Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

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My son wants to look like Zac Efron



Zac Efron, you are making my parenting job difficult.

After watching you rip your shirt open on the MTV movie awards to reveal your amazing six pack abs,  my 13-year-old son has become obsessed with working out.

While it’s certainly good to be in shape, I’m concerned. Exercise is good. Obsession with body image is not.

As soon my son he returns from the small gym in our neighborhood, he asks me to feel his muscle. Ugh. What’s coming next? Will he ask me to buy him muscle shirts?

Maybe if Zac Efron didn’t get a crazy amount of media coverage every time he went shirtless, my son would think it’s okay to be fit without being ripped.

Anyone who thinks body image is just a teen girl issue doesn’t have a son. As one recent article I read pointed out: The terms ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ are not just descriptors of weight and size, they become descriptors of character. “A boy who is skinny is associated with being weak or small or maybe they are teased and called a ‘girl.’ A boy who is fat is associated with being lazy or unsuccessful.”

For some boys the obsession with bulking up has them turning to steroids, protein powders and all kinds of muscle-enhancing concoctions. Last night when my son came home from the gym, I talked to him about using exercise as a way to relieve stress and stay fit and warned him against getting preoccupied with muscles.

Of course, what teen boy listens to mom when bare-chested men with impossibly chiseled physique are they guys in the movies and on television scoring with the ladies?

So Zac Efron, please put your shift back on and use your personality to charm the ladies. It might not get you as much attention but it might help our sons realize they have more to offer than six-pack abs.

Parents, have you noticed boys becoming more obsessed with body image? How have you handled talking to your son about it?


What to expect from prom




Ugh, it’s prom season.

Parents, get ready to open your wallet, suffer through emotional turmoil, and make some tough judgment calls.

My second time around, I’m an experienced prom parent. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ve discovered there are many components to the prom experience. If you’re a first timer, I ‘m going to share so you, too, are as prepared as possible. Remember, you can never be fully prepared.

Here’s what to expect:

Step one: The ask. If you’re the parent of a boy, get ready to help brainstorm a creative way to ask a date to prom. What? Did you just suggest a simple ask? (Eye roll, that’s not happening!) Today, asking a date to prom involves some grand gesture that could range from a surprise serenade to extravagant sign in the cafeteria to PROM? spelled out on a pizza. Promposals are a big deal and they are only getting bigger because they are getting share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My son told me his girlfriend already has a dress. Yet, I’ve spent the last week trying to help him come up with a creative promposal. Things were soooo much simpler when I was in high school!

Step two: The ticket, clothing, the limo.

Get ready to shell out some serious cash. I feel fortunate that my second child is a boy. Buying that dress last year was emotionally and financially draining. By the way, lots have changed since you went to prom and simply bought a dress from the department store. Today’s dress stores  now have a registry of each high school and they won’t sell the same dress to more than one girl at each school. The girls also post pics on Instagram to stake their claim to a particular dress. Don’t think you’re finished once the dress is bought and the pic is posted. Your daughter will need earrings, shoes, and her hair styled. She also will need her nails done.  Parents of boys, you will come to discover that tuxedos cost a pretty penny too. (Look for coupons!) While tuxedos are still mainly a rental item, boys are investing in high-end accessories, such as bow ties, suspenders and silk pocket squares seen on celebrities or sports figures. A survey out this week estimates teens with spend an average of $919 on prom this year. Yes, I know, it’s ridiculous!

Step three: The photos

Pre-prom now require a picture spot and lots of tissues. A lot has changed since we snapped a few photos on the way out the door. Picture taking is a highly orchestrated gathering of teens and their weepy parents. This is an Instagram extravaganza where pics are posted almost as quickly as they are taken. A some point, the limo or party bus arrives, teens jam inside and parent stay behind stunned, talking amongst themselves about how quickly time has passed and how grown up everyone looked formally attired. This is when the tissues come in handy.

Step four: The after party.  The hotel, the alcohol, the indigestion.

No one goes straight home from prom. Most couples and their friends rent a suite at a hotel or spend the night at a designated friend’s house. Some kids drink. Some kids throw up. Hope yours is not one of them.

Step five: The recovery

The next day, your child will arrive home. You will ask how prom was and they will reply with a sleepy grunt. You will ask again. They will slip under their covers and go to sleep. They will wake up and you will ask again. You may get some small details, but not the comprehensive account of the evening you as the parent so desperately want to hear. You will think you will get more details over time. You won’t.


That’s the prom experience from my perspective. I hope I have prepared you!


Lose your virginity to a friend or boyfriend?

