Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Parent Perspective (page 1 of 13)

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.

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!!

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.

The teenage son haircut struggle..It’s real.

 

My son Matthew has beautiful curly wavy hair. When it is cut, it looks so good and makes him look so handsome. However, to get him to get a haircut is torture for both of us. The constant back and forth and  mother-son bickering is awful.

I just don’t understand why there is a struggle every time I ask him to get a haircut.   I even compromised and said he could just get his hair “trimmed.”  I was desperate. He still refused.

Recently, I texted him about getting a haircut and as you can see I didn’t win.  I guess I should be grateful that at least he will get his haircut before school starts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder if my son’s resistance is because how he looks and how he dresses represents his identity and that is the one thing he would like to control or have a say in.  Look, I get it, for teens, how you look should be up to you and your appearance is your choice, but I also think you mom or dad should have a little say in it, right?

I am curious to find out if any other parents have had the same struggle. If so, how have you resolved the haircut battle?

 

A Father’s Perspective on Raising a Teen Daughter

Today we have a treat for you! We are featuring a father who shares his perspective on raising a teen girl. We hope you enjoy hearing another point of view on raising teens.  Please meet Tyler Jacobson. Tyler is a husband, father, freelance writer and outreach specialist with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today.  You can follow Tyler on: Twitter @tylerpjacobson and on LinkedIn.

 
I’m a father of three: two boys and a girl. My boys and I are close. We easily bond over food and roughhousing. However, I have to say it’s true what they say about dads and their little girls – ever since the day she was born we have had a very special connection.

Raising boys vs. raising girls…these are two very different things, especially for a father. When you are raising a boy, you notice the same things he does. Marketing targeted at boys today (TV shows, cartoons, toys, etc.) are the same as you remember growing up seeing.

As my daughter grew, her mother and I did everything to encourage her to find out who she wanted to be. More than anything, we wanted her to be comfortable with herself and not feel limited by our actions. Our daughter is a thoughtful, caring, adventurous individual and we tried to help her build on her strengths as well as discover her positive attributes.

However, after a while I noticed there was a different message for girls in the toys that are targeted at children. When we would go shopping as a family, wandering up one aisle and down the next, Legos, racecars and Nerf guns were the bulk of the “boys” aisle. While in contrast, the “girls” aisle was play makeup, stuffed animals and dress up items. It seemed that all the active toys were in the “boys” aisle with sedentary toys making up most of the “girls” aisle.

At first I wasn’t sure what to do, so I’d try to ignore outside influences and just reinforce her personal freedom. It about broke my heart when she asked if it was okay that she wanted a Lego set for her birthday. In her young and impressionable mind, the message had hit home. Some toys were only for boys and some only for girls. Even though I reassured her that her choice in toys was fine, I didn’t address idea that some things were right for boys and some for girls.

Now she’s a young woman

My little girl is 12 and I only wish the social pressure was about Legos again. Instead, my wife and I have had to start having many talks with our daughter about what is and isn’t appropriate for a young woman.

In one instance, when my daughter spent an afternoon at a friend’s house, she came home with a face full of makeup. From overdone eyes to an aggressive shade of red lipstick, my sweet 12 year old looked older and infinitely hardened.

It was hard not to demand she remove it immediately. Instead, we sat down together and talked about what she liked about the makeup. She told us all her friends were wearing makeup and that she was tired of looking like a little kid.

After more discussion, we reached a compromise. My wife would help her learn how to apply light makeup, and until she turned 14, she could only wear it on Sundays and special occasions at school.

I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear makeup to feel beautiful. I wanted her to stay my fresh-faced and happy little girl. But allowing our children to grow is one of the hardest things parents have to learn, and I don’t want to stunt her growth as a she becomes an independent young lady.

Dealing With Social Programming

After the makeup incident, I knew I had to get ahead of future problems if I didn’t want them sprung on me again. I began to research what other parents were dealing with while raising teenagers and how to help my daughter deal with social pressure.

I found a few resources to help me understand how to deal with the media, and also what my daughter may be going through with the body image pressure she’s getting from every direction.

Together, my wife and I worked to open lines of communication with our daughter. We began with simple topics like her current hobbies. As she became more comfortable talking to us, stronger trust was established and she began coming to us on her own about her concerns.

Over time, I pointed out subtle influences in the media she was consuming, pressuring girls to be a certain thing, and asked her what she thought. Once she knew what to look for I didn’t have to bring attention to anything.

My daughter has always been precocious, but it makes me so proud to see her open up and define her sense of self outside of what society is trying to sell her. My daughter is strong, independent, and beautiful exactly as she is and if I have anything to say about it, she’ll grow up to be a confident woman who will be able to think critically about what the world says women should be.

Open or closed bedroom door policy with girlfriend/boyfriend over?

Last Sunday,  my son Matthew asked me if his “girlfriend” could come over?   This would be the first time his “girlfriend” would be over since they have been together.  Until now, Matthew has been going over her house after school. At first,  I was happy that I finally get to meet her after they have been together for a month.   On the other hand, I was nervous. Will she like me? Will I like her?  Will she be rude? All the mom concerns were coming at me. This is really happening. Matthew is growing up! UGH!

She finally arrived and I walked into Matthew’s bedroom to introduce myself. She was cute and sweet, a typical 15-year-old teen. So far, so good. Matthew had his arm around her and was smiling, and for a second I had a weird feeling come over me; Matthew cares for someone else now. I am not his world anymore. I saw how happy he was and  you know what? I was a little bit jealous. Yep, this mom was jealous of a 15 year old. I wanted Matthew to hug me and love me like he did when he was a little boy and I was his everything.  Part of me was sad, but the other part was happy that this girl makes him happy.

So I left the room, and when I got into the family room, my husband told me  to make sure the bedroom door is open. Well, how the heck do I do that? Do I go back and open the door and embarrass them? Matthew would kill me for embarrassing him. I texted him to please keep the door open and you know what? I walked back toward his room and the door was open! That was easy! I was expecting a text back from him arguing with me about it.

I would love to know if other parents experienced this situation and how they handled it. What is your door policy when a girlfriend or boyfriend is over? Open? Closed? Cracked? Inquiring mom wants to know.

 

 

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