Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

5 things about raising teenagers our parents forgot to tell us

My son recently tried to tell me he was hanging out with friends at the nearby frozen yogurt store until midnight. The problem was that I knew the store closes at 11 p.m. Oh, the joys of raising teenagers!

When I called him out on the closing time, he got all squirmy with me, and then broke into a grin, realizing I had caught him.

We all know that parenting is different today than when we were in our teen years. Yet, there are some things that stay true for generations. As a teenager, I am sure I tried similar twists of the truth on my mother.

But when I gave birth, my mother look at my cute baby and said, “How adorable!”  She forgot to warn me that the cute baby would become a sneaky teenager and I would need to know much more than how to change a diaper.

Yes, my mother forgot to warn me that teenagers tell white lies like it’s no big deal because they don’t want us parents to know everything going on in their lives and because they want to see what they can get away with by bending the rules.

The more I think about it, the more I realize there are all kinds of things my mother forgot to tell me to prepare me for the teen years.

Here are four more things she forgot to tell me that would have had me on guard….

You are no longer perfect

When they are little, your children worship you. They will hug you out of nowhere, or cry when you leave on a business trips. When they become teenagers, you become real people instead of the heros they worship. They suddenly see your flaws — your pants are up too high, you laugh strangely, your humming along to the radio is annoying. I remember as a teenager noticing my mother made her eyebrows too big with her eye pencil and telling her I was horrified. 

My mother could have warned me that my turn for being scrutinized would come, too.

You will go through a period when nothing sits right

You might make a small comment to your teen such as, “Did you brush your hair this morning?” and it will lead to eye rolling or full on drama over why you care since it’s their hair. This period of hypersensitivity requires parental stamina. It could easily result in the cold shoulder from your teen or an awful argument.

If your teenager starts to withdraw and you start to pry, that won’t sit right either. All you can do is recognize this as a phase, shrug it off, and let them know repeatedly that you love them. 

When raising teenagers their friends opinions count more

If you love a shirt that your daughter is wearing but her friend picks out a different one, guess which shirt she is going to wear?

When my son Jake was 13, I advised him not to send a “mean girl” a Valentine’s heart lollipop, but his friend told him he should. He took his friend’s advice. The girl never acknowledged to Jake that she got the lollipop — or bothered to give him the time of day the rest of the school year.

As parents of teenagers, we quickly learn it doesn’t matter that mom knows best because from a teen’s perspective she doesn’t. Instead, they are convinced their friends know best. It’s just the way it is, so we can’t take it personally. The day I realized this I was devastated. But now I recognize it for what it is.

When you have teenagers, the hardest but most important thing you will do, is let go and not be hurt when they want to go to the movies with their friends instead of you.  Just you have to let them. If they want to get in a car with another teen at the wheel, you have to let them. At this stage, their friends are their priority.

Which brings me to the next thing my mom forget to tell me…

Teenagers are convinced their parents don’t get it.

Often during the teen years we are told “you don’t get it” or “it’s not like that today.” Technology has given teenagers even more ammunition for thinking, or believing, parents don’t know anything.

Yes, your teens really believe you are stupid. They will correct your pronunciation. They will let you know when you repeat something. And, heaven forbid you should call something by the wrong name (I recently said Mapquest instead of GPS…boy did my teens make me feel like a fool!)

Oh, and just try to impart some rudimentary sex education advice. They will laugh hysterically. 

I remember when Raquel blogged about how her daughter thought she knew more about driving than her mom just minutes after getting her permit.

As a teenager, I was certainly convinced of my intellectual superiority over my parents. Now it’s my turn to be the idiot.

However, even recognizing these drawbacks,  I love teenagers. They can be great companions when they want to be. They will introduce you to new music you might not have considered.  They will keep you up on pop culture. And of course, there’s something else… “You can’t disappoint a teenager because they already expect the worst of you,” as noted by  Emma Beddington in her article, Why your teenager thinks you’re an idiot.

I recently asked my mother why she didn’t caution me about what to expect from the teen years. She smiled and said, “Oh Cindy, we all go through it. It’s part of being a parent.”

