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Articles for Parents

Check out these articles that cover a variety of parenting topics. From newborns to teens, we're here to give you guidance when you need it.

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    5 Holiday Tips for Divorced Parents

    The holidays will be different for many children who are adjusting to their parents’ divorce. What once was, is no more. In the midst of their “new normal,” now they must learn how to deal with dividing the holidays between parents. And, it isn’t just the kids who will be experiencing stress.

    “I think it is critical for newly-divorced parents to anticipate the added emotional strain the holidays can present for both themselves and their children and prepare accordingly,” says Dr. Susan Hickman, local psychologist. “First and foremost, parents must remember that it is their role to provide emotional support for their children, not vice versa. Unfortunately, too many parents look to their children, rather than to other appropriate adults, for emotional support, love and/or validation.”

    Rarely does everything go according to plan. Maybe one parent doesn't pick up or return the children on time or the kids forget their favorite teddy bear. Perhaps somebody says something hurtful, resulting in a meltdown along the way.

    “The likelihood of this happening is great because favorite routines that are so easily remembered have gone away and truth be told, everybody still longs for them,” Hickman says. “Nothing is as it was, and with this realization comes sadness and perhaps anger – especially during the holidays, when family time is viewed as more sacred. Understanding these sensitivities and the reasons for them is the first step in not allowing the stress to spiral out of control.”

    If you want to prepare for dealing with the holidays constructively, try Hickman's suggestions:

    • Have a release valve. Identify a parent or friend in advance, someone who has a level head and who is willing to listen without attempting to fix the problem or meddle, to be on standby for you to call and blow off steam. Recognize that the overwhelming emotions of the present are not permanent.

    • Be available for your children. If it overwhelms you as a parent, imagine how overwhelming it is for children with their limited coping abilities. Children cannot reason through or understand adult decisions or actions and thus often blame themselves erroneously for parental behaviors such as divorce. If they do not have the opportunity to express their grief, anger, sadness, shame and self-blame, how will you ever tell them differently? Many emotional and behavioral problems arise because children of divorce try to cope on their own.

    • Allow children to be children, especially during the holidays. While divorce is serious and full of heavy ramifications, children still need to laugh, play, relate to others, engage in fantasy, etc. They do not understand the emotional pain of their parents, nor should they! Do not think they “don’t love you” because they don’t show empathy. Try not to expect or force them to carry this load the same way you do. One of the best gifts you can give them as a parent is the gift of childhood.

    • Give up the idea of ultimate control. Adults often believe they can change and control others, and they frequently make themselves (and others) crazy in their attempts. This is the art of parenting from a distance. Children need to see healthy coping skills and positive attitudes modeled in difficult situations toward all. This is a time to promote family involvement, not sabotage it through bitterness and the need to hurt one another.

    • Keep as many old traditions as you can, but don’t be afraid to start new ones. The old traditions provide stability, but many disappear due to divorce. Invite your children to help you create some, but be sensitive if they are sullen and reluctant to do so. This is especially important for teens.

    “There will likely be some tough moments this holiday season,” Hickman says. “Don’t let this daunt your enthusiasm. Your willingness to move ahead sends the message that you can live fully, happily and hopefully despite unexpected loss. This is the real message of the season: Hope, joy and peace.”

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    The Teen Years Explained

    Just say the word “adolescent” in front of parents and you will likely get varied responses. Responses range from relief from surviving those years to sheer panic from those who are approaching that developmental stage. Everyone wishes they had a survival guide.

    Several years ago, The Center for Adolescent Health at Johns Hopkins University decided to create one. They pioneered a comprehensive resource for healthy adolescent development for parents. 

    In order to write The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, the guide's authors, Dr. Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard, needed to have their fingers on the current pulse of American teens. After culling through hundreds of adolescent development and behavior studies, they came to some surprising conclusions.

    “It was quite refreshing to find that in general most teenagers are developing in a very healthy way,” says McNeely. “There is no question that while the adolescent years are a time of excitement, they can also be very challenging.”

    Though teens give off a lot of cues that parents are no longer relevant or necessary in their lives, McNeely encourages parents to completely ignore those.

    “The two most important people in the lives of teens are their parents, whether they are present or absent,” McNeely says. “Parents must understand that their role in their teen's life is as critical as it was when their child was a toddler. Teens want to know their parents’ values. They want to be educated by their parents, even on the toughest subjects. The parents’ big challenge is to creatively engage their teen while they learn how to function independently.”

    One of the most important things you can do is understand adolescent brain development. 

    “Our children are bio-chemically driven to establish independence,” McNeely states. “The problem is they are not skillful at it, nor are they ready. And they often don’t ask for independence correctly, which tends to make parents crazy.”

    McNeely encourages parents to focus on life experiences that promote confidence and caring, and to build connection, competence and character. Additionally, parents need to nurture social and emotional development. 

