For a group of people who typically don’t have full-time jobs, teens certainly have a lot of money to spend. In 2014, MarketingVox/Rand Research Centers found that roughly 41 million kids ages 10-19 in the United States spend $258.7 billion annually. They spend it on everything from fashion to electronics, but where do they get their money? And, is it a good thing?

It seems like more teens than ever before have part-time jobs that keep money in their pockets,” said Tracy Johnson, educational specialist with Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga. “Either they are working or their parents give them money. Regardless, what we are seeing is many people spending huge amounts of money, yet they really don’t know how to manage what they have.”

Parents should start teaching children about money early on.

“Money is associated with power,” Johnson said. “If we don’t teach children how to handle that power appropriately by managing their money, they can end up being a slave to it. Giving your child an allowance is an easy way to help your child begin to grasp money management skills. As your child gets older and the amount of money increases, you can teach them new skills.”

By the time your teen graduates from high school, he/she should know how to build a budget and live within it. Teens should also know how to balance a checkbook, put money in savings and have an idea about home maintenance costs.

In order to teach these skills, Johnson recommends the following:

Don’t give your teen things like a car or a cell phone without teaching them about the costs associated with them.

Insurance, gas, tires and 3,000 mile tune-ups all cost money. Most young people only think about getting the car and putting gas in it or getting a cell phone and using it. What happens when your teen goes over their limits on the phone or racks up a huge bill?

Teach your teen about credit cards. 

Teens often see parents use credit cards to buy everything from groceries to gas, but they never see them pay the bill. No wonder they think money grows on trees! Credit card companies target teens, especially when they are away at college. It’s hard to walk away from a $2,000 credit limit when you don’t have to pay anything up front. If your teen maxes out the card at $2,000, doesn’t charge anything else on the card but starts paying back the $40 minimum monthly payment at 21% interest, it will take 10-12 years to pay it off. At that point, your teen has paid $5,060 – more than double the original charge. Teens need to understand how to use credit wisely.

Teach your teen to spend less than he/she makes. 

Expenses should never exceed income. Many people say, “If I just had a little bit more, I would be fine.” But if you can’t make ends meet on $25,000, you won’t be able to make ends meet at $30,000. The more you make, the more you spend.

Delayed gratification is a good thing.

Teach your teen how to budget and save for the things he/she wants. It will mean more if they had to work for it.

If you don’t have great money management skills yourself…

Consider attending a free budget counseling session for your family at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Chattanooga.

“There are many easy ways to teach teens about handling money,” Johnson said. “Instead of letting money burn a hole in their pocket, give them a good financial foundation before they leave the safety of your home.”

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Dad, staying involved matters. Here are just a few reasons why.

Teenage girls who are close to their fathers are far less likely to become sexually active.

Teenage girls are twice as likely to stay in school if their fathers are involved in their lives.

“Fathers dramatically underestimate the importance of themselves in their daughters’ lives. They withdraw much too quickly, doubt their significance and influence, and grossly misunderstand how very much their daughters need and want to have a good relationship with them.” – Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

“Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. Fathers have a direct impact on the wellbeing of their children.” – noted sociologist Dr. David Popenoe

Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school or in the neighborhood. –Yeung, W. J., Duncan, G. J., & Hill, M. S. (2000). Putting Fathers Back in the Picture: Parental Activities and Children’s Adult Outcomes.

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Creating a healthy stepfamily can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. In fact, since the number of stepfamilies has tripled since the 1960s, many men and women have done just that. If you have children from a previous relationship and you’re considering a relationship with another special someone with kids, there are a few things you may want to consider to help ease the transition.

First, what do you expect moving forward? 

Sit down and discuss your expectations as it relates to topics like buying a house together, purchasing a car, date night, soccer practices and many other things. It’s better to have an idea of what you think it should look like, but adaptability is key.

How you will handle discipline is another thing to think about.

For instance, is it okay for the stepparent to discipline their spouse’s child? It is often more assuring to kids (and their other parent) if their own biological parent disciplines them.

What about bonding with the kids?

The bond stepparents have with their stepchild is immensely important for healthy and stable stepfamilies. You both should be able to talk about each child and feel that you are heard, but when it comes to children, consider the fact that marrying their parent is a BIG deal. Remember that you aren’t there to replace their father or mother, so focus on encouraging and building your own relationships with the children.

What about holidays – how will you handle those?

Taking into account that the kids will spend time with both biological parents during the holidays, work to create new traditions and ask for the kids’ input for making the transitions a little easier. When the biological parents talk directly and make arrangements ahead of time, it can lessen confusion. Encourage family meetings so the children feel heard and valued during the process.

Although blending families is no easy task, discussing things like these ahead of time can help everyone prepare well for the journey ahead.

