Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Author: raisingteensblogger (Cindy) (page 1 of 22)

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 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?

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?

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!

Why mothers of teenagers worry so much

 

I am on the phone with the mother of a three-year-old when she tells me that her son wants to play with her keys all the time. “I’m worried that maybe he doesn’t have enough toys,” she says. I suppress a laugh when she tells me this because I’m quite sure her toddler has plenty of toys but prefers the keys. I’m also quite sure that worrying over his play choices is the beginning of a long list of things this mother will fret about.

In most households, mom is the designated worrier. From the day a mother holds her little bundle of joy, the worrying begins, as does the expenditure of emotional energy on concerns that will seem both deranged and justified.

The worrying manifests in ways unimaginable to our former selves, and turn us into people we don’t recognize.  As our children grow, so does the list of things we moms obsess about. When are children are young, we  worry about school. Is my child making friends? Does he have a learning disability? Is he reading on grade level? These questions become the topic of conversation with friends, family and other mothers. Each Facebook post by another parent raises questions about our own child’s progress.

But it’s the tween and teen years that send our anxiety into overdrive. Along with adolescence comes drama. As mothers, we must decipher between real problems and normal teenage behavior. We worry about our teenagers’ choice of friends, whether they are lying about their whereabouts, whether their grades are good enough to get into college, whether mental health issues are a concern or just normal teenage moodiness. Of course, we worry about the mundane behavior too — boys spending too much time playing video games and girls being left out.

As the new school year kicks in, the typical threats that our parents agonized about — sex, drugs and alcohol — still are top of mind, but now there are additional concerns because of technology, higher academic pressures and gun violence. Each time we listen to the news, we learn more about cyberbullying, distracted driving, sexting and sex offenders using social networking sites — contemporary risks that scare the heck out of us. Social media posts about teen suicide or young drivers killed while texting and driving send our anxiety soaring. For some of us, high school is as nerve wracking for us as it is for our teens.

Now as Labor Day approaches, many moms are confronting the college drop off, an experience fraught with panic. Our minds are racing with questions such as …Will my teen ever wash his bedsheets or do his laundry? We also wonder about bigger concerns such as…Does my teen understand the risks of binge drinking or the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases? Does my teen know the difference between consensual sex and assault?

Social media feeds our natural inclination to fret.  As one mom said to me: “You go on the Internet, and it fuels your fears when you see images and read posts of all the stuff that is happening.”

In his book Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It, child and family therapist David Anderegg makes the case that today’s parents are taking worrying to an unhealthy extreme. He argues that they worry too much about the everyday aspects of parenting, and says good parenting is about moderation and empathy.

To be fair, it is not just mothers who worry about their kids. Of course, fathers worry too. However, mothers seem to carry more of the emotional burden. In most households, we still are the primary caregiver, the parent who stresses about the logistics and the gender that most often gets judged over our parental decisions.

As my two older children leave for college, I want them  to be independent, to make wise decisions and to function on their own without my help.  I know as a parent, I can try to keep my teenagers safe, healthy and on a path toward total independence.  But it’s really in their hands. At some point, I will have to stop worrying,  but for now, I just don’t think I can. I have gotten pretty darn comfortable with being mom the worrier.

 

How a mom got her teenagers to give up sugar

Raquel and I can’t imagine completely removing sugar from our teenagers’ diets. So, when Wendy  Dessler told us she had done just that – and had been successful – we wanted to know more about how, when, where and why she pulled off this amazing feat.

You are going to love learning more of the details of how and why this mom got her family to give up sugar.  I think you will be just as awed by her as we were.

 

By Wendy Dessler

I admit it. When my three kids were toddlers I was much more concerned with their happiness than their health. I thought they were just as cute as they could be with ice cream on their faces and lollypops dripping down their chubby little hands.

 

They got a little older and we signed them up for dance class and soccer. I thought my little girl looked so precious when I bought the latest dance costumes at Just For Kix and they did just fine if they did still have a little baby fat.

Then I began to see things a bit differently. People started making comments about how my boys should go out for football. I live in the south where “not so nice” things are said in code.