    “Expectations, curfew, family meals and household chores are still crucial regardless of what your adolescent thinks and says,” McNeely says. “The key to all of this is making it reasonable. Where there were certain non-negotiables with your toddler, there will be fewer with your teen. The goal is to teach them how to make good decisions versus making all the decisions for them. While you might have a set curfew for your 13-year-old, you might negotiate at age 16.”

    Teens who tend to do well have parents who aren’t afraid to set boundaries and make the tough calls, even at the risk of hearing the words, "I hate you!"

    “Life with a teen can be challenging. But I invite people of all ages to appreciate what a marvel it is to be an adolescent,” McNeely says. “At no other time in life, even in early childhood, do human beings develop so rapidly, in so many different ways."

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    5 Ways You Can Protect Children from Sexual Abuse

    What percentage of childhood sexual abuse victims know their abuser? Where might you find someone who sexually abuses children? What percentage of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse? What percentage of child sexual abuse reports by children are fabricated?

    Unfortunately, most people don't want to spend time thinking about this topic. But for the sake of children, it requires your attention. About 1 in 10 children will experience sexually abuse before turning 18.

    It might surprise you to to learn that about 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser.

    Perhaps you've been led to believe that child sexual abusers look like shady characters. If so, think again. According to Darkness to Light, a website devoted to ending child sexual abuse, those who molest children usually look and (mostly) act just like everyone else. 

    You can find people who sexually abuse children in families, schools, churches, recreation centers, youth sports leagues and any other place children gather.

    And it is important to realize that abusers can be and often are other children, although most adolescent sex offenders are not sexual predators and will not go on to become adult offenders.

    Researchers estimate that 38 percent of child victims disclose their sexual abuse. Of these, 40 percent tell a close friend. This means that the vast majority of child sexual abuse victims never report the abuse to authorities. Research suggests, however, that such disclosure rates may be increasing. And it is estimated people only fabricate 4 to 8 percent of child sexual abuse reports.

    Who is most at risk?

    • Family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse. Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse.

    • Children living without either parent are 10 times more likely to be sexual abuse victims than children who live with both biological parents.

    • Those who live with a single parent that has a live in partner are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents.

    • Females are five times more likely to experience abuse than males.

    • While there is risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.

    • The risk for sexual abuse is tripled for children whose parent(s) are not in the labor force.

    Who are perpetrators looking for?

    First, you should know that perpetrators say they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single parent or broken homes. Abusers frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting, working proactively to establish a relationship with them before abusing them. They might also seek to establish a trusting relationship with the victim’s family as well.

    So, what can you do?

    Step 1: Learn the facts- Reading this is a great start.

    Step 2: Minimize the risk- Eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse.

    Step 3: Talk about it- Have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex, and boundaries.

    Step 4: Recognize the signs- Know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm.

    Step 5: React responsibly- Understand how to respond to risky behaviors and suspicions or reports of abuse.

    As concerned community citizens, everyone can take action against child sexual abuse.

    Finally, if you want know more about how you can protect children from sexual abuse, visit Darkness to Light. You'll find more resources, along with a downloadable booklet for families and communities that outlines the steps you can take.

    For even more information:

    • If you suspect abuse, call 1-877-237-0004 in Tennessee, or 1-800-4-A-CHILD nationwide

    • Children’s Advocacy Center -423-266-6918

    • Chattanooga Kids on the Block – 423-757-5259

    • Partnership for Children Families and Adults - 423-697-3812

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    Talking to Your Kids About Sex

    Where did I come from? What are the birds and the bees? What is sex? Sooner or later, your child will begin to ask questions about sex.

    The mere thought of that makes some parents blush and get sick to their stomach. It sends others over the edge. Isn’t it interesting that we don’t hesitate to talk to our children about crossing the street safely or the dangers of playing with fire, but the thought of talking to them about sex – something equally as dangerous – send shivers up the spine? Why?

    Many parents have concerns about talking with their children about sex.

    Perhaps you fear the discussion will promote sex instead of discourage it. Or that your child might ask you about your past. Maybe you're concerned about the potential for questions you can’t answer. Some parents say that it is just too embarrassing.

    These are legitimate concerns. However, there is no evidence to suggest that talking about sex encourages the act.

    Consider the facts:

    • 41.2 percent of high school students (grades 9-12) have had sex. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 11.5 percent said they had had four or more sexual partners. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 30.1 percent said they had had sexual intercourse in the past three months. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 3.9 percent of U.S. teens said they had had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2015

    • 15 to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. Centers for Disease Control 2015 STD Surveillance Report

    The Information Highway 

    If children aren’t learning about sex from you, where do they look for the answers? When Barna Research group asked, “Who should be responsible for teaching young people about sex?” respondents overwhelmingly said that parents should be the ones to teach their children about sex. But numerous surveys of teens and young adults say that television and the Internet are their top sources for information and ideas about sex, usually followed by schools, parents and peers.

