Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Tag: Teenagers

Should Teenagers Trick or Treat?

teenagers trick or treating

 

It’s absolutely adorable when a 2-year-old dressed as a pumpkin knocks on your door on Halloween night and says “trick or treat.”  It’s not quite as adorable when a pack of teenagers knock on your door in regular clothes, maybe wearing masks, and say “trick or treat.”  Some people will flat out let the teenagers know it.

It’s the time of year when kids are deciding which costumes to wear for trick-or-treating on Halloween. But while teens and tweens may be deciding between dressing as zombies or sexy witches, some people  are asking how old do kids have to be before they’re considered “too old” to trick-or-treat?

Should high schoolers trick or treat?

This year my son is 16 and he thinks he may be too old. He tells me, “I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do.”  I told him he can pass out candy with me, but he says he probably is going to walk around the neighborhood for a little while with friends, just socializing.  I informed him that if he is going to knock on doors, he has to wear of costume. “Just being a cool teenager and asking for candy isn’t going to cut it,” I informed him.

With my older kids, I remember the first year they felt too old to trick or treat. They sat outside with me passing out candy with a wistful look on their faces, happy to be maturing, yet kind of sad that the exhilaration of running door to door with friends in their costumes was behind them.

When a group of teenagers come to my house on Halloween night, I happily give them candy. I think as long as teens are dressed in costumes and respectful, they should go for it and enjoy the fun night.  But I know other people aren’t as friendly when teenagers come around trick or treating. Last year, my son was 15 and he went out trick or treating with friends. He said some homeowners were downright nasty to them and flat out told them they were too old and that the candy was for the younger kids.

This year,  the Canadian city of New Brunswick banned kids older than 16 from trick or treating. Anyone over 16 caught knocking on doors looking for candy, or wearing a “facial disguise” after curfew, could be forced to shell out for a $200 fine, the Today Show reported.  That’s pretty drastic, don’t you think?

The Today Show did a segment on the topic and a poll asking: How old is too old for Trick-or-Treating on Halloween? One responder said: “By 16, you’re old enough to work, so get a job and buy your own candy.”  That’s a harsh take isn’t it? While parents in the poll couldn’t agree on a specific cut-off age, they did specify a range. Seventy-three percent of more than 2,000 respondents said kids should stop trick-or-treating between the ages of 12 and 17.

Personally, I don’t think there should be a cut off age. I completely agree with the perspective of one Facebook mom:

“Just take a second to think … would you rather them (teenagers) be out drinking and driving putting not only their life in danger but possibly you and/or your child’s life in danger? Or would you rather them be knocking on your door getting candy? Just think about that before you turn down candy to one of them. I’d rather see my teen doing this rather than something dangerous. Just because they’re 16 doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have a little safe, legal fun.”

I am just as happy to give a teen a candy bar as I am a 3-year-old on Halloween night. Most likely, he or she will enjoy it more. There  will be no teen shaming at my house!

What are your thoughts: Should teenagers trick or treat?  If so, how old is too old?

Should teenagers have a technology curfew?

teenager on cellphone

 

Oh the joys of being a parent in the digital age!

When we were teens, our parents only had to worry about whether to implement a curfew for us to arrive home from nights out with friends. Now,  as parents of teens,  there is a debate over whether to give a “technology curfew.”  Should you force your teenager to power down electronics at a certain time of night?

At the gym this morning, a few moms got to talking about our weekends. One mom confessed she spent the whole weekend battling with her son over how much he plays Xbox. At 1:30 in the morning, she insisted he get off Xbox and go to bed. But he said the phrase most mothers know well. “Okay mom, in a minute.” The mom said finally, her husband used some app on his phone to disable the Xbox. (That sounded really cool to me!)

Of course, her son was mid-game and went crazy. She said he spent the next hour yelling and trying to restore the game. ( I can just picture what that looks like, can you?)

“I don’t mind my son unwinding on the weekends, but when he stays up late, he ‘s grumpy the next day or wants to sleep to noon and half the weekend is gone,” the mom said.

Another mom who was part of the conversation said her 13-year-old daughter was up at 1:30 a.m. over the weekend  on the House Party app on her phone, talking to a bunch of friends. This mother also had battled with her daughter about powering down and going to bed.

I can relate to these moms. Sometimes late at night, I think my son is sleeping and I hear noise. “What the heck is going on? “I ask myself.  When I go into his room, I find him watching videos on his Instagram feed and cracking up.  “Go to bed,” I say, and what do you think the response is?   “In a minute mom.”

Sure, our kids need chill time, and since they find electronics their entertainment, I’m all for letting them use their phones for video games or to join a “House Party.” I get that their social lives today revolve around electronics.

Still, I understand the frustrations of these gym moms. I have gone to bed many times with a hoard of boys gathered around the TV in the playroom screaming at the characters on the screen in their video game.  And yes, I have contemplated implementing an electronics curfew.

According to The Seattle Times,  our teenagers may need our help powering down. Self-control is not fully developed in teen brains, so it can be hard for teenagers to voluntarily turn off a video game or  close out of Instagram, the article said. One expert said giving teenagers smartphones without any restrictions is like offering them an unlimited supply of Häagen Dazs ice cream and telling them not to eat too much.

A typical “technology curfew”  requires teens to put on their phones on chargers in their parents’ rooms or kitchens at 9 or 10 p.m. to prevent them from losing sleep to  late night text conversations or videos.

So, if any of you have tried a technology curfew, how did it work out? What do you think is a reasonable time for electronics to be shut down, and does it differ on weeknights and weekends?

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?

 

How to Make the College Application Process Less Stressful

I am on the phone with a teenager, talking about her college applications when her father enters the room, makes a comment to her and the two begin fighting. Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. If you have a high school senior, be ready for some arguments over college applications.