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Parents and teens can have a mind-boggling relationship. 

One minute they are yelling things like:

“I hate you!”

“Don’t speak to me.”

“Nobody else’s parents do that.”

The next minute you are holding their head while they are sick, they ask you to borrow the car or they want to snuggle up next to you on the couch. It’s enough to make your head spin and cause you to question, “Is this the same kid who said he never wanted to see me again minutes ago?”

Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart. When parents who are currently raising teens compare notes with those who have lived to tell about it, you might think there really is a universal playbook teens use to make parents question their sanity. At any given moment, you may even wish you could ground your teenager for life. BUT, that would defeat the whole purpose of adolescence.

Adolescence is when children learn the skills and strategies of adults and that takes time and patience. But honestly, the process can be painful for the whole family.

Consider these things:

  • Parenting experts say that one of the reasons adolescence is so challenging is that parents often don’t recognize the strongest needs of their teen.
  • Parents look into their teen’s world through adult eyes and needs. They tend to miss all of the change and internal conflict their teen is experiencing in continuing to have their needs for belonging, freedom, power and fun met.
  • Parents need to feel in control whereas their adolescent is competing for his freedom. 
  • Both parent and teen have well-developed strategies for getting their needs met. These differing needs and strategies often intensify to the point that the relationship between parent and child becomes strained.

During adolescence, kids needs you more than ever before. Adults should not assume that once teens begin to look like adults they will automatically start thinking like an adult, relating like mature adults and making responsible decisions.

If you are leading an adolescent into mature adulthood, here are a few things to consider:

  • Remember your own teenage struggles.
  • Don’t panic. It is important not to let your fears control you.
  • Don’t overreact. Most teens say they do not open up to their parents because they tend to overreact.
  • Make sure to handle things in a way that builds your teen up versus tearing them down.
  • Take time to enter your teen’s world – spend time with them, listen to their music, get to know their friends.
  • Provide direction according to their needs… not yours.
  • Understand that teens don’t want you to fix it for them. They want you to listen to them. A teen’s self-confidence is built through learning to problem solve and come up with reasonable solutions.
  • Separate the behavior from the teen. Love your teen, but don’t be afraid to deal with unacceptable behavior.
  • Develop a support network of parents who have been there, done that.
  • Remember, you and your spouse are on the same team.

Raising teenagers is a predictable challenge for most parents. Keep perspective and recognize you will survive. After all, your parents did.

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When Buddy Curry was a professional football player, he thought life was all about him.

“I made up my mind to have as much fun as possible,” said Curry, former Falcon inside linebacker and 1980 Defensive Rookie of the Year. “Toward the end of my 8-year career, all the things I had been doing didn’t seem fun. I wanted a relationship and to settle down.”

When Curry met the woman he would marry, he described himself as young and selfish.

“When we got married I had no clue how to be married,” Curry said. “As an athlete, I had been coddled. Most of the time I got what I wanted and like other athletes I thought the rules applied to everybody but me.”

Within three years the Currys’ marriage was in crisis.

“Every time I saw my wife do something wrong I called her out,” Curry recalled. “I was critical and I hurt her very deeply. Although people loved me because I was a pretty good guy, the state of my marriage made me step back and consider how I would learn to be a good husband and father. I knew I was not strong enough to make the necessary transformation by myself.”

Curry sought out older and wiser men to mentor him—men who would hold him accountable as well as encourage him as a husband and father. Instead of being critical toward his wife, he began serving her.

“Even though she very clearly wanted out of the marriage, I made a decision to learn new ways of relating to her,” Curry said. “My goal was to bless her and allow time for healing in our relationship.”

A pivotal moment in Curry’s life came with the birth of their first son. When he laid eyes on his child, he began thinking, “Do I want my son to be like me?” While he thought he had a lot of things going right in his life, he really didn’t think he wanted his son to be like him.

“I had been making a lot of changes in my life for the better,” Curry said. “When my son was born, I realized there were other areas that needed some attention. Realizing that my children are going to follow me was eye-opening.”

The Currys now have four children.

“Being a father has taught me about my own weaknesses,” Curry said. “I recognize that there is a generational transfer taking place and that I am sending my children into the future. I’d like to help my kids not make the same mistakes I made. I want them to understand the importance of self-discipline, what commitment to something means – even when the going gets tough. I want to teach them how to be a good team player.”

One of the most important lessons Curry learned is that you can have the best of intentions for your marriage and your family, but unless you’re willing to invest the time to make those things happen, it’s just wishful thinking. No amount of success in the world can make up for failure at home.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Wondering how you can connect with your kiddos? Here’s a list to get you started!