    Today’s children are hearing about sex much earlier and are exposed to sexuality at virtually every turn in our society. Research has shown that by the time a child turns 18 he/she has witnessed 250,000 sexual acts on television. Interestingly, more than 75 percent of the videos on MTV show some sort of sexual act in which the woman is a sexual object. In 2009, approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the Top 10 contained reproductive messages. (None of these figures include images on the Internet and social media.)

    YES! Parents Really Can Make a Difference!

    Studies show that you can most dramatically impact your child’s behavior by clearly defining your expectations within the context of close family connectedness. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family (and many other studies), perceived parental disapproval of teen sexual activity and contraceptive use significantly influences the delay of risky sexual behavior in teenagers.

    Simply put, parents should be the first and best educators of their children in all matters. This is especially true about human sexuality, growth and development, and healthy attitudes and values about relationships. Although young people tend to act embarrassed, research has shown that teens do want accurate information and they prefer getting the information from you.

    The best time to start talking with children about sex is when they are young. Look for teachable moments, such as when you see a pregnant woman or a peer's new brother or sister, as a natural discussion-starter.

    The Talk

    Focus your conversation with elementary-age children on:

    • the correct names of sexual organs and body parts,

    • explaining sex and reproduction,

    • personal boundaries,

    • pregnancy, and

    • building healthy relationships.

    If they are old enough to ask questions, they are old enough to receive correct answers. Make sure to clarify your child’s question. When you understand the question, answer it briefly and simply. If they want to know more, they'll ask additional questions. You might want to practice talking privately with your spouse or another adult.

    Middle school students need to talk about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases and infections,

    • emotions,

    • the consequences of sexual relationships, and

    • the benefits of abstinence.

    As embarrassing as it may be, it is crucial that you talk with your teen about all aspects of sex, including oral sex. It's also a good time to discuss why people date and what healthy dating relationships look like.

    Discussions with high school students should continue to be about:

    • sexually transmitted diseases,

    • healthy dating relationships,

    • wise decision-making when it comes to sex,

    • setting a standard and living by it, and

    • self-discipline, in addition to everything listed above.

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    6 Guidelines for Teen Dating

    During a young mom's conversation with her 8-year-old daughter about her school day, the girl revealed she had a boyfriend. In her infinite wisdom, Mom said, “You are really too young to have a boyfriend. You should have lots of boys as friends at your age.”

    The little girl sighed and said, “I know, but when I am 14, I will be old enough to date.” Somewhat surprised by the comment, the mother asked her daughter what you do on a date. Without hesitation, the daughter said, “You have sex.”

    With all kinds of thoughts reeling through her head, the mother asked where she got that idea. The little girl said she had heard it from school friends who heard it from their older siblings.

    That mother was shocked. But, should this really be a surprise? Have you ever talked with your teen about the purpose of dating or what happens during a date?

    In an informal teen survey, many stated that the only dating conversation they'd had with their parents was about curfew and expectations concerning drinking and driving. Many parents believe that, “Nobody talked to me about dating and I turned out pretty good so what’s the big deal?”

    Studies show that teenagers crave intimacy, and that adolescents start to date between 12 and 14 years old. In 1924, the average age was 16.

    Research, however, has shown that serious adolescent relationships before either partner is emotionally mature can detrimentally affect identity formation - and even life and health. And, adolescents who date because of peer pressure or a need to belong can experience significant disappointment.

    Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, broken hearts and depression are common themes among those who work with teens. Plus, an estimated 15 percent of teen suicides are due to the breakup of an unhappy dating relationship.

    When teens receive mixed messages from many directions about relationships, having parents who are willing to engage in a discussion about dating smarts is definitely a plus.

    In his book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens, Sean Covey defines the difference in intelligent dating and brainless dating.

    Intelligent dating is dating successfully, being selective about who you date, hanging out and having fun, remaining steady through the natural highs and lows of romance, and keeping your own standards," says Covey. "Brainless dating is dating ineffectively, dating anyone who has a pulse, becoming centered on your girlfriend or boyfriend, having your heart broken repeatedly, and doing what everyone else seems to be doing.”

    Studies indicate that many of today’s teens are taking dating far too seriously. One out of three teenage girls report experiencing physical violence from a dating partner. Yet many of them stay in the relationship stating, “But I love him,” or “A bad relationship is better than no relationship at all.” Instead of understanding that teen dating is about meeting many different people and that breaking up is not a sign of failure, they're convinced they will find Mr. or Mrs. Right in high school. Truthfully, very few people actually marry their high school sweetheart.

    These six guidelines from Covey for intelligent dating are great jumping off points for discussion between parents and teens:

    • Don’t date too young – Dating too young can lead various problems, including getting taken advantage of, getting physical too soon, or not knowing how to end a relationship.

    • Date people your own age – Dating someone who is several years older than you isn’t healthy.

    • Get to know lots of people – Getting too serious too soon can cut you off from other relationships. Don’t be too eager to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Date a lot of different people and have fun.