Obviously, she takes some comfort in seeing things come full circle. Maybe I will, too, someday.

Your thoughts on raising teenagers

So, I’m curious…What are some aspects of raising teenagers that your parents forgot to warn you about? Share below so the rest of us can relate.

Raising Teenagers: When parents disagree on teen discipline

parents arguing over teen discipline


It’s midnight and I’m pacing around my house waiting for my 16-year-old son to get home. His driving curfew (according to the law for 16-year-old in Florida) is 11 p.m.  I’m fuming. My husband is sound asleep. I have a tracking app on my phone but it has stopped working. I am not sure why.  For the last hour, every time I thought about calling or texting Garret, I stopped myself. The last I could tell he was in a part of town where the streets are very dark and lined with canals. I am terrified about distracting him from the road. Ugh, raising teenagers is not easy!

When Garret finally arrives home, he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that he’s an hour late or that I have been awake worrying.  I’m livid. I start screaming at him about how he should have called or texted me. He calmly responds: “If you want to know where I was, why didn’t you just track me?”  As we are arguing, my husband screams from the bedroom, “Can you two keep it down. I’m trying to sleep.”

I wanted to kill both my son and my husband.

I told my Garret to go to bed and we would discuss his punishment in the morning.

When I woke up the next morning, I still was angry and filled my husband in on what had happened. My husband did not have a curfew growing up and thinks that curfews are unnecessary.  Of course, he goes to sleep when our teenagers are out at night driving and doesn’t worry. I, on the other hand, can’t sleep until they are home safe.  I ask my husband to help me come up with an appropriate punishment. He thinks I should just tell my son to be more conscious of his curfew. I don’t agree with that punishment. Most of my son’s friends are 17. At that age, the driving curfew goes later, until 1 a.m.  My son often negotiates a later curfew when he isn’t driving. So, I think the punishment should be he has to be home by 11 p.m. and not one minute later, regardless of who is driving —  until Garret can prove himself trustworthy.  My husband thinks I am getting carried away with the punishment and making it so Garret will rebel.

We argue.

I win.

This is not the first argument my husband and I have had over how to discipline our teenagers and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My friends  tell me they, too, argue with their spouses over teen discipline.

My friend Jennifer punishes her teen daughter by taking away her cellphone. When her grades slip, the cell phone gets taken away until her grades improve. Her husband is completely against that form of punishment. He thinks taking away the cell phone is more of a punishment for them as parents because they can’t reach their daughter when they are running late to pick her up or need to tell her something.  They are constantly arguing over how to discipline their daughter, Jennifer told me. (Not long ago, Raquel wrote a post that questioned whether taking away a teen’s cell phone really works as punishment)

When my children were younger, my husband and I argued a little over how to discipline the kids. — should they go to time out for hitting a sibling or maybe get put to bed earlier? However, the issues were small and the stakes were low. With teenagers, finding the right punishment for the crime and being on the same page as your parenting partner is a HUGE challenge. Teenagers  test limits and sometimes they ignore your rules just to see if they can get away with it. They love dividing parents and playing one against the other.

What are friends doing for teen discipline?

Feeling agitated by my weekend’s parenting clash, I call my friend Stef, who has mentioned to me in the past that she and her husband often argue over how to discipline their teen sons. Stef explains to me that she disciplines with words and consequences, where her husband yells and slams doors.

“He has a shorter fuse than I do and he doesn’t tolerate disrespect,” she told me. “We try not to let them divide us and come off to them as if we’re coming from the same place, but it’s hard.”

Stef said the biggest disagreements with her husband are over the degree of the punishment. One time when her son mouthed off to her husband, he wanted to revoke all driving privileges for two weeks. Stef felt the punishment was too severe. “I had to take him aside and tell him that if he did that, he was going to be the one driving our son to school and home and anywhere else he needed to go.” They worked out a compromise of two days of no driving.

By now, I have learned that teens can either pour on the drama over even the slightest punishment, or be masters of looking like they don’t care about any discipline we dole out. I’m not sure which is worse!

