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Back To School Tips For Your Teen

When our kids were in elementary school it was obvious what we had to do to get them ready for the new school year.  Registration.  Check.  Meet the teacher night.  Check.  School supply shopping.  Check.  Pictures on the first day.  Check.  You know the drill!  If you’re like me, by the time your kids reached middle school you had the whole routine down to a science. 

Then they hit junior high.  And high school.  And things changed.  Those same kids that needed us to help them get back to school when they were little overnight became, dare I say, INDEPENDENT.

It’s at this point that parents like us have a decision to make.  How are we going to approach our teen’s new found independence?  In my experience, parents typically choose one of three paths to follow as our teens mature to young adults. 

With the first we allow our kids all the independence they want.  Letting them make their own decisions and essentially letting them spread their wings and fly.  While we continue to support them financially and offer guidance when asked, we begin treating them much more like adults.

Parents along the second path stay heavily involved in all aspects of their teen’s life and try to manage all of their decisions despite their teen’s likely resistance. 

And the third?  It’s the path in the middle.  Somewhere between allowing your teen full independence and you keeping total control.  With this path, you slowly give up your control as your teen moves towards their eventual independence.

Personally and professionally, I like the path in the middle.  Teenagers are still children who need nurturing and guidance from their parents.  But they are also at a time in their development where they need to express their individuality and learn to make decisions on their own. [Read more...]

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Bonding Activities With Your Teens

When our kids get older, it becomes harder and harder to connect with them.  But as parents, it’s especially important for us to continue to put in the extra effort it takes to cultivate relationships with our tweens and teens.  Check out my top ten ideas for engaging your teen in activities you’ll both enjoy:

Learn a new skill as a team.  Decide together what you’d like to learn and go for it.  Cooking, photography, music, and art classes are regular offerings in most communities.  Or learn how to kayak, play golf, or tennis.  Really feeling adventurous?  Learn a foreign language together!   

Play a game.  Sure traditional board games are great, but teens are hooked on their electronics and there are lots of fun games that you can enjoy with them.  For instance, play a game of ‘Words With Friends’ on your smart phones.  Start a two player game on a tablet.  Even see what those video games of theirs are all about.  I promise, it will be fun!   

Complete a project.  If you’re like me, then you probably have a lot of projects around your house that need completing!  Whether you wash the cars, paint a room, or work in the yard together, there’s a lot of satisfaction (and bonding) that comes from finishing a project together.  Or pick a DIY Pinterest inspired activity or craft and work with your teen to get it completed.

Share your hobbies.  Think about the things you like to do.  Now share those interests with your kids.  It could be taking them to your painting class, letting them make a scrapbook with you, or bringing them along to set up your fantasy football team. 

Learn about their hobbies too.  Have them play some of their favorite music for you and tell you about why they like it.  Watch a movie they love together.  Then let them tell you about their other interests and see where you can find common ground. 

Have them teach you.  Are you lost when it comes to social media?  When someone asks you to upload or download something do you even know what they are talking about?  Well, guess what?  You teen knows all these things.  Have them give you some tutorials.  You’ll know more and be impressed with how technologically savvy they are! [Read more...]

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Quality Time With Teens

When my kids were younger, it seemed like they always wanted my attention.  We could do just about anything together, and they would call it their ‘best day ever.’  Remember those days?  Me too! 

But now that they’re teenagers, it’s me who has to make the effort to spend time with them.  In the blink of an eye it’s gone from them begging for my attention to me begging for theirs. 

If you’re like me and want to stay active and engaged in your teen’s life, don’t despair.  Try these tips and you’ll see an improvement in your quality time before you know it: 

Step away from the screen.  Smart phones.  E-Readers.  Computers.  TVs.  Tablets.  You name it and in this day and age we’ve got a screen that will distract us.  No matter what your vice (mine is my iPhone), it’s important to put it away while you’re interacting with your teen.  If you’re trying to spend quality time with your child, then turn off your favorite tv show, walk away from Facebook, put down the Kindle, and leave your phone on silent.  

Now, this doesn’t mean that the two of you can’t share some screen time by watching television together or enjoying a game of Words With Friends on your smart phones.  What it means is that when you are sharing time with your child, don’t let your personal screen use get in the way.  I know your kids might be texting or tweeting while you hang out with them, but set a good example and show your teens that you prioritize time with them over time with a screen.

Use your social skills.  When we interact with other adults, we typically use good manners.  Right?  We look them in the eye when we’re having a conversation, we listen attentively, we smile, and we don’t interrupt.  Why then, do we think it’s okay to abandon our social skills when spending time with our teens?  For instance, when I’m doing housework and my child walks in the room and speaks to me sometimes I don’t even look up.  I just answer them and continue doing my chores.  It’s as if all I know about etiquette doesn’t apply to my interactions with my own kids.  And quite frankly that’s sad.  [Read more...]

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Talking With Kids About Tragedy

These days it seems like every time we turn around there is another tragedy.  Something that seems senseless.  Something that we, even as adults, have a hard time comprehending or understanding ourselves. 

When these events occur, it’s important to take some time to talk to our children about what’s happening.  Why?  Because they are going to hear about it.  And your best explanation of a difficult situation is better than no explanation at all.  Here are five tips to help get your conversation started:

Consider their developmental level.  Young children don’t necessarily need to know about every tragedy.  They are happy and carefree and we can and should keep them that way as long as possible.  Preschoolers up to kindergarteners (and even first graders) can be shielded from hearing about most situations.  But school aged children are VERY likely to hear about tragedies from their peers, teachers, or the media so as a parent it’s important to talk to your kids yourself.  When you do talk to your children, talk to them using vocabulary that they understand and using examples that are appropriate to their developmental level.

Be honest.  My thinking has always been that I would rather my children hear about something difficult from me first than on the playground from one of their friends.  If armed with accurate information from their parents, children are better able to process truth (and fiction) presented by their peers.  I also want my children to know that I will not lie to them, even when the topic is scary.  Stay calm when you’re talking with your kids and using your own words say something like: “A sad thing happened that I wanted to talk with you about.  There was an explosion in Boston while people were running in a race, the Boston Marathon.  A bomb caused the explosion.  Some people were injured and sadly some people died.  There were also a lot of people there who were not hurt and who helped those who did get injured.  I don’t know why this happened or who put the bomb there but the police are investigating it and over time we will know more.  I wanted to tell you about it so that you would know what was going on and could ask me any questions that you have.  I may not have the answers,but it’s always important to me to be honest with you even about difficult things.”  [Read more...]

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