    • Date in groups – Group activities are often more fun, and there is safety in numbers.

    • Set boundaries – Choose what kind of people you will date BEFORE you start dating. Decide what is off limits and don’t change your mind for anyone.

    • Have a plan – Before going on a date, prepare for the unexpected.

    Teaching teens dating basics early on can save them a lot of heartache. In addition to talking with parents, adolescents can also benefit from healthy dating relationship skills classes.

    These classes teach the fundamental components of establishing healthy and stable interpersonal relationships with family, friends, dating partners, and eventually, husbands and wives. Additionally, they help adolescents recognize important factors in healthy relationships. And hopefully, the skills they learn can equip teens to make thoughtful decisions about relationships before entering into marriage.

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    Struggles Can Lead to Success

    A college freshman working as a summer camp counselor called her parents to vent about how bad things were with her supervisor. It was halfway through the program and six other counselors had quit because they were unhappy and not having fun. As the conversation continued, the parents realized their child wanted their permission to quit as well. Although it was a difficult situation, her parents told her to finish her commitment.

    Have you ever watched your child struggle with something so much that it made you sick, and you wanted to rescue them? At that moment, what should you do?

    • Swoop in and save them from experiencing further pain?

    • Watch from a distance, knowing this is part of growing up?

    • Move closer and offer to assist them as they work to figure it out?

    In many instances, parents are actually “swooping in” instead of letting their children struggle. It could be anything from a tough game, a difficult teacher, a complicated paper, an honest mistake or a friendship gone awry. But are parents really “saving the day?"

    Most parenting experts would say these parents are actually hurting their children in the long run. They mean well when they seek to protect their children from experiencing pain, disappointment and/or failure. In fact, the parents' goal is to set their children up for success. But unfortunately, young people who are never allowed to fail, experience consequences or problem-solve become adults who are ill-equipped to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure.

    An ancient Chinese proverb says. “Failure is the mother of success.”

    Think about it.

    How many times has difficulty motivated you to keep on trying until you figured it out? Whether it was memorizing a recital piece, learning a football play, writing a paper or tying shoes, how did you feel when you finally accomplished the task? More than likely, you felt a sense of pride, newfound confidence and perhaps a little more independent. All of these are important ingredients for success in life. Consider how you would have felt had your parent swooped in to do these things for you.

    Beginning with the end in mind, besides academics, what do you want your child to learn this year? If helping your child to be confident, independent and unafraid of failure is your goal, it may require some restraint on your part.

    Here are some tips for when your children fail:

    • Unless they are in harm’s way, avoid fixing it for them.

    • Allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it is painful to watch.

    • When they do fail, address what happened and ask what they would do differently next time.

    • Instead of taking matters into your own hands, go with your child and stand with them as they learn how to discuss an issue with their teacher.

    Failure can be a powerful motivator. Instead of viewing your child’s failures as a direct reflection of your parenting skills, see them as steps toward future success.

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    Kindergarten and Your Child's Future Success

    Did you know that kindergartners who share, cooperate and help are more likely to succeed later in life?

    That's exactly what researchers from Pennsylvania State University found when they analyzed 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania. 

    Specifically, they evaluated kindergartners on various social behaviors - including their ability to resolve peer problems, listen to others, share materials, cooperate and be helpful. The research team monitored the students until they turned 25.

    The study found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Students who lacked these social competency skills were more likely to face more negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.

    Utilizing a five-point scale, researchers assessed each child's social interaction with other children. Overall, their findings showed that a higher rating for social competency as a kindergartner was significantly associated with all five of the outcomes studied.

    The study controlled for the effects of poverty, race, having teenage parents, family stress, neighborhood crime, and for the children's aggression and reading levels in kindergarten. Still, the researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student's social competency score, he or she was:

    • Twice as likely to graduate from college;

    • 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma;

    • 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.

    For every one-point decrease in the child's score, he or she had a:

    • 64 percent higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;

    • 67 percent higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;

    • 52 percent higher rate of binge-drinking;

    • 82 percent higher rate of recent marijuana usage;

    • 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.

    "The good news is that social and emotional skills can improve," says Damon Jones, Ph.D., senior research associate at Pennsylvania State and lead author of this study. "This research by itself doesn't prove that higher social competence can lead to better outcomes later on. But when combined with other research, it is clear that helping children develop these skills increases their chances of success in school, work and life."

    High-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children for the future. Research has shown this for years, but this study reinforces it. Never underestimate the importance of stability in the life of a child.

    From parents and extended family to child care providers and neighbors, everybody can help young children develop these social-emotional skills.

    So, how often do you provide children in your care the opportunity to:

    • Solve their own problems (within the reason);

    • Make decisions;

    • Understand other people's feelings;

    • Share with others;

    • Be helpful;

    • Express themselves appropriately with direction;

    • Listen and follow instructions; and/or

    • Cooperate with others without being prompted?

