Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

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?

Olivia’s college room decor!

 

 

 

 

I thought I would share with the readers, Olivia’s college room decor which is a reflection of her love with the Tiffany blue color.

When your child puts together their college room it is very personal and a huge part of telling their other roommates who they are. Olivia loves her room. It’s her study room, her TV room, her resting room, her safe place,   her sanctuary.

I know after class, she looks forward to crashing in her bed and either taking a nap, doing homework, studying or watching Netflix.

This is her home away from home that she created for herself and that mom and dad help her put together.

We would love to hear or see pictures from your college student’s  “sanctuary.” Please share!

How to Talk to a Teenage Boy

 

One day, I asked my teenage son if he was getting along with his girlfriend. I thought I had heard him arguing on the phone with her, but I wasn’t sure. He responded to my inquiry with a grunt. I am pretty sure no actual words were uttered. It reminded me once again how frustrating it can be to try to talk to a teenage boy.

When my sons were little, a friend tried to warn me of what was ahead. “I find out everything about my teenage son from my teenage daughter. If it wasn’t for her, I would know nothing,” she exclaimed with a big sigh.

By high school, most  teenagers – girls and boys-  begin telling their friends a lot more than they tell you, the parent.  But teen boys tend to tell their parents even less than teen girls do. They can easily make you feel like every question is invasive and like you’re the last person to know anything about your own child. It can be SO frustrating as a parent. My older son adopted “cave man talk” in high school.  He answered my prying questions with such short answers that I had no idea what he was saying and often wondered if he was speaking another language.

So, as a parent what can you do? How do you talk to a teenage boy?

Here are 5 tips I can offer from my personal experience:

  1. The full stomach.   Start important conversations when your son has a full stomach. You are much more likely to get the conversation flowing when your son has consumed something hearty.
  2. The relentless questions. Phrase your questions carefully. Make sure you don’t give your son the option to give you one word answers. Also, avoid asking the same question over and over when you don’t get a clear answer. Instead, come at it from a different angle.
  3.  The timing. It’s normal for teen boys to say very little about what’s going on in school or with friends or with a love interest. Use an activity like bike riding or swimming to start a conversation. Boys tend to open up more when they don’t have to look you in the face during the conversation.
  4. The right language. Use the word “because.” When you tell your son why you want to know something, he is more likely to answer your question. I’m not sure they psychology behind this, I just know it works.
  5. The unsolicited advice.  Let’s face it, teen boys know everything. They don’t want a parent’s advice, especially if they didn’t ask for it. So, you need to get crafty. During a conversation, slip some advice in but don’t let it come across as advice. (This may take a few times to master but don’t give up…it will be worth it!)

Readers, have I left any strategies out for talking to a teenage boy? If you have been successful getting a reluctant teenage boy to talk, or listen,  please drop us a note in the comments section below to share your approach.

Would you let your teen have sex in your house?

A couple of week’s ago, I wrote a blog post about teen sex and some teenagers who had been taken in by police for having sex on the beach. In the post, I said I would rather my teens have sex in my house than in a public place. I didn’t realize at the time what a firestorm I would set off.

The RaisingTeens blog post was picked up by Lifehacker.   The title of the article was  Would You Let Your Teenager Have Sex in Your House?  

Then, the topic of letting your teen have sex in your home was featured as a hot topic on The View.

 

Also exciting, Raquel and I debated the topic of letting teens have sex in your home on the radio for Detroit’s 94.7 WCSX.

Here is the podcast from the Class Rock Morning Show

Clearly this is topic that has many nuances and there are lots of opinions. Basically, some people think letting your teen have sex in your home is a terrible thing. They believe it’s disrespectful.

I don’t encourage or even give my teenage children permission to have sex in our home. However, I do believe letting my teen have sex in his or her bedrooms is preferable to the idea of my teen having sex in a public place like a park or the beach where it could become a safety issue — and where someone could video it.  I know, some  parents advocate for sexual abstinence. I’m more realistic.

The bottom line is that many teens are having sex in high school (and sometimes even in middle school). It’s just a matter where they are having sex and whether they admit it to their parents.

What are your thoughts on letting your teens have sex in your home? How would you react if you found out it had happened?

Lessons of a college student: Things don’t always go as planned

Olivia’s first night in her new apartment at college had some bumps, but to her they felt more like mountains.

First, her closet shelf with ALL her clothes fell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The property manager sent someone the next day to install a new shelf.

Then, Olivia  texted me frantically that she had a water leak  under her bathroom sink and the bathroom’s electric outlet wasn’t working. I told her to let the management know and they would fix it.

The next disaster:  Her Internet wasn’t working either. For Olivia the college student, the world was coming to an end! She was very anxious and overwhelmed and like a lot of impatient teens, wanted everything fixed — NOW!

Instant Gratification

This generation is so use to instant  gratification that if God forbid they have to wait for a resolution, the world  as they know it is over.  Teens are so used to technology helping them speed along whatever they want or need. Well, that wasn’t  happening here. There wasn’t an app for instant repairs…with all the students moving into the complex at the same time, Olivia had to wait …it’s called a process.

I told Olivia this was part of growing up, dealing with issues and hurdles and knowing how to get them resolved. Patience is key and Olivia didn’t have any. She just wanted to move into an apartment and have everything perfect.  Mind you, these are MINOR issues that can be resolved rather quickly and management did take care of them eventually, but in that moment, to Olivia, all the issues were overwhelming and HUGE!

Mom — and grandma —  to the rescue

Olivia  needed mom to help her see how minor her issues were in the big picture.  However, like most teens, Olivia decided to go on Instagram and post about her bad day. That’s when grandma stepped in. (Yes, grandma is on Instagram!)  Olivia’s grandmother (Manolaeva) saw Olivia’s post about all that had gone wrong and didn’t feel sorry for her one bit.

Here’s what grandma said: “This is a test of real life…that’s why I believe that most of today’s kids need to go away to college, not just for academics but also to experience some of the imperfection of life. Those are minor things. They’re fixable, and it all will be fine.”

 

The Resolution

At the end of the next day, everything in the apartment did get fixed. Finally,  I could talk to Olivia calmly. I made her realize how minor this issues were in the bigger scheme of things. She realized it, but said it was just a lot of aggravation in one day. I just said, “Olivia, it was just a bad day. Tomorrow is a new day. It’s not how things start, but how they end that matters.”  For Olivia and me, the day ended well, her school year got off to a start,  and THAT is all that mattered.

 

Back to School: A Parent’s Guide to High School

 

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend whose daughter starts high school today. Even on the phone, I could hear the angst in her voice. I am remember that angst well. There is a lot to worry about during the high school years and it’s a little scary for parents. So, here is a guide to help you, the parent, survive the next four years. These are my 10 best tips.

1. Your child will be more stressed than in middle school. In high school, classes are more difficult, workload is more intense, teacher expectations are higher. Some teens handle the stress better than others. You may need to step in and come up with ways to help your teen cope. When meltdowns happen, they usually are late at night. Do what it takes to smoothe things over and get your teen to go to bed.

2.   In high school, people are annoying.  Your teen will come home and talk about how much he or she is annoyed by some teacher, classmate, friend, or maybe even by you. That’s just the way it is. Don’t take it personally.

3. Phones play a bigger than ever role. Teens take pictures of assignments, share homework, look up answers and of course socialize on their phones. Just get used to your teens staring at their screens.

4. You likely will NOT get the whole story. When teens hit the high school years, they start to keep information from their parents. You may hear part of the story, but it’s normal for teens to hold back.

5. Lunch is when big things happen. Arguments, relationships, friendships, cheating…the beginnings of these activities tend to start during lunch. If you are going to ask your teen about his or her day, pay attention to what went on at lunch time.