  • Plan a regular time for Daddy/Child date to do something fun and adventurous.
  • Write a short message to them on a stick-it note and hide it in their lunch.
  • Let your child help you wash the car or fix something.
  • Play a game with them—one that they want to play.
  • If you like to cook, let them help you.
  • Take them to the park.
  • Teach your child how to do something like build a kite, a soapbox derby car, a paper airplane, etc.
  • Tell them what life was like when you were their age.
  • Listen to them—learn about their favorite things, who their friends are, their favorite game, etc.

Truth matters. Trusted news anchor Brian Williams shared an amazing story about being in a helicopter when it was shot down during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The only problem with the story? The crew on the helicopter that was shot down didn’t remember Williams being on their helicopter or the others flying in formation with it.

When Williams was confronted about his story, he ultimately admitted that he was not on that helicopter. His misstep cost him his coveted evening anchor seat, at least for a time.

Williams isn’t the only one who struggles to remember details accurately. Many employers are finding job applicants with embellished resumes – not necessarily a bold-faced lie, but stretching the truth for sure. Many students who feel the pressure of applying to colleges and needing to stand out in the crowd have found “creative” ways of describing their high school career and extracurricular activities.

Most parents know that dishonesty at any level creates an atmosphere of mistrust within relationships. That’s why among the character qualities they try to instill in their children, telling the truth is close to the top of the list. Yet those same parents are often dishonest in front of their children.

Some may remember the episode of Andy Griffith where Andy was trying to teach Opie the importance of being honest. Opie sold his bike to a friend, but failed to tell him all of the things that were wrong with the bike. Andy told Opie that he would have to tell his friend the truth about the bike. In the midst of the bike saga, Andy has the opportunity to sell his home. When the potential buyers came to look at the house, Opie began telling them all of the things that were wrong with the house. Andy got mad at Opie for telling the “house secrets.” Totally confused, Opie looked at his dad and said, “I thought you said it was important to tell the truth no matter what.”

Telling the truth is honoring to individuals and helps build healthy trusting relationships. But it is important not to stop there. Parents need to help children understand how to be honest in difficult situations and why honesty is the best policy.

Here are some helpful suggestions for parents to show their kids that truth matters:

  • Make sure your behavior is honest.
  • Share about a time when you were dishonest and the consequences of your actions.
  • Model honest expression that shows respect and compassion for the other person.
  • Start when your children are young teaching them the difference between honesty and dishonesty.
  • Look for teachable moments on television or in real life to show the consequences of not being honest.
  • Praise your children when they tell you the truth.
  • Teach your children about the benefits of doing the right thing and being trustworthy.
  • Model integrity, because you are your word. If people can’t trust you, you’ll miss out on many great opportunities in life.

Many will testify that it may take a really long time, but truth always reveals itself. Do you want to be a truthful or deceitful person?

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I can always tell when my kids are in a Fortnite Battle Royale match by the cheering or jeering I hear blaring from their rooms. I might be hearing the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, but it is loud and enthusiastic. If you have a child who plays video games, they are probably playing Fortnite, too, (or soon will be) as the Fortnite craze shows no signs of slowing down.

When it comes to video games I typically have two concerns.

Is this particular game and its content something I want my child playing, and then more generally, how much time (and money) should my child spend playing video games? It’s worth noting that good, caring, involved parents can come to different conclusions – and that’s okay.

As far as content goes, Fortnite, put out by Epic Games, has been rated for 11 year olds and up. The most popular game mode is Battle Royale, which involves up to 100 online players fighting to the death to be the last player standing on an island with various structures and topography. Eliminating the other 99 players involves weapons and violence, but I would describe it as cartoon violence as opposed to bloody, realistic violence.

One thing I really like about Fortnite is that it requires creativity to be successful, not just a trigger finger. Quickly building and manipulating the environment to gain an advantage is an essential part of gameplay. Fortnite is a combination of Minecraft and shooter games with several clever twists thrown in that are genuinely fun.

(If you are concerned about the content of any video game, head to YouTube and watch a few gameplay videos that players have uploaded.)

This brings us back to the general question of how much time we want our kids spending with video games – especially since games like Fortnite can quickly become obsessions.

Parents approach this in a variety of ways. During the school year, some parents allow a set amount of time each week and/or only allow gaming on weekends. Hopefully your family has some tech-free times set aside for reading and playing outside, not to mention structured time set aside for homework and chores. Gaming time might vary during holiday and summer breaks.

Make whatever the latest video game craze is work for you! Parents can leverage video games in many creative ways. For example, I try to get a ton of extra work done around my house so the kids can earn money for in-game purchases. My child’s behavior and attitude may earn them more or less playing time. And here’s one of my personal favorites as a former English teacher: “I’ll match your reading time with Fortnite time minute for minute!

Perhaps the absolute best leveraging of your child’s Fortnite obsession is to use it to spend time together, either joining in or watching them play. Game on!

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