Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Raising Teenagers Means Knowing When To Stay Quiet

parenting teenager means staying quiet

 

My friends and I have just made our way through the buffet line and are taking our seats at a round table. As I pull my chair back and sit, I notice my friend is staring at her daughter’s plate. I know she wants to say something about the lack of protein and abundance of starches she sees piled up, but she glances away, and quietly takes a sip of water.

Watching her, I understood what was going through her head. I have had many similar moments of silence — when I want to say so much, but don’t. By staying silent, I have preserved my relationship with my teenagers rather than blurting out words that they ignore, resent or respond to with anger.

When my older son was about 14, he had a wicked crush on a girl who seemed to be annoyed by his attention. On Valentine’s Day, he bought her silver heart earrings. Aren’t they nice? he said, putting the earrings in front of me. At that moment, I knew my son was going to give her the earrings no matter what I said. So I said “yes” and then stayed silent.

At so many different life moments, I have wanted to offer my teenagers suggestions that would save them from getting hurt, or warn them about friends who aren’t loyal or give an opinion on a love interest. But as I began to open my mouth, I realized my comments would be misconstrued or worse, cause my teens to go in an opposite direction just to show me they are their own persons. So as I have gained some teen-raising wisdom, I have started to recognize when to bite my tongue, avert my gaze and resist the instinct to blurt out what I am thinking.

Of course, there are times when I do speak up because staying quiet can create bigger problems. The challenge for a parent is knowing when to make that call.

Here are the times I think it’s okay to tell your teen what’s on your mind:

To tell them the risk or consequences of an action. Whether it’s drugs, drunk driving, cheating  on tests, or premarital sex, I think teens need to know the worst that could happen. 

To give them another option. If your know your teen is going to be at a party with alcohol I think it’s okay to say something like…”If the only option is getting into a car with a drunk driver, call me — I don’t care if it’s 2 in the morning.”

To remind them of the rules of your home. If you have a rule of “no doors closed when the opposite sex is in the room” it’s okay to say something when the rule isn’t being followed, even if it’s in the moment.

To address a lie. This is tricky because most teenagers tell their parents lies or just tell them half of the story. In an online poll of 1,000 teenagers, only 40 percent said they tell their parents the whole truth.  Some lies or half-truths can be ignored. Others can’t. I have had to drill down at times to get the whole story and then figure out what to say in a way that will encourage them to tell me the truth in the future.

Here are the scenarios in which I zip my lips and stay quiet.

To comment on anything related to body image. We all know teenagers are sensitive about their appearance, but somehow we can’t help doling out advice and giving our opinions. Usually, what we say or what advice we give is not taken well. 

To say something about one of their friends. This is super-dangerous territory and can easily go badly for a parent.

To comment on a romantic interest or boyfriend/girlfriend.  I have discovered your teen  can say something negative about their love interest. You cannot. And if you think you you can guide them toward being interested in someone you pick out for them, don’t go there.

To compare them with a sibling. Somehow almost every parent at some point falls prey to the temptation of comparing a child to their siblings. Don’t do it!

So many teenagers walk around saying they hate their parents or they can’t talk to their parents. Ugh…I don’t want that to be me. So now, I put a little thought into what I say and how I say it, and at those pivotal moments, I stay silent. (Here’s an article I like about Talking to Your Teen )

Parents, do you believe in staying silent at times? Has staying quiet helped, or made a situation worse with your teenager? 

 

Helping Teens on #GivingTuesday

By now, you probably know that today is GivingTuesday, a day to give back to those in need in this world.

Because we are parents of teenagers, organizations that work to better the lives of teens are near and dear to us. So, when you consider giving today, here are a few you might want to consider:

(Feel free to comment below if you know of a teen-oriented non-profit organization worthy of our attention!)

Do Your Own Fundraiser

Now, if you are looking for ideas to help your teenager be more charitable this holiday season, here is a wonderfully thorough list of fundraising ideas. The 100 unique, impactful events listed in the Eventbrite post are a helpful starting point for teens looking to host a fundraising event for the cause of their choice.

Some of the ideas include a fashion show, a dance party, an ugly sweater party, or a dog wash. My teens get consumed by what they want for the holidays and I try hard to get them interested in giving instead of just getting.  Hosting a fundraiser for a cause they want to support is a great way to help teens get into the giving spirit of the holidays.

 

Can you understand teenage slang?

 

I’m in the kitchen getting dinner together and my 16-year-old son Garret looks at my new sneakers and says, “Mom, your sneakers are fresh.”

