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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    Spring Break Safety Tips

    If you have teens or college-age young adults, you’ve probably had (or soon will have) ongoing conversations about how they’ll spend their break.

    As kids try to get permission (and money!) for the trip, you’ll hear phrases like these. “I’m almost an adult. This is a rite of passage.” Or, “It’s what college students do. We go to the beach and hang out.”

    The pressure is on for sure.

    But before you give in to that pressure, here is what research shows about spring break students:

    • The average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day, compared to 10 drinks for the average female.
    • Of the 783 young people surveyed, more than 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women said that they drank until they became sick or passed out at least once.
    • The U.S. Department of State fact sheet on “Spring Break in Cancun” states: “Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes and deaths suffered by American tourists in Cancun.”

    This has become a major issue on some Florida beaches. So much so, that places like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach police departments have taken precautionary measures to avoid problems. These cities have already posted open letters on Facebook to those planning to spend spring break there.

    “We have said it before, but just so we are clear,” says one of the letters, “If your top priorities when visiting the beach are being drunk and disorderly; breaking what you consider to be small rules like underage drinking, littering and leaving glass on the beach, urinating in public, using drugs, or engaging in violent or indecent behavior, Gulf Shores is definitely not the place for you.”

    Before you assume this is not an issue with your child, it’s helpful to remember that risk-taking peaks during adolescence. Instead of weighing risks based on logic and wisdom, teens are usually more concerned about how their choices will impact their peer relationships. They see being unaccepted relationally as a threat.

    Scientists found that while a teen might make good choices when he is alone, adding friends to the mix changes things. It makes him more likely to take risks for the reward of relationship instead of considering the cost. Even if your teen generally makes great decisions, getting together with hundreds of other spring breakers can make it seem like the rewards of risk-taking outweigh any future consequences.

    If your goal is for your spring breaker to be safe, here are a few things to consider:

    • Even if they don’t like the idea, you may decide to go along if you feel they aren’t ready to fly solo. It doesn’t mean you have to constantly hover over them. Checking in regularly with an adult can decrease the potential for poor decision-making.
    • Help unsupervised teens and young adults prepare well. Discuss their plans and where they are staying. Establish clear expectations about everything from social media and location check-in to communicating with you by phone at designated times.
    • Address the dangers of underage drinking, meeting up with strangers and the potential consequences (legal and otherwise) for poor choices. They also need to know how to protect themselves from sexual assault, date rape drugs and the like.

    Ultimately, the goal is to keep your child, and those around your child, safe over spring break. We all know that one irresponsible decision or crazy social post can change the trajectory of a young person’s life.

    Most of us would probably agree about one thing. It’s better to leave no stone unturned than to wish we had said something. Don’t be afraid to be “that parent.” You know, the one who encourages new experiences, knowing that a strong foundation can help them make the most of their opportunities.

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    5 Tips for Raising Good Kids

    Any parent headed home with their first child is probably a bit nervous about this whole parenthood thing. You really want to raise good kids, but unfortunately, each unique baby doesn’t come with its own manual.

    Whether you shop local or go to Amazon for parenting help, hundreds of books offer different perspectives on the best way to raise good children. In spite of the many approaches, however, a group of Harvard psychologists found that it really boils down to some very basic strategies.

    1. Spend time with your children. 

    It's often tempting to be in the same room with your child as they play with toys or a computer while you check email or social media. That isn’t what the researchers are talking about. Engage them in play, look into their eyes and read a book with them. Learn about their friends, find out what they think about school and that sort of thing. By doing this, you're teaching them how to show care for another person and that they are a priority to you.

    2. Model the behavior you want to see. 

    It’s easy to have one set of expectations for children and another set for adults. In some cases this makes sense, but when it comes to teaching your children, they are like sponges. They take in all you do. Everything from how you care for yourself and let others talk to you, to how you deal with a difficult personal situation or how you handle anger teaches them right from wrong and what it means to be an upstanding citizen. When you model the behavior you want to see, it is a powerful thing.

    3. Show your child how to care for others and set high ethical expectations. 

    Children believe the world revolves around them. When you involve them in caring for others, especially people who are different from you, they learn they will not always be the center of attention and that all people matter. They also see what it looks like to share with others without being selfish.