Explaining the reason behind teen discipline

I read this bit of advice from Rosalind Wiseman on YourTeenMag.com and it stuck with me: She says the conversation with your teen about the punishment is more important than the actual consequence. “Focus on what you want your teen to learn from the experience,” she said, adding that while it can be so much easier to yell or disconnect, these conversations can be the most important you ever have with your teen.

Like most parents, I just want my son to grow up understanding respect and to become a responsible adult. It may be that I don’t always agree with my husband on how to make that happen. I would imagine this is even harder if you are divorced. If you and your spouse or partner or ex disagree on teen discipline, how have you handled it? Please share your experiences with teen discipline in the comment section below.

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I Never Felt So United As I Did at the March For Our Lives

I am not a political person whatsoever, and I have never been to a march in my life. However,  as you know, my son Matthew is a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas  High School.  So, attending the March For Our Lives in Parkland was something I felt compelled to do for obvious reasons. I am sure many people have various reasons for attending March For Our Lives around the nation, but mine was quite  simple. I wanted to be there for the 17 angels/students who couldn’t be there, and for my son and all the other students who could.  I do not have a personal agenda or political one.

I just want my son and all children to go to school and feel safe!

The  pictures I took told  stories.

Many different stories of all types of people.

I have not felt so unified with so many different people since 9/11. It made me wonder… why is that? Why does tragedy do that to us as a nation? We all want the same thing don’t we? We want to keep our schools safe, to keep our children safe.   We never want something like this, this horrible tragedy, to  happen again.

I hope, if anything, that when you see the pictures from March For Our Lives in Parkland, you see what I saw —   students, parents, grandparents  unified. This March For Our Lives is for all of us – all across the country — who want change, and for the 17 angels who deserve change.

This shirt worn by many at the Parkland March For Our Lives had the names of the 17 lives lost in the shooting:

  • Alyssa Alhadeff
  • Scott Beigel,
  • Martin Duque
  • Nicholas Dworet
  • Aaron Feis
  • Jaime Guttenberg
  • Chris Hixon
  • Cara Loughran
  • Gina Montalto
  • Joaquin “Guac” Oliver
  • Alaina Petty
  • Meadow Pollack
  • Helena Ramsay
  • Alex Schachter
  • Carmen Schentrup
  • Peter Wang

Here are photos that speak louder than words:





March For Our Lives from a Mother’s Point of View

I watched one by one as more than two dozen students and parents of victims of the school shooting took the stage at the MarchForOurLives rally in Parkland, Florida, on Saturday, March 24, and gave their speeches. I listened. I cheered. I cried. I felt inspired.

The students are 14, 15, 16 and 17 years olds, and all of them spoke from the heart. They are angry. They are sad. They are motivated. They talked about their dead friends. They talked about their dead coach. They talked about their experiences getting shot and surviving. They talked about meeting with lawmakers. They talked about how they won’t let the 17 victims of their school shooting die in vain.  And they talked about how they can’t wait to vote in elections.

Each student or parent who spoke and told his or her story ended the speech with, “This is why I march!” Clearly, it was a touch that said these marchers have purpose. If anyone had doubt about the power of young people to change the world, it wasn’t evident in Parkland on Saturday.


Daniel Tabares, only 14-years-old,  took the stage, spoke with a slight lisp, and told the crowd he was shy and a loner. He told us he no longer feels that way because he has passion and  a cause. He told us he wants change. He said he wants to feel safe in his school again. He wants to fight to make a difference — and will do so for long as it takes.



Casey Sherman, the 17-year-old lead organizer of the Parkland event, looked right at the bleachers behind the stage  at her Marjory Stoneman Douglas peers and said, “Our voices do matter. Enough is enough.”


She then turned to the crowd and said, “This is not a moment. It’s a movement.” In front of me, a sea of toddlers and teens and parents and grandparents stood cheering for Casey. Behind me a crowd of people grew so large I couldn’t see the end.




And off to the side was a well thought out symbol of what will make change happen: a voter registration table.


When MSD student Adam Buckwald said, “The finish line of the march today is the starting line for our movement,” I believe him.  When he said he and his fellow students in Parkland have started a flame that cannot be extinguished, I believe him. When I saw the students holding the MarchForOurLives banner and leading the march through the streets of Parkland shouting “enough is enough”  with the adults following behind them, I know that change is coming.

