Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

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Dad encouraged football, now she’s reporting live from Superbowl

I love this story posted on Bizwomen.com, mostly because of how Sam Gordon’s father nurtured her talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. It’s a great message for parents of teen girls who show athleticism. I hope some of your daughters see Sam during the Superbowl and are inspired by the opportunities she represents.

sam gordon


From Bizwomen.com:

Remember when this 11 year-old girl was tackling boys twice her size?

The young football player Sam Gordon became an Internet phenomenon in 2012 for her impressive skills on the field. It didn’t take long for her catch national attention — she landed a spot on Conan, smiled on a Wheaties box and joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2013 Super Bowl.

Now she’s onto her next big gig: She’ll be reporting live from Super Bowl XLIX for MAKERS.

After the 2012 excitement, Gordon took a year off of football to focus on soccer (which she also excelled at), but she missed football too much to stay away. These days, she plays on a boys’ football team near Salt Lake City, Utah, and her dad is her No. 1 fan.

“I said, ‘Hey Dad, would it be OK if I played football this year?’ And he said, ‘Sure, that’s fine.’ My dad never said no to anything like that just because I was a girl,” Gordon said in a video shown at the MAKERS conference last year.

Gordon’s dad said that people were surprised to see a small girl dressed up in football pads and gear walk onto the field. At first, parents and other kids would say, “Oh, look at that girl, she’s so cute.” But when they saw her scoring touchdowns and tackling boys, the tone would shift to, “Get that girl. You gotta get her. Boys don’t get beat by a girl.”

Her dad then posted a video of her playing football online, and in just a few days, the video had 4 million views. TV stations started calling.

“I really felt good that Sam’s story could help promote the idea that the potential of girls is greater than what maybe we give them credit for,” her father said. “Don’t underestimate your daughters.”


Do your teens friends follow you on Instagram?

Recently, a couple of my daughters friends had requested to follow me on Instagram. I thought that was odd since I was “Olivia’s mom” but I figured I had an opportunity to see what my daughter was doing  and with whom when she was out.

At times I am thrilled I can see what my daughter and her friends are up to but then other times, I feel weird following a teen. I have mixed emotions but in the end, I rather be informed then ignored.

One time I decided to “like” a picture of her friend  with his family and apparently the “MILF” comments came. Olivia’s friend was THRILLED I liked his post. She told Olivia, “RAQUEL, liked my post!” Now I am worried I am giving off the wrong signal to a horny teen college boy.

I told Olivia I thought it was sweet he posted a picture of him and his family for the Holidays but, I never expected that response. Needless to say, I wont be “liking” his posts so as not to encourage any misguided intentions.

I know her friends think I’m a cool mom and feel comfortable communicating and making me a part of their inner circle, so in the end, if it allows me to have open access and an open relationship with my daughter, not to mention.. build TRUST, then it’s so worth it.

So, mom’s and dad’s, do you follow your teen on Instagram or do their friends follow you??

Teen suicide has become rampant. I’m scared.

teen suicide


From every direction lately, I hear about teen suicide. First, I read about two high school girls, both popular soccer players, who killed themselves just days apart. One may have killed herself because she felt guilty for not preventing the other from taking her life.

Today, I read about Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge, a 22-year-old lineman and wrestler who was found dead in a dumpster blocks away from his apartment with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Karageorge’s mother, Susan Karageorge, had previously told a TV station that her son suffered from concussions, and that he had sent her a text shortly before he went missing in which he apologized for being an “embarrassment” as a result of the medical condition.

“I wish you could’ve talked to me if you were struggling,”Johnni Dijulius, one of Karageorge’s teammates on the wrestling team told NBC News. “I love you to death and I hope that you found peace and you’re happy.”

As I read more and more about teen suicide, I’m scared. What’s going on with our teens and young adults?

The rate of teen suicide has been rising during the past few years, according to a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also found 1 in 12 high school students reported having attempted suicide.

Are we raising teens that feel lonely, disconnected and misunderstood? What should we be doing differently?