Recently my daughter Olivia and I had a conversation about sex and she happened to mention to me  that “it is better to lose your virginity to a friend than someone you care about and get your heart-broken.” She went on to tell me, “I know girls who lost their virginity to someone they care about or their boyfriend and they ended up getting their heart crushed. It’s not worth it. If you lose it to a friend you won’t get hurt.”  WHAT????

How do I even comprehend or answer that? I was speechless. I could NOT relate to that. I told her that it seemed very impersonal and cold when you are giving the most valuable thing you have to someone.

She responded: “Mom, are you kidding? This isn’t when you went to school and you had to be in love. No girl wants to do that and get hurt.” I told her,  “It seems like you are just having sex and not being intimate. I hope you are not just having sex all the time with friends.

She explained that teens are being cautious with their feelings and their body and they would rather give themselves to someone who won’t use or hurt them. I guess I have to respect the fact that they care enough about themselves not to just give  the sex away like a hug.

I am old-fashioned I know.  I told Olivia no matter what, never sacrifice your morals or the one thing she controls .. her self-respect!

This is  such a touchy subject to many parents, and you may choose not talk about it with your teen. But know that they are doing it, so being in denial does you no good.  Knowledge is power. I need my daughter to be able to talk to me about anything so she won’t turn to someone else when she needs someone to talk to about things.

I didn’t like talking about this subject with my daughter. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but  at least I now know how she thinks about sex and that she does care about her self respect — even if it’s not in the fashion my generation would have done it.

So parents, I am interested in your thoughts on this. I am curious if your teen has shared the same views.  Have you talked with your teen about his or her thoughts on first time sexual experiences?


How Parents Can Survive College Admissions Madness






As a mother of a high school senior who is waiting to hear from colleges about acceptances, I really appreciated this article in the New York Times called How to Survive the College Madness. It talks a lot about how getting into your first college of choice shouldn’t define who you become.

Here’s a link to the article:

As part of the article, author Frank Bruni includes a letter from parents’ to their son regarding college acceptances and rejections. It struck a chord with me and I want to share it with all of you who will someday be in these parents’ shoes like I am right now.

Dear Matt,

On the night before you receive your first college response, we wanted to let you know that we could not be any prouder of you than we are today. Whether or not you get accepted does not determine how proud we are of everything you have accomplished and the wonderful person you have become. That will not change based on what admissions officers decide about your future. We will celebrate with joy wherever you get accepted — and the happier you are with those responses, the happier we will be. But your worth as a person, a student and our son is not diminished or influenced in the least by what these colleges have decided.

If it does not go your way, you’ll take a different route to get where you want. There is not a single college in this country that would not be lucky to have you, and you are capable of succeeding at any of them.

We love you as deep as the ocean, as high as the sky, all the way around the world and back again — and to wherever you are headed.

Mom and Dad




My tween boy is “girl crazy”

Every day when my 13-year-old son comes home from school he spends about 20 minutes telling me about his school day. Although, I don’t hear much about his classes, teachers or assignments.

The conversation usually starts with what girl joined him at the lunch table. Moves on to what girl wore a tight shirt or short shorts to school. And always includes what girl he talked to him the most on that particular day

Yes, my son is girl crazy!

My efforts to prod him about his science test or his math homework get overshadowed by his eagerness to talk about his conversations with his friend  over whether Susie is hotter than Jenny. He notices the girls who all of a sudden are wearing makeup to school.

While girls his age are swooning over Harry Stiles, my son is raptured by supermodel Kate Upton.

What’s a mother to do?

I’ve given the lectures about what to value in the opposite sex (intelligence, kindness, ambition) I have given him the talk about lust, love and sex. I grab every teachable moment to talk about what to value in women beyond looks. I’ve seen tons of advice for mothers of “boy crazy” tween girls but not a lot of mothers of boys.

All I can do is hope this “girl crazy” 13-year-old boy will one day find a woman he adores for all the right reasons. Until then, I’m trying to be a good listener and help him navigate the middle school years. Something tells me it’s only going to get more challenging!



Welcome to High School Parenting!

Recently I had a girlfriend of mine,  Grace, call me frantically in a panic that her 14-year-old daughter, Lila, a high school freshman,  went to her high school basketball game with her friends. Apparently after the game, she went over one  her friend’s homes and drank —   and drank.  Lila got so drunk she basically passed out.

Well, the mother of the girl’s house where they were drinking came home, saw Lila on the bathroom floor, and called my friend Grace.  Grace couldn’t believe it, her world was shattered by her young high school freshman daughter passed out drunk! How could this happen? she asked me. I said Grace, breathe. Is Lila ok? She said yes.

How could this happen?  she repeated to me. I wanted to say, Really? You have to ask? She is a high school freshman and out with friends, it happens. She was trying her first drink and being she is skinny, it didn’t take much to get her passed out.