    Clearly, providing these opportunities is beneficial, far beyond kindergarten. Although it may be easier for adults to make these things happen for the kids, easy is not always best. Step back and see what they can do.

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    Raising Successful Children

    Before school starts, you can’t go into a store without seeing school supplies. Kids are cramming in their summer reading and some parents are relieved that summer is almost over.

    The new school year seems like a natural time to think about your child's future. Parents often say they want health, happiness and success for their children, but do their actions actually help or hurt when it comes to preparing their kids for these things?

    “Many parents micromanage their children's lives,” says Charlie Sykes, author of 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education and Dumbing Down our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write or Add. “Between parents who are extremely anxious to make sure their children are always happy and the obsession of the education system about self-esteem, we have this weird stew that profoundly impacts our children in lasting ways.”

    How do children become responsible adults if they don't work through problems, experience failure or deal with difficult people?

    Numerous media stories highlight parents hovering over their children in the young adult years. Some parents even call employers and involve themselves in their child's love life.

    “Instead of allowing them to experience adversities, parents bubble-wrap their kids,” Sykes says. “This keeps children from developing coping and problem-solving skills. People learn how to be competent adults by working through the bumps and bruises and ups and downs. If parents do this for them, the kids have no immunity to the normal curve balls life throws at us.”

    Sykes contends that parents who really want to help their kids be successful must learn to say no. Unfortunately, many parents want to enable, be a good buddy or be constantly concerned about staying on their kids' good side.

    “I think I had wonderful parents,” Sykes says. “I guarantee you they were not obsessed about what I thought or felt about them. They did not freak out when I was unhappy about their decisions. They stayed the course as my parents. Instead of being concerned about how I felt on a particular day, they were focused on the end results.”

    Sykes believes we aren't doing children any favors by insulating them from reality and responsibility. He encourages parents to pick positive and negative role models, and find out what they do with their children. Use them as examples of what you want to see and what is not appropriate.

    “If you inflate your children’s expectations, every area of life, including work, marriage and parenting will disappoint them,” Sykes says. “Parents who believe it is their job to meet every single 'want' of their child run the risk of creating unrealistic expectations. This will probably lead to great disappointment in life.”

    So, step back and evaluate the things you currently do for your child. If those things aren't moving your child toward adulthood, it's a great time to try something different.

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    Teens, Technology and Romance

    Today's teens have always had technology in their world, from learning colors and counting to playing games, watching movies and Skyping with their grandparents. Since teens are digital natives, it's logical for technology to play a role in relationships, especially romantic ones.

    In 2014 and 2015, the Pew Research Center survey examined American teens' (ages 13-17) digital romantic practices. The online survey and focus group results are telling.

    Though 57 percent of teens have digital friendships, teens are far less likely to start a romantic relationship online. Most teens with dating experience (76 percent) say they have only dated people they met in person. Only 8 percent of all teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met on social media, and most of those introductions are on Facebook.

    Still, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Teens also use social media to like, comment, friend or joke around with a crush. Among all teens:

    • 55 percent have flirted or talked to someone in person to express their interest.

    • 50 percent have let someone know they were romantically interested by "friending" them on social media.

    • 47 percent have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.

    • 46 percent have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.

    • 31 percent sent them flirtatious messages.

    • 10 percent have sent flirty or sexy pictures, or videos of themselves.

    Overall, 85 percent of teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their significant other once a day. Sometimes teens expect even more.

    • 11 percent expect to hear from their partner hourly.

    • 35 percent expect to hear something every few hours.

    • 38 percent expect to hear from their significant other once a day.

    Teens say texting is the top way to spend time together, which is interesting since they aren't actually together.

    Additionally, phone calls, in-person time and other digital means for staying in touch were in the mix. As for spending time with their current/former boyfriend or girlfriend, teen daters preferred:

    • Text messaging: 92 percent

    • Talking on the phone: 87 percent

    • Being together in person: 86 percent

    • Social media: 70 percent

    • Instant or online messaging: 69 percent

    • Video chatting: 55 percent

    • Messaging apps: 49 percent

    Thirty-one percent of teens who dated reported that a current or former partner has checked up on them multiple times per day. They use the internet or cellphone to ask where they are, who they are with or what they are doing.

    Teens were also surveyed about potentially controlling and harmful behaviors they may have experienced in relationships.

    • 15 percent (or 5 percent of all teens) say a current or former partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them to engage in unwanted sexual activity.

    • 16 percent have been required by a current or former partner to remove people from their friends list on social media.

    • 13 percent said their current or former partner demanded they share their email and internet passwords with them.

    • 19 percent report that a current or former partner has used the internet, digital media or a cellphone to threaten them.

    • 8 percent report that a current or ex-partner used information posted on the Internet against them, to harass or embarrass them.

    After a relationship ends, 22 percent of teens state that a former partner used the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them. Fifteen percent report that a current or former partner used mobile phones or the internet to spread rumors about them.