Recently, during a fight in my son’s school cafeteria, the teens all reached for their phones to video it. Not one, called for help. Are we raising teens who try to capture the moment digitally rather than step in physically to prevent hurt feelings, broken bones or worse — suicide? Have you had a conversation with your teen lately about coming to you if he or she feels suicidal or believes a friend might be?

Teens, like everyone else, need to feel like someone gets them. They want to be understood. Obviously, we’re not doing enough to help them feel that way.

Clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg rightfully asks: “Why are so many teens giving up so quickly?” I have to wonder the same…..

Is social media to blame? Are violent video games the problem? Could peer pressure have reached a new level? Are we relying too much on medication rather than conversation?

Why do you think teen suicide is on the uptick and what do you think parents can do about it?

How Instagram Became Home to Mean Girls

Today, I asked my son how he did on his history test. No response.

I asked again. No response.

Then, I noticed the reason. Buried in his lap was his cell phone. He was glued to his Instagram feed.

If you have a teen, you probably know that Instagram rules. It takes priority over homework, conversation with mom and sometimes even over TV. It’s a world our teens live in, for better or worse.

When I saw this article from Time Magazine, I had to share it with you…


The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

Close up of teenage girl texting on mobile in bedroom
Getty Images

Girls have quietly repurposed the photo-sharing app into a barometer for popularity, friendship status and self-worth. Here’s how they’re using it.

Secrecy is hardly new on Planet Girl: as many an eye-rolling boy will tell you, girls excel at eluding the prying questions of grown ups. And who can blame them? From an early age, young women learn that to be a “good girl” they must be nice, avoid conflict and make friends with everyone. It’s an impossible ask (and one I’ve studied for over a decade) – so girls respond by taking their true feelings underground.

Enter the Internet, and Instagram: a platform where emotions can run wild – and where insecurities run wilder. The photo-sharing app is social media’s current queen bee: In a survey released earlier this month, three quarters of teens said they were using Instagram as their go-to app.

But Instagram’s simplicity is also deceiving: look more closely, and you find the Rosetta Stone of girl angst: a way for tweens and teens to find out what their peers really think of them (Was that comment about my dress a joke or did she mean it?), who likes you (Why wasn’t I included in that picture?), even how many people like them (if you post and get too few likes, you might feel “Instashame,” as one young woman calls it). They can obsess over their friendships, monitoring social ups and downs in extreme detail. They can strategically post at high traffic hours when they know peers are killing time between homework assignments. “Likes,” after all, feel like a public, tangible, reassuring statement of a girl’s social status.

That’s not what the app creators intended, of course, but it does make psychological sense: as they become preteens, research shows that girls’ confidence takes a nosedive. Instagram, then, is a new way for girls to chase the feeling of being liked that eludes so many of them. Instagram becomes an popularity meter and teens learn to manipulate the levers of success.

Here are a few of the ways that girls are leveraging Instagram to do much more than just share photos:

To Know What Friends Really Think Of Them

In the spot where adults tag a photo’s location, girls will barter “likes” in exchange for other things peers desperately want: a “TBH” (or “to be honest”). Translation? If you like a girl’s photo, she’ll leave you a TBH comment. For example: “TBH, ILYSM,” meaning, “To be honest I love you so much.” Or, the more ambivalent: “TBH, We don’t hang out that much.

To Measure How Much a Friend Likes You

In this case, a girl may trade a “like” — meaning, a friend will like her photo — in exchange for another tidbit of honesty: a 1-10 rating, of how much she likes you, your best physical feature, and a numerical scale that answers the question of “are we friends?” and many others. Girls hope for a “BMS,” or break my scale, the ultimate show of affection.

As a Public Barometer of Popularity

Instagram lets you tag your friends to announce that you’ve posted a new photo of them. Girls do the app one better: they take photos of scenes where no person is present – say, a sunset — but still tag people they love and add gushing comments. It’s a kind of social media mating call for BFFs. But girls also do it because the number of tags you get is a public sign of your popularity. “How many photos you’re tagged in is important,” says Charlotte, 12. “No one can see the actual number but you can sort of just tell because you keep seeing their name pop up.”


