student needs to choose the right classes.

The high school transcript is almost always the most important document in a student’s application. Keep in mind, though, rarely would there ever be one particular class on a transcript that would determine the   applicant’s outcome.

While there’s no 100% guaranteed future college admissions formula, there are some strong patterns for success.

Here are some tips to guide you:


1. Meet the high school requirements. High schools have a list of required credits that must be taken in order to graduate. Most colleges (online or other) require a high school diploma to enroll in any program that grants bachelor degrees.

2. Take a balanced set of classes. Typically, a student should try to take courses each year in English, science, math, the social sciences, and foreign language.

3. Choose a smart range of college-prep courses. A student doesn’t need to take AP Everything to get into college but course choice does depend on the selectivity of college a students wants to attend. Demanding and challenging honors, accelerated, AP, International Baccalaureate (IB), and Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) courses make a student more desirable to a school. However, colleges recognize a student can only take advantage of accelerated courses if her high school provides them. If AP courses or IB programs are not offered at a high school, colleges understand and only expect that a student will excel in the opportunities to which there is access. Colleges also understand different schools have different requirements that may restrict what courses a student can take.

4. Show colleges a positive pattern. Colleges like to see a high level (or an improving degree) of rigor and success   throughout a student’s high school years. This includes the senior year. Have   you heard this famous question: “Is it better to take a course where I   know I can get an ‘A’ or should I take a harder course and risk getting a   lower grade?” The answer is: “It’s best to get an ‘A’ in a harder   course.”  For those who find this answer unacceptable, we advise   students to take the higher course if the student thinks she can get a   “B.” Normally “C” or below means that a student is simply   in the wrong level. The key is that students need to seek challenge, not   avoid it, and succeed in the challenges chosen.

5.  Know the admissions guidelines for top choice   colleges.  Many colleges, especially the selective ones, have   specific admissions requirements for entering students, for example, a   foreign language requirement. It is best to research each school   individually.  Make sure your student meets any and all minimum   requirements.

6.  Pursue intellectual interests.  It’s OK to   take courses of a personal interest like filmmaking or fashion, just make   sure it is not at the expense of a schedule’s overall rigor. Honesty is very   important when a student is deciding between different courses. Is he or she   choosing drama because of a real excitement about it and the challenge it   presents, or is the motivation powered by a desire to avoid a different (and   perhaps difficult) academic subject?


7. Consider online and dual enrollment options.  Are you very   interested in physics but your school does not offer Physics C? Now, with the   internet and dual enrollment, students can take almost every class   imaginable! Be sure to check with your school prior to taking an online or   dual enrollment class to confirm credit will be accepted.

8.  Consult with teachers, a high school counselor and/or an expert college advisor on what courses are most appropriate. Some difficult decisions may also need   to be made about which courses to take and how to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

9.  Do not catch Senioritis! Many admissions offices   will check an applicant’s senior year program and performance before offering   admission. Additionally, schools may rescind an acceptance if a student   performed poorly during the senior year.

Students who push themselves to excel all the way through high school, or show a trend of improvement are the type of student colleges welcome.  Colleges take “extra effort” to be a good sign that a student will do the same at their school.

About International College Counselors

International College Counselors provides expert college counseling on undergraduate and graduate college admissions, financial aid,   tuition, essays, and college applications to domestic and international students.      

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Teens believe they are going to change the world

Today I judged a prestigious contest for high school seniors. The most awesome part was talking to teens just months before they graduate from high school and head off to college. As I engaged them in conversation I noticed a theme — extreme optimism.

At least four of the teens told me straight out and quite convincingly that they are going to change the world. One said he’s going to do it through the video games he develops. Another is going to do it through the surgical skills she plans to learn and apply to those wounded in the military. Yet another plans to make films aimed at teaching self esteem and confidence to young girls. A friend of mine, a judge in another category, told me one of her teen candidates declared she’s going to change the world when she becomes a Supreme Court Justice.

It could be very possible that one or all them change the world.

But as a parent of teens, the experience made me think that I should capture my kids on video tape right before they graduate high school. It’s the time of one’s life when the world seems so promising and optimism is at its peak. If I had videoed myself just a few months prior to high school graduation, what would I have said and how would I have expressed myself? I think it would be enlightening to watch.

If you have a teen about to graduate, whip out that video camera, ask him or her some questions about the future and let it roll. A decade from now, your child might say the same thing on video, but definitely not with the same wide-eyed sense of excitement they would right now. I guarantee both of you will enjoy watching it together one day in the future — especially if they do change the world!


Teflon Teens

You get to a point sometimes that no matter what you tell your teen or how you tell them  it ain’t sticking, like teflon. They will do what they want, when they want and how they want. How do we stop or control this?

How many times can you tell your teen to:

1. Clean your room

2. Put your clothes away

3. Do your homework

4. Be home by curfew

5. Be careful when you’re out

6. Be safe, make smart choices

7. Don’t drink or do drugs

and the list goes on and on.

I find myself helpless that I can’t get through to my daughter no matter what.  So what can I do? Keep at her and never give up? Give up and just let her do what she wants, she will anyway? Is there an answer? I don’t know. Do you? Does anyone?

I do know that I, not like teflon, will stick by her and hope that something, anything that I have told her over and over has sunk in and stuck.

So until then, I wait, hope, breathe, exhale and repeat.


What do Dan Marino, Arnold Schwarzenegger and my son have in common?


Almost on a weekly basis, I talk about condoms with my son.

I tell him, “rain or shine, wear your raincoat.” My son thinks my condom crusade is hilarious. He doesn’t have girlfriend, he’s only 15, and he says he hasn’t had sex so he finds this obsession of mine to be “ridiculous.”

I may be crazy, but as parent, I feel my window of opportunity to make an impression on my son is now. Catching a your teen at the right time in the right mood to absorb your words of wisdom is a huge challenge. You need to be physically and mentally being there at that rare moment when your teen wants to talk or listen.

My recent obsession with “the condom talk” came about from the NBC show Parenthood. I love that show and one of the characters, Drew, reminds me a lot of my teenage son. A few episodes ago, Drew, who is still in high school, got his girlfriend pregnant. It was torturous to watch him visibly upset and waiting around while his girlfriend decided how she wanted to handle the situation.

It made me realize that should my son decide not to wear his raincoat one night, for whatever reason, he has absolutely no say in the life-altering decisions that follow. That comes with the territory of being male.

Football great Dan Marino has learned this the hard way. So has Arnold Schwarzenegger. So has John Edwards. All are fathers to children they had while married to another woman. Whether they were intentionally trapped by these women who preyed on their wealth and stature, we will never know. What we do know is that their mistakes have cost them dearly.

What does their situations say to our sons? What can we teach them from this? Everywhere you turn in the news these days there is some high profile man being accused of lying or cheating in sports, in business or in life. When the news leaks, and they finally come clean, they apologize and say they made a big mistake.

When my kids are caught doing something wrong, they usually respond,“But everyone else was….” There is a reason generations of parents have dished out that famous line, “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it, too?”

But somewhere along the line of growing up, we mature and realize that “everyone is
doing it” is not a logical argument and that avoiding mistakes takes smart split-second decision making in the heat of the moment. That’s not easy, especially for teens.

Like most parents, I have worried about a lot of things as my kids have grown up — from their playground antics to their Facebook antics. Watching them step out into their own lives and make their own decisions and mistakes might be the hardest part.

When the news broke yesterday about Dan Marino’s extramarital affair and his love child, I jumped on the chance to use Dan’s story in my condom crusade, making it dinner table conversation. I’ve accepted that my son may think I’m crazy mom — at least right now.  But if my voice can creep inside my son’s head, and guide his thinking when the brain turns off and the hormones or alcohol kicks in, then all my efforts to be present as a parent will have paid off.

Parents, how do you approach finding the right time and right method to drive a point home with your teens? What news events have you used as your teaching moments?


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