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Journal Prompts For Teens

Expressing thoughts in journal form can be fun!

Another opportunity for teens to do some journaling! Bottom Line: Journaling is good for you. Here’s some scientific research related to journaling. Prepare to have your mind blown!

The simple act of journaling:

If you could get all that in a vitamin, you’d take it – no questions asked. 

Ideally, you should journal 2-3 times a week, but there are no rules. It doesn’t matter if you use paper, a computer, a journaling notebook or even a note on your phone.

There are different types of journaling and approaches. But let’s get right to those burning questions on your mind:

What do I write about? Exactly. You can write about that. 

What if I want to figure out everything I write before I write it? Interesting. Write about that.

What if I don’t have a journal? Grab a napkin and write about whether or not it matters.

Journaling is a lot like so many things in life: You get out of it what you put into it.

These journal prompts for teens may be just what you need to get started.

  1. Describe an important item from your childhood. Why was it important? Where is it now?
  1. You get to talk to a dead person. Who would you choose, and why? What do you want to talk about?
  1. Describe your happiest childhood memory in detail.
  1. Explain something that happened to you that’s so strange, nobody believes you.
  1. In an abandoned cabin, you find a shiny box with a single red “DANGER” button. Do you push it? Why or why not?
  1. What’s something you want to learn how to do? Why?
  1. Where would you like to visit right now? What would you do there?
  1. What’s your favorite memory involving food?
  1. What accomplishment makes you feel the most pride? Why?
  1. The best advice you’ve ever received is…
  1. What’s something you could teach someone to do? How did you learn it?
  1. What are you most grateful for today?
  1. Name one thing you know is true.
  1. What’s a positive character trait or quality that you’re known for? What developed this trait in you?
  1. What character trait or quality can you grow in? How could you achieve that growth?
  1. You’re now in charge of the entire world. What would you change, and why?
  1. You can be any fictional character from a book or movie. Who do you want to be? Why?
  1. You can wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or talent. What do you choose? Are you willing to work at it? Why/Why not?
  1. Who are five people you admire, and why?
  1. What’s your favorite holiday, and why?

Finish these sentences:

  1. Life is mostly just…
  1. I used to think… but now I realize…
  1. I wonder if…
  1. I totally believe…
  1. It gets on my nerves when people…
  1. I hope I never forget…
  1. One thing I want to accomplish this month is…
  1. Success in life basically depends on…
  1. Cake or pie? Explain why the correct answer is definitely ______.
  1. When I’m happy…

Time for some fun!

  1. You find an envelope at the park with your name on it and $5,000. What do you do?
  1. Aliens abduct you and ask you to describe the human race.
  1. You can have one candy for free for life. What do you pick? Why?
  1. You wake up and the world is experiencing a zombie apocalypse. Realistically, how long do you survive and why? (Assume slow zombies, not fast, rage ones.)
  1. You run into someone who in all ways is your exact twin. How do you both make the most of this situation?
  1. If you could live in any part of the world, where would you choose? Why does it appeal to you?
  1. You can enter any video game as an NPC. (Non-Playable Character.) What game would be the most fun to wander around in? Why?
  1. You are now the world’s foremost collector of ______. What do you collect and why?
  1. If you could change one traffic law, what would it be? Why?
  1. You have the most vivid, realistic dream of eating a giant marshmallow. You wake up and your pillow is gone. What’s your first thought?

Other blogs:

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents – First Things First

100 Conversation Starters To Increase Your Family’s Connectedness

7 Ways to Deepen Your Connection With Your Teen – First Things First

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Consider these things as you set some guidelines.

Short Answer: Yes, your teen needs screen time limits, but it’s not quite that simple. What screen time limits look like depends on your teen and your relationship with them. The limits you set have much less to do with the screens and much more with the teens.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult. You’re working yourself out of a job.

Long Answer: I was waiting for the “On-Air” light on the set of a local talk show. My segment was about technology and families, particularly teens, smartphones, and social media. I was excited because:

I’m passionate about how technology affects families and relationships, so I’ve been following the research for some time. 

And I’m parenting a teen, and I talk to other parents about these issues. I’m in this with you. I know it’s hard.