That broken heart necklace you gave your bestie? It’s gone the way of dial up. Now, girls use Instagram biographies – a few lines at the top of their page — to trumpet their inner circle. It’s a thrill to be featured on the banner that any visitor to the page will see — but not unusual to get deleted after a fight or bad day, in plain, humiliating sight of all your friends.

A Way to Retaliate

Angry at someone? Don’t tag the girl who is obviously in a picture, crop her out of it entirely, refuse to follow back the one who just tried to follow you, or simply post a photo a girl is not in. These are cryptic messages adults miss but which girls hear loud and clear. A girl may post an image of a party a friend wasn’t invited to, an intimate sleepover or night out at a concert. She never even has to mention the absent girl’s name. She knows the other girl saw it. That’s the beauty of Instagram: it’s the homework you know girls always do.

A Personal Branding Machine

Girls face increasing pressure not only to be smart and accomplished, but girly, sexy and social. In a 2011 survey, 74% of teen girls told the Girl Scout Research Institute that girls were living quasi-double lives online, where they intentionally downplayed their intelligence, kindness and good influence – and played up qualities like fun, funny and social. On Instagram, girls can project a persona they may not have time, or permission, to show off in the classroom: popular, social, sexy. Cultivating a certain look is so important that it’s common for girls to stage ‘photo shoots’ with each other as photographers to produce shots that stand out visually. (Plus a joint photo shoot is more evidence of friendship.)

A Place For Elaborate Birthday Collages

Remember coming to school on your big day, excited to see what you’d find plastered to your locker? Now girls can see who’s celebrating them hours before they get off the bus. Birthday collages on Instagram are elaborate public tributes, filled with inside jokes, short videos, and pictures of memories you may not have been a part of. “There is definitely a ‘I love you the most. I’ve loved you the longest edge to these birthday posts,” one parent told me. Collages that document the intensity or length of a relationship are a chance to celebrate a friend – or prove just how close you are to the birthday girl. Although most girls know to expect something from their closest friends, not getting one is seen as a direct diss, a parent told me. And it can be competitive: another parent told me her daughter’s friend stayed up until midnight just so she could be the first to post.

While girls may seem addicted to their online social lives, it’s not all bad — and they still prefer the company of an offline friend to any love they have to click for. (In a surveyt hat would surely surprise some parents, 92% of teen girls said they would give up all of their social media friends if it meant keeping their best friend.) And, of course, likes aren’t everything. As 13 year-old Leah told me, “Just because people don’t write me a paragraph on Instagram doesn’t mean they don’t like me.”

Rachel Simmons is the co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” and “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence.” 

The truth about sneaky teens

Have you ever been tricked by your teen?

Last night, my husband got tricked. He feels like a big fool. It wasn’t even his own kid that tricked him. A group of my son’s friends came back to our home after the high school homecoming dance. One of the girls put my husband on the phone with her father. The girl’s father wanted assurance that an adult was home. “We are here and we aren’t leaving,” my husband said.

What my husband learned this morning is that shortly after giving the girl’s father assurance, she left our home with a few kids, went to another party, got drunk and came back to our home. My husband got schooled in teen trickery 101.

It happens to the best of us, I told him.  Staying ahead of teens is hard work.  Teens are sneaky. Even the good ones. I think it’s just part of being a teenager.

There’s something about being young, trying new things, colluding with friends and wanting to be independent that makes teens take risks and keep secrets from their parents. Sometimes, they are being sneaky about small, stupid thing that empower them by letting them think they’ve pulled the wool over our eyes. Sometimes, they are hiding big things that could get them into real trouble.

I hate this part of parenting! There’s no winning. You’re either going to get accused of being too intrusive or played for a fool.