    Even the little moments can teach your child about being an honest and ethical person. When the cashier gives you too much change and you return the money instead of keeping it, they see. Or when your child sneaks something in their pocket after you said they couldn't have it and you make them return it and apologize – that’s a teaching moment.

     4. Teach your child to be appreciative and grateful. 

    Parents usually start with please, thank you and you're welcome. Giving your child age appropriate chores and thanking them for doing their part also teaches them about appreciation and gratitude. Teaching them how to write thank you notes and to think about others' feelings and needs is also useful.

    5. Teach them how to see beyond themselves. 

    Find ways to show them a world beyond their family and close friends. Help them appreciate differences in ethnicity. Talk with them about other places in the world, rituals, customs, living conditions, etc. By doing this you are expanding their world.

    The children in the Harvard study thought their own happiness and self-esteem was really important to their parents. Instead of being overly concerned that kids are always happy, you can emphasize how to be kind to others in their world, whether it's the bus driver, the Walmart greeter or the referee at the sports event. Focusing on these things will help you raise children who are caring, kind, courageous and responsible.

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    Choosing a Summer Camp for Your Kids

    Just hearing the words, “summer camp” can make people smile. Why? Because it’s hard to forget a summer filled with new friendships and learning new things. This is true whether it involves sports, cooking over an open fire, identifying wildlife, stringing a bow or shooting an arrow.

    Since school will be out soon, it's time to make those summer plans.

    The good news is, there are plenty of camp options for everything from the zoo, coding and nature, to scouting, sports and cooking experiences. And, many local organizations offer both day and residential summer camps. There's really something for every kid out there.

    The camp experience can be good for kids in many ways. It may help them:

    • mature socially, emotionally, intellectually, morally and physically;

    • discover and explore their talents, interests and values;

    • build self-confidence and increase independence as they learn how to navigate relationships away from their parents; and,

    • try new things and develop leadership skills.

    So, how do you choose a camp that fits your child’s personality and needs?

    The American Camp Association (ACA) website has suggestions for you as you make decisions. Here are a few for you to think about.

    • What is the camp’s philosophy? Does it complement your parenting style? Is the camp competitive or cooperative?

    • What is the camp director’s background? At a minimum, a camp director should have a bachelor’s degree and camp administration experience.

    • What is the ratio of counselors to campers? Depending on the age and ability of the campers, the medium range is one staff member for every seven to eight campers.

    • How old are the counselors? ACA standards recommend that 80 percent or more of the program staff be 18 or older. Additionally, at least 20 percent of the program/administrative staff must have a bachelor’s degree.

    • How does the camp handle poor behavior and discipline? Positive reinforcement, assertive role-modeling and a sense of fair play are generally regarded as key components of camp leadership.

    Another good idea is to research references and camp policies, such as visitation, dealing with homesickness or other adjustment issues.

    If your child is camping for the first time, you'll want to make sure they are ready. Just because you think they are old enough doesn’t mean they are emotionally prepared.

    Remember to include your child in the camp decision-making process. If you choose an overnight camp, be sure they can spend the night away from home and can handle being away from you. (By the way, sleepovers at Grandma’s don't count!) Discuss what to do if they get homesick.

    Also, prepare them to meet people who are different from them. Let them know they will encounter bugs and other creepy-crawly things if camp is outdoors.

    Each year, more than 14 million children go to camp. Parents say it greatly impacts their child’s ability to get along with others, willingness to learn something new and how they feel about themselves.

    Summer camp can be a home away from home. And, when the camp is right for your child, it can provide great fun, lasting memories and personal discovery.

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    3 Things Each Person in Your Family Needs to Know

    Parents of young children often discuss among themselves whether they are doing all the right things to help their kids become healthy, happy adults.

    How many activities should they be involved in? How much sleep do they really need? Is it bad to fix something different for each child for dinner? Am I a bad parent if I don’t (you fill in the blank)?

    While these are all questions worth considering, every person has two basic needs – the need to know who you are and where you belong in the family.