My mind was on my messaging as I waited for that light to come on. What do I tell parents about screens and teens? Easy.

Emphasize parenting principles.

1. There’s no substitute (app, program, setting, filter) for a strong, healthy relationship between a parent and their teen. 

2. Talking to teens about screen time and technology is an ongoing thing. It requires talking about many other unrelated things. Things THEY want to talk about when THEY are open to talk. ★ If parents don’t put in genuine relationship work, teens won’t hear their parents talk about screen time (or just about anything else).

3. Stay informed about the technology your teen uses, but, more importantly, stay informed about your teen. Notice their moods, changes in their behavior, and how they spend their time. Is your teen generally responsible and trustworthy? Developing appropriate life skills? Well-rounded and balanced? Have things like pornography, sexting, and cyberbullying already been a part of their screen use?

4. Leading by example is essential when it comes to screen time and technology.

What is your relationship with technology? Are you modeling the behaviors you’d like to see from your teen?

On-Air! 

And to my frustration, the host only wanted to talk about kids being abducted because of what they posted online. Wow.Oh.Okay.Um.Yeah. We can talk about all that, I guess. This is the kind of stuff parents are up against when talking to their teens about screens.

What makes it HARDER to talk about screens with teens?

  • The media feeds parents a steady stream of sensationalized, scary stories.
  • The research in this area, frankly, is all over the place. (To be fair, we’re talking about relatively new and constantly-evolving technology.) This can confuse and frustrate well-intentioned parents. Examples?

I could link to studies to “prove” all of the following:

  • Screens keep teens from socializing. No, they help teens socialize.
  • Screens hinder cognitive development. No, they help cognitive development.
  • Screens hurt teens’ mental health. No, hurting teens gravitate to screens. Or, screens can help heal teens’ mental health. (I think all three can be true.)
  • Screens make it harder to keep teens safe. No, they make it easier to keep teens safe.  
  • Screens interrupt teens’ sleep patterns. No, they can help repair those patterns.

Teens quickly point out any hypocrisy between their parent’s message and their parent’s example. And teens are often more tech-savvy than their parents.

These screens on smartphones, tablets, and laptops are already ingrained in your average teen’s life. In positive, practical ways:

  • Online learning. 
  • Homework and projects. 
  • Virtual college visits. 
  • Work and sports scheduling. 
  • Connecting with family & extended family. 
  • Shopping for stuff they need. 
  • Outlets for creativity & developing new skills & hobbies. 
  • Not getting lost driving. 
  • Calling for help if they need it. 
  • Simply texting that practice has been canceled is a huge help.

A screen is a tool. How is your teen using it? True, it’s a powerful tool, but screens aren’t good or bad. And they are here to stay.

So, let’s get practical.

Here are some adaptable ideas about screen time limits that may (or may not) help your teen.

⇨ I don’t usually make a point about this, but the links in this blog take you to the info you want and need. Click ’em for some deeper practical information for screens and your unique teen!

  • Screens can isolate. Screen use only in “common areas” of the house. No screens in their bedroom. Or no screens in their bedroom at night.
  • Screens can distract. (Part 1) Screens get put to “bed” in the kitchen or the parent’s bedroom to charge overnight, so teens can read, think, and even be “bored” before they fall asleep. Teens can use old-fashioned alarm clocks. ☆ Are You Up For It?

Set the example. Everybody’s phone charges overnight outside the bedroom. You might unwind and fall asleep better, too! 

  • Screens can distract. (Part 2) “Notifications” are a phone’s way of saying, “Notice me now!” But notifications can be turned off completely, muted, put in “Do Not Disturb” mode or “Driving Mode.” Help your teen learn to check their phone when they need to, not when their phone wants them to. Here’s notification help.
  • Screens can demand. Most smartphones come with Screen Use Monitoring weekly reports. These reports show time spent on social media, entertainment, productivity, etc. ☆ Are You Up For It? Offer to compare your report with your teen’s. Make a game out of it. You can both set goals for next week!

Talking To Your Teen About Screens… And Other Things.

