Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

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How to Know If Your Teenager is Too Old for the Pediatrician

 

It’s the night before my son’s first high school lacrosse practice this season when he realizes he needs the completed doctor’s form to be allowed to participate. “Mom, what should I do?” he asks me. The answer seems obvious to me but it has completed befuddled him. “Call the doctor, ask if you need a checkup for the doctor to complete the form, and if so, make an appointment,” I tell him.

And that’s how the episode begins.

The next day we are in the pediatrician’s office, surrounded by wailing babies and coughing toddlers. Because Garret is 16,  the doctor says I still need to go in with him. Now that we are here, and Garret has learned he will be seeing a female doctor, he is panicked. “Is she going to need to check my pee-pee?” he asks me. This thought never occurred to me before this moment. “I’m not sure,” I say.

Minutes later, (thankfully) we are in the examination room staring at cartoons on the wall and pictures of cute animals. Garret turns to me and says, “Mom, I think I’m too old for this place.”

I act surprised by Garret’s declaration, although secretly I’m thinking the same thing. My two older children went to the pediatrician until they left for college but for some reason, this whole experience has become uncomfortable.

Even worse, suddenly, it’s all about me. As much as I hated going to the pediatrician when the kids were young, I don’t want to be the mom whose kids no longer go. To me, that means I’m old.

In comes the doctor, as nice as can be. She asks a ton of questions and all is well.  Until…the dreaded part of the physical. Now she is telling Garret about STDs and warning him about testicle injuries and yep, she needs to take a look down there. I bury my head in my hands.

“All good,” she says.

We head out the door with the signed form in hand. My son is mortified and he lets me know it. “Mom that was SO awkward,” he says. “I agree,” I tell him. “Next time we will make sure we get one of the male doctors,” I say.

For now, he is satisfied with my answer. For now, I leave with the comforting feeling I still have a child who goes to the pediatrician. I know it won’t last much longer. So, to make us both happy, I grab two lollipops on the way out.

Readers, until what age do you think it’s okay to take a teenager to the pediatrician’s office? Mine told me they see teens up until age 21 and can allow them in without a parent after 18. I think 18 may be the oldest I would consider.

How to Know When Your Teenager Wants to Talk

Last weekend, my teenage son Garret and I were driving to a food festival. My cell phone rang and I answered the call. It was my daughter at college with a big story to tell me. As I spoke to her, I didn’t notice how annoyed Garret was getting until he screamed out, “Enough talking on your phone mom!”

I hung up with my daughter and asked Garret what was going on. He told me he just wanted to talk to me. “I don’t understand why you have to be on the phone when we’re in the car together,” he said.

I felt like a bad mom. I had totally missed that signs that Garret want to talk to me. He actually had something specific he wanted to talk about, but I had no idea when we got in the car. Usually, Garret blasts his rap music when we are driving somewhere together. A lot of the time when I want him to open up to me, he gets annoyed by my prodding.

Because Garret is my third child, I should know the signs by now when a teenager wants to talk to his or her parent. But even as a seasoned veteran, I was off my game.

talking to a teenager

Seize the moment

If you want good communication with your teen, it’s important to seize the moment when you can to have a conversation rather than a lecture. Car rides are great places for that opportunity — and by talking on the phone, I had almost squandered it.  The next car ride alone with your teenager, turn off the radio, don’t answer your phone and it’s likely your teenager will surprise you with candid conversation.

Do something together

Another sign your teenager wants to talk is when he or she asks you to do an activity together. When my son Jake was home from college, he asked me if I wanted to go on a bike ride. Jake rarely opens up. But during the bike ride, he had lots to say and actually talked to me about his girlfriend.

When I watched the television show “13 Reasons Why” one of the things I found scary was how the teenagers shrugged off their parents’ efforts at conversation.  At times, my teenagers have shrugged me off the same way. It feels as if they want to talk when they want to talk and they don’t want to talk when you want to talk. The definitely don’t want you asking them questions.