“They’re fresh?”

When I say this back to him, my son laughs. He finds my lack of knowledge of teenage slang to be hysterical.  A few days earlier, Garret told me he was going to a party and not to worry whether it was going to be hot at the party because he had his ice. Then, he showed me his watch. Cool watches, big gold chains…it’s all called ice in rapper talk, he explained to me. My son LOVES rapper talk.

Slowly, I am starting to figure out popular slang, however it seems as soon as I decipher the lingo,  the meanings change or new words pop up. My daughter recently told me not to use the word “relevant” because today, teens use it to mean the opposite. Who knew?

Has your teenager told you something was popular AF or awesome AF or anything AF? Teens use this expression to emphasize something , and that something could be really good, or really bad. (short for As F—K).  For example, being told you are stupid AF is not something you want said about you.

Here’s another example of how my inability to keep up with teen slang played out.  A few days ago, I overheard a bunch of Garret’s friends referring to some basketball player as the GOAT.  I made the mistake later of asking my son whether that was the player’s nickname. What do you think happened? Hysterical laughter.

GOAT,  he explained to me, means “Greatest Of All Time.” Apparently, it is accompanied by a goat emoji when texted. “Oh, so I am a GOAT,” I said to Garret. His response: “Sure mom.”

Now, let’s not forget the word Garret and his friends use often: lit. “Lit”  usually means cool — especially when it comes to parties or a new song.  But I found out lit has another meaning when it’s used a certain way. “To get lit” means to get drunk or high.  I’m all over that one and I’ve told my son not to even think about getting lit.

And, just when I figured out what the trendy phrase “on fleek” is all about, the phrase is not cool anymore. Nope, don’t even think about telling your teen her new hair style is on fleek. Instead, you will need to tell her it is snatched.  You use “snatched” in the same way, basically to describe things (especially style) as cool or on point. According to Refinery29.com it means, “damn you look good.”  Next time your daughter heads out the door,  try telling her, “your outfit is snatched.”  She will either think you are hip, or that you are old and trying too hard.

I recently read a good slange primer online  of 20 popular slang words. With text lingo and cool words surfacing in viral videos, it’s pretty darn hard to stay ahead of the vocab, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Let’s just say…I’m trying. Just yesterday, Garret asked me if I wanted him to play me the new Gucci Mane song. “It’s a banger,” he said. “Oh, it’s a banger? Sure I want to hear it,” I replied, not knowing what to expect.  I have since learned banger means it’s unbelievably awesome.

In some ways, I feel fortunate to have teenagers around to keep me on top of all the words young people say.  As Refinery29.com  pointed out: “We’re not getting any younger, and the wild world of viral words is not one to be afraid of — it’s one to embrace.”

So, please make me feel better…what word has your teenager recently said to you that you had no idea what it meant?

 

Teenage Boys Must Learn: Real Men Apologize

 

For teenagers, one of the hardest lessons to learn is how and when to apologize. For teenage boys, it’s particularly challenging because ego can often get in the way of an apology.

Yesterday, my son came home from high school upset. After school, he had bumped into a girl he hadn’t seen in a few months and she told him she was mad at him.  She had spoken about her eating disorder to a small group of friends, in which he had been included. However,  my son repeated the information to a few of his girl friends. Of course, they went right back to the girl with the eating disorder and told her my son had told people about her issue.

When the girl confronted my son, he was horrified that he came across as a gossip and was naive in thinking that what he repeated wouldn’t be repeated again. He told me “Mom, I apologized to her. I told her what I had done was wrong, that I hadn’t been a good friend to her, and that I was sorry.”

I wasn’t proud that my son repeated what was told to him. Even if he was unaware it was said in confidence, he should have known better. However, I was proud that he apologized. All afternoon, he repeated to me that he hoped the girl would accept his apology and forgive him.

This morning, I watched on television as Los Angeles Times Columnist David Horsey apologized for writing that Trump’s chief spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks less like a sleek beauty and more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games. His comments angered many people who called the columnist sexist and accused him of body shaming.

Horsey said he received some email and comments in support of what he wrote, but he realized he was wrong and told  TV news personality Megyn Kelly, “Real men apologize.”

Today when my son came home I talked to him about how it takes a big person to admit a mistake and apologize. I told him to never let his ego get in the way of fessing up to a mistake.  Research shows men aren’t socialized to apologize.  Often, they think it shows vulnerability or weakness.   Sometimes, they give mealy mouthed apologies that make a situation even worse, or they avoid an apology and it hurts a relationship.