  • It can be challenging to get your teen to talk about anything. Here’s help. And here.
  • In general, you’re working toward a conversation with your teen, not a confrontation.
    • Try to have a genuine dialogue. Listen to your teen’s ideas and input. It’s not a weakness to collaborate, negotiate, and have some give and take. Agree to boundaries that leave room for your teen to prove they’re responsible and trustworthy. Being clear about consequences for choices outside those boundaries is essential.
  • Screens can tempt even the BEST teen into making BAD decisions – it happens. Try responding instead of reacting. Pornography. Sexting. Cyberbullying. Posting things that come back to haunt them when they apply for a job or college. 
  • Try to interact with your teen and their screens. The fancy term is “joint media engagement.” Watch ’em play some video games. Ask them to show you the funny Tik Toks. Ask about posts that confused/frustrated/angered them today? This can start great conversations.
  • Ask your teen how social media makes them feel about themselves and their life. Then listen and listen. When it comes to social media, encourage your teen to create, not just consume.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult, and screens are gonna be part of their life.

One day, you won’t be there to limit their screen time, but you can prepare them now.

Today, more than anything, your teen needs you.

FYI: I shared an interview experience that disappointed me. Check out this “On-Air” experience that went well! 

Other blogs:

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

How to Help Your Teen Deal With a Breakup

Here are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind.

One of the most challenging things for a parent to handle is when their child experiences pain. Whether it’s a scraped knee from learning to ride a bike or a bump on the chin from running around, you hurt when your child hurts. Sadly, you can’t always protect them as they grow up. For example, there’s heartbreak after a relationship has ended. How do you help your teen with the pain of a breakup when all you want to do is stop them from hurting? 

It can be tricky, but these do’s and don’ts can guide you as you try to help your teen deal with a breakup.

Do:

Recognize that breaking up is a process.

Today’s breakup looks different from the old-school breakup, which may have included burning everything tied to the ex. These days, it takes time for the relationship to end.

Empathize with what your teen is feeling.

Say something like, I would imagine this is hard. Or ask, What can I do to help? This lets your teen know that you care and are there for them when they need it.

Try to be a good listener.

Now’s the time to practice your listening skills. Be open to what your teen says. Take advantage of the little moments. When you ask with care and gentleness, they become more receptive and less defensive.

Expect emotions. 

It may sound cliché, but breaking up is hard to do. Your teen may experience various emotions, ranging from anger, disappointment, embarrassment, loneliness, or sadness. Support them as they feel what they feel.

Understand that breakups cause ripple effects in different areas of their lives.

So much of your teen’s life is interconnected, so being aware of how the breakup affects the different parts is huge. School is a prime example. Are they in the same clubs or classes with their ex? Will friends choose sides? And let’s not forget what happens on IG or Snapchat. 

Help your teen process what they learned about themselves from the relationship and the breakup.

The process of dating teaches teens things like:

  • what they like
  • what they don’t like,
  • who is a good match for them and who isn’t 

Your teen also learns what was good about the relationship, what they discovered about themselves from the relationship, and what they would do differently going forward.

Share with your teen that breakups are a natural part of dating relationships.

As your teen continues to date, there will probably be more breakups when at least one party isn’t enjoying the relationship anymore. And since most people don’t marry the person they date as teenagers, lead your child to learn more about themselves and how they will date differently.

Encourage them to get back to their “normal” routine.

After the initial shock of the breakup, encourage your teen to get back into the swing of things. If you loosen the rules about chores or allow them to take time off from their part-time job, they may need some motivation to get back on track. 

Watch for signs that they aren’t bouncing back. Seek professional help when necessary.

Experiencing grief and sadness after a breakup is normal, but be aware if you notice prolonged changes to their regular eating or sleeping patterns. Do they complain of stomach aches or headaches? Avoiding school? Yes, teens have wonky sleeping and eating habits, so it can be hard to tell. This is recognizing changes in your child’s patterns.

Don’t:

Try to fix it.

Accept that you can’t fix this. Support your teen as they go through it. Calling their ex’s parents only complicates things. 

Make it about you.

When talking with your teen, keep the focus on them. Yes, you have personal experiences, but share the lessons you learned without overidentifying. Encourage them to become the best version of themselves, not a carbon copy of you.