    The parent should help each member of the family be who they are as an individual and to understand how to connect and fit in with the rest of the family. This is a great case for not treating every child exactly the same. Personalities, temperaments and needs are different for each family member.

    The parent’s role is to lead and the child’s role is to follow. So, how do you know if you are in charge or if your child is running the show?

    You may need to reevaluate what is taking place if any of the following scenarios apply in your home: 

    • You think it is OK for your child to tell you what to do;
    • Your child’s behavior intimidates you;
    • You change your response because your child throws a tantrum, pouts or withdraws;
    • Fear of your child's response changes the way you handle something;
    • You allow emotions - such as guilt, fear that your child won’t love you or won’t be happy with you - to dictate your decisions instead of answering the question, “What is in the best interest of my child?”

    It's not healthy for kids to rule the roost if you want to help them grow up and become independent. Even when they push the edge of the envelope, they are still counting on you to lead.

    Research consistently shows that healthy families have similar patterns - adults are in charge of the family, each person is able to be close and separated from other family members, and the family expects and adapts to change as needed.

    According to the authors of Survival Skills for Healthy Families, each person in the family needs to know three things:

    • How to speak up and say what they need. The ability to say what you want helps others to know what you are thinking and feeling. As an added bonus, it opens the door for understanding.
    • How to listen – As a listener, you can choose to seek connection, be respectful and look for understanding. Or, you can react, fight and argue instead.
    • How to cooperate – Teach your children how to find balance between their needs and the needs of other members of the family.

    While children are under your roof, they need to know they can count on parents to be in charge. But, they also need to know they belong and how to use their voice. Mastering these skills earlier in life can be a real gift to your entire family - and for future generations.

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    4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe

    People across America paid close attention to news about missing teen, Elizabeth Thomas, and her alleged kidnapper, Tad Cummins. After a nationwide manhunt, authorities continued to uncover evidence of an inappropriate romantic relationship between the girl and her 50-year-old teacher. Experts now believe Cummins had been grooming the student for a while.

    This is a parent’s worst nightmare. And unfortunately, headlines like these have become far too frequent.

    Every day, hundreds of thousands of parents entrust their children to teachers, coaches and youth ministers. The vast majority of these people truly have a heart to help children. There are some bad apples in the mix, however, which can complicate things.

    No parent wants to believe this could happen to their child. But, how do you help your child guard against something like this without scaring them?

    According to Kidpower International, an organization dedicated to providing empowering and effective child protection, positive communication and personal safety skills for all ages and abilities, these four strategies can help prevent these types of situations.

    Put safety first.

    The safety and self-esteem of a child is more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience or offense. If you suspect there is a safety problem involving children of any age, take personal responsibility and address it. Speak up persistently and widely until someone effectively takes action. Young people in abusive situations need help and protection.

    Make sure you know what others are doing with your kids.

    Some predators actually create opportunities to be alone with children by doing wonderful things with and for them. They may even seem like really nice people with excellent reputations. But don’t just trust people because they are part of a reputable organization or because they are family. Trust your intuition. If something feels uncomfortable, speak up. When in doubt, check it out.

    LISTEN to your children and teach them not to keep unsafe secrets.

    Most abusers build strong relationships with children before anything sexual takes place. Encourage your child to talk to you often by asking supportive questions, being a good listener and not lecturing. Pay attention to what they say. Be very clear that secrets about problems, touch, favors, gifts someone gives them, photos or videos, privileges, time alone with anyone and games are NOT safe. It’s crucial for them to tell you and other trusted adults instead of keeping secrets, even if it will upset or embarrass someone they care about.

    Make sure you tell your children, “Even if you made a mistake or did something wrong, I will love you and help you. Please tell me about anyone whose behavior makes you uncomfortable, even if we really like this person, so we can figure out what to do to keep everyone safe.”

    Prepare young people to take charge of their safety by practicing skills.

    One quick action can stop most abuse – pushing someone’s hand away, ordering them to stop, leaving as soon as possible, resisting emotional coercion and telling. If children understand these safety rules and have had the chance to practice them in an age-appropriate way, they are more likely to use them if necessary.

    An Instagram post from Elizabeth Thomas said, "Every Beauty needs her Beast to protect her from everything but him," credited to poet N.R. Hart.