    Technology connects us in many ways, but teens need more information about technology and romantic relationships.

    Although dating is an opportunity to get to know someone, identify common interests, see if your personalities get along and whether you enjoy each other's company — it is different from marriage.

    Teens still need your help to understand the meaning of dating and what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Furthermore, help them understand that:

    • Posting mean things is poor form and disrespectful.

    • Demanding passwords is inappropriate.

    • Constantly checking up on a partner is unhealthy.

    • Demanding to know who, what, where, why and how from someone is controlling, dishonoring and disrespectful behavior.

    • Texting back and forth is different from spending time with someone.

    Don't assume your teen knows how to successfully navigate romantic relationships. Take every chance you get to teach them how to respect and honor others.

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    10 Tips for Parents: Teen Pregnancy Prevention

    The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has reviewed research about parental influences on children's sexual behavior and talked to many experts in the field, as well as to teens and parents themselves. From these sources, it is clear that there is much parents and adults can do to reduce the risk of children becoming pregnant before they've grown up.

    Presented here as "10 tips," many of these lessons will seem familiar because they articulate what parents already know from experience - like the importance of maintaining strong, close relationships with children and teens, setting clear expectations for them and communicating honestly and often with them about important matters.

    Finally, although these tips are for parents, they can be used by adults more generally in their relationships with teenagers.

    So, what to do?

    1.  Be clear about your own sexual values and attitudes.

    Communicating with your children about sex, love and relationships is often more successful when you are certain in your own mind about these issues. To help clarify your attitudes and values, think about the following kinds of questions:

    • What do you really think about school-aged teenagers being sexually active - perhaps even becoming parents?

    • Who is responsible for setting sexual limits in a relationship and how is that done realistically?

    • Were you sexually active as a teenager and how do you feel about that now?

    • Were you sexually active before you were married?

    • What do such reflections lead you to say to your own children about these issues?

    • What do you think about encouraging teenagers to abstain from sex?

    • How do you feel about teenagers using contraceptives?

    2.  Talk with your children early and often about sex, and be specific.

    Children have lots of questions about sex, and they often say that the source they'd most like to go to for answers is their parents. Start the conversation, and make sure that it is honest, open and respectful. If you can't think of how to start the discussion, consider using situations shown on television or in the movies as conversation starters. Tell them candidly and confidently what you think and why you take these positions; if you're not sure about some issues, tell them that, too. Be sure to have a two-way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Ask them what they think and what they know so you can correct misconceptions. Ask what, if anything, worries them.

    Age-appropriate conversations about relationships and intimacy should begin early in a child's life and continue through adolescence. Resist the idea that there should be just one conversation about all this - you know - "the talk." The truth is that parents and children should be talking about sex and love all along. This applies to sons and daughters and to mothers and fathers, incidentally. All children need a lot of communication, guidance and information about these issues, even if they sometimes don't appear to be interested in what you have to say. And if you have regular conversations, you won't worry so much about making a mistake or saying something not quite right, because you'll always be able to talk again.

    Many inexpensive books and videos are available to help with any detailed information you might need, but don't let your lack of technical information make you shy. Children need as much help in understanding the meaning of sex as they do in understanding how all the body parts work. Tell them about love and sex, and what the difference is. And remember to talk about the reasons that children find sex interesting and enticing; discussing only the "downside" of unplanned pregnancy and disease misses many of the issues on teenagers' minds.

    Here are the kinds of questions children say they want to discuss:

    How do I know if I'm in love?

    • Will sex bring me closer to my girlfriend/boyfriend?

    • How will I know when I'm ready to have sex?

    • Should I wait until marriage?

    • Will having sex make me popular?

    • Will it make me more grown-up and open up more adult activities for me?

    • Can I tell my boyfriend/girlfriend that I don't want to have sex without losing him/her or hurting his feelings?

    • How do I manage pressure from my boyfriend/girlfriend to have sex?

    • How does contraception work?

    • Are some methods better than others? Are they safe?

    • Can you get pregnant the first time?

    3.  In addition to being an askable parent, be a parent with a point of view. Tell your children what you think. Don't be reluctant to say, for example:

    • I think kids in high school are too young to have sex, especially given today's risk.

    • Our family religion says that sex should be an expression of love within marriage.

    • Finding yourself in a sexually-charged situation is not unusual; you need to think about how you'll handle it in advance. Have a plan. Will you say "no?" Will you use contraception? How will you negotiate all this?

    • It's okay to think about sex and to feel sexual desire. Everybody does! But it's not okay to get pregnant /get somebody pregnant as a teenagers.

    • One of the many reasons I'm concerned about teens drinking is that it often leads to sex.

    • (For boys) Having a baby doesn't make you a man. Being able to wait and acting responsibly does.

    • (For girls) You don't have to have sex to keep a boyfriend. If sex is the price of a close relationship, find someone else.