Allow them to vent exclusively via technology. (Facebook, IG, Snapchat, etc.)

The internet isn’t the place to air feelings or grievances about the ex, relationship, and breakup. Once it’s out there, everyone can see it – forever.

Minimize the relationship. 

Most teen relationships develop out of parents’ view, either in school or via technological means (e.g., text, FaceTime, messaging, etc.). The relationship may not seem genuine or a big deal to you. However, it’s front and center in your teen’s life.

Don’t bad mouth the ex – even if it’s true.

Saying negative things to cheer up your teen isn’t helpful. (Things like, They weren’t good enough for you, or I didn’t like them anyway.) Teens often get back together. Try to show support without tearing others down.

No matter how much you want to keep your children from experiencing pain, it’s inevitable. Guiding them toward more self-awareness and resilience through the breakup process can help them grow and remember the purpose of healthy dating. Then, you can frame the breakup as a success, not a failure. Dating is about finding a good match. At this time, it wasn’t a good one for them. Dating worked. They figured it out.

Other blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

8 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Dating Relationships – First Things First

Dating Violence in the Digital Age – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

How To Find a Counselor for Your Teen

Here's what you need to know to make a great choice for your teen.

If your teen is struggling, you want to fix whatever’s wrong and try to help. And maybe they need help, but chances are, they’re going to talk to someone else before they talk to you. Right? Well, if they need to talk and they won’t talk to you, you’ll want to do everything in your power to find someone who will lead them in the right direction and encourage them to make good choices. That’s why finding a counselor for your teen just may be the answer you’re looking for. 

A counselor can be a great resource to help your teen manage any number of issues they may be dealing with. But the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

Think about this: finding a counselor is a lot like interviewing folks to fill a job position. When hiring someone, you want to find the right fit. 

It’s the same with choosing a counselor for your teen. You wouldn’t want to hire the first person to walk into a job interview. It’s the same with choosing a counselor; it’s wise to “shop around” and find the best fit for your teen. 

But how do you go about doing that?

Here are some helpful tips for finding a counselor for your teen: 

Do a search.

Finding a counselor in your area can be as easy as an internet search. But be sure to look at reviews. Check over their website, and ask around about counselors you may be interested in. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good recommendation. Ask people you know who have used counselors. Therapists often specialize in adults and adolescents, so don’t discount the ones adult friends have seen. 

Pay attention to the credentials. 

You wouldn’t want to hire a person without the right qualifications, and it’s the same with choosing a counselor. Except this is your teen who needs help. Here’s a simple breakdown of what counselor credentials look like:

  • Counselors are either licensed or unlicensed by the state where they practice. Licensed counselors have initials after their names, like LPC, LPCC, LCPC, or LMHC. They hold a master’s degree or higher, have completed a certain number of supervised training hours, and have passed a licensure exam. Ideally, you should seek out a licensed counselor.
  • Some unlicensed counselors are working toward either their advanced counseling degree or licensure. They usually offer cheaper rates and must disclose the status of their services. Because they work under the direct supervision of experienced therapists, these counselors can also be very helpful. 
  • Some counselors are psychiatrists (PsyD or MD). This means they hold a medical doctorate, can diagnose mental illnesses, and can prescribe medication.
  • Some people advertise themselves as counselors but are not licensed. These professionals may or may not hold advanced degrees in areas of counseling or psychology. When seeking the services of unlicensed counselors, it’s wise to use caution. 

Ask a potential counselor questions before the first session. 

Consider questions such as: 

  • Do you specialize in child and adolescent therapy? 
  • How long have you been in practice? Are you licensed by the state? Is your license current? 
  • What issues do you specialize in? (Counselors will typically specialize in depression, LGBQT+ issues, addiction, or other issues that may pertain to your teen’s situation. These are usually spelled out on their website if they have one. Be sure to ask if you don’t see an issue that pertains to your teen.) 
  • What kind of approach do you use with your teen clients? (Most counselors have theoretic approaches they use, but don’t let the psycho-babble throw you off. Get a sense of how the counselor relates to their clients in a way that’s understandable to you.)