From sneaking out of the house past curfew to hiding alcohol in plastic water bottles, there are levels of sneaky behavior and a sliding scale of what I’m willing to accept.  Even with GPS devices and a public trail created by social networks, we just aren’t able to know everything our kids are up to all of the time. Maybe it’s their age that gives them the advantage.

I have learned is to follow my instincts and become a skillful observer. A teenager that’s normally relaxed may have a perfect story to tell that fails only because her shifty body language or lack of eye contact betrays her. Or, maybe there’s a loose thread your kid’s story that unravels when you throw out a strange question. (I found a blog post that offers some great advice on how to tell when your teen is lying)

I always tell my kids, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can NEVER fool your parent. If only I was convinced of that! After last night, my husband is not!

Important to treat your child’s depression

According to the FDA, we must not let childhood depression go untreated. I read the article below and felt it was important to share it. My daughter suffers from mental illness and depression is one of them. Denial isn’t going to help her, but treatment is going to help. This article below hit close to home for me and I felt it probably would for many other parents, too.  Enjoy the read. Hope it helps.


Every psychological disorder, including depression, has some behavioral components.

Depressed children often lack energy and enthusiasm. They become withdrawn, irritable and sulky. They may feel sad, anxious and restless. They may have problems in school, and frequently lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Some parents might think that medication is the solution for depression-related problem behaviors. In fact, that’s not the case. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any drugs solely for the treatment of “behavior problems.” When FDA approves a drug for depression—whether for adults or children—it’s to treat the illness, not the behavior associated with it.

“There are multiple parts to mental illness, and the symptoms are usually what drug companies study and what parents worry about. But it’s rare for us at FDA to target just one part of the illness,” says Mitchell Mathis, M.D., a psychiatrist who is the Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

The first step to treating depression is to get a professional diagnosis; most children who are moody, grouchy or feel that they are misunderstood are not depressed and don’t need any drugs.

Only about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Before puberty, girls and boys have the same incidence of depression. After adolescence, girls are twice as likely to have depression as boys. The trend continues until after menopause. “That’s a clue that depression might be hormonal, but so far, scientists haven’t found out exactly how hormones affect the brain,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Tiffany R. Farchione, M.D., the Acting Deputy Director of FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products.

It’s hard to tell if a child is depressed or going through a difficult time because the signs and symptoms of depression change as children grow and their brains develop. Also, it can take time to get a correct diagnosis because doctors might be getting just a snapshot of what’s going on with the young patient.

“In psychiatry, it’s easier to take care of adults because you have a lifetime of patient experience to draw from, and patterns are more obvious” says Mathis. “With kids, you don’t have that information. Because we don’t like to label kids with lifelong disorders, we first look for any other reason for those symptoms. And if we diagnose depression, we assess the severity before treating the patient with medications.”

Getting the Proper Care

The second step is to decide on a treatment course, which depends on the severity of the illness and its impact on the child’s life. Treatments for depression often include psychotherapy and medication. FDA has approved two drugs—fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro)—to treat depression in children. Prozac is approved for ages 8 and older; Lexapro for kids 12 and older.

“We need more pediatric studies because many antidepressants approved for adults have not been proven to work in kids,” Farchione says. “When we find a treatment that has been shown to work in kids, we’re encouraged because that drug can have a big impact on a child who doesn’t have many medication treatment options.”

FDA requires that all antidepressants include a boxed warning about the increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents and young adults up to age 24. “All of these medicines work in the brain and the central nervous system, so there are risks. Patients and their doctors have to weigh those risks against the benefits,” Mathis says.

Depression can lead to suicide. Children who take antidepressants might have more suicidal thoughts, which is why the labeling includes a boxed warning on all antidepressants. But the boxed warning does not say not to treat children, just to be aware of, and to monitor them for, signs of suicidality.

“A lot of kids respond very well to drugs. Oftentimes, young people can stop taking the medication after a period of stability, because some of these illnesses are not a chronic disorder like a major depression,” Mathis adds. “There are many things that help young psychiatric patients get better, and drugs are just one of them.”