6. Teachers prefer students to resolve their own issues. There is nothing wrong with parents interceding when a situation gets out of hand, but in high school it’s best to let your teenager try to fix an issue on his or her own first.

7. You don’t get to choose your teenagers’ friends. This is a tough one for parents to accept, especially for moms who made playdates for their kids or organized sleepovers. In high school they choose their own friends and they may choose some you don’t like.

8. These next four years can get expensive. First there is the clothing. Then there is the car, insurance and gas. There also are class rings, homecomings, proms, clubs fees, club fundraisers, sports fees and uniform costs, entrance to football games, and supplies like computers and calculators.  Without realizing it, the costs add up. You may want to budget for additional costs or talk to your teens about contributing  for the items they consider most important.

9. If your teens says something you do is nerdy, believe them. My daughter reminds me that I wanted to drive her up to  the front of the school and she insisted it was nerdy. Apparently it took me about a week to understand that the further away I dropped her from the front, the better.

10.  Every year of high school counts. Encourage your teen to do his or her best every year. Colleges look at rigor, grades and activities starting freshman year. If your teen is not doing well in a course, try to catch it early and get him or her a free in-school tutor or request a transfer into another course.

High school can be as challenging for parents as it is for their children. Hang in there! You will be surprised at how fast four years fly by!

Helpful tips when shopping for your college freshman.

Seems like yesterday but, it’s only  been a year since we started shopping for Olivia’s college stuff.  I knew it was going to be overwhelming, so I decided I had to do whatever I could to make it less stressful. How bad could it be? How expensive could it be? Answer:  very expensive.  So if you are shopping for your son’s  or daughter’s dorm  here are some helpful tips to get you through college move in day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Make a list of what items your teen needs for college.
  2. Sit down with your teen and set  deadlines on what needs to get done and bought by what date.
  3. Go over the list with your teen and make sure they approve and the list is complete.
  4. Go online or  into a store to shop for the one area you are focusing on such as the bedroom or desk, bathroom etc..
  5. Focus on a different area until you are done with the entire dorm room or apartment.
  6.  Save some items for when you get to school. You may not want to lug a new TV  or other big items with you if you are driving or flying. It’s better to buy the big stuff once you get to school.
  7. Super Walmart is your best friend as is Bed Bath and Beyond! Your teen does not need top of the line products for college! You can pre-order everything in your hometown and pick it up at the store near campus.
  8. Make sure you son/daughter has his or her medical insurance card in case they get sick, or for any emergency.
  9. I know many colleges and universities have a medical clinic on campus which is great,  but if your child  doesn’t want to go to the clinic, I recommend a CVS Minute Clinic which is usually near campus.  At CVS, you can see a doctor or nurse practitioner and  get your prescriptions at the same time.
  10.  Books can be bought on Amazon to help save money. Not all classes make the books available on Amazon, but if you can save on one or two  books it will be a worthwhile shopping experience.,

Now, once your son or daughter lives  off campus in an apartment, that’s another shopping adventure!

Here are some more helpful hints….

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Shop for each room separately  (bathroom, kitchen, living room etc.) like you did for the dorm.
  2. Pick appliances and accessories that stand out so no one else can mistake it for theirs. Olivia chose a Tiffany blue color for her pots and pans and cooking utensils.
  3. Wait to buy some supplies for the apartment until you get there so you can take measurements and know exactly what you really need and the right size.
  4. If there is a dollar store near campus, introduce your child to it!!   Dollar stores sell a lot of what college students  need for a  $1! Dollar Tree allows you to order online and have items delivered to your store of choice.

 

Here’s an overall tip. If your son or daughter wants college gear, online stores like Fanatics.com carry a great assortment and will ship to campuses. Here’s a link to Fanatics College Hot New Products

Good luck with your college student and Happy Shopping! If you have any tips, please share with other parents!!

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