Grace took her to the Emergency Room for fear of alcohol poisoning and in case anyone took advantage of her since she was out cold. Happy to say, she was not taken advantage of and they pumped her stomach, gave her fluids and she was sent her home.

I told my friend Grace to do me one favor when her daughter woke up, “Do not  yell or lecture her.” I told Grace her daughter already knows what she did was wrong and  physically is paying for it. She didn’t realize how drinking would affect her. Yes, she is a minor, but what parent can tell me they didn’t sneak a drink when they were in high school?  I also told Grace that the way she will parent Lila from this point forward will never be the same.

Welcome to Teen Parenting Grace! Your life will never be the same.

I also told Grace to let her daughter do all the talking, to let her explain what happened  so she can listen to herself  say what she did and realize it was wrong.

Will she do it again? Maybe. Maybe not.  But this is high school. Teens will drink, smoke pot, have sex. Do we want them to do those things? Absolutely NOT! But, isn’t it better to prepare them so if they do these things behind our backs, they will make smart decisions/choices like no drinking and driving and no drinking until you pass out.

The more you take away, the more the teen will want.

Lila will have to earn her parents trust now, but that’s okay. She has time to do so. My advice to my girlfriend and to parents: pace yourself and don’t panic over the first “violation of trust.”  Teens are trying to make friends. Some will drink to try to fit in and be cool. Some will try other things.  So  try to be understanding and let them know you do not support or agree with their choice to drink or smoke pot or have sex.  Tell them please don’t get in a car if you have been drinking. Call me if you need a ride and use protection always if you have sex. Does this mean you support these choices? Heck no! But don’t be ignorant because you don’t want them dead or getting pregnant. So, if they are going to do what they want to do, EDUCATE THEM! That is the best parenting you can do for them. Let them know, you love them and hope they make smart choices because bad ones have bad consequences.

My dear friend Grace took her daughter to a therapist as well in hopes that maybe she drank for a reason. I told her Lila drank because her friends did and she wanted to try it, plain and simple.

We can’t shelter our kids yet expect them to survive  in the real world once they are adults. It doesn’t work that way.

The point I’m making is…Don’t panic!  The teen years will get better and you will survive them.  Welcome to High School Parenting!

It sucks being an adult!

Teens can’t wait to become 18 and legally be an “adult”.  My daughter Olivia keeps telling me that once she’s 18, things will be different. Uh, yeah they will and not the way she thinks.

She thinks being an adult gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. Yes, when you are paying your own bills, living in your own home and have a full-time job. But, when you are still in high school and mom and dad are paying for everything, uh NO, there is no freedom. Freedom is earned, like respect. Just because you are 18 does not mean you can do what you want. Well, you can but now you have consequences as an adult, not a child. Also, mom and dad DO NOT  have to pay for anything, they are not responsible. So, trust me.. IT SUCKS BEING AN ADULT!

Why are you in a hurry to grow up? Being an adult is not all it’s cut out to be. If I could, I would go back in time and be a kid again  — and enjoy it! The feeling of having no responsibility and having the freedom to just enjoy life and have your meals and laundry taken care of would be great.

I remind my daughter, Olivia, remember when you wanted your period so bad so you can feel like you are becoming a young lady? Well, how do you feel about that now? Yep.. it sucks!

Well, that’s the same with being an adult.  Don’t be in such a hurry to rush adulthood, just because you’re 18 doesn’t mean you are ready. You will get there. Enjoy the journey to adulthood because it only happens once. The journey is the best part and you miss the best parts by rushing it by and wanting to be older.

It sucks to be an adult Olivia.  It sucks to have bills.  It sucks to worry about money. It sucks to worry about your job. It sucks to pay taxes. It sucks to have mean bosses. It sucks to worry about retirement. It sucks to worry about your future.  So Olivia.. Yes, it sometimes sucks to be an adult. Don’t rush through life. Enjoy being a kid,  having carefree fun, having little responsibility. Enjoy mom and dad taking care of you,  grandma and grandpa spoiling you and buying you things. Enjoy not worrying how much you earn working at Publix.  Enjoy sleeping as long as you want because.. It sucks being an adult Olivia.

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride and if you can, stop and enjoy the sites along the way!


My friend’s son killed himself: when tragedy strikes

This morning, I am in shock. My friend’s son killed himself. He was only 20.

What do you say to a mother or father who gets that news? There are no words.

As we run around, worrying about answering an email or returning a phone call, we forget that the routine tasks on our plates mean little when it comes to losing someone you love. There is nothing that can replace that hole for a parent who loses their child.