It’s important that patients and their doctors work together to taper off the medications. Abruptly stopping a treatment without gradually reducing the dose might lead to problems, such as mood disturbance, agitation and irritability.

Depression in children shouldn’t be left untreated. Untreated acute depression may get better on its own, but it relapses and the patient is not cured. Real improvement can take six months or more, and may not be complete without treatment. And the earlier the treatment starts, the better the outcome.

“Kids just don’t have time to leave their depression untreated,” Farchione says. “The social and educational consequences of a lengthy recovery are huge. They could fail a grade. They could lose all of their friends.”

Medications help patients recover sooner and more completely.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Parenting Openly Gay Teens

My friend Robin is one of the most amazing parents I know. When her daughter told her she was a lesbian, Robin showed her support in every way possible, even encouraging her daughter to publish a blog called Oy Vey, I’m Gay.

Ours is the first generation to really parent openly gay teens because in past generations, teens were much more secretive. I had a close friend in high school who didn’t want to be secretive. He told his Cuban-born parents he was gay. His macho dad went nuts and through him out of the house. I don’t think that would happen today. Or, would it?

I was excited to see that Nick News With Linda Ellerbee will feature a half-hour special, “Coming Out,” premiering Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.  The special follows the everyday lives of gay kids as they face fear, acceptance, bullying, isolation, encouragement and ignorance, and shows how straight and non-straight teens can come together to triumph over bullying.

Here’s what the press release says:

“It takes bravery for a kid to come out,” says Ellerbee. “Being accepted by straight people is not a given.  Being young and ‘different’ is not easy. This may be tough to talk about, or hear about, but this is important stuff.  Not addressing it doesn’t make it go away.”

“In elementary school, I knew I was different from the other guys,” says Bradley, 16.  “When I realized I was gay, the biggest problem I faced was wondering if my family would accept me or not.  I’d heard stereotypes about families kicking their kids out and I was wondering, ‘Oh gosh that might be me.’”

“I’ll take a chance. With one heart-wrenching throwback out of this closet, I’ll say the words I’ve been meaning to say my whole life. I’m lesbian,” says Christine, 14.

“Coming out isn’t going to be a one-time thing.  You’re going to meet new people every day, says Lia, 16.  “You’re going to always have that burning question in the back of your head: Am I going to come out today? Am I going to come out tomorrow?”

“I’m not a special case,” Marcel, 13, said.  “There are many people who are my age, and are gay. And you (kids) can say, ‘Well, I don’t know any gay people.’ You probably do, but they’re probably not out to you.”

My daughter has a handful of friends — male and female — who have discussed with her their struggle with sexuality and their conversations with their parents.  She’s convinced that parents who react like idiots mess their kids up.

Here’s what my friend Robin wrote to me: When my daughter came out to me, it was a relief in a way because I knew she was struggling with something, I just didn’t know what. I was not at all upset or disappointed. I was thankful that she felt close enough to me to share. My advice to her was not tho let that one part of her define her. I told her I’m a mom, wife, flight attendant, volunteer…but not one of those things defines who I am.

Robin also says: I try to empower my daughter in every way as I do my other two daughters. I set the same boundaries for her in any relationships.

Robin is awesome, but not all parents are as comfortable with the news.

I’m sure that having a child who is gay is scary and emotional. I’m sure it takes some self-introspection.  Still, I can’t see myself rejecting my own child for who he or she loves — could you? If you’re parenting an openly gay teen, what are the emotions you went through and what advice was most helpful to you?

Does your teen talk to you?

I know every kid is different. But it can get frustrating when you have one child that tells you everything and another that’s tight lipped.

My son and his girlfriend broke up last weekend. I’ve been trying for days to find out what went on but when I ask, he tells me he doesn’t want to talk about it. I really don’t know how to respond to that.

Why wouldn’t he want to spill his guts to his mother? Doesn’t he realize that mothers need to know what’s going on in their kids’ lives — every sordid detail of it? Doesn’t he realize that a mother’s advice is the best advice any son could ever get since mother knows best?

