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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You Want Me To Do What?!?!

Last summer, the director of our local Child Advocacy Center told me she thought I looked like I was a great dancer.  She said, “You’re so tall, you must be amazing on the dance floor.”  WHAT?!?!  We were having a professional conversation at the time in her office, mind you, and somehow my dancing skills were being complimented.  If she had ever seen me dance (or walk around for that matter) she would have known that I had no skills in that area whatsoever.  None.

Little did I know but she was setting me up for a big invitation.  She wanted ME to be a dancing ‘star’ in the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama’s annual fundraiser, Dancing Stars of East Alabama.  Dancing Stars of East Alabama is an annual dance competition in Auburn between 10 couples (one pro and one star).  Even though I’m a child psychologist and NOT a dancer, there was no way I could say no to doing my part to raise money for this organization and the children that they serve.

You see, when I was a child there was no specific place that victims of child sexual abuse and their families could go to receive the support and the services that they so desperately needed.  Fast forward to today and Child Advocacy Centers across our country unite the police, courts, physicians, therapists, and child protective services together as a team; a multi-disciplinary team that helps children and their families cope with the devastating realities of child sexual abuse.

Last year in my community, 329 children came to the Child Advocacy Center of East Alabama to tell their story of abuse and receive free therapy services.  Unfortunately that number is only the tip of the iceberg.  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.  Many of them will wait years to disclose that they were abused and some will never tell their story.  I knew I had to help, which meant I was going to have to dance! [Read more...]

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