Consider the financial aspect.

Check to see whether a counselor accepts insurance and, if so, whether they are in-network. Some counselors base client fees on household incomes (called a sliding scale). Fee payment schedules can also vary from counselor to counselor. Some require payment at the time of each session, while others allow a certain number of sessions to go by. Be sure to ask about how the counselor handles their client fees. I understand that many parents don’t plan for the expense of counseling, but it’s well worth the investment. Mental health is that important.

Ask what to expect with confidentiality. 

If a counselor chooses to conduct sessions privately with your teen, ask how they handle confidentiality. Don’t assume the counselor will share everything your teen says in the counseling room. Counselors work under the state laws and codes of ethics that direct them as to how to handle client confidentiality. Ask the counselor about this before the first session so you will know what to expect. 

As a parent, your teen’s mental health is a top priority. And you want their counselor to be effective. Good counselors are out there; it takes a little digging to figure out who can best be helpful. If you feel there’s no connection between the counselor and your teen after a few sessions, keep looking for a counselor who will be a better fit. Your teen will be more open and make better progress if they feel comfortable with their counselor.  It’s worth it! 

Other resources:

How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

How to Prevent Depression in Teens

Five Strategies to Help Your Teen Deal with Post-Pandemic Anxiety

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Teens experienced a lot of stress during the first round of the COVID-19 pandemic. They switched to virtual learning. They were isolated from friends. Sports got canceled. Celebrations were delayed or just didn’t happen. All these things had a significant impact.1 We thought it would all be over by now. And it looks like it is all on the verge of happening again. And it looks like it is all on the verge of happening again.

After COVID seemed to come to an end, many teens started experiencing symptoms of what scientists and doctors are calling “post-pandemic anxiety syndrome.” Yep, it’s a thing.

This syndrome is marked by an overwhelming sense of worry during this post-pandemic/repeat period. For some, the anxiety may stem from a lingering uncertainty about safety. Is the virus still a threat? Are we sure I can take this mask off? Am I still in danger? Should I put the mask back on?

For others, the cause of anxiety seems to be a product of flip-flop thinking. We know that our brains can train themselves to think in a certain way.2 Your teen has had over a year to adjust to new and sudden precautions, rules of social distancing, and risk management during extreme uncertainty. 

As if that’s not stressful enough, now we’re experiencing an almost equally instantaneous shift back to pre-pandemic life while there’s so much uncertainty about the variants. Take off the masks, go back to the ball fields, get ready for school. Some teens are celebrating. But for many, the anxiety increases.3

If your teen is showing some signs of post-pandemic anxiety, you can help them. Try these strategies to help them deal with what they may be experiencing. 

1. Keep the dialogue open.

Be open to your teen voicing their worries, fears, and stress to you. Let them know you’re a safe place for them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Avoid pushing the issue if they don’t want to share, but keep that open door in their sights. If they know you are in their corner, it makes a difference. 

2. Normalize their feelings.

Your teen may feel weird or abnormal because of their anxiety. They might think that no one could possibly understand what they’re feeling. Reassure them that our whole world has been through a lot, and those anxious feelings are normal. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re not “less than” because of their worry. Remind them that it’s how we go about coping with anxiety that is important. 

3. Coach them to get plenty of sleep.

In general, teens typically get less sleep than they need for proper health and development. But a healthy amount of rest is vital for coping with anxiety. Evidence is strong that sleep deprivation negatively affects mental health.4 The CDC recommends 13 to 18-year-olds should get 8-10 hours of sleep a night for optimal health.5 Encourage your teen to hit the hay at a decent hour so they can take care of themselves.

4. Avoid making your own diagnosis.

You’re worried about your kid, and that’s completely understandable. You can see signs and symptoms of anxiety or stress. But professionals are trained to translate these signs into what precisely the problem is — not us. You want to be careful not to jump to “anxiety disorders,” “depression,” or other conditions in a knee-jerk reaction, especially to your teen. They can easily feel labeled. They may also interpret the label as an identity that can’t be fixed (e.g., I have an anxiety disorder; it’s who I am). This is obviously detrimental to how they feel about themselves, and it can magnify the troublesome feelings they are having. 