    Don’t just assume your child knows the signs of an inappropriate relationship. And, don't assume that they would for sure tell you about something that happened. Be proactive and teach them. Empowering them in such a way can help alleviate any fear they encounter.

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    Adulting is Hard

    Throughout her teenage years, she often dreamed about what life would be like when she became an adult. The idea of staying up as late as she wanted, doing what she wanted when she wanted to do it, and not answering to anybody in authority over her made her want to fast forward to “that” day.

    Then it happened. She was out on her own. Rent, renters insurance, utilities, groceries, a car payment, car insurance, gas, an unexpected tire purchase, doctor visits and more were staring her in the face. This was not at all what she had in mind all those years ago when she dreamed about being out on her own.

    She grabbed her phone and texted her parents: “#adultingishard, I don’t like all this pressure. What happened to my paycheck?”

    No doubt you have seen some of the "adulting is hard" comments on social media:

    • Coffee, because adulting is hard.

    • Adulting is hard. I don’t get a reward when my bedroom is clean.

    • I stay up really late for no reason. Adulting is hard.

    According to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, professor and author of Emerging Adulthood, this young adult is not alone. Many in their 20s find “adulting” difficult, which tends to create a bit of anxiety for parents who are ready for their adult children to take on more responsibility.

    In his book, Arnett discusses "emerging adulthood" as a new life stage between adolescence and actual adulthood - 30 is the new 20. The 20s have become a period of exploration and instability where they are trying out all kinds of things before settling down. 

    For those in their 20s, about 40 percent move back home with their parents at least once, and they go through an average of seven jobs. Arnett contends that emerging adulthood is a worldwide phenomenon.

    Parents who are excited to see their young adults launch wonder, "What happened?"

    Things have changed! Adulthood is now viewed with a lot of ambivalence. Once you commit, you are there for the rest of your life. The social, cultural and economic conditions have changed a lot, too. Fifty years ago, entering adulthood was viewed as a big achievement. People looked forward to the stability adulthood provided. Now, 50 years later, people don’t look at adulthood in the same way. They see it as stagnation. They think their parents don’t do interesting things anymore. Adulthood doesn’t look very fun. 

    If you are reading this and freaking out a bit, breathe. According to Arnett’s research, these emerging adults eventually take on adult responsibilities. It’s just a bit later than perhaps you expected.

    What can you do to be helpful?

    Part of the reason adulthood feels so overwhelming is because for many, they literally go from having everything done for them and paid for to feeling like they are doing it all on their own. Maybe things wouldn’t seem so scary if young adults took on more responsibility over time versus in one fell swoop. 

    Anybody who is currently adulting can testify that it is hard, but a lot of freedom, adventure, challenges and fun comes with this stage of life. Perhaps there is a takeaway for those in this stage as well. If young people think those living in adulthood seem stagnant and boring, perhaps it is time for those who are actually adulting to show that responsibility, accountability and commitment don’t necessarily equal a dull, stress-filled life. Many believe that living in the adult season of life allows for a lot of freedom to establish who you are and how you want to live life.

    The young lady who dreamed about the freedoms of adulthood, in reality, wasn’t that far off. People think that freedom equals no responsibility, but in truth these responsibilities are what give you freedom.

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    The Effects of Childhood Trauma

    Of the 76 million children living in the United States, a staggering 60 percent (46 million) of them will experience violence, abuse, crime and psychological trauma before they turn 18. That's according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Believe it or not, home life plays a huge part in these statistics. Specifically, children from single-parent homes seem to be at higher risk for adverse childhood experiences than those who live with both parents.

    The National Survey of Children’s Health asked parents of 95,677 children under 18 if their kids had ever seen or heard “any parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up.” Nineteen of every 1,000 children living with their two married biological parents experienced that type of behavior. Sadly, the exposure rate was seven times higher (144 children per 1,000) in homes with a divorced or separated mother. These comparisons are adjusted for differences across age, sex, race, family income, poverty status and parent’s education level.

    In an Institute for Family Studies article, Nicholas Zill, a psychologist and child and family well-being researcher with more than 40 years of experience, writes:

    “Experiencing family violence is stressful for children, undercuts their respect and admiration for parents who engage in abusive behavior, and is associated with increased rates of emotional and behavioral problems at home and in school. For children of never-married mothers who witnessed family violence, 58 percent had conduct or academic problems. Among children of divorced or separated mothers, nearly half of those exposed to family violence, 48 percent, had had conduct or academic problems at school.”

    So, how do adverse childhood experiences affect children long-term? Do they set the stage for greater difficulty later in life? Are children resilient? 

    Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied more than 17,000 adults to find out. It examined the links between traumatic childhood experiences (abuse, neglect and family dysfunction including divorce, incarceration, substance abuse and mental health issues) and current adult health and well-being. 

    According to that study, exposure to adverse childhood experiences hinders the ability to form stable and healthy adult relationships. Plus, those experiences increase risk for:

    • Experiencing substance abuse;

    • Depression;

    • Cardiovascular disease;

    • Diabetes;

    • Cancer; and

    • Premature death.

    In contrast, healthy relationships at home, school and in the community can nurture a child’s physical and emotional growth. Children need these types of relationships from birth forward in order to thrive and grow into productive adults. 

    What can you do?

    • Create a safe and stable home for your kids. 

    • Actively engage in your child's life.

    • Learn skills to help you manage and resolve conflict.

    • Take parenting classes for various ages and stages.

    • Make sure your neighborhood is a safe place.

    Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are among the most powerful and protective forces in a child’s life. So in order to promote healthy child development, we must be diligent to create those safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. As a community, we all share responsibility for the well-being of our children. 

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    Four Ways to Deal With Grief and Loss

    In their 33 years of marriage, September and Scott Vaudrey had survived a significant season of marital pain and an incurable disease diagnosis for their son that ultimately causes blindness. After what felt like a long time, they were finally finding their way.

    Their daughter, Katie, returned from her freshman year of college ready to tackle her professor’s challenge to not waste her summer. “You have 100 days,” the professor had said. “Don’t come back the same.” Katie was determined to live each day to the fullest.

    “Katie loved life and was the kind of person who lit up the room,” says September, author of Colors of Goodbye. “On Mother’s Day, she wrote me a note saying, ‘Your joy is one of the main ingredients to this home’s climate. Don’t underestimate your contribution.”

    Two weeks later, the unthinkable happened: Katie suffered a ruptured cerebral aneurysm while driving.

    “On May 31, 2008, my life changed forever,” September remembers. “At the hospital, I was completely overwhelmed with grief. I stepped outside the emergency room to call my mom. Standing in the ambulance bay, I felt this overwhelming sense of peace wash over me. It was as if God were saying to me, ‘I am good. The circumstance doesn’t change my character. It doesn’t change who I am. I am good.’”

    Six hours later, Katie was pronounced brain-dead. Her family gathered to pray over her and let her go.

    “Pain is the great equalizer,” September says. “None of us are impervious to pain and loss that takes your breath away. Early on, I was tortured by unanswerable questions. Will I survive? Is my life ruined? Is my joy—the very thing Katie talked about—gone forever? How do you come back from something like this?”

    Not long after the funeral, September ranted to God in her backyard.

    “This word picture came to me of a path in the woods,” she says. “We had come through marital issues and dealing with our son’s impending blindness, when out of nowhere, a huge boulder smashes into the path of my life and then continues on its way down the hill. There is now a huge crater in my path, with no way to go around it. I had to figure out how to go through it.

    “I could fill the crater with bitterness, anger, and resentment. But could I choose to fill it with hope, gratitude, greater empathy, or curiosity? With an open-handedness toward God? I knew I’d need to lean into my grief, not skirt it. I faced raw, ruthless days. And I learned that you can’t force good things into the broken places, but you can invite them in.”

    September learned ways to navigate through her own journey of loss. Today, she shares these four steps for those in the midst of pain and loss.

    First, name your loss. What exactly did you lose? September journaled, shared with friends who were willing to just listen, and was purposeful about grieving her loss. She created something to remind her of God’s faithfulness so far. For her, it was a garden at the accident site.

    Next, feel all the feels. Be purposeful in your grief. Create stillness and be mindful around your loss. Take walks. Take good care of yourself. Be aware of upcoming milestones that could be hard. And expect moments that will catch you off guard, like the Target dorm room fliers the Vaudreys got in the mail as the school year drew near. (“This time last year, I’d been shopping for dorm supplies with Katie,” September says. “Now she was gone. Those flyers sucker-punched me.”) Don’t try to numb your loss, but lean into it instead. Until you are willing to feel the full impact of your pain, you have no hope of experiencing less pain—or greater joy.

    “It’s a lie that time heals all wounds,” September shares. “You never get over it, you just get on with it.”

    Then, build your brigade. Choose the right people to share your journey. Avoid well-intentioned people who deplete you rather than fill you.

    Finally, spot God’s fingerprints. September has always loved animals. On the anniversary of Katie’s death, she noticed a baby raccoon alone on a busy road. After pulling over, she realized the animal was dehydrated and thin—clearly an orphan. She took it home and nursed it back to health.

    “I felt like that raccoon bore God’s fingerprints on a day he knew I really needed it,” she says.

    Years after losing Katie, September describes her life as beautiful still. Getting to this place has taken purposeful, deep diving into the crater of her sorrow. Grieving is hard work. But over time, September discovered that greater empathy, richer gratitude, hope, and eventually joy, is indeed possible—not in spite of her loss, but because of it.

    If you'd like to learn more about September Vaudrey, click here.

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    13 Reasons Why (You Should Talk About Teen Suicide)

    While driving her teen daughters home from school, Mom asked them what they knew about 13 Reasons Why, a popular Netflix series about a teen who commits suicide. The youngest was clueless. The older daughter, however, definitely knew what her mom was talking about.

    When Mom told the girls she didn’t want them watching the show on Netflix, the cat-that-ate-the-canary look on her oldest daughter’s face said she was too late. Mom quickly learned that her eldest had already watched not just one episode - but the entire first season. At this point, she felt like a serious mom failure had taken place right under her nose.

    Apparently her daughter, along with millions of U.S. teens, found 13 Reasons Why to be very intriguing. Some say they can relate to Hannah’s problems. Others find it entertaining.

    However, parents, counselors, teachers and school administrators across the country have extreme concerns about the show. They feel that it may glorify teen suicide, bullying, rape and other behaviors.

    On “The Today Show,” Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, psychiatrist and president of the Child Mind Institute, called for the show’s immediate removal, saying teenage suicide is contagious. Koplewicz cited more than three decades of research that shows when kids watch suicide depictions on television, they’re more likely to try it themselves. Sadly, they’re also more likely to succeed in their attempt.

    Not surprisingly, Netflix just announced a second season of the show, albeit with a warning card at the beginning. 13 Reasons Why was the most tweeted-about show in 2017. And, the viewership is exactly the audience Netflix is after.

    While there are definitely some caution lights surrounding the show, perhaps it's not all bad. For example, it provides some opportunities for parents to discuss the tumultuous teen years, suicide, bullying, drug abuse and dating violence. 

    In her post, An Instruction Manual for Watching 13 Reasons Why with Your Teen, therapist Jenny Spitzer includes these recommendations to parents:

    • Validate feelings, whether or not you agree. Actions are up for discussion and you have the last word. But feelings are never up for negotiation.

    • Avoid telling your children their feelings aren’t real. They are, in fact, more intense than the average adult’s. Teens typically lack the ability to see that their problems are temporary, so everything feels like it’s going to last forever. You can tell them that this is not the case until you’re blue in the face—they won’t get it. Often, their brains aren’t wired to understand this yet.

    • Don’t assume they aren’t communicating if they’re not communicating with words. There are lots of ways that people communicate without words—through art, dance, music. People can also communicate with their behavior.

    • Help them effectively use communication tools.

    • Don’t assume they know everything they say they know. Try to stay away from yes or no questions.

    • Ask them to explain things to you. For example, what does bullying mean to you?

    • Discuss similarities and differences between your child’s experience and the experiences depicted in the show.

    • Familiarize yourself with your child’s school policies surrounding these issues. What policies are in place to respond to these issues? Ask about the policy regarding what school counselors can and cannot divulge to parents. Find out exactly what your school counselor would do if Hannah confided in them. Ask what they can and cannot do when they suspect a child is suffering from depression—you might be surprised.

    Although it may be uncomfortable, these recommendations are great starting points for open and honest conversations. Your teen needs to hear the truth from you. You also need to hear what is on your teen’s mind. Additionally, consider inviting other adults into your teen’s life who share your values. Then, give them chances to speak into the life of your child.

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    7 Benefits of a Summer Job

    If you're a parent, you're probably bracing yourself for the summer with your teen. There are so many things to consider: everything from what time your teenager needs to be out of the bed in the morning, how much time they should spend gaming, expectations around the house and curfew, just to name a few. And typically, the teen’s perspective is vastly different from your point of view.

    Obviously, the school year can be very taxing and it’s nice to have less stress during the summer. But experts encourage you to avoid throwing structure out the window as your kids rest up for the next school year.

    One way to keep your teen constructively involved is to strongly encourage them to find a summer job. While 13 or 14 may be too young for employment, they do have other options. It isn’t too young to do yard work, babysit, clean houses, or some other type of work.

    Teens can learn so much from having a job. In fact, it can help prepare them for life. Actually going through the interview process is a serious accomplishment, as many young people struggle with conversations that don’t involve texting. Learning how to look someone in the eyes and answer questions about yourself is huge.

    Once they have secured a job, they typically have the chance to learn a few things, like how to:

    • Get along with a diverse team of people,

    • Manage their time,

    • Deal with authority figures other than their parents,

    • Engage with people who are rude and difficult,

    • Build relationships with kind and encouraging people,

    • Develop an understanding of a work ethic, and

    • Handle the money they earn.

    One teenager accepted an eight-week job as a summer camp counselor. The job was not glamorous and many of her co-workers were challenging, so the teen frequently talked with her parents about the difficulties she was experiencing. Halfway into her commitment, she told her parents that four other camp counselors had just quit. The parents felt like the teen was looking for a way out as well.

    Both parents strongly advised her not to quit, reminding her of the commitment she made. She stayed, and to this day has never forgotten the lessons she learned about how to treat people, what respect looks like and that she had it in her to overcome adversity and finish what she started. She also learned a lot about herself that summer, and while she wouldn’t want to repeat it, she would not trade those valuable lessons. 

    Summer jobs can teach the life lessons most parents want to instill in their children as they prepare for independent living. Your teen may simply want to build their resume for college or prepare to learn a vocation. Either way, securing a summer job can be just the character-building experience they need to give them that extra boost. It will certainly teach them lessons that will serve them wherever life takes them.

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    Life Without a Father

    In 2001, Regina R. Robertson hated her day job, so she was very thankful, and relieved, when she was ultimately fired. She also felt free to pursue a new path, as a writer. Having begun her career in the music industry, she contacted some of her former colleagues for help. She started out by writing artist bios and press releases. Within a year, she was meeting with magazine editors, including one who told her to “write what you know.”

    Robertson’s first national assignment led her to interview three friends, whose names she changed, and write a piece about their experiences of growing up without a father. After the story, titled “Where’s Daddy?”, ran in the October 2002 issue of Honey magazine, she received calls from other friends who asked why she hadn’t thought to include them in the article. At that point, Robertson had the first thought to write a book on the topic.

    Over the last 15 years, and while enduring rejection from agents and publishers, Robertson spoke with many women who had stories to share. She decided to focus her book on three areas of father absence: divorce, death and distance.

    “Throughout the years, I’ve interviewed a lot of people, but writing these kinds of personal stories was quite different from writing celebrity profiles or entertainment features,” says Robertson, who has served as West Coast editor of Essence magazine since 2006. “When I spoke with friends about the project, some suggested that I try reaching out to women like fitness expert, Gabrielle Reece, and MSNBC host, Joy-Ann Reid, both of whom had grown up without their fathers. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I thought I’d have to cut through layers and layers of the red tape to reach them. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.”

    Robertson not only got through to those women, but they, and others, were very excited to share their stories.

    Her new book is called, He Never Came Home: Interviews, Stories, and Essays from Daughters on Life Without Their Fathers (Agate Bolden).

    “I can’t believe it,” Robertson says. “This project has been such a labor of love and so far, the response has been phenomenal.”

    “One young woman, Nisa Rashid, shares her story of growing up while her father was in prison. Television writer, Jenny Lee, writes about her father’s suicide, when she was 20. Simone I. Smith, a jewelry designer, talks about her relationship with her late father – a loving, though troubled, man who battled addiction. Reid, who shared her story on Facebook after her father passed away, signed on to write foreword.”

    For Emmy-winning actress, Regina King, witnessing her parents’ divorce was very painful, as was her father’s eventual estrangement. Years later, after enduring her own divorce, she realized that she and her ex-husband were not connecting as co-parents. Eventually, the pair agreed that being divided wasn’t healthy for their son. As a result, they began to take the necessary steps to work together and redefine their family.  

    Sarah Tomlinson, author of Good Girl, also contributes to the book. She gives a raw account of her lifelong quest for a relationship with her father and her own self-destructive behavior. Tomlinson titled her essay, “The Girl at the Window,” which references the place she sat and waited, for hours, on the days he promised to visit.  

    Robertson even shares her own story about never knowing her father.

    “Usually, when I sit down to write, I agonize over every detail. When I wrote the introduction to the book, I was surprised by how quickly the words came to me: My mother raised me on her own, from day one. She’s the only parent I’ve ever had. My father was never in the picture - not for one second, minute or hour. I never met him. There were times when I wondered how a man could leave his family, his kid, and not look back, but I didn’t obsess over my father’s absence. I definitely thought about it, though.”

    Robertson is happy and surprised by the way He Never Came Home has already touched people. She hopes her book will help others know they are not alone.

    “I hope I’ve written and edited the book that I wished I’d had as a teen,” Robertson shares. “This collection of essays is for all of the fatherless girls and women who’ve ever thought, as I once did, that a piece of them was missing. Life has taught me that no matter the circumstances you’re born into, you are responsible for steering your ship. If I can do it, you can, too . . . and you will. It just takes time.”

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    5 Reasons You Should Celebrate Milestones

    When our daughter graduated from high school a few years ago, I asked a number of people in her life to write her a letter to congratulate her on this accomplishment. I asked them to include words of wisdom as she moved into her next phase of life.

    I made a scrapbook with the letters and gave it to her as she headed off to college. In my mind, the purpose of the scrapbook was two-fold. In those moments when she struggled during this next phase, we wanted her to remember what she had already accomplished. We also wanted her to remember she was not walking the road alone; that she has lot of people in her court who believe in her.

    Unquestionably, every day is a gift. However, certain days mark significant moments in our lives. Whether it’s a fifth grade, high school or college graduation, celebrate each milestone. Each of these moments in life marks a time of accomplishment and of moving forward to the next thing.

    Author and speaker John Stahl-Wert says it is important to celebrate milestones for five reasons:

    • As humans we are called to grow. “Becoming more” is essential. We suffer when we don’t grow. Every milestone deserves notice. It is affirmation of an accomplishment.

    • Growth is nourished by encouragement. Celebrate even the small steps because “small is where big comes from.” We guide others toward bigness through encouragement.

    • Acknowledging milestones gives us the opportunity to reflect on where we have been, where we are now and what we can learn from this part of the journey. Our growing and achieving is for the greater purpose of our service to the world. Achievement, in and of itself, doesn’t fulfill, and without reflection, we are trapped by an insatiable avarice to fill a bottomless hole.

    • Nothing locks in learning like a party. It signifies that the accomplishment really matters.

    • Celebrating milestones reminds us to give thanks for everyday moments. When we pause to celebrate something that is noteworthy, the act of slowing down invites us to notice everything else.

    It's been several years since our daughter graduated from high school. Little did we know how impactful that scrapbook would be. It sits on her coffee table and when the going gets tough, it reminds her that people believe in her and that she has what it takes to keep on keeping on.

    In a world where it seems like it’s all about the “big wins,” it might be helpful to remember that there is no such thing as a small victory or a wasted loss. Each experience helps prepare us for what lies ahead, so celebrate!

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