The college application process is stressful for teens and for their parents. Some of us have kids who are all in. They want to go to college and they want to get their applications done.  But even if they want to do it all by themselves, they get overwhelmed.

Then, there are the teens who aren’t motivated at all to fill out college applications. They aren’t sure whether they even want to go to college, or they just don’t want to put in the effort to apply.

In either scenario there is one thing in common: a stressed out parent!

I know because I have been that stressed out parent. As a writer, I wanted to help my older son with his common app essay. He refused to let me, or to even consider my suggestions. It led to some awful fights.

Most high school seniors are in the thick of the application process right now. What they quickly discover is that there is a LOT involved in the process. So parents, here are my five suggestions for holding onto your sanity during the process.

 

  1.  Prepare a list together. Work with your teen on a list of schools and make sure they are colleges or universities you an afford.  Ask your teen what major he or she is interested in or considering  and make sure the colleges on that list have that major. Once the list is made, put the responsibility in your teen’s hands for applying on time.
  2.  Don’t nag. Once your teen knows the deadlines, nagging only makes things more tense. It’s okay to check in every so often on progress, but it’s not okay to continually remind your teen that applications need to get done. It only creates tension. If your teen is independent enough to go to college, he or she should be able to get the application done by deadline — or ask for your help.
  3. Don’t get offended.  If your teen doesn’t take your advice or suggestions, it’s normal. If you want to give an opinion or make a suggestion, be prepared for your teen to dismiss what you have to say.
  4.  Be open to options.  If the application process becomes too contentious, back off. In the end, your teen needs to own it. Or, if your teen isn’t ready for college, don’t freak out. There are great vocational schools and certificate programs that can lead to high paying jobs.
  5.  Consider getting help. There are people who you can provide guidance, not just college advisors but sometimes teachers at your teen’s school or friends who are strong in grammar.  It’s amazing how when someone else tells your teen the exact same thing you do, they listen.

The college application process is a year long process of applying, getting accepting, making housing deposits and making a final choice. It’s a year where there may be lots of tears of frustration and elation – and almost always some arguments. Just hang in there! It will all work out!

So, what are your thoughts…..do you believe parents should be highly involved in the process, or do you believe in a completely hands off approach?

How to Talk to a Teenage Boy

 

One day, I asked my teenage son if he was getting along with his girlfriend. I thought I had heard him arguing on the phone with her, but I wasn’t sure. He responded to my inquiry with a grunt. I am pretty sure no actual words were uttered. It reminded me once again how frustrating it can be to try to talk to a teenage boy.

When my sons were little, a friend tried to warn me of what was ahead. “I find out everything about my teenage son from my teenage daughter. If it wasn’t for her, I would know nothing,” she exclaimed with a big sigh.

By high school, most  teenagers – girls and boys-  begin telling their friends a lot more than they tell you, the parent.  But teen boys tend to tell their parents even less than teen girls do. They can easily make you feel like every question is invasive and like you’re the last person to know anything about your own child. It can be SO frustrating as a parent. My older son adopted “cave man talk” in high school.  He answered my prying questions with such short answers that I had no idea what he was saying and often wondered if he was speaking another language.

So, as a parent what can you do? How do you talk to a teenage boy?

Here are 5 tips I can offer from my personal experience:

  1. The full stomach.   Start important conversations when your son has a full stomach. You are much more likely to get the conversation flowing when your son has consumed something hearty.
  2. The relentless questions. Phrase your questions carefully. Make sure you don’t give your son the option to give you one word answers. Also, avoid asking the same question over and over when you don’t get a clear answer. Instead, come at it from a different angle.
  3.  The timing. It’s normal for teen boys to say very little about what’s going on in school or with friends or with a love interest. Use an activity like bike riding or swimming to start a conversation. Boys tend to open up more when they don’t have to look you in the face during the conversation.
  4. The right language. Use the word “because.” When you tell your son why you want to know something, he is more likely to answer your question. I’m not sure they psychology behind this, I just know it works.
  5. The unsolicited advice.  Let’s face it, teen boys know everything. They don’t want a parent’s advice, especially if they didn’t ask for it. So, you need to get crafty. During a conversation, slip some advice in but don’t let it come across as advice. (This may take a few times to master but don’t give up…it will be worth it!)

Readers, have I left any strategies out for talking to a teenage boy? If you have been successful getting a reluctant teenage boy to talk, or listen,  please drop us a note in the comments section below to share your approach.

Young Teens posting “Am I Ugly?” Videos

Can it be true? Can our young teens have such low self esteem that they are posting videos asking YouTube users to comment on their appearance?

Yes. It’s true and it’s horrifying. There’s a growing trend of teen and tween girls taking to the Internet to broadcast concerns about their looks — and asking strangers to weigh in on these insecurities. These girls look right at the camera and ask, “Am I Ugly?” Click here to see the video.

The Huffington Post points out:  A simple search turns up pages upon pages of similar clips, entitled things like “Am I Ugly?” “Am I Ugly Or Pretty?” “Am I Ugly, Be Honest” and “Am I Pretty Or Not?” One video, posted in December of 2010 has gotten over 3.4 million views and 92,000 comments.

As you would expect, some of the comments are brutal.

As a parent, I see how  fragile kids are at this stage. It’s during the teen years that our kids often care more about what their peers think than their parents. I’ve noticed tons of teen girls post photos of themselves all dolled up and in a sexy pose on their Facebook pages…setting up the stage for others to write…”beautiful” or “gorgeous” under the post. What’s with that?

Some bloggers have taken up the cause, asking YouTube to shut down the “Am I Ugly?” videos. But I think as long as social media exists, teens will use it for validation and open themselves to harsh critics.

What do you think the role of parents is in situations like this?

 

 

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