Your boys should go out for football is code for “Dang that is one big kid!” (To which I replied, “Bless your heart!” You can figure out what that is code for)

That’s when I began to pay attention to what they were eating.

By the time they were teenagers, watching them eat was a full-time job. If you don’t know, teenagers require more food than other people and most large animals. They normally eat 3 meals per day and 2 snacks. The snacks last roughly 3 hours each.

I finally decided to put the brakes on sugar when I watched my 15-year-old son pour 1/4 cup of sugar on his Frosted Flakes.

Tip # 1 – Tell them the score.

I have an announcement!

So the night came when I called the family together and made the big announcement. We were going sugar-free.

First, they looked at me and wondered what those strange sounds were coming from my mouth. Then when they understood, they laughed and laughed.

The next day when they came home from school they walked through the newly stocked kitchen that was filled with the freshest fruits and the most beautiful veggie trays nestled between cases of sparkling clear water in the fridge.

Instead of the oohs and aahs I was expecting I heard a chorus of “Mom! There is nothing to eat!”

Tip # 2 – Explain what they are feeling

The terror

Having teenagers is difficult at its best.

I believe that the word “teenager” translates to “mood swings” in some societies.

As their bodies began to adjust to having less sugar, their moods changed – a lot. They would be laughing one minute then slamming doors the next. I really couldn’t tell if it was just teen stuff or if it was the sugar crash. I learned that if the doors they were slamming were cabinet doors, it was probably the sugar.

At first, they would still eat sugar when they left home. But soon something great started to happen. With a little pointing from their father and I, they started noticing nicer skin and fewer headaches.

My youngest son had always been bothered with constipation, suddenly was feeling better. They started reaching for the water without fuss and opting for air popped popcorn instead of snack cakes. Soon they were doing great all by themselves.

By then, I was craving sugar so bad I was dreaming about it.

Tip # 3 – Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way

Cheat carefully

If you force your teens to go sugar-free, do not think you can hide anything.

They can smell the sugar you put in your coffee 4 hours before they got home. They are like a cocker spaniel. You can shove a piece of candy in your pocket, sneak off to the bathroom, unwrap it at a snail’s pace with the shower running and when you open the door, they are standing there saying: “You have candy?”

Admit to yourself that everyone needs a treat from time to time and order some really good sugar-free candy online so you can all have a few pieces from time to time.

Challenges

Before you begin this journey, you must accept that it is a marathon, not a sprint. This is a long-term challenge which does not have an “ending”. You will face challenges. When my son had his 15th birthday party, he was fine with a tray of sugar-free brownies with whipped cream, nuts, fruits, and candies (all sugar-free without their knowledge) on the side. The kids could make their own treats. But honestly? If you have ever been in a room full of teen boys, you know they inhale food and rarely know how it tastes. The hardest part is keeping them from eating the plates.

When my daughter was turning 14, it was a different story. It was more about the looks, the coolness and it had to be special. For her, I cut the center of a watermelon and shaped it like a tall cake. The “icing” was sugar-free whipped cream and I decorated it with berries and chopped nuts. You can get the recipe here. It was so pretty and so special that she didn’t care that it was not cake. As a matter of fact, she bragged to her friends that she had given up sugar because it was so bad for her skin.

Risk takers

Taking risks, pushing the boundaries, and bending the rules are part of being a teenager. This is the time when they are about to step out on their own. You have told them all their lives not to smoke or drink. This is when they will try a sip or a puff and if you did it right, will feel the pangs of guilt for it. But they will do it. Because they have to learn to fly. You did it, I did it, and they will do it. So it will be with the sugar battle. You will remove the temptation, offer a better solution, and plant the seeds. They will stand, they will fall, but they will get back up. They will go into adulthood with the foundation of a  healthy diet.

To me, that is a success.

Wendy Dessler is a super-connector with ManageBacklinks.io which helps businesses with building their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.  She does that in her spare time, when she is not being a personal chef or personal assistant to her two children.

What to do about teen depression

I just wrote an article on teen depression that appeared in The Miami Herald.  For the article,  I interviewed Pamela Leal, the mother of Bailey Leal who committed suicide two years ago when she was only 17.  My conversation with Pam stayed with me for days.  It was clear to me that she not only loved her daughter, but expressed that love to her. Of course, there were signs that Bailey was depressed and suffering …but would any of us catch the signs?

Teen depression  and the increasing rates of teen suicide is SCARY! A study released in May tracking 32 children’s hospitals nationwide showed that admissions for suicidal behavior and serious self-harm among 5-to-17-year-olds more than doubled between 2008 and 2015. As Time Magazine notes: that’s just a tiny percentage of the kids who are experiencing major depression or anxiety or are hurting themselves in various ways, like cutting. Nationally, 17.7% of teens reported seriously considering attempting suicide in 2015, according to the CDC.

In interviewing sources for my article, something I learned from Graciela Jimenez, psychotherapist with the Care and Counseling Services for Baptist Health South Florida, stood out. She said it’s okay to ask your teen if he or she is thinking about suicide, if you see a sign. She said parents often are afraid to ask because they don’t want to put the idea in their child’s head, but it is better to address it, she said.

I encourage you to read my article and learn as much about the signs of teen depression as possible. If you are dealing with a mental health issue with your teen, please share your experiences and thoughts with other parents. This blog is an important place for parents to help each other.

Click here to link to my Miami Herald article.

 

NPR highlights RaisingTeensBlog

Just in case our blog readers missed it, RaisingTeensBlog.com was featured on NPR. Very exciting for us!

We are posting the link. The topic was how parents of teens often need a place to turn to for support as much or more than parents of toddles.  Click here for the article!

As our site grows, we want to make sure we are providing the content you want and need. PLEASE tell us what issues you are grappling with right now. Also, let us know if there are topics you would like to read more about. Looking forward to interacting with all of you!

-Cindy and Raquel

 

 

 

 

Should you let your teenage son try beer?

 

 

 

A few nights ago, my 16-year-old son came home from his summer job late at night and found my older son’s friend at our home drinking beer. I heard my son asked the older boy to let him try his beer. “It’s almost midnight. You don’t need to drink beer right now,” I told him.

At that moment, I was torn.

If I made a big deal about my son trying beer, I felt like he would want to do it even more, and even be sneaky about it. But at the same time, I didn’t want to encourage it. So I made it about the time of night, rather than the bigger issue of trying beer.

To be honest, I really don’t know what to say to teenagers about alcohol. We know that most teenagers will NOT wait until they are 21 to drink.  Personally, I think the drinking age should be 18 because most teens are drinking at that age  anyway.

I love wine and have offered my kids to try different types of wine when I am drinking it. I don’t want alcohol to seem like forbidden fruit. I  have found it is  easy to have a conversation about drinking and driving with teenagers than not drinking at all. I have told my kids to call me, or a friend or Uber if they have been drinking, particularly my two kids now in college. I have also had the conversation about the dangers of a fake ID and how police in some cities give out tickets for Minors in Possession of alcohol. (MIPs)

But what do you say to a teenager in high school, which is a time when parties usually involve alcohol? I have never really wanted to make a big deal to my sons about drinking beer because I know for most teenage boys it is going to happen.

I find when parents forbid their teens to drink or try alcohol, their kids often become sneaky about it. I have seen that firsthand. When my older son was still in high school, his friend slept over. During the night, they both got into my husband’s  beer. The next morning when his mother came to pick him up, she proceeded to tell me that her son doesn’t drink and is still a “good” kid and she plans to keep him that way. I felt awful.

When I talked with my son about it, he insisted it was his friend who repeatedly insisted they drink the beer. Again, I tried not to make a big deal about it because my son did tell me what had happened and said he wanted to try beer in a situation in which he didn’t have to drive and  it wasn’t socially awkward. He never really drank again during high school.

However, I know some parents don’t care at all if their teens drink in high school and are happy their kids are invited to the cool parties with the cool crowd that drinks.

Clearly, teenage drinking is an area where parents struggle – and differ widely on their approach. I am wondering what kind of conversations you have had with your teens. Do you forbid underage drinking? Do you accept that it’s going to happen and set some guidelines? I  would love to hear how other parents handle teenage drinking.

 

 

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