If there is a silver lining in my son’s fiasco, it’s that he now understands the importance of keeping friends’ secrets. More important,  it has made me hopeful that there’s a future generation of young men who embrace the “real men apologize” motto, recognize when they hurt someone’s feelings, and try to right a wrong — and parents who encourage them to do so.

I’d like to believe the experience of offering an honest apology will set my son on the right path for future relationships — and for life.

Should Teenagers Trick or Treat?

teenagers trick or treating

 

It’s absolutely adorable when a 2-year-old dressed as a pumpkin knocks on your door on Halloween night and says “trick or treat.”  It’s not quite as adorable when a pack of teenagers knock on your door in regular clothes, maybe wearing masks, and say “trick or treat.”  Some people will flat out let the teenagers know it.

It’s the time of year when kids are deciding which costumes to wear for trick-or-treating on Halloween. But while teens and tweens may be deciding between dressing as zombies or sexy witches, some people  are asking how old do kids have to be before they’re considered “too old” to trick-or-treat?

Should high schoolers trick or treat?

This year my son is 16 and he thinks he may be too old. He tells me, “I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do.”  I told him he can pass out candy with me, but he says he probably is going to walk around the neighborhood for a little while with friends, just socializing.  I informed him that if he is going to knock on doors, he has to wear of costume. “Just being a cool teenager and asking for candy isn’t going to cut it,” I informed him.

With my older kids, I remember the first year they felt too old to trick or treat. They sat outside with me passing out candy with a wistful look on their faces, happy to be maturing, yet kind of sad that the exhilaration of running door to door with friends in their costumes was behind them.

When a group of teenagers come to my house on Halloween night, I happily give them candy. I think as long as teens are dressed in costumes and respectful, they should go for it and enjoy the fun night.  But I know other people aren’t as friendly when teenagers come around trick or treating. Last year, my son was 15 and he went out trick or treating with friends. He said some homeowners were downright nasty to them and flat out told them they were too old and that the candy was for the younger kids.

This year,  the Canadian city of New Brunswick banned kids older than 16 from trick or treating. Anyone over 16 caught knocking on doors looking for candy, or wearing a “facial disguise” after curfew, could be forced to shell out for a $200 fine, the Today Show reported.  That’s pretty drastic, don’t you think?

The Today Show did a segment on the topic and a poll asking: How old is too old for Trick-or-Treating on Halloween? One responder said: “By 16, you’re old enough to work, so get a job and buy your own candy.”  That’s a harsh take isn’t it? While parents in the poll couldn’t agree on a specific cut-off age, they did specify a range. Seventy-three percent of more than 2,000 respondents said kids should stop trick-or-treating between the ages of 12 and 17.

Personally, I don’t think there should be a cut off age. I completely agree with the perspective of one Facebook mom:

“Just take a second to think … would you rather them (teenagers) be out drinking and driving putting not only their life in danger but possibly you and/or your child’s life in danger? Or would you rather them be knocking on your door getting candy? Just think about that before you turn down candy to one of them. I’d rather see my teen doing this rather than something dangerous. Just because they’re 16 doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have a little safe, legal fun.”

I am just as happy to give a teen a candy bar as I am a 3-year-old on Halloween night. Most likely, he or she will enjoy it more. There  will be no teen shaming at my house!

What are your thoughts: Should teenagers trick or treat?  If so, how old is too old?

Should teenagers have a technology curfew?

teenager on cellphone

 

Oh the joys of being a parent in the digital age!

When we were teens, our parents only had to worry about whether to implement a curfew for us to arrive home from nights out with friends. Now,  as parents of teens,  there is a debate over whether to give a “technology curfew.”  Should you force your teenager to power down electronics at a certain time of night?

At the gym this morning, a few moms got to talking about our weekends. One mom confessed she spent the whole weekend battling with her son over how much he plays Xbox. At 1:30 in the morning, she insisted he get off Xbox and go to bed. But he said the phrase most mothers know well. “Okay mom, in a minute.” The mom said finally, her husband used some app on his phone to disable the Xbox. (That sounded really cool to me!)

Of course, her son was mid-game and went crazy. She said he spent the next hour yelling and trying to restore the game. ( I can just picture what that looks like, can you?)

“I don’t mind my son unwinding on the weekends, but when he stays up late, he ‘s grumpy the next day or wants to sleep to noon and half the weekend is gone,” the mom said.