    By the way, research clearly shows that talking with your children about sex does not encourage them to become sexually active. And remember that your own behavior should match your words. The "do as I say, not as I do" approach is bound to lose with children and teenagers, who are careful and constant observers of the adults in their lives.

    Supervise and monitor your children and adolescents. Establish rules, curfews, and standards of expected behavior, preferably through an open process of family discussion and respectful communication. If your children get out of school at 3 p.m. and you don't get home from work until 6 p.m., who is responsible for making certain that your children are not only safe during those hours, but also are engaged in useful activities? Where are they when they go out with friends? Are there adults around who are in charge? Supervising and monitoring your child's whereabouts doesn't make you a nag; it makes you a parent.

    4.  Know your children's friends and their families.

    Friends have a strong influence on each other, so help your children and teenagers become friends with people whose families share your values. Some parents of teens even arrange to meet with the parents of their children's friends to establish common rules and expectations. It is easier to enforce a curfew that all your child's friends share rather than one that makes him or her different - even if your views don't match those of other parents. Hold fast to your convictions. Welcome your children's friends into your home and talk to them openly.

    5.  Discourage early, frequent and steady dating.

    Group activities among young people are fine and often fun, but allowing teens to begin steady, one-on-one dating before age 16 can lead to trouble. Let your child know about strong feelings about this throughout childhood - don't wait until your young teen proposes a plan that differs from your preferences in this area; otherwise, he or she will think you just don't like the particular person or invitation.

    6.  Take a strong stand against your daughter dating a boy significantly older than she is.

    And don't allow your son to develop an intense relationship with girls much younger than he is. Older guys can seem glamorous to a young girl; sometimes they even have money and a car to boot! But the risk of matters getting out of hand increases when the guy is much older than the girl is. Try setting a limit of no more than a two- (or at the most, three-) year age difference. The power differences between younger girls and older boys or men can lead girls into risky situations, including unwanted sex with no protection.

    7.  Help your teenagers to have options for the future that are more attractive than early pregnancy and parenthood.

    The chances that your children will delay sex, pregnancy and parenthood are significantly increased if their futures appear bright. This means helping them set meaningful goals for the future, talking to them about what it takes to make future plans come true, and helping them reach their goals. Tell them for example, that if they want to be a teacher, they will need to stay in school in order to earn various degrees and pass certain exams. It also means teaching them to use free time in a constructive way, such as setting aside certain times to complete homework assignments. Explain how becoming pregnant - or causing pregnancy - can derail the best of plans; for example, childcare expenses can make it almost impossible to afford college. Community service, in particular, not only teaches job skills, but can also put teens in touch with a wide variety of committed and caring adults.

    8.  Let children know that you value education highly.

    Encourage your children to take school seriously and set high expectations about their school performance. School failure is often the first sign of trouble that can end in teenage parenthood. Be very attentive to your children's progress in school and intervene early if things aren't going well. Keep track of your children's grades and discuss them together. Meet with teachers and principals, guidance counselors and coaches. Limit the number of hours your teenager gives to part-time jobs (20 hours per week should be the maximum) so that there is enough time and energy left to focus on school. Know about homework assignments and support your child in getting them done. Volunteer at the school, if possible. Schools want more parental involvement and will often try to accommodate your work schedule, if asked.

    9.  Know what your children are watching, reading and listening to.

    The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, and the Internet) are chock full of material sending the wrong messages. Sex rarely has meaning, unplanned pregnancy seldom happens, and few people having sex ever seem to be married or even especially committed to anyone. Is this consistent with your expectations and values? If not, it is important to talk with your children about what the media portray and what you think about it. If certain programs or movies offend you say so, and explain why. Be "media literate" - think about what you and your family are watching and reading. Encourage your children to think critically: ask them what they think about the programs they watch and the music they listen to.

    You can always turn the TV off, cancel subscriptions and place certain movies off limits. You will probably not be able to fully control what children see and hear, but you can certainly make your views known and control your own home environment.

    10. These first nine tips for helping your children avoid teen pregnancy work best when they occur as part of strong, close relationships with your children that are built from early age.

    Strive for a relationship that is warm in tone, firm in discipline and rich in communication, and one that emphasizes mutual trust and respect. There is no single way to create such relationships, but the following habits of the heart can help:

    • Express love and affection clearly and often. Hug your children, and tell them how much they mean to you. Praise specific accomplishments, but remember that expressions of affection should be offered freely, not just for a particular achievement.

    • Listen carefully to what your children say and pay thoughtful attention to what they do.

    • Spend time with your children engaged in activities that suit their ages and interests, not just yours. Shared experiences build a "bank account" of affection and trust that forms the basis for future communication with them about specific topics, including sexual behavior.

    • Be supportive and be interested in what interests them. Attend their sports events; learn about their hobbies; be enthusiastic about their achievements, even the little ones; ask them questions that show you care and want to know what is going on in their lives.