Be available

A spontaneous conversation in the car or in their bedrooms late at night — any time when you’re not rushed — can make for some of the warmest, most rewarding moments with a teenager, according to Laurence Steinberg, an expert in adolescent behavior.  I have learned that those moments happen when your teen can tell they have your attention and when you listen more than you speak.

On WebMD, Steinberg said. “I think for parents, one of the key parts of having good communication with kids is being around enough to capitalize on these moments that invariably don’t come up when you expect them to.”

Be aware of location

As toddlers, the spontaneous hugs and “guess what mom?” seemed to come so easily. Now, my teenagers have a life that I’m not fully a part of and connecting is much more complicated. I noticed with Garret, and with my older teenagers, that they don’t like to have those deeper, bonding conversations in their bedrooms. It’s almost like I have invaded their personal space. So, if Garret comes into my bedroom or my home office or into the kitchen while I’m cooking, it is a sign he has something to tell me or is  open to conversation.

As parents, I feel we need to know what our kids are doing and thinking. Teenagers see it differently.  They don’t want us to know everything going on in their lives.  Still, the teen years are such a crucial time and just because they aren’t willing to open up to us as much as when they were younger, doesn’t mean we can’t keep working on ways to have those important talks. Next time I’m in the car alone with Garret, he gets priority over phone calls.  While, it took a harsh reminder  to get me to realize it, not only do those bonding conversations mean a lot to me, they mean a lot to our teenagers, even if our teens don’t always admit it.

Related:

Are you a Spy Mom? What some moms have learned about their teens on Facebook

Why are teens so annoyed?

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How to Help Your Teenager Find Great Volunteer Opportunities

As a mom, I want my teenagers to be community minded. I also know that to graduate high school, they need volunteer hours.

In my house, that has become a source of nagging at times. It also has become a source of frustration as my teens and I brainstorm volunteer options that fit with their interests and they dismiss all of my ideas.

So, I am thrilled that Jane Dabel has stepped up and offer suggestions. Jane is  professor and academic advisor at California State University in Long Beach, where she has been teaching for the past 17 years. She also write The College Guidebook  blog, which gives tips to parents about how to make the college application process stress free.

Here are Jane’s suggestions:

 

Volunteering Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Helping Your Child Find Great Volunteering Opportunities

 

Volunteering is a fantastic extracurricular activity. It will not only give your child a great deal of satisfaction and self-respect to help people in need, but it’ll show them what it’s like to work in the real world: and hey, it might even lead to a scholarship or turn into a job opportunity someday!

 

But don’t encourage your child to volunteer for just any of cause. The “do what you love” rule applies here. For example, is your child totally into DIY projects? Maybe they could build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Are sweet furry creatures their thing? They might want to volunteer at a local animal shelter.

Volunteer Websites

If your child already knows a particular organization for which they’d like to volunteer, find their website and take a look. Most will have a page that provides contact and other general information and will be glad to hear from them. If your child is not quite that focused yet, here’s a list of websites that can help steer them in the right direction.

At Volunteer Match, your teens can search for volunteer openings in or near your town, for a specific age group or within a particular field. They’ll find listings from national and international nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and the Peace Corps, as well as openings at smaller agencies that are unique to your area—over 50,000 organizations in all! When they find a listing that interests them, just register and the site will send an email to the organization on their behalf.

Network for Good offers a similarly rich array of volunteer options, with some great extras: Teens can use their Volunteer Record of Service to track their volunteer hours and their thoughts on the experience. And a partnership with the United Nations allows them to do good from the comfort of their own home; if they participate in the Online Volunteering Service, they’ll be connected with one of the hundreds of organizations that need their help.

Idealist provides a massive trove of volunteer opportunities with an international bent.

This is a great site to check out openings for volunteer work at national parks, historic sites, and other public agencies.

Quality AND Quantity

Doing one walk in their senior year doesn’t say much about your teenager or her  passions. It also shows admissions officers that she doesn’t have a lot of enthusiasm or discipline.