Another mom who was part of the conversation said her 13-year-old daughter was up at 1:30 a.m. over the weekend  on the House Party app on her phone, talking to a bunch of friends. This mother also had battled with her daughter about powering down and going to bed.

I can relate to these moms. Sometimes late at night, I think my son is sleeping and I hear noise. “What the heck is going on? “I ask myself.  When I go into his room, I find him watching videos on his Instagram feed and cracking up.  “Go to bed,” I say, and what do you think the response is?   “In a minute mom.”

Sure, our kids need chill time, and since they find electronics their entertainment, I’m all for letting them use their phones for video games or to join a “House Party.” I get that their social lives today revolve around electronics.

Still, I understand the frustrations of these gym moms. I have gone to bed many times with a hoard of boys gathered around the TV in the playroom screaming at the characters on the screen in their video game.  And yes, I have contemplated implementing an electronics curfew.

According to The Seattle Times,  our teenagers may need our help powering down. Self-control is not fully developed in teen brains, so it can be hard for teenagers to voluntarily turn off a video game or  close out of Instagram, the article said. One expert said giving teenagers smartphones without any restrictions is like offering them an unlimited supply of Häagen Dazs ice cream and telling them not to eat too much.

A typical “technology curfew”  requires teens to put on their phones on chargers in their parents’ rooms or kitchens at 9 or 10 p.m. to prevent them from losing sleep to  late night text conversations or videos.

So, if any of you have tried a technology curfew, how did it work out? What do you think is a reasonable time for electronics to be shut down, and does it differ on weeknights and weekends?

Will moms of teenagers ever be able to exhale? Why do we worry so much?

Sometimes I feel like I am holding my breath while raising my teen.  I am hoping I will be able to exhale once the coast is clear and the teen years are behind me.

But for now, it feels like the worries of raising a teenager never end or go away.

I try not to worry.  but, it’s in my DNA..

With my son, I worry about all kinds of things….

  1. Are his grades slipping?
  2. Is he eating properly?
  3. Is he happy?
  4. Is he depressed?
  5. Will he go to a good college?
  6. Will he do well on his SAT?
  7. Will he be more social as he gets older?
  8. Is he getting bullied?
  9. Is he having sex?
  10. Is he wearing a condom?
  11. Is he lying to me?
  12. Is he keeping things from me?
  13. Did he try any drugs? Will he?

Crazy right?

I long for the day when all my worries are gone, and I can exhale and breathe and say to myself, “Okay, now you can relax.” But, to be honest, I don’t see that  day arriving any time soon. So for now, I take life one day at a time, one breath at a time, one prayer at a time.

Do you worry, too? I would love to get your feedback and hear whether other parents of teens feel this way? Any advice?

 

Homecoming has me stressed

 

My son, a high school junior, was invited by a girl to the homecoming dance. I don’t know the girl at all and he just met her a month ago in school.  She is a senior, so going to homecoming is a BIG deal to her.

First of all, I think it takes a lot of guts for a  teenager, male or female, to ask someone to homecoming. Immediately, I told my son that I admire the girl for asking him.  But then, I started to worry, not only about her, but also her friend group.

Does she drink?  Does she do drugs? Do her friends? Am I overreacting and looking unnecessarily for trouble?

Second, I wanted my son to know homecoming can be expensive. I told him he needs to find out if her friend group has rented a party bus or some other transportation that he will be expected to contribute money. (Or is he expected to drive?) He also  needs to know if she plans to pay for his ticket. On top of those costs, he probably needs to buy her corsage, and he needs something nice to wear. So, there is a potentially high cost involved and my son should come up with at least some of the money for it, right?

Lastly, I’m completely stressed about “the after party.”  Yes, the girl told him she wants him to go with her to an after party.  Even parents who trust their kids should worry about the after party, right? I can’t imagine a high school after party without alcohol. Will I make him look like a baby if I call the girl’s parents to find out info on the after party? Right now, that’s my plan.

So these are the conversations going on in my home this week. I’d love to hear how other parents navigate homecoming. It’s such a fun part of high school, but it’s also such a worrisome event for parents.  How do you handle homecoming…the costs, the transportation and the after party?

How does a mom connect with her teenage son?

So sophomore year has started for my teenage son and yet another year of high school has begun.  When my daughter was in high school I could rely on her telling me about all the school drama, her teachers, what’s happening in school. But, with my son, I get… crickets crickets (silence). I have to probe, pull, nag, or interrogate just to find out what is going on? Every time I ask a questions I am “annoying” or  I am “bothering” him. I have never felt so disconnected from my teen son. I know high school years are not easy for teen boys, but does he really have to shut mom out?

Matthew tells me school is hard and stressful and not like it was in the 70s when I went to school. Hello…. I graduated high school in 1985, thank you very much. I am NOT that old.  I just want to be closer to my son, but the closer I try to get, the more he pushes away. I try to give him his space, but anytime I enter his room he doesn’t want to talk. He would rather play video games,  or talk with his friends on the phone. I know this is a phase, but I really don’t  like it  at all!!!

I try to tell myself that I went through this with Olivia and this too shall pass. When I drive Matthew to school it’s dead silence in the car. I try to start a conversation, but he uses one word answers. I know it’s an awkward stage, but I’m your mom! The person you looked up to and couldn’t live without just five years ago.

There are rare moments when Matthew will open up. But those are few and far between. If he texts me, it’s about  food or clothes he wants me to get for him. It’s funny how Olivia will text me all day long from college, and yet my son won’t text me at all. I guess the level of communication is the difference between having a teenage daughter and son.

I guess I am struggling with giving him space, but not too much space, because in the end it’s my responsibility to make sure he makes smart choices and does the right things.

I enter his room every day when I get home and give him a hug. When he hugs me back, it makes me feel so happy. I need him to know how much I love him, even though it’s awkward for him now. I usually go in his room a few more times  before I go to bed and I’ll even get in a kiss on  his head. I know he loves me, and I truly believe he feels awkward showing affection to me.  I  just want to connect with him and for the life of me, I just can’t figure out how?

I would love to hear if any other moms or dads have had this issue with their teen son, and what you did to overcome it?

I know just this stage in my son’s life will pass, and I will get my Matthew back, but in the meantime,  I will breathe,  be patient, take one day at a time and  make sure he stays on the right path.

How to Make the College Application Process Less Stressful

I am on the phone with a teenager, talking about her college applications when her father enters the room, makes a comment to her and the two begin fighting. Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. If you have a high school senior, be ready for some arguments over college applications.

The college application process is stressful for teens and for their parents. Some of us have kids who are all in. They want to go to college and they want to get their applications done.  But even if they want to do it all by themselves, they get overwhelmed.

Then, there are the teens who aren’t motivated at all to fill out college applications. They aren’t sure whether they even want to go to college, or they just don’t want to put in the effort to apply.

In either scenario there is one thing in common: a stressed out parent!

I know because I have been that stressed out parent. As a writer, I wanted to help my older son with his common app essay. He refused to let me, or to even consider my suggestions. It led to some awful fights.

Most high school seniors are in the thick of the application process right now. What they quickly discover is that there is a LOT involved in the process. So parents, here are my five suggestions for holding onto your sanity during the process.

 

  1.  Prepare a list together. Work with your teen on a list of schools and make sure they are colleges or universities you an afford.  Ask your teen what major he or she is interested in or considering  and make sure the colleges on that list have that major. Once the list is made, put the responsibility in your teen’s hands for applying on time.
  2.  Don’t nag. Once your teen knows the deadlines, nagging only makes things more tense. It’s okay to check in every so often on progress, but it’s not okay to continually remind your teen that applications need to get done. It only creates tension. If your teen is independent enough to go to college, he or she should be able to get the application done by deadline — or ask for your help.
  3. Don’t get offended.  If your teen doesn’t take your advice or suggestions, it’s normal. If you want to give an opinion or make a suggestion, be prepared for your teen to dismiss what you have to say.
  4.  Be open to options.  If the application process becomes too contentious, back off. In the end, your teen needs to own it. Or, if your teen isn’t ready for college, don’t freak out. There are great vocational schools and certificate programs that can lead to high paying jobs.
  5.  Consider getting help. There are people who you can provide guidance, not just college advisors but sometimes teachers at your teen’s school or friends who are strong in grammar.  It’s amazing how when someone else tells your teen the exact same thing you do, they listen.

The college application process is a year long process of applying, getting accepting, making housing deposits and making a final choice. It’s a year where there may be lots of tears of frustration and elation – and almost always some arguments. Just hang in there! It will all work out!

So, what are your thoughts…..do you believe parents should be highly involved in the process, or do you believe in a completely hands off approach?

« Older posts

© 2017 Raising Teens

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