My friend may never understand why this tragedy occurred. But she will always wish she could have done more. She will think of every time she hugged her son, every moment she spent with him and wish there were more.

So, for all of us who have more time with our teens, let’s disconnect this weekend. Let’s not worry about the customer or supervisor who is giving us aggravation, the emails we need to answer, the errands we need to run. Let’s put our mobile devices in our pockets and leave them there. It’s Valentine’s weekend and the best time ever to show love to your teens and to those you care about by giving them what they want and need  most — our undivided attention.

My heart aches for my friend who has been clutching her son’s photo since learning of the news. She has experienced the kind of loss and perspective no one should have to endure. I know there is little I can do for her right now. It’s a helpless feeling.

So, for her and the other parents who have been in her shoes, let’s make the most of our Valentine’s Day and be present for our families. We all have people in our lives we love  – let’s show them through our actions. Let’s be present in body and mind. As my grieving friend as learned, roses and chocolates are nice but they pale in comparison to real conversation and a big hug.

Technology is wrecking sleep for our teens



Does it ever get really quiet in your house, you think your teen is asleep. But noooooo.

It turns out your kid has his cellphone with him in bed and he’s watching his Instagram feed or a funny new video on Vine.

As a mom, it’s so annoying!

But now, this mom has some ammunition to use against her son.

A new study found teens who bury their faces for hours in electronic screens tend to suffer bad nights of sleep. Now, as I blow into the room aghast that my son is still awake and playing on his phone I can blurt out: “Do you want to have a bad’s night sleep?”

“There are indications that today’s teenagers sleep less than previous generations,” said Mari Hysing, co-author and a psychologist at Uni Research Health in Norway told Time Magazine. “There are some aspects of electronic devices that may give an additional arousal; the [screen] light may impact sleep hormone production, and also the social communication aspect” may stir adolescents to keep chatting deep into the night.

Experts say ideally, the last hour before bed should be free of electronic devices and that use of any device in the hour before bedtime was linked to a heightened risk of taking longer than 60 minutes to get to sleep. (I’m wonder if the researcher also has a sneaky teen trying to text under the covers!)

Some of the key findings of the study:

  • If a teen’s total, daytime screen time surpassed four hours, that was associated with a 49 percent higher risk of taking longer than one hour to fall asleep.
  • Total screen viewing that exceeded two hours after school was “strongly linked” to both a longer period of tossing and turning before dreams finally came—and with shorter, nightly sleep duration.
  • Teens who used two to three devices each day were more likely to sleep for less than five hours when compared to those used just one gadget.

Here’s another eye-opener: On Monday, the National Sleep Foundation, recommended that teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 get eight to 10 hours of restorative sleep each night — a full hour longer than the group had previously suggested.

I don’t need research to tell me teens need more sleep.  In my house,  waking up a teenager is a miserable job.

So, what do you think about getting your kid to disconnect from his/her smartphone or laptop an hour before bedtime?  Doable or impossible?

Dad encouraged football, now she’s reporting live from Superbowl

I love this story posted on Bizwomen.com, mostly because of how Sam Gordon’s father nurtured her talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. It’s a great message for parents of teen girls who show athleticism. I hope some of your daughters see Sam during the Superbowl and are inspired by the opportunities she represents.

sam gordon


From Bizwomen.com:

Remember when this 11 year-old girl was tackling boys twice her size?

The young football player Sam Gordon became an Internet phenomenon in 2012 for her impressive skills on the field. It didn’t take long for her catch national attention — she landed a spot on Conan, smiled on a Wheaties box and joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2013 Super Bowl.

Now she’s onto her next big gig: She’ll be reporting live from Super Bowl XLIX for MAKERS.

After the 2012 excitement, Gordon took a year off of football to focus on soccer (which she also excelled at), but she missed football too much to stay away. These days, she plays on a boys’ football team near Salt Lake City, Utah, and her dad is her No. 1 fan.

“I said, ‘Hey Dad, would it be OK if I played football this year?’ And he said, ‘Sure, that’s fine.’ My dad never said no to anything like that just because I was a girl,” Gordon said in a video shown at the MAKERS conference last year.

Gordon’s dad said that people were surprised to see a small girl dressed up in football pads and gear walk onto the field. At first, parents and other kids would say, “Oh, look at that girl, she’s so cute.” But when they saw her scoring touchdowns and tackling boys, the tone would shift to, “Get that girl. You gotta get her. Boys don’t get beat by a girl.”

Her dad then posted a video of her playing football online, and in just a few days, the video had 4 million views. TV stations started calling.

“I really felt good that Sam’s story could help promote the idea that the potential of girls is greater than what maybe we give them credit for,” her father said. “Don’t underestimate your daughters.”


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