When your teens find causes or activities they love, they should try to spend a significant amount of time dedicated to them. That means months or years of going to meetings, participating in events—doing whatever it takes for them to be really involved. Besides, the more time and effort they devote to an organization, the more it means that their responsibilities can increase. They might be put in charge of planning events instead of just going to them. Or they could become a team manager of a summer camp leader. That kind of experience will be really valuable as they move from high school to college, and then on to the real world. Plus, admissions officers will be really impressed.

Document Experiences

It’s important to keep a record of the time they spend volunteering—it can help them to apply for scholarships and jobs and maybe even to get school credit. They can do this in a notebook or journal if that’s most comfortable. Or if they prefer to keep an electronic record, a private blog or a basic word processing file is a simple way to keep their thoughts in one place. Their annotations can be very simple, like those below:

 

EXAMPLE 1

Sunrise Senior Living Home

June 2013-August 2013: five hours a week

Responsibilities included: general office tasks, lending a helping hand to busy nurses, and helping organize events like the Valentine’s Day dinner/dance, the Fourth of July picnic, and bingo nights.

 

EXAMPLE 2

New York Cares

January-December 2013

Participated In six urban renewal projects: painted murals, helped with a park cleanup, and attended fundraisers that included a bake sale, a basketball tournament, and a hip-hop dance competition.

More ways to document

Teens  also can track their hours at the Presidential Service Awards website.

This tracker will automatically add up hours, such as a weekly volunteer commitment, so it’s easy for the teens to see where they stand.

On top of counting hours and making a list of tasks, have your child consider keeping a record of the experience itself.

For example: What is volunteering like for them?  What do they see or experience that is new to them? How does it make them think differently about their own life? What do they most enjoy about it?

Thinking about their experience, and having a sense of how it affects them, will give them an edge when it comes time to talk about it with a potential boss, a teacher, or a college admissions counselor.

Volunteering instills a sense of social responsibility and community awareness, but it’s a lot easier when teenagers have some guidance on where and how to start.

This family board game will definitely let you “Talk About It”!

Last  Sunday night my family had just  finished eating dinner and I was starting to clean up the kitchen when my son Matthew said, “Mom, if you want to play that game after dinner, we can.” He was referring to a board game called Talk About It!

Well, you never saw me clean the kitchen so fast. I knew I only had a small window of opportunity for Matthew to give his attention to something other than his computer. 

Talk About It!  is family board game intended to encourage  communication between teens and adults. It’s a card/dice game with a twist!

Because I have a teenage son who loves the computer more than anything in the world,  I couldn’t wait to try this game, and possibly get him interested in something new.

When you open the board game’s rule book, there are several choices of specific games to play. We decided on Go  Fish since it was easy and our first time. I had Matthew pick the deck we would play from.  We had topics ranging from stress, to feelings, to icebreakers, to values. Matthew picked the “least of  the most awkward” topics for him to talk about. He picked values.

We started the game and I was so nervous as to who would have to answer a question first. Well, it was my husband and believe it or not, I was just as curious to hear his answers as my son’s. When Matthew finally got to answer, I listened carefully and tried not to look obvious that I was hanging on his every word and thrilled to be playing this game with him.

Matthew, on the other hand, was not so thrilled, but he played anyway. What I found peculiar was that no matter who had to answer the question on the card, Matthew would answer for that person.

For example, if I had a card that said, “What do you value most, that you are not willing to give up?” Matthew would answer for me, or at least give me some choices. I answered “respect” and then went into why. I started to notice Matthew really wanted to share his answer for someone else’s question. I started to listen to his response more than my husband’s answers. But I also got an opportunity to learn Matthew thoughts on topics we usually don’t talk about.  It was a way for him to tell us things he normally wouldn’t.

At one point, I said we can stop if you don’t want to play anymore. Matthew surprised me when he said, “No, let’s play until we are done.”  For me, this board game  was the key to learning more about Matthew’s thoughts and feelings in a way that I couldn’t accomplish without it being awkward or without him shutting me down.   I also loved that my husband opened up in front of my son.

I  truly believe teens are not going to openly tell you how they feel, or what they feel, or why they feel how they do —  but playing board games often helps. For me, the game definitely helped my son Talk About  It. You might want to consider a family game night. It can get quite interesting!

No son, you can not say the n-word

My 16-year-old son and I are at odds.

I blame Gucci Mane. And Kendrick Lamar. And Kanye West.

My son loves their rap music and walks around singing the lyrics to their songs.  When he takes a shower, he blasts rap music. At first, I didn’t mind because the beat is catchy, and I want him to encourage him to have his own taste in music.

But here’s why we are at odds.  These are the lyrics to Gucci Mane’s song, “Last Time” (one of my son’s favorites).

I love when my bitch get drunk ’cause she talk greasy to me
Nigga with an attitude, this shit gettin’ easy to me
The last time I drunk some lean I was out of my mind
Tried gave me 20 years and that’s a whole lotta time
A married woman divorce her husband to spend the weekend with me
He think it nasty when she squirt but that shit sexy to me
The last time I took some molly, took a gram and a half
Niggas think they know ’bout Gucci but they don’t know the half
See I’m an ex-X popper and online shopper
Niggas thought I was a clone, they heard me speak proper
Convicted felon worth 10 million, I’m a well known robber
Like Shawty Lo I got 10 children, yeah, Lo my partner

 

These are not exactly the words you want your 16-year-old son walking around singing. I hate songs that have the word bitch in them and MANY rap songs do. However, my biggest beef is with the word “nigga.” I have noticed that tons of rap songs have that word in them. So, you have a bunch of teenage white boys rapping along to hip-hop songs and saying the n-word. The more they sing it, the more they think it’s okay to say it. In my eyes, it’s not okay. I have let my son know that LOUD and CLEAR. We all know that word has heinous origins and while the “a” at the end instead of “er” may be an attempt to reclaim the word and casualize it, in my eyes putting an “a” at the end  doesn’t make the word less revolting when being sung by a white boy.

My son says he likes the beat and the vibe of rap music and he prefers hip-hop artists to pop artists. He friends do, too. They seem to know almost every word to every song by popular hip-hop artists. In the last few years, rap has permeated the mainstream and even pop music stations play rap music in between top 40 hits.

When we’re together in the car, I listen to rap  with my son.  Some of the lyrics are insightful and moving. The beats are catchy.  But the cursing! I can’t stand it! Sometimes when a song is too explicit, I will insist my son skips to another song. Why do rappers have to use such vulgar language and why the n-word?

I am told that cursing is part of the rap genre and hip-hop artists are singing about where they came from and how they were raised. I get that. I read one teenager’s argument that profanity makes rap what it is. Again, I get it, but I don’t have to like the cursing, especially when my kid is singing along.

I wonder how it feels as a rapper to look at into the crowd at a concert and see teenage white kids among the sea of black fans singing your lyrics and hearing “nigga” coming out of their mouths like no big deal.

As a parent,  how do I  instill my son with a sense of historical perspective about this derogatory word while letting him enjoy and embrace a music genre becoming popular among his friend group?  There is no easy solution from my seat in the car and my son isn’t happy that I have banned him from saying any form of the n-word.

If you’re going through this battle over rap lyrics with your teenager, what approach have you taken?

How to Succeed as a Single Dad

Whenever we can give a different perspective on parenting we are thrilled to do it. We all know that men and women tackle parenting different. Today, we are fortunate to share the perspective of  Daniel Sherwin. Daniel, has a blog called DadSolo.com. He has been a single father for three years. If you’d like to reach out to him, you can do so at daniel@dadsolo.com

 

Here are his experiences and words of wisdom for other dads:

Few men aspire to be single parents. Raising kids alone  usually is the result of a shattering experience: divorce or the death of a wife. It won’t be easy, but you can rise to the challenges of single parenthood. How do I know that? Well, I’m currently doing it. Some days are harder than others, but the hope is some of my first-hand experience can help other single dads out there. Read on for some ideas.  

Your children come first

Raising children and teenagers to become awesome adults is not rocket science. You have to show up. That means you will want to hammer out a work schedule that gives you work/life balance. Be upfront with your boss about your need to spend time with your family rather than working late every night. For me, this meant learning to put down the work at home too. It can be so tempting to answer a quick email or take a phone call, but all that time adds up. I owe it to my kids to be present, so I silence my cellphone when I get off work and focus on family.

If, heaven forbid, your job doesn’t give you the flexibility you need, look for another job. Single dads have been known to switch jobs and even careers to get more time with their kids. Keep in mind that they don’t care how much money you make, as long as they are safe and fed.

Don’t try to be “friends”

Don’t try to friend or follow your teens on social media. Especially not as a substitute for being there in real life.  Social media is their space to be rebellious. You’re needed at the dinner table, not in their Facebook photo gallery. However, it’s a good idea to check in from time to time to make sure their online habits are safe.

While we’re on that subject, don’t be your teenager’s friend in real life either. Your children and teenagers need you to be a parent. That means they will not always like you or approve of your choices, especially choices relevant to them. While you don’t want to be a tyrant or bully, you definitely want to be an authority figure. Let your children know that your family might look like a democracy, but you get to make executive decisions. However, remember that your family will look different from other families, so resist the temptation to make that comparison. Whenever I found that I was getting down on myself, I took a step back and named five things that made my family unique, no matter how big or small they were. Sometimes it takes a little reminder to make you realize how good you really have it.

Prioritize your mental health

People who have a lot of stress need to learn daily stress-relieving methods. There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding mindfulness, but, in its mosts basic form, mindfulness is a useful coping strategy that can be incorporated anywhere with no equipment.

To be mindful, take stock of how you are feeling in the moment. What are you most worried about? What is the worst thing that can really happen? Be aware of your breathing. See if you can slow it down with deep breaths. Be aware of your heart rate. It’s okay if your heart is pounding, just be aware that it’s doing that. I know it seems too simple, but this little exercise has helped me  get some distance on problems. I’ve found that re-focusing my attention elsewhere is the best form of stress relief, as it allows me to step back, regroup, and return refreshed, so I’m not above playing a few levels of Candy Crush in order to get a moment away from my own thoughts. We all need time outs now and again.

Make time for stress relief

Incorporate short bursts of exercise into your day. If, for instance, you are waiting for an important phone call, use the time to run up a few flights of stairs or do some squats and lunges. Some people swear by stress balls. But the truth is that a more active spurt of all-over body exercise that gets your heart pumping is more stress relieving and better for your health. Even just taking a brisk walk around the office will help you cope with pressure.

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery says, “It’s important to learn small ways to face that stress head-on and reduce it no matter where you are, because having effective coping mechanisms handy will allow you to get through even the most challenging times. You can use your new skills to immediately start feeling better, and to prevent the emergence of chronic mental health problems.”

Give yourself a break

Learn not to trash talk yourself or your ability to handle stress, especially in your thoughts. If you hear yourself thinking, “I made a mistake with …” or “I shouldn’t have …” or “I am crap at …” clamp down on that thought and divert it to something positive about yourself. That shouldn’t be too hard: You’re a hero for sticking around and raising your kids. Focus on that.  

Losing a wife or partner and landing the job of full-time parent can devastate men just as much as it does women. No one is a perfect parent. I have learned the key to being successful is to be present in my children’s lives while doing daily checks on my mental health – and to enjoy parenting every day!

When mom is the referee between teenage siblings

sibling rivalry

 

One evening when my children were young, I was cooking dinner when I heard a loud shriek coming from my son Jake’s bedroom.  “MOM, come here quick!” I ran across the house and expected blood or a broken bone. However when I arrived, I instead found my daughter trying to shove my son off the chair in front of the only computer we had in our house at the time.

“Mom tell Carly to let me finish my game,” he shrieked.

“Mom tell Jake he’s been on the computer long enough and it’s my turn now.”

Ugh, it was now on me referee sibling rivalry,  a job most mothers dread. So I did what most moms would do. I turned off the computer and told both kids to come help me cook dinner. End of argument.

Flash forward 10 years and I hear that familiar shriek again. “Mooommmm come quick!”

There  is no blood or broken bones or life threatening emergency, just three teenagers arguing over a set of car keys. Two of my teenagers are home from college, one is still in high school and all three want the car at the same time.

“Tell Jake I get the car now. My friends are waiting for me.”

“Tell Carly I need the car. I have a haircut appointment.”

“Tell them both the car is mine now and I want to use it.”

I am agitated. Once again I am expected to referee. With teenagers, it’s not as easy as turning off a computer. I want the arguing to stop!! I want to go back to scrolling through my Facebook feed, where everyone’s kids have smiles on and look like they get along fabulously!

I find myself trying to come up with a solution that will bring peace and harmony to my household and put an end to the fighting.  I pull out a calendar and start mapping out who can have the car on which days and at what times. I put my car in the collective driving pool on the days and times I don’t need it.  I am working in overdrive trying to make everyone happy and  make my kids participate in the negotiation/resolution process. This is when it dawns on me that this is why mothers make great bosses. We know how to work out conflicts. We have lots of practice.

As a seasoned mother, I have come to realize that sibling conflicts generally are a pretty typical and normal part of family life. At least I’d like to believe that is true. I also know by negotiating conflicts with their brothers or sisters, kids learn valuable skills for getting along with others in the real world.

I reluctantly acknowledge my job as referee is a lifetime position and my main goal is ensuring I don’t encourage sibling rivalry. Author Amy McCready says  reacting in a way that encourages sibling rivalry is a pretty common parenting mistake.

So I dangle the car keys in front of my teenagers like a reward, toss them on the counter, make some suggestions and leave it up to  them to figure out how they can all get where they need to go. Then, I slap the calendar we’ve created up on the wall and retreat to my home office. A few minutes later, I look out the window and see Carly and Jake drive off together in the car.

For now, there is a peace accord, a negotiated settlement. I am pleased, but realistic enough to know my referee skills will be called upon again, and it won’t be long until I hear the next “Mooommmm!”

You are definitely my friend! Period.

Over the holiday break, my daughter and I were going to do something together and I was so looking forward to it. What is it you ask? We were going to try the Knixteen & Knixwear underwear. The Knixteen underwear was for her and the Knixwear was for me.   When I first approached my daughter about trying them to give our reviews, she was a little apprehensive. I told her to keep an open mind and that the underwear will not be like anything she has ever tried on before.

Why is that you ask?  Because they are period panties! Awkward right? Well, that is what we thought! Olivia really did not want to try these at all because she had it in her mind that these will look like “granny panties” and feel like them as well. She was not looking forward to wearing them, but I told her I would be trying them out, too. I was excited for us to be trying out the Knixwear panties at the same time and discussing what we thought about it. I was more excited that these were period panties and could not wait to see whether they really worked.

The package arrived during winter break. I went into Olivia’s room with a big smile and said, “Guess what came in?”   Her face quickly transformed into a look of despair.

I took them out of the package and much to my surprise and amazement; they were the silkiest, smoothest, softest feeling panties I have ever felt. I am talking Victoria’s Secret-needs-to-worry soft!

Did I mention they also look quite sexy and NOT a granny panty like Olivia thought? She looked at them and said, “Oh wow, this is not what I envisioned at all.”  I could not wait to try them, but more so, I could not wait for Olivia to wear them and give her opinion. Olivia is very high maintenance, and very particular and specific with everything she wears. She does not buy just anything. She likes to buy quality and does her research on whatever she purchases.

Well, we wore the panties and I asked her what she thought. She said, “Mom, I cannot believe how comfortable and form fitting these panties are! I can wear them with clothes that I would normally wear a thong with.  They are so soft, and they conform to my butt.”

Did I mention the best part of these panties? We all know how we feel and what underwear we wear when we have our periods, and let me tell you, they do not look or feel like Knixwear or Knixteen panties. I absolutely loved how comfortable they felt. Whether you wear them during your period, or to prevent an accident leak, this underwear will make you feel amazing!

I asked Olivia how she felt wearing them during her period and she said,  “At first with my period I thought it was weird because I felt so comfortable and worried about an accident, but I was so wrong for worrying. I loved them. Are you buying me more?”

This was such a fun experience for Olivia and I, and I hope you all do the same kind of experiment with your teen, or at the very least, have your teen daughter try  Knixteen. She will love them!

 

Five things we learned from our teenagers in 2017

 

happy new year 2018What a crazy year 2017 was in so many ways! From our teens getting  driver’s licenses to moving into college apartments to taking up a fixation with video games, we mothered in the only way we know how — with love and patience.

Some days our teens drive us batty with their moodiness and one word answers. Some days they warm our hearts with a hug out of nowhere or that hesitant admission that mom was right. The best part of raising teenagers just may be how they challenge us to take our parenting skills to the next level.

As we head into 2018,  share with you the five things we  learned from our teens in 2017.                                                                                  

  CINDY

goodman family for raisingteensblog

Cindy and her family

From my teens, I have learned:

  • Snapchat is the platform I need to be on if I want to see what is going on in my teenagers’ lives. Sometimes, I feel like a stalker but at least I know what my teens are up to when I’m not with them.
  • A cell phone car charger is a life essential when teenagers are riding in my car (and anything less than 10 % battery power is a HUGE deal).
  • Pondering the answer to a question on my mind is foolish. All I need to do is say the question out loud and my son will Google me the answer in a few seconds.
  • Teenagers don’t need a reason to try something stupid like shaving off an eyebrow or waxing an arm.  “Just because”  is a good enough reason.
  • Teenagers can’t hear their mothers’ voices when they are looking at their cell phone screens…they just can’t.

 

                                                                                      RAQUEL

raquel and her family

Raquel and her family

  • Chipotle is king. Teenagers LOVE the place!
  • Teenagers will always make time to drive with you if they are the one who is driving. If I ask my 16-year-old son if he wants to drive me to the store or to his grandmother’s, he will stop what he’s doing to drive. I wish he was like that with all my requests.
  • Vineyards Vines is the new Gymboree  for moms who shop with their teenagers. I finally found a place where both my son and daughter like to shop. However, it’s  a bit pricier than Gymboree.
  • Teenagers will listen to their older sibling before mom and dad. My son will do whatever my daughter requests or asks with no pushback. If she asks him to go with her to go visit their grandmother, he will go.  I do like that they get along!
  • RTX is Comic-Con for computer gamers. My son is obsessed with RTX. When my husband went with my son to the convention this year, he said it was the Comic-Con of computer gaming. We would never had know that if we didn’t have a teenager.

 

Thanks for joining us on RaisingTeensBlog.com in 2017. We look forward to sharing our parenting challenges and triumphs with you in 2018.

Wishing you and your families a happy and healthy new year!


 

Should parents let teenagers drink in their home?

 

My 16-year-old son recently attended a holiday party at a friend’s home. What started out as a small party quickly escalated (as they often do!). According to my son, about 40 high school students were invited. But by 10 p.m., more than 80 had shown up. The parents of the teen throwing the party had gone out for the night and returned at midnight to find a lot more teenagers than expected and beer and alcohol bottles all over the place. They quickly shut the party down.  The scenario made me think about what is parent liability for teenage drinking.

When my son originally told me about the party, the first thing I asked him was if kids were going to be drinking. “Of course,” he answered, “It’s a high school party.”  That quickly snapped me out of my naivete.  I find teenage fascination with drinking one of the most difficult parts of parenting through the teen years. My three teens think I’m a “mean mom” for not letting them throw parties at our home once they hit the high school years. I am pretty certain that I let them have a party and even did best to discourage alcohol, someone would find a way to sneak it in, which would open me to liability.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, my teenagers already are talking about house parties they are going to and I’m guessing there will be drinking going on at those parties. Beyond having the “alcohol” talk with my teens, I wondered…what are the legal risks for the hosts – and for anyone younger than 21 if the cops show up?

To get some answers, I reached out Jerry Merrill, a Kansas criminal defense lawyer with Merrill Law Firm who defends teenagers (and/or their parents) when they find themselves in legal trouble. Merrill  is a network attorney with ARAG, legal insurance, which connects customers to attorneys as needed and covers the fees.

I asked Merrill about what liability parents have with teens, alcohol, parties, driving and sneaking booze from the liquor cabinet. I hope this information helps you as much as it helped me.

 

 First I gave him this scenario:

Let’s say teens drink in your home and you know nothing about it. You weren’t home at the time and you didn’t supply the alcohol.  But, the drinking leads to a problem: either someone gets sick from drinking too much, or someone leaves your home after drinking and gets into a car accident. Could you, the homeowner, be legally liable?

Merrill says yes. Depending on what state you are in, you could be subject to criminal charges andcivil lawsuits.

If some gets alcohol poisoning at your house or gets in an accident after leaving drunk, it can make a difference if you are home or not, Merrill said. “Criminal and civil laws have to do with knowledge, what knowledge you had and whether you had the means to prevent what occurred.” For example, if your teenager and his friends are drinking in your basement, the question becomes ‘did you know and turn a blind eye and should you have known?” he said.

Basically, Merrill said, parent liability comes down to knowledge.  “It will be difficult for someone to charge you or sue you, if you would have had no knowledge of the drinking. Liability is based on the negligence law…were you negligent and did you breach a duty?”

Next, I gave Merrill another scenario:

What if you decide to be the “cool parents” who throw the party, supply the alcohol but stay at home to supervise. There is something called social host liability which makes the party hosts liable for any alcohol-related injuries or property damage that occur as a result of providing alcohol to minors.

Merrill suggests saying this to your teenager: “You can drag our family into serious legal issues by doing things shouldn’t be behind our back. It’s scary how little it would take for something to happen and for us to be legally liable.”

Remember Merrill defends teens and their parents. Each case is different, and often based on small facts, he said. For example, if your teen and/or his friends have taken alcohol from your liquor cabinet in the past and you didn’t put a lock on it, if something happens the next time that can create liability for you, the parent, he said.

Now, here’s another scenario:

What if your underage teen is at a party or hanging out at a park drinking and the police show up?

Merrrill explained that for a minor under 21, it’s not a crime to be around alcohol. Police have to show you are in possession or you consumed it to charge someone under 21 with Minor In Possession of Alcohol (MIP)  or Minor in Consumption of alcohol (MIC), both are misdemeanors. However, when police raid a party and it can be hard for a teen to prove they weren’t drinking when the place is littered with liquor and beer. “Even if technically it can be proved, your teen is still in a situation in which he or she has to defend themselves in court,” Merrill said.

How common are MIP tickets? I asked Merrill.

“It almost always happens at a house party with group of kids and someone brings alcohol, or it happens in a parking lot…it almost always is a group setting where teens are congregating and they attract the attention of adults. Then when the police arrive, the teens have alcohol on them, or have consumed alcohol.”

If it’s a misdemeanor, what’s the punishment?

Getting charged with a Minor In Possession is serious, Merrill said. The punishment can be a fine, a license suspension, probation or required classes. But there’s something even more worrisome. “If you’re convicted and you fill out a job application or a college application and it asks: “Have you ever been convicted of misdemeanor, you have to answer is yes.”

Are there ways to defend yourself when you’re charged with minor in possession?

Merrill looks for any legal defense he possibly can use. “The goal is to mitigate the charges and help the teen through the system so the matter doesn’t impact their future.” Don’t try to defend yourself without hiring an attorney, he said. “If you just pay the fine you can still have it on your record.”

What’s the deal with legal insurance?

Earlier this year, RaisingTeensBlog.com became an affiliate partner with ARAG. When I first learned about legal insurance, I didn’t know what it was and hadn’t thought much about how parents of teens could find it useful. But paying a sum upfront for access to a network of attorneys as needed seems pretty useful when you find yourself in a legal predicament.  I increasingly see how teens can get into legal trouble and how having legal insurance can offer some peace of mind.

Parents, if I didn’t ask Merrill a question you would like answered, please let me know by commenting below. And, if you ran into legal trouble regarding teens drinking in your home and can share your experience to help other parents, please do!

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