5. Consider getting help from a professional counselor.

If the signs you see are persistent or worsen, it might indicate that you need to seek a therapist for your teen. Keep in mind that it might not be a popular choice in your teen’s eyes. But often, intense feelings of anxiety and worry are so much that we need more advanced tools to cope with them. That’s where a counselor is beneficial.

One last thought from one parent of a teen to another:

There is always hope in conquering mental health challenges. Anxiety is manageable. And your teen stands the greatest chance of overcoming post-pandemic anxiety when they know you’re cheering them on. 

Sources:

1Freed GL, Singer DC, Gebremariam A, Schultz SL, Clark SJ. How the pandemic has impacted teen mental health. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, University of Michigan. Vol 38, Issue 2, March 2021. Available at: https://mottpoll.org/reports/how-pandemic-has-impacted-teen-mental-health.

2Berg, S. (2021, June 11). What doctors wish patients knew about post-COVID anxiety. American Medical Association. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-post-covid-anxiety 

3Hunter, R. G., & McEwen, B. S. (2013). Stress and anxiety across the lifespan: structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation. Epigenomics, 5(2), 177–194. https://doi.org/10.2217/epi.13.8

4Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L., Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E., & Harvey, A. G. (2010). Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents and Adults: Changes in Affect. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 10(6), 831–841. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020138 

5Sleep in middle and high school students. (2020, September 10). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/features/students-sleep.htm 

How to Talk to Your Teen About Drinking

Conversations around alcohol can impact life or death situations.

Drinking is one of “those topics” that parents need to talk about with their teens. Here’s some help navigating this potentially difficult conversation.

What’s potentially difficult? There are state laws and your house rules. Other parents (and therefore your teen’s friends) may have different rules about alcohol. Drinking is an activity where there is often intense peer pressure on teens. Also, teen drinking is usually paired with other behaviors like drug use, sex, and violence. (Your conversation might go in some unexpected directions.)

  1. State laws are a great place to start. They’re black and white. Make sure you know your state’s laws regarding alcohol, especially the laws regarding purchase, possession, and internal possession. (“Internal possession” means your teen may not have been found with alcohol on his or her person, but they had alcohol in them based on a breathalyzer or field sobriety test.) Laws can vary by state, especially when it comes to parents allowing a minor child to drink at their home or private property.
  • Make sure your teen knows the legal consequences of their actions, especially driving under the influence.
  • The Federal Trade Commission says the following: No state has an exception that permits anyone other than a family member to provide alcohol to a minor on private property. Translation: Party at a friend’s house whose parents provide or allow alcohol is always illegal.
  1. This is a good place to transition from your state’s laws to your house rules. Explain that there are many different opinions about alcohol. Your teen’s friends may have parents with different beliefs about drinking. That’s okay. What matters is the position you take as their parent and the actions you model regarding alcohol.

Parental postures vary regarding drinking for a variety of legitimate reasons

Some parents:

  • Have strong religious convictions against it. 
  • Were raised by an alcoholic parent. 
  • Struggled with alcohol when they were younger.
  • Have a friend or family member who is destroying their life with alcohol.
  • May be responsible, moderate drinkers. 

You aren’t judging the family down the street. This is a time for you to talk to your teen about some important life principles. Personal responsibility. Self-control. Moderation and balance. Choosing, not just between right and wrong, but between better and best. 

  1. To complete your due diligence as a parent, you have to address some typical teen behaviors regarding alcohol. Your goal isn’t to scare your teen but to definitely keep it real, give them facts, and leave an opening for further questions and future conversations.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) periodically release a Youth Risk and Behavior Survey (YRBS). Their latest is for 2019, and every parent should become familiar with it.

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:

  • 29% drank alcohol.
  • 14% binge drank.
  • 5% of drivers drove after drinking alcohol.
  • 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
  • In 2019, female high school students were more likely to drink alcohol and binge drink than male students.