Parkland Students lead the March4OurLives


In D.C., my daughter marched with a group of other future school teachers in hope that they can feel safe in their future classrooms and their students will only need to concern themselves with learning.

As a mother of three teenagers, I feel proud of what I saw in Parkland and what I saw when I watched televised replays of MarchForOurLives led by students around the country. As an mother of teenagers, I feel awed by the next generation. As a mother of teenagers, I want to support these determined young people who are our country’s future voters, lawmakers and political leaders. I will make them the promise they asked me to make. I will get informed and support  ONLY those lawmakers who support the laws that make our schools safer than they are now.

Tony Montalto , father of Gina Montalto, one of the 17 Parkland school  shooting victims, took the stage, looked around, and told the students before him, the battle for change is a marathon, not a sprint. But because of all of you, we are seeing steps in the right direction, he said. Then, he  brought me to tears… he told the huge crowd before him that he had been convinced his talented, happy 14-year-old daughter would do great things and change the world. “In a way, with the help of this movement, I guess she still will,” he said.




Spring Break: A Parent’s Chance to Bond with Your Teenager


Spring Break with parents

I long for the days of being a teenager and looking forward to spring break. Right about now, most teens are exhausted, crabby and tired of school. My son complains almost every day about how much work teachers are piling on and how other students are becoming annoying.  As a parent, I can tell you I’m suffering along with him as we head into the final stretch of the school year.

Spring break can’t come soon enough!  I admit,  I’m looking forward to spring break as much as my teenagers.

My daughter, Carly, is a college senior. I can’t wait to spend time with her. If there’s anything I have learned over my years of parenting teenagers it is to use spring break wisely. Whether or not you have something planned for spring break, give your teenager time to unwind. Having some down time can make a big difference in the months of May and June when the end-of-the-school-year is a crazy blur of banquets, final exams, awards ceremonies and recitals.

Making time during spring break for one-on-one with your teen goes a long way. Recently, I was talking with my friend Maria, whose four children are now in their 20s. We were discussing the baby and toddler years vs. the teen years. She said something that struck me. The teen years, she said, are so much more important. They are your chance to establish trust and communication. Once your teen graduates from high school, the things they come to you to discuss have much bigger life implications. If you have that relationship, your opinions hold more weight.  When she said that, I realized how true it is.

My bonding strategy

We all know teens don’t  view spring break as a  time to hang out with their parents. (Who wants to be seen on the beach with mom, right?) Teens see it as a break from school and a chance to “just chill” and hang out with friends.

Clearly, OUR idea of spring break isn’t watching our teen spend days focused on some variation of a screen (video games, social media, texting, tv, taking selfies, etc.) while stretched on the couch eating junk food. That can get so frustrating! So can being the parent who turns into the house nag.   As social worker Dori Mages notes, “If the point of spring break is to relax and have fun together, then make sure it isn’t an excuse to spend time reminding them of a laundry-list of “to do’s” such as homework, chores, the overdue thank-you note to grandma, or questioning their fluctuating moods or silences. ”

That’s why I plan to be strategic this spring break. Doing an activity with teenagers doesn’t have to be expensive. And, they don’t even need to know I am plotting to get one-on-one time.  This spring break, I am suggesting my daughter help cook her favorite dessert with me. I am offering my youngest son to go on a bike ride with me to get an icee from 7-Eleven. Think small activities that your teen with enjoy as much as you will.

Even working parents can make bonding time

I realize some parents work during their teenagers’ spring break. Still, all of us can find a way to spend an hour bonding in some creative way. It could be as simple as staying up a little later and watching a movie with your teen. Go for it parents, you won’t regret it!

Whether you are traveling for spring break or just hanging around town, spring break is the perfect time for creating new memories, or just figuring out what’s going on in your teen’s head. Before we know it it will be summer. We just need to survive the next few months!

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Walking My Son Back Into Marjory Stoneman Douglas After the Mass Shooting


students return to MSD

As a mother of a 16-year-old son who attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a mass shooting took place on Valentine’s Day,  the last week has been a struggle to come to terms with all that has happened.

It is Sunday, February 25th at 3:30 p.m. and it is time to walkover to Stoneman Douglas so my son, Matthew, can pick up his backpack that he left in the classroom the day of the shooting. I haven’t really blogged much about the shooting,  except for Matthew’s text he sent me during the tragedy. I haven’t really had one second, one minute to myself because I have been involved in  all the community has been doing.. funerals, vigils, walks and grief counseling and trying to process all of this.


It is still surreal.

I have tried to be extra sensitive, patient and comforting to Matthew, to make sure he is okay,  but he’s not and I don’t know when he will be.  Just when I think he is okay, I see him lash out at me for something small.  Yesterday,  on our way to the high school for the first time after the shooting, he  walked ahead of my husband and I at fast pace.  We kept calling his name, but he had his headphones in to tune out the world. I don’t know Matthew was walking at such a fast pace because he wanted to see the school, which he hadn’t since the shooting,  or he just wanted to get this over with.  He was cold towards me, angry, mad and he did not want to talk. As I was walking behind him, all I could see was a little boy who once couldn’t bear to leave my side.   As mothers, we want to protect our kids and keep them safe and happy. So, when will Matthew be either one of those? I can’t control everything and that scares me. What I could control  was not getting upset because Matthew wasn’t acting how I wished he would. I kept telling myself, give it time, be patient, just love him and be there for him no matter how he treats you or lashes out at you.

As we walked toward the school, nothing fazed Matthew. He walked with determination, even as he passed the memorials crowded around by parents and students.  He didn’t even look once. It was pandemonium. I saw angels to honor the victims, flowers, music, praying, news media.. it was crazy!

angels to honor Parkland shooting victims


We realized the administrators were making us walk all the way around to the senior parking lot entrance, which was right next to the 1200 building where the shooting happened. I couldn’t believe it. I have never entered the school this way but, I am sure they had their reasons. I noticed they had fenced in the 1200 building and displayed beautiful banners from schools all over the county and state, as well as local community businesses,  which offered words of encouragement. But I couldn’t help and look at the 1200 building and think, “all that horror happened in this building that I am looking at right now. How can this be real?”

Oh, but it was.

We got to the school  entrance and we followed  Matthew to his classroom. I asked him to show us where he was when he heard the shooting. He explained that when there  is a fire drill, the kids go in a different direction, they need to go to the nearest exit, which is the reason he was where he was. He was going down the stairs and he saw people running all over and saying, “It’s a code red, go back,” and then he heard the gunshots.  He quickly ran back up the stairs to the nearest classroom, TV production.  It was there that he and 54 students crammed into a small back room with their teacher, Mr. Eric Garner. We went in the room and Matthew went to the back room and picked up his backpack.

My husband Scott and I went over to Mr. Garner and shook his hand and said, “Thank you. Thank you for keeping our son and all the other kids safe.” I attached an article that was in the local paper about Mr. Garner. Matthew said Mr. Garner moved the bookcase to keep all the students safe.

We left the classroom and started to head back home. The mood in the school was good. Kids needed to be around  their friends and teachers to start to heal together. I saw the Coral Springs Fire Rescue walking, and I patted one rescue worker on the back and said, “Thank you. Thank you for all you did and what you continue to do.” He looked at me with such appreciation.

As we started to leave the school, Matthew again was walking quickly with a purpose — to get home fast. I figured I wasn’t going to catch up to him and I would meet him at home, so  I stopped at the memorial site of victim, Joaquin Oliver, who was the son of a sweet friend of mine. I placed a white flower, that was handed to me when I walked into the school onto the many flowers that were there. I turned around and surprisingly, I saw Matthew  walking towards me. He asked, “Where did you go?” I told him I wanted to place a flower on Joaquin’s memorial site.  At that moment, I realized, he really did care if I was behind him. He didn’t care if I wasn’t next to him, he just needed to know I was watching his back. I took a deep breath and smiled because I was grateful … “Mommy will always have your back Matthew, always.”