I’m ashamed to admit in my quest for info, I’ve resorted to stealth tactics that would make James Bond proud. I’ve tried listening outside his door when he was talking to a friend. I’ve tried searching through Facebook for clues. I’ve tried sending my younger son in to see what tidbits he could learn. I’ve even tried stretching my eyes to catch a glimpse of his text messages.

Finally, I gave up. I gauged my son’s mood and he seems okay so I decided he would share what he wanted with me when he felt ready.

A friend of mine with adult children gave me this advice for raising teens: “stay available.”

Last night, my son was in a pretty good mood and I asked him if he had spoken with his ex-girlfriend lately. I almost fainted when he responded with a small conversation and some details rather than a grunt.

By now, I know better than to give advice. Telling a teen that hurt feelings will pass is not effective because they live in the present an their pain is immediate. The only thing I could say to him was “breakups are a learning experience.”

By now, I would have known every sordid detail if the break up would have happened to one of my other kids. I have no choice but to accept that my son is more private. It makes me think about how tough it must be on parents whose kids keep bigger problems to themselves.

One mom says her opportunity to learn what’s going on happens when her son’s friends are over or in her car. “I just keep my mouth shut and listen.  My kid knows I’m there but he is more willing to say things than if I was speaking to him directly.”

How important to you think it is for parents to know what is going on in our teens’ relationships and friendships? Parents, how do you get your teen to open up to you? Do pointed questions work for you?


Coping when your teen leaves for college

My world just shifted. I took my daughter to college hundreds of miles away from home.

The reality of this life event is something for which a parent never can fully prepare. It is bittersweet realization: I have one less child to cook for, one less lunch to pack for school and one less schedule of activities to coordinate.

As I kissed my daughter goodbye, I reminisced about the night I got stuck working really late at the office and cried because my babysitter had put her to bed before I had returned home. I felt guilty and crushed that I had missed an entire day of my infant’s young life. If only I knew then that work life balance was less about one day and more about the next 18 years.

The truth is I enjoy the chaos that has ruled my life as I have juggled writing deadlines with chauffeuring her to soccer practice, sleepovers and movies with friends. It was through that chaos that I built a bond with her that will only strengthen as it evolves.

Now, I face a new reality: My daughter becoming independent doesn’t just mean that I suddenly have more free time. It means that my entire home life has changed in ways I had not anticipated. Walking past her quiet bedroom, I miss her and know it is  going to be a tough adjustment for me. But watching her explore her passions in life is going to be exciting. She already sounds happy, meeting new friends and exercising her independence.

With two children still at home, I am savoring the daily chores that I used to consider annoyances. I am packing lunches with a new appreciation and giving homework help with more enthusiasm. Suddenly, I see a future where my mom duties less needed. It’s scary. I’m not sure I will ever be prepared for that life transition. For now, I’m trying my best to shake off the feeling that my chest is a bit heavier and my house a bit emptier.



Ugh! Is anyone else dreading “Back to School”?

Well the time has come.. it’s “BACK TO SCHOOL” time! The time of year I dread! I dread it because I feel like I AM IN HIGHSCHOOL AGAIN and because of the following TOP 10 reasons:

1. Fighting moms  at the mall with back to school shopping clothes

2. Buying ALL the supplies for school and then having more to shop and hunt for after the first day!

3. HOMEWORK!! who do you think helps? Moms and Dads ! and trying to get it all done before soccer practice!

4. TEST! EXAMS!  again, who do you think helps them study??

5. Traffic will now double in the moring and afternoon! as well as we have school zones to slow us getting to work.

6. Keeping up with all the school meetings!

7. Early morning wake ups! Love trying to get everyone up and  out on time.

8. Driving them to school.There goes that extra time we had in the morning to ourselves.

9. Crazy rushed mornings getting everything done.

10. Last minute runs to buy items for a school project that is due the next day.

So, I ask you, Is anyone else dreading it?

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