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:

  • School problems, such as higher rates of absences or lower grades.
  • Social problems. 
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Physical and sexual violence.
  • Increased risk of suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries.
  • Misuse of other substances.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  1. If it isn’t already, plan on this being an ongoing conversation. Ask your teen questions (but don’t interrogate them) about alcohol use among their peers, and try not to freak out about the answers. Ask them about their opinions and experiences with alcohol. Listen, don’t lecture. 

When you think of conversations with your teen, please view communication as a two-way street. Give them conversationally what you would like from them. What do you hope for when you talk with your teen about drinking… or drugs, or sex? You’re hoping for honesty, transparency, authenticity, and quality listening. Give that to your teen so they can return it.

Appropriately share things like:

  • When I was your age, alcohol was a big/small part of my home…
  • Kids at my school used to…
  • My friends and I…

This might sound risky and counter-intuitive, but teens operate a little differently. They often meet you at your level of “realness.” They clam up when they feel you’re “fishing” to pull info from them. When they say, “Things are so different now from when you were my age,” agree with them. Your teen is right. (Two words: Social Media.) But you still have much wisdom and life experience to offer. Your “missteps” don’t give your teen “license,” but they do give you credibility. Your teen will probably offer information if you sincerely offer it yourself.

    ★ Cultivate a relationship with your teen where they know they are loved and can talk to you about anything, anytime. This means investing time outside of “big talks” like this one.

BONUS THOUGHT:

I’ve actually had these conversations with my kids. Realistically, I knew my teens wouldn’t always make the right decisions. I told each of them that if they were in a situation where they would be driving impaired or had to ride with someone who was impaired, they could call me at ANY TIME. I would get them wherever they were. No questions asked. The number one priority was their safety. 

Some parents feel this gives implied permission to break the rules. I believe it’s an understanding that failure exists on a continuum. Your teen can’t learn life lessons if they lose their life. This is a serious topic and a tough one. You get to guide them. Good luck!

Sources:

Underage Drinking | APIS – Alcohol Policy Information System

Possession/Consumption/Internal Possession of Alcohol: About This Policy | APIS – Alcohol Policy Information System

Alcohol Laws by State | FTC Consumer Information

Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2009-2019

CDC Underage Drinking

You and your daughter used to be “besties.” She was your princess; you were her knight in shining armor. Y’all were like peas and carrots, PB and jelly, Gronk and Brady…

Then KABLAM! She turned into a teenager. Which resulted in radio silence…

Been there, currently doing that, wearing the proverbial t-shirt at this very moment. 

And if that t-shirt were for real, it’d have a sad face on it. Because as a girl-dad, it’s a horrible feeling to think you and your daughter don’t talk as much as you used to. 

I’m sure the questions have run through your mind: How did this happen? Is this normal? Did I do something wrong? Am I just uncool? 

These are all valid questions, except for that last one. 

From one girl-dad to another, I’m breaking it to you: Yes, you are uncool. That time you picked your daughter up from school blasting Vanilla Ice? Uncool. When you walked by her Zoom call wearing a cowboy hat and bathrobe? So uncool. (Although you have mad respect from me.)

But I digress… Without further ado, here are five possible reasons teen girls stop talking to their dads: 

1. It’s normal.

Seriously. As a teen, your daughter is in a stage of developing her independence. Her brain is prepping her for the day when she’s on her own. (Grab the tissues, Pops.) All teens go through it to some degree. And what results is a necessary pulling away from her parents. (Learn more about this here.)

2. She doesn’t feel understood. 

Sometimes I forget that just because I’m her dad doesn’t mean my daughter feels like I’m approachable. Teen girls need to feel safe with their dad in order to open up and talk. If I’m in the habit of giving her advice when she doesn’t want it, or I tend to be more critical than supportive, she’s going to feel misunderstood. 

3. She doesn’t know how to get closer to you. 

Wait,” you say, “but we used to be close!” Yes, but that was before teenhood struck. Here’s what research tells us: most teenagers say they want to be closer to their parents, but they aren’t sure how. For your daughter, relating to dad as a child was different than it is as a teen. You might be the same, but she’s changing (as she should be). For her, this is all unexplored territory—not just being a teenager, but being a teenage daughter.