When your teenager is afraid to go to school


father and teen


Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a mom who gets paid by the hour. A few hours into her workday, the women’s daughter had called from her high school experiencing anxiety and asked mom to pick her up early. “I just can’t walk to my class in the portable,” she told her mom. “I’m too scared. I just can’t.”

This family lives about 30 miles away from Parkland. In Florida, news of the Parkland shooting has been non-stop. Not only is it on television, in print and on the radio, but social media has made the images and fears real for many high school students.

This mom told me she felt conflicted.   She worried that by picking her daughter would lead to repeat behavior. But at the same time, she understood her daughter’s fear. That same morning, my husband had told me about his co-worker whose daughter felt too anxious to go to her high school. This mom had also had to pick her daughter up early from school. She decided to take her daughter to a therapist.

For teenagers in Florida, and probably the rest of the country, this shooting is scary, particularly because social media makes it very real. Within minutes after the Parkland shooting, my son knew every detail. Through group text messages and Snapchat posts of his friends at the school, he knew what was happening in real time, even before the news stations arrived. The experience taught me as a parent, today’s teenagers are informed in a way we never imagined they would be. They well aware of the horrific events going on, including the gory details, whether or not we want them to know.

Around the country, there have been threats at numerous other high schools in the aftermath of the shooting. The police are on high alert, but parents are left trying to figure out how to keep our kids nerves calm and what to do when a teenager is too afraid to go to school, or stay there once they arrive.

I consulted parenting expert Harry H. Harrison, author of several best-selling parenting books including Father to Son and Father to Daughter.

Q. How do you handle a teenagers real fear of going to school and being shot?
A. First, make sure your teenager knows the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, is in jail.  Next, talk to them about what to do in a shooting situation like this. You want to give them skills to handle an emergency situation so they feel empowered.
Q. Should you let your teenager stay home from school if you see he or she is  experiencing anxiety?
A. If they miss school one or two days that’s understandable. But they have to face their fears. It’s part of being an adult and the adult world is filled with good and bad situations. We want to raise our kids to be successful in an adult world that can be strange and cold.  My message is you are not raising a 13 or 14-year old, you are raising a future adult.  It’s the perfect time to give your kids courage that they can face their fears.  You want to raise kids to face the adult world and unfortunately this is the world now.  Teach them what to do if a shooter walks into their school. Give them skills to handle the situation. It’s not time to retreat. It’s time to be courageous and go to school.

Q. What would you say to the parent whose teenager now wants to be homeschooled?

A.  Anything that delays maturation of a teen is a bad idea. If you let them stay home because they are afraid , when are they going to get over it?  After their senior year, when they still don’t have enough strength to face the world?

Q. Should parents initiate conversations with their teens about the shooting?

A.  Parents should ask, “What think about what’s going on in Florida?”  If your teen says “that crazy guy did something awful” and walks off, there is no use filling his brain with fear. If  he wants to talk about it, talk about it. Between ages 15 and 18 teens get reassurance from talking about things. When they are  younger they just want to know if they are safe. I wouldn’t force to them to talk about the shooting, especially if they don’t’ seem scared, but it is okay to say “I am here to talk if you need to.”

Q. Should you encourage your teenager who is afraid to go to school to get involved in the action some Florida teenagers and Parkland survivors are initiating?

A. Yes. This can be a huge lesson in courage. Encourage them to participate in rallies and demonstrations… everything but back out of the world and retreat in fear.

Q. What if parents are fearful? Should they hide it from their teenagers?

A. The best thing a parent can do is go into a room and come out when they are calm to talk to their teenagers. If they are scared to death, their teen will be scared to death. If they are calm and collected, the odds are their teen will be too.  It’s incumbent on parents to not be so terrified they can’t be there for their child.
For more tips on talking to your teenager about school safety and gun violence, this video on Cheddar.com with Parents Magazine editor should help:


Harry H. Harrison Jr
Parenting Expert

How to Parent a Teenager Whose Personality Differs From Yours

As parents, we recognize how each of our children are different, or similar. Sometimes our personality is so different from our child’s that it is challenging to relate. So, when Jeannette Rivera-Lyles proposed an blog post on raising an introvert, I LOVED the idea. As a mom, I have struggled with how to relate to an introvert. Jeannette tells us her experience and brings in an expert. I think you will enjoy her post.


parenting an introverted teenager

Jeannette and her two teenage sons




Your Teen’s Introversion is Just Who He is, Embrace it

By: Jeannette Rivera-Lyles

If you are parenting an introverted teenager, chances are you often feel like you’d do better if you could read minds or even tea leaves. Either one could offer more insight into what’s going on inside his head than asking “How are you?”.

