Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

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My last “first day of school” with my teen

Today, I woke up extra early. I hovered over my two  teens with a camera in hand, wanting to snap a picture of them on their first day of the school year. For my daughter, a high school senior, this would be my last time doing this ritual.

With comforting predictability, I have always pulled my camera out on the first day to capture the newness of the year, before the homework struggles and complaints about teachers set in. It hasn’t always been easy to “be there” to capture the moment — some years it meant planning in advance to make sure work assignments don’t conflict.

Today, the annual lump in my throat seemed larger as I stood there at dawn watching my daughter get into the car with my son and drive off for high school,  leaving me in the driveway. I may have complained in the past about back to school jitters, but today, I realize how much I enjoy the events leading up to the start of a new school year — stockpiling lunchbox snacks, comparing the deals on new school supplies, choosing first day of school outfits.

Alone in the driveway, it hit me…

The day will come when I don’t have the back-to-school stress that comes from getting kids in bed earlier, digging up quickie family dinner recipes and organizing carpools to sports practices and after-school activities. Inevitably, all three of my kids eventually will leave their dorms to attend class without mom taking a photo. Inevitably, my work life balancing act will get easier. Now that I’m much closer to that reality, I’m not sure I want that to happen.

My camera just doesn’t feel ready.


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Are we teaching our kids the wrong thing? Why being nice counts for something…

We teach our kids to do well in school. We teach them to excel in sports. We teach them not to murder their siblings. But how much time and energy do we spend teaching them to be nice? Is it something we as parents even think is worth teaching? Are we caught up in the “nice guys finish last” theory?

I just read an article by Cindi Bigelow, CEO of Bigelow Tea in the Huffington Post. It really made me think about the messages I send my teens. Lately, I’m finding it really challenging to teach my teens about self-worth, confidence and honesty, particularly my daughter who is gaga over a boy for the first time. I feel like my time to teach my teens good character has become so short-term and exhausting.

Cindi Bigelow talks about what she looks for when she hires an employee and what she’s tried to teach her own children. She writes:



My list of what I want my kids to be is actually much longer than merely “nice.” In no particular order, I want them also to be:

• Caring
• Hard-working
• Balanced
• Fair
• Resilient

I also have a list of what I don’t want them to be. I don’t want them to feel “entitled” or be disrespectful. And I certainly don’t want them to have an “attitude.”

And how do I impart this important information to my kids? By “messaging” to them continually (maybe similar to how a company tries to advertise its products). This kind of steady repetition of values is essential in raising our children. “Say please and thank you.” “Hold the door.” “Be kind to your brother.” “Be friendly to the kid who doesn’t have any friends.” “Tell the truth even when it hurts.” “Learn how to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

And the good news is it works. I’ve seen the results.

Bigelow believes young people actually want to be nice and are concerned with the direction the country is taking. As a parent of teens, it’s hard to judge whether this is true. While most of my teens’ friends are polite to me, they’re not always “nice” to each other.

I agree with Bigelow that being nice can help you get ahead in life. I am hoping this “entitled” generation will figure that out as they head into their 20s….

Bigelow writes:

What I find so inspiring is that the younger generation is already wired for success and committed to traditional values like kindness and compassion and integrity. We just have to keep reinforcing that message and not let our society’s love of professional and material success overshadow the importance of being a good and decent person.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Has it becoming challenging for you as a parent to teach the importance of being nice when being selfish is completely acceptable? Do you think other parents consider the trait worth instilling in their teens?



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How to survive teen daughters

Here I am, exactly the place I’d thought I’d never be. The one that a mom of a teen referred to when my toddler daughter planted a big kiss on my forehead. “Oh, just wait until she’s a teenager,” the mom would say in a foreboding tone.

Now, I’ve arrived at that place in time.

It is midnight and my 17-year-old daughter is sprawled across her bed, texting away. I ask who she is texting so late at night. She continues as if she didn’t hear me. I repeat myself and she brushes me off with one word answer: “friends.” Reluctantly, I’m getting used to one word answers and conversations that happen on a keyboard clutched close to my daughter’s chest.

have just one more year before my daughter leaves the nest and I thought I could escape the stage that comes after eye rolling over my choice in music and embarrassment that my shorts are too high or too low.  I know it’s my daughter’s job to move on beyond the universe of telling me everything, of including me in her circle of secrets; it’s the progression of life. So this is less about her and more about me. I am grieving a very particular loss: the loss of the “little” in my little girl. 

Just a few years ago, my daughter and I would take long walks at night. We would giggle over how crazy it was that Katie liked Josh. “You know, he doesn’t even brush his teeth everyday,” she would tell me .

Just how am I supposed to mother this person who no longer thinks I should even know that Katie or Josh exist in her universe. Of course, now, Katie and Josh are having sex and my daughter is horrified that I might overhear her discussing it. My questions are met with shrugs, or worse, I’m told I’m being nosy. In many ways, I understand. I told my mother less than a hundredth of what my daughter confides in me.

This is natural,” a friend with older kids assures me. “I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”

When I’m feeling mature, I can agree. I can tell myself it’s part of my job to let my daughter build bonds with her friends, share intimate conversations and become a young woman. In my less than mature moments, my feelings are hurt. I am being shut out.

I’m not saying that I’m no longer close with my daughter. Or that my daughter isn’t an amazing person, even in her worst moments.  I’m simply saying that my little girl’s not coming back and I, like the mothers of teen daughters before me, need to stand on the periphery for now and understand my role, letting her set the tone for what she is willing to share. I’m  here for support, giving her persistent reminders that I’m on her side and trying to strike that delicate balance between friend and mother.

No one said it would be easy.


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Can your teenager address a mailing enevlope?

I recently had my daughter Olivia write, not text, a personal Thank You card to everyone who gave her a gift for her 16th Birthday. I thought this was a good way for her to show appreciation to her family and friends and for her to appreciate each gift as she writes a personal note. We went out and bought the cards she liked and then I gave her return labels with her name on them to place on the envelopes. I sat with her at the table to get her to write out the cards because I knew she would need some motivational help to get started.

I gave her the list of names and an address book. As I got up to leave, she said,  “I just have to put the zip codes on the envelope right, not the city and state?” I thought she was kidding. I asked, “You’re kidding right? Do you not know how to address an envelope?”  She said, “No, I don’t write letters. I just put the number on my phone to talk with someone.”

I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe my newly 16-year-old daughter did not know how to address an envelope? How could that be? Was this my fault?The school? Teachers? How can these teenagers not know how to write and address an envelope? Has technology taken over every aspect of our lives, down to a handwritten envelope?

Well, after I realized she didn’t know, I showed her and told her I was so glad she was doing this if not for showing gratitude but learning how to address an envelope!

Have these teenagers gotten so far into technology that they are getting further and further away from the simple common things that for years and decades were common sense to dos – tell time with a clock, address an envelope, sew, use a land line, talk to people not text, etc.. etc..

I am now on a mission to get my daughter to do the simple things that I and generations before me grew up doing — whether it be more letter writing or just picking up the home phone and talking with her grandmother.  I do NOT want Olivia not knowing how to do these things.

Next week she leaves for NY to visit relatives and I told her to send me a postcard each week not a text! I want my daughter to appreciate the things that no longer exist but are important for her to grow as a person.

I’m interested in knowing if any other parent has “addressed” this issue with their teen. Have you had similar conversations?


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What age is realistic for a teen to get a summer job?

My husband wants my son to experience the reality of the working world. He’s been after him to line up a summer job since January. So far, he’s managed to land an unpaid summer job.

My son insists its almost impossible to get hired when you’re only 15 at anywhere other than a summer camp. (and even those jobs want to give you volunteer hours rather than pay.) The battle in our house continues.

Meanwhile I came across an article that lends some validity to my son’s argument.

Here is the article from an NBC station’s website:

Teens struggle to find summer jobs

(NBC – Montgomery, Alabama)

School’s out, summer’s here and the job search begins. Many teens are now looking for summer jobs as a way to make money, but these young students are struggling to find some.

The job market for teenagers has been struggling for a few years, and unfortunately, many teenagers are losing hope.

Students like Abby Stone are anxiously waiting to land a summer job.

“I’ve been applying to literally every job…I’ve been looking for like five weeks now…but I don’t know,” said Stone.

Stone had a summer job last year, but she says it’s harder to find one this time. She needs the money to attend her high school.

“I pay $85 dollars a week…they won’t let me stay in school if I don’t,” Stone said. “I do not ever want to leave school because I want to get through.”

A summer job means a stronger resume and gaining essential skills to succeed in college and future careers. But James Shipp, program director for the Workforce Investment Act, says students have to plan months ahead to get a summer job now.

“When they come over for Christmas break…that’s a good time to start looking for jobs,” Shipp said. “The sooner you apply the better chances of you getting a job. And network…it’s the best way…sometimes even better than applying early.”

Teen unemployment has exceeded more than 20% for the past four years. Sixteen to 19 year olds might have to go back to school without ever finding another job.

If anyone is looking for a job or other opportunities, there are many options available on the web. IndeedCareerbuilderMonster, and Snagajob are all great site to start your job search.

PR guru Jeff Crilley says:

Clearly, the job market is tight, but many employers complain that today’s teens just don’t have the work ethic of their parents and grandparents.

How much of the high teen unemployment rate is due to teens who just aren’t hustling? 

“I’ve had a number of employers tell me that they’re seeing more spoiled teenagers than ever before,” explains personal finance expert Clark Hodges. “They’re only half-hardheartedly looking for work because they’d really rather be home playing video games or texting with their friends.”



Parents, what do you think of teen summer employment? Do you think teens are trying hard enough to find paid work? Are there really fewer jobs available for teens? Do you think employers take advantage of teens by offering unpaid work and labeling it as volunteer hours? What age is realistic for a teen to land a paid job?


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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.


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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?

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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…..

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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?

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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.


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