4. You don’t know how to get closer to her. 

When your little girl starts turning into a young lady, it’s sometimes hard for a dad to know how to connect. It’s easy to think, “I’m not sure I know how to relate to her anymore. She’s so different than when she was little.” Maybe this is a time she needs her mom (or another mom-figure—and not me). As a result, many dads react by pulling away. 

5. There’s more to it than development.

As dads, we don’t want to think about this, but we should be aware. Withdrawing from friends or activities, falling grades, or constant irritability may indicate a deeper issue. In this case, monitor what you see. Let your daughter know you’re concerned for her, and seek professional help if needed. (Read How Do I Know if My Teen is Depressed?)

Fellow dads, let me encourage you! Your teen girl still needs you in her life. She wants to talk to you, even though she might not come out and say it. And if she’s stopped talking to you, it’s not hopeless. Stay in the pocket, keep engaging, let your daughter know you support her. Let her know she’s still the Gronk to your Brady, no matter how much Vanilla Ice you play in your car. 

It’s hard to watch our teens feel insecure or see them lacking self-confidence. We want to encourage them to be more confident in themselves. So, we often have specific knee-jerk reactions to their insecurity. It’s easy to understand why. 

As parents, we…

  • Want them to see themselves in all the wonderful ways we see them. 
  • Know a lack of confidence can keep them from trying new things and finding their passions. 
  • Understand how confidence is a valuable character quality and will help them be successful in life. 

Fortunately, we don’t have to just watch them oozing insecurity and low self-confidence

Here are four things you can do to help encourage an insecure teen. But first, a couple of things NOT to do.

We sometimes try these two “shortcuts to security,” but they often make matters worse.

  • We Over-Praise Our Teens. Teens can sniff this out right away—especially if they just finished some low-risk, easy task or they know they didn’t do their best.
  • We Emphasize Results Over Effort and Perseverance. Just tell them to do their best and have fun. Accept the results the way you want your teen to accept them and grow from them. (Critique behavior, NOT your teen as a person.)

Instead of parenting your insecure teen in those ways, try doing these four things: 

  1. Be honest and vocal about your own insecurities. We all have insecurities and areas where we lack confidence. If you’re honest and talk to your teen about these things, you normalize those feelings for your teen. This is important because of what you’re going to do next…
  1. Model how to face your insecurities and work through your lack of confidence. Let your teen hear your positive, grounded self-talk. Allow them to see how you prepare for challenges. Tell them your goals. Be mindful of how you respond to your own successes and failures.
  1. Be a parent your teen wants to talk to and develop a healthy relationship with. This involves being available and regularly spending time with your teen. It means being a good listener and not overreacting or bombarding your teen with a million questions. Listen “between the lines” for the source(s) of their insecurity. Be gentle.
  1. Talk to your teen about social media. Model healthy media use. Yes, social media. It impacts how your teen forms and values their identity. Talk to your teen about the “unreality” of social media and the dangers of the comparison game. Your teen is looking at someone’s staged, filtered, touched-up highlight reel and comparing it to their own “behind-the-scenes” footage.

Most of us feel insecure sometimes, but some teens feel insecure most or all of the time. 

—These feelings can be because of their childhood, traumatic experiences, past failures, or rejection. You’ll want to explore all these things with your teen, but you have to be the kind of parent they’ll open up to.

—Your teen may be dealing with depression, loneliness, or social anxiety they need to see a professional about. Put counseling on the table as a positive, normal step.

—Sometimes, our perfectionism or criticism has contributed to our teen’s insecurity and lack of confidence. If you feel that may be the case, be honest with your teen, own what you need to own, and apologize. 

Insecurity and low self-confidence are not “light switch” problems. You can’t just flip a switch to make your teen secure and confident. Insecurity and low self-confidence are “thermostat” problems. You can’t “dial it up” for your insecure teen, but you can encourage them. Create a healthy environment, be a role model, and open the lines of communication. Then, your teen can grow in confidence and security!

Related Blogs:

5 Ways to Help Your Child Be More Confident

How to Be a Parent Your Child Wants to Talk To

5 Ways to Help Your Teen Through the Unknown

How to Prevent Depression in Teens

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety