Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

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Too much stress causing Teen Suicides?

It’s a new school year and I can’t believe almost 3 months to the day of the last teen suicide at my daughter’s high school, (May 21, 2013), another girl committed suicide on August 28th, 2013.

I am stunned at what seems to be an epidemic!

I asked my daughter how and why and her response was, “Mom, kids now a days have a lot of stress and they are depressed and they don’t know how to handle it since they can’t talk to their parents about it.”

She tells me most of the suicides are usually girls and that they have family problems at home. What I don’t understand is WHY? WHat type of stress is so big and horrible that the only answer is death? I argued with my daughter because I said, “What stress does your generation have that all previous ones did not?”  Then she replied, “Mom, you don’t get it, social media wasn’t around when you were in school. There is so much more teen pressure and stress. Kids can’t handle it and they get depressed and instead of getting help, telling their parents and going to a doctor for medication for it, they kill themselves.”

Are you kidding? So, if a teen can’t talk with his or her parents about something, this is their only way out?? I mean really?? Talk to a priest, a rabbi,  school counselor, anybody, a friend. Why can’t these teens talk to their parents? How did their parents not see something was wrong? I am worried now.

What is the face of suicide? Is it my daughter? Is it her friend? I mean it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s horrible.

Parents are scared. Now we have to worry if any little thing that upsets our children will push them over the edge? How did  we get here and how do we make it stop? How dark must it be for these kids that their ONLY solution is death?

We still don’t have details on how or why the young girl killed herself but my heart goes out to  her parents,  family and friends. Life will never be the same and they will never know what was so bad that their daughter, sister, cousin, friend took her life for it.

I would love for someone to respond to this and give me some insight on how to prevent this  teen suicide from getting out of hand? Am I scared? Heck yes. I am  very involved in my daughter’s life, but now this just makes me realize I need to keep being involved and keep an open line of communication.  But most importantly I need to establish trust. My daughter needs to be able to trust me with anything  — even if I don’t approve. I need to be her safe house. I may not like, or approve what she tells me, but I will listen and be there always.

So hug your kids a bit longer tonight because I am sure the parents of the two young girls who took their precious lives would give anything to hug their teen daughters one last time and never let go.

 

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How do you know if your teen is having sex?

I have often wondered with the way teenage girls are now a days- trying to be cool, trying to impress the boys, trying to be popular and older than they really are. They are  dressing provocatively and of course they think they know  more than anybody else. Then, there’s the issue of what age they having sex.

I know girls in my generation, Generation X , were having sex much later. But, I get a feeling  this Generation Y girls are having sex in middle school? I say that because my daughter told me that girls she knew were having sex in middle school. I was shocked and yet not surprised. I was also saddened by the fact that these young girls have allowed their virginity to be given to a boy like it was nothing. There are no filters any more whether it is TV, the internet, magazines etc. It’s as if sex is expected at a young age. What has happened to Generation Y? Sex in middle school really?

I know my Generation, Generation X, wasnt so casual with sex or taking pictures or videos and posting them as teens today are because we didn’t have all this technology. By why do we allow technology  to dictate morals and self-respect?

Does Generation X realize what their children in Generation Y are doing? Is it just easier to look the other way and chalk it up to being a teen? When do we step in and say ENOUGH? When do we take back technology’s way of taking away our privacy, our morals and self-respect and start raising our kids and teaching values?

I know its easy to blame technology but on the other hand, being a parent is also A LOT HARDER today than our parents had it. I know my mother says she could never raise a teenager now — too hard, she says. She sees how I struggle with my teen daughter. But,  I have to come to terms that I have to accept how Generation Y and soon  Generation Z  teen culture has become when it comes to sex.

I may not like it or approve but, by God, I will be involved in my children’s lives every step of the way. If that means having to get birth control pills or condoms, so be it. I may not condone it but I also am not stupid and have to realize safety first. Teens will go behind your back, so why not make sure they are prepared? Sticking your head in the sand and pretending it’s not happening doesn’t mean it isn’t. It SUCKS being a parent of a teen at times! It’s hard, frustrating and mentally draining but I know the reward at the end will be worth all the struggle.

So, how do we know if our teen is having sex? We don’t unless we get involved in his or her life. Again, I am appalled at the fact that teens are having sex in middle school, but I do know the only thing I can do is talk to my  daughter and soon-to-be teen son and educate them. I can try to help them understand that sex in middle school is just too young and not appropriate.

Will they listen? Maybe, Maybe not but,the key is to build that relationship with them and to be involved in their lives.

 

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Oh Miley Cyrus, what have you done?

 

I’m going to admit it. I used to watch Hannah Montana and I liked it.

Miley Cyrus was an adorable, wholesome Disney darling and seemed to have unlimited talent. I remember watching an Oprah interview with Miley years ago in which she talked about making the transition one day to become a young adult. Miley said she was grounded, unlike other teen stars and planned to make a smooth transition.

But then…..

If it wasn’t bad enough that she has been walking around for the last year with the most bizarre haircut, I watched in horror Sunday night as Miley pranced around the stage at the VMAs in the most bizarre outfit, making sexual and awkward moves that surely made her mother cringe as much as it did an audience full of musical talent.

For the last few days, the Internet has been abuzz with reaction.

Camille Paglia of Time Magazine wrote: Miley, Go Back to School. She blames Miley for artistically bankrupting music culture and asks, How could American pop have gotten this bad?

Paglia describes Miley’s performance this way:  Bopping up and down the catwalk in hair-twist devil’s horns and a flesh-colored latex bikini, Cyrus lewdly wagged her tongue, tickled her crotch with a foam finger, shook her buttocks in the air and spanked a 6-ft. 7-in. black burlesque queen.

My favorite reaction came from Lisa Belkin of The Huffington Post who wrote: Dear Miley: Here’s What I Hope You Learned About Adulthood After The VMAs.  In her letter to Miley, she says: “I hope you really weren’t trying to create this firestorm, because that would mean you believe too little in your talent and too much in the need for outrage as a marketing tool when you have so much else to sell. And I hope you aren’t crushed. This isn’t the end for you. There’s an upside to the annoying fact that all of us knew you as a child — it also means we think of you as ours, and we are more than willing to forget and move on.”

What scares me about the Miley “situation” is that she’s not all that different from other teens trying to prove themselves with attention seeking behavior. Unfortunately, Miley has a much more public platform to embarrass herself. 

The good news in the Miley mess is that teens are talking about it. My kids said it was the big conversation at school on Monday. Most teens were critical of Miley, they felt she had made a fool of herself. That gave me satisfaction. I don’t want my kids to be judgmental. But I do want them to recognize attention seeking behavior for what it is and to understand the message it sends — mostly a message of immaturity.

If I were Miley’s mom, I’d be having the same conversation with her that I’m having with my own kids. Everyone makes embarrassing mistakes. We’ve even had U.S. Presidents that have made them. But teens need to know it’s possible to recover from them. It’s how you own up to your mistakes and move on that shows the world that you really have matured.

You can do it, Miley, after all, it’s it you that sings “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days…”

 

 

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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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