    • Be courteous and respectful to your children and avoid hurtful teasing or ridicule. For example, don't compare your teenager with other family members (i.e., why can't you be like your older sister?). Show that you expect courtesy and respect in return.

    • Help them build self-esteem by mastering skills; remember, self-esteem is earned, not given, and one of the best ways to earn it is by doing something well.

    • Try to have meals together as a family as often as possible, and use the time for conversation, not confrontation.

    Finally, it's never too late to improve a relationship with your child or teenager. Don't underestimate the great need that children feel at all ages for a close relationship with their parents and for their parents' guidance, approval and support.

    Taken from theNational Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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    Summer Survival Tips

    After a long 10 months, many parents (and kids) are ready to walk away from the usual school-year routines. Who wouldn’t want a break from alarm clocks, the morning sprint, evenings filled with homework, school projects and a set bedtime?

    While this break from the school routine sounds great, most people are creatures of habit who like to have order in their world – even children. Though they may complain about structure, children are used to routines and rituals. In fact, that is the environment in which they are most likely to thrive.

    A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration?, conducted by Barbara H. Friese, Ph.D. and colleagues at Syracuse University, concluded that rituals are powerful organizers of family life and the presence of family routines and rituals in general is beneficial. The review of 32 studies showed that family routines are associated with:

    • stronger academic achievement,

    • better health and adjustment in children,

    • a stronger sense of personal identity for adolescents,

    • better-regulated behavior in young children,

    • greater marital satisfaction, and

    • stronger family relationships.

    With summer right around the corner, now is a great time to think about a more relaxed summer schedule that includes routines and rituals to help you keep your sanity.

    You may decide to give your children the first week or so to catch up on sleep and celebrate the year's accomplishments. Beyond that, your family will most likely have a better time if everybody understands the summer playbook. If you haven't done this before, here's how you can start.

    • Set the stage. Before talking with your kids, consider what you are willing to do this summer. Will your kids go to camps? Do you expect them to do chores before they go out to play? Will you take a family vacation? Is it okay to sleep until noon? What about technology usage? Is going to the pool every day an option? What is negotiable and what is not? The whole conversation will be easier if you already know the answers to these questions.

    • Call a family meeting. Pull everybody together to discuss the summer months and plans. Clearly define your expectations and establish guidelines. Cover things like picking up after themselves, having friends over, raiding the refrigerator, family meals, bedtime, etc. Being on the same page will hopefully decrease the potential for chaos and unnecessary drama.

    Most parents want a happy, healthy and relaxed home, especially during the summer months when everyone is there. Routines and rituals are great tools to help create that type of environment. Children and adults do best when they have consistency in their world, even though they may fuss about it.

    Children are less anxious and whiny when they know they can count on things being a certain way every day. Establishing a structured environment may be more work for parents initially, but over time it makes life much easier for everyone.

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    Guarding Family Time

    Typical day in the life of a family: The alarm clock goes off. Parents wake up children. Chaos ensues as family members fight for the bathroom, get ready and eat breakfast to be out the door on time. You race to the car, prepare for battle with traffic, drop the kids off at school and head to work feeling like you have already lived an entire day.

    After working all day, whether on a job or in school, it's still not time to crash. Soccer, piano, dance, and a parent meeting are all on the agenda. Then it’s time to head home, eat dinner, do homework, take showers and crawl into bed. And you know that tomorrow's routine will be pretty much the same.

    Is this the story of your life? Do you ever wish you could stop the merry go round and get off – just for a short period of time? The truth is you can.

    Sandy Calhoun realized her life was spinning out of control, and she decided to do something about it.

    “This was even before we had children,” Calhoun said. “I realized my life was a train wreck. I was working crazy hours and the life was being sucked right out of me. At that point, I made the decision to get off the fast track. I quit my job that required extensive travel. I stopped worrying about the house being clean all the time and I didn’t worry about the laundry.”

    Now that children are in the mix, Calhoun still has to be careful not to get back on the entrance ramp to the fast track.

    “With two children involved in different activities, life can get crazy if we aren’t intentional about saying no to certain things,” Calhoun said. “It is easy to end up like ships passing in the night. We have said it is a priority to spend time together as a family and we are committed to making that happen. 

    “We only get one shot at being with our girls. I am continually reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff. The girls don’t care if the house is perfect, they just want to spend time with us.”

    As a family, do you need to take a time-out just to enjoy each other’s company? Turn off the iPhone, tablet and television and do something fun. If it has been a long time since you just hung out together, you might start with these things:

    • Make a meal together and eat as a family.

    • Go play at Goony Golf.

    • Take a picnic and games to play at the park.

    • Hike outdoors.

    • Ride bikes together.

    • Make a fire in the fire pit, make s’mores and eat them.

    Studies show that family connectedness is essential to health and to human flourishing, and that strong families build strong communities. Over-committed families in too much of a hurry and parenting from a distance contribute to feelings of disconnectedness. In contrast, families who prioritize time together build strong bonds.

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