I know it because if have an introverted 15-year-old son, James. He spends lots of time in his room drawing or playing in his computer, prefers to socialize with a small group of friends, and often can be a complete enigma as he is not one to verbalize his thoughts regularly.

At times, I have been worried about him. I have feared the possibility that his behavior may stem from depression or insecurity. But for the most, though, he seems happy, is caring, eats and sleeps well, and is a good student who stays on top of an overwhelming amount of homework. So, I reached out to my friend Dr. Kathy McHugh, an Orlando-based licensed psychologist who treats adolescents, to help me sort out what is going on.

Here’s the takeaway from Dr. McHugh:

  1. Introverts draw their energy from solitude. They are depleted by too much external stimulus and thrive in reflection and solitude. By contrast, extraverts’ energy is increased by spending time in busy, stimulating places often with lots of people. Understanding this difference is key. Resist the urge to force your introvert teen out of his room or to make him socialize more than he wants. “Wanting to be alone isn’t the same as withdrawing, which could be a sign of depression,” Kathy said. “If he has dinner with the family, comes out to watch a TV show with his siblings and participates in family activities, he’s not withdrawing but seeking time alone. This is how an introvert decompresses and recharges.”
  2. Do not try to change an introvert. This is not a phase, it’s who they are. Let them know you respect that. There’s a false notion that a healthy teenager is only the one who socializes regularly, has tons of friends and is involved in many activities. This just isn’t true, Kathy explained. “It is just as fine to be a reserved person, who enjoys introspection, and prefers to have just a few friends with whom to share meaningful connections,” she said.
  3. Allow an introvert to decompress first before attempting conversation. When she arrives home from school, after hours with hundreds of kids and loud hallways, she’s likely craving time alone. This may not be the best time to start asking questions. Your introverted teenager may be more responsive if you engage her in conversation after she’s had some time alone. And when she opens up, don’t interrupt while she’s talking.
  4. Be aware that intelligence, wisdom and success aren’t exclusive to extraverted personalities. Some of the most successful introverts in history include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling and Meryl Streep, according to Inc. Magazine.

A teenager’s introversion may be problematic at times for me and you as parents, but not for the teen. I have learned to be patient, take the time to look at things from my son’s perspective. To do this, we may need to allowing our teen to spend more time secluded in his room. My son, like many other introverts, see his room as a peaceful haven. I’ve learned that it is okay for him to spend extended periods of time behind closed doors, as long as I know what he is doing and that he is safe. I drop by periodically to check on him, and use the opportunity to allow him to have a private space that everyone in the family respects.

One more thing, our introverted teens must be ready for a world in which at least 75% of individuals are extroverts. I realize I can’t  shield my son from the different personalities types in his environment. I am very much an extrovert and I have found that sharing with James my personality needs (I like people, parties, music) and how these things fill me with joy and positive energy, helps him understand the uniqueness and positive attributes of both approaches.

Have faith. Your introverted teenager can thrive and accomplish as successfully as any outgoing kid. I truly believe it!

Jeannette Rivera-LylesAbout Jeannette Rivera-Lyles: Jeannette is a born storyteller. She knew that she wanted to write professionally as early as the first grade and she followed her dream. Jeannette is the founder of Accent Communications, a strategic communications consulting firm in Central Florida. Previously, she worked in print and broadcast journalism at places like the NBC News Channel,  El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel. Additionally, Jeannette has freelanced for BBC Mundo, Florida Politics.com, AhoraMismo.com, and MSN Latino. Jeannette enjoys the challenges of parenting two teenage boys, ages 13 and 15. She also loves wine, foreign films and taking naps in the backyard.


We Are ALL Parkland Parents

With tears rolling down her face, Lori Alhadeff looked into the CNN camera, screamed into a microphone and begged President Trump to do something about the nation’s deadly gun epidemic. As she shouted, “President Trump, please do something!”  her powerful statement, her anger and her raw emotions brought me to tears. Watching her, I became her. I felt her feelings of overwhelming sadness. I wanted to hug that mother and tell her I understood her grief and anger. I wanted to shout alongside her. After all, regardless of where we live, we are all Parkland parents.

I am certain all mothers of teenagers who read the articles, watched the news reports and saw the social media posts on the Parkland shooting have felt every ounce of emotion that the community’s parents have experienced in the last week. We are parents who love our teenagers and send them to high school believing they are going home for dinner, just like Parkland parents believed. Had Nikolas Cruz attended our teen’s high school, the victim could have been our child.

Like the parents we see burying their children, we are horrified and numb. Like the Parkland parents whose surviving teenagers are traumatized, we are appalled at what they witnessed.  This isn’t the first time for us, though.  As parents, we have been here before. We have seen the faces on television of parents who lost children during other horrific school shootings.

But this time is different.

This time, a socially conscious, action-oriented generation of teenagers is determined to evoke change and ensure these 17 victims are remembered.  With a social media campaign now known as #NeverAgain, these teenagers and student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are making plans and taking action.  They are leading protest against gun violence in front of the White House. They are holding rallies to demand leaders make school safety a top priority. They have organized #MarchForOurLives, a national event to honor the victims of gun violence with action.

On March 24, 2018, students will rally in Washington D.C and in local communities across the country to demand action from  leaders and fight for an America that is free from gun violence.
#MarchForOurLives campaign











Politicians are offering them resources.

congresswoman offers help with #MarchForOurLives



Celebrities are recognizing their efforts.

Amy Schumer posts about #MarchForOurLives










As a parent, I could not be prouder of these teenagers.  They need our support in any way we can give it to them. Spread their messages on social media. Give to their fundraising campaigns. Show them love by marching alongside them and inspiring your teenager to participate in activities that draw attention to creating positive change toward school safety. And, continue to send prayers to those families of victims and those of survivors.

As they lead the way to change, let’s support those who are working to make a difference. We are all Parkland parents. We are all in pain and we all want desperately to believe in #NeverAgain.

What do you when your teenager doesn’t want to go to college

to go or not to go to college


On those rare occasions that I have conversation with my son about his future, I try not to pry too much and let him do all the talking. So, one day Matthew decided to tell me that he doesn’t know  if he wants to go to college.

My first reaction was,  “You will be going to college. Are you crazy?”  But I took a deep breath, and told Matthew he still has  two years to decide what he wants to do after high school. He is 16 years old and a high school sophomore.  I know some 16 year olds may already know what they want to do when they graduate and where they want to go to college.  However, not all teenagers know. They are all different and that’s okay.

Stress, I truly believe, has a lot to do with it.  Teenagers have so much homework and so much studying that often they can’t see their future, and the thought of more work in college scares them.


should teenagers to to college

I told Matthew we will cross that bridge when we get to it, and we will take one day at a time. He said, ” I don’t  want to waste your money on college.  I would rather take a year off and then decide.” I told him I appreciated that he didn’t want to waste our money and his time going to college, but I hope he  changes his mind.  I told him he could take a “gap year” if he felt it  is what he needs.

I truly felt trying to talk to him out of not going to college at this point would be useless. I remember my daughter Olivia’s thoughts about college when she was 16, and she did a full 180 by the time she graduated.  I think what I do need to worry about is Matthew’s stress and anxiety and how to help him work through it. I guess my gut as a mom tells me he will change his mind because he is a smart kid and knows that without education, it is more difficult to succeed in life.  Matthew just needs to mature and grow up  some more before making any decisions about his future.

So for now, I continue to listen when he wants to talk, which is rare for a teenage boy. I  try to help him  work through the stress and anxiety, and of course, I try to guide him to make smart decisions for his future.  Because in the end, parents get blamed 10 or 15 years later when their children’s lives are not how they planned, even if we let them choose the path they want to follow.

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