Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: parenting

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    Parenting and Your Child's Independence

    I remember the day well. I went to pick up our daughter from school. She got in the car with a smirk on her face and blurted out, “Why did you let me fail my tree project?” I asked her exactly how I let her fail her project. “You didn’t help me,” she replied. However, I distinctly remember asking her if she needed any help when she brought the assignment home, and she said no. She then told me I needed to go talk with her teacher about it and fix it.

    I reminded her that I did not have a problem with the teacher, but I mentioned that if she would like to talk with the teacher, I would be happy to stand in the hallway. I don’t think she was super happy about my response, but we headed up to the teacher’s room and she did all the talking.

    Fast forward to today. My daughter still talks about this experience, not because she is still angry at me, but because she learned some important things that day: how to talk with an authority figure about a difficult situation, what it means to problem-solve, and that while her parents are supportive, they will not snowplow the road of life for her. Don’t think for one minute that there wasn’t a lot of drama around that moment or that we got it right all the time as parents, because we didn’t. 

    One thing is for sure though: teaching young people how to stand confidently on their own two feet is a powerful gift. When parents take the lead in situations such as this, they can rob their children of a potential transformational experience.

    Karen Fancher, a college professor, lamented in a blog post about the number of students who show up on campus unprepared to navigate life on their own. 

    “We are now observing a different parenting style: ‘Lawnmower Parents,’” says Fancher. “These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort… this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child.”

    According to Fancher, this parenting style can lead to children being poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences, along with a lack of personal motivation or drive since they only know how to follow the path the “Lawnmower Parent” has already prepared. Perhaps the most potentially-devastating outcome occurs because the “Lawnmower Parent” repeatedly demonstrates their lack of trust in their child’s ability to accomplish things on their own. As a result, children may feel they aren’t good enough to do things for themselves. If that sounds really scary to you in terms of preparing your child for the real world, there are ways you can intentionally avoid being a “Lawnmower Parent.”

    For example, let your children speak for themselves. When you go out to eat, let them order. Teach them to ask for directions. When they ask to do something after school with a friend, let them orchestrate the details instead of doing it for them.

    As your child enters middle and high school, there are opportunities for them to do even more for themselves. When it comes to dealing with things at school, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands. Process with them, but let them handle it as much as possible. When drama occurs in friendships, ask them how they think they should handle the situation instead of jumping in with the answers.

    In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey makes two powerful statements worth remembering when it comes to raising children. First, begin with the end in mind, as in, don’t lose sight of your goal to raise confident adults who know how to function independently of their parents. Secondly, seek to understand before being understood. Be curious. Ask your child to tell you more. Many teens complain that their parents never listen, but seeking to understand requires us to listen. 

    As parents, we may or may not have the answers our kids need, and it’s not always easy to step back and let them do things on their own. It may even be messy. Although we may fear that they will fail or get hurt in the process, remember that many people learn best from their mistakes and gain confidence through independence. And sometimes, they just need to figure things out for themselves.

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    3 Ways to Help Your Kids Launch

    I remember it like it was yesterday. She bopped up to the front door of her new school in pigtails, all ready for her first day of kindergarten. After giving her a big hug, I walked back to the car with leaky eyes, feeling all the feels. I was excited for our daughter’s new adventure, but I knew the page had turned and things would be different from that point forward. Beyond knowing numbers, letters and how to spell an 11-letter last name, I hoped we had given her a fierce sense of adventure and thirst for learning that would serve her well through the years. 

    Fast forward to 2010. There I was again, except this time the drop-off was different. She was actually moving into a dorm and we were driving home. Wasn’t this the goal, to work ourselves out of a job? I mean, this is what we’d been preparing her for throughout her life, right? As we drove away, my eyes started leaking again. I thought about all we tried to instill in her from the time she entered kindergarten to high school graduation, in between eye rolls, heavy sighs and being “the only parents who….(you fill in the blank)” and I wondered what actually did sink in. Once again, I found myself praying we’d prepared her for the road ahead.

    Whether your child is heading off to kindergarten or launching from the nest, letting go can be hard. Sometimes it can feel like a real identity crisis, especially since the focus has been on the children for so many years. Now it’s time to pull back a bit and let them gain their footing.

    If this is a first for you, here are some things to help you navigate a new normal.

    • Remind yourself that one of the ultimate goals of parenting is launch. If you need a little motivation, just think about the alternative: a 30-year-old sitting on your couch, playing video games day and night. 

    • Get busy. In the midst of perhaps a tinge of identity crisis, think about all of the things you wanted to do over the years, but never had the time or energy because you were focused on your children’s needs. The silence at home can initially be deafening, but finding something to do with the additional time on your hands can soften the blow of coming home to an empty house. It can also help you avoid second-guessing your parenting and whether or not you have given your child what it takes to be successful.

    • Connect with parents who are a bit beyond you in the parenting journey. Don’t look for perfect parents, though. Instead, look for the ones who haven’t been afraid to let their kids fly, fail and fly again. It’s encouraging to know parenting isn’t about perfection, but about being present and allowing your children to learn and grow into the person they are called to be.

    Just last week my daughter reminded me that she’s 25 and she’s good. I laughed on the outside, but on the inside, maybe not so much. Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is living her life and being responsible, but I think even when your kids are grown, you still look out for them and want the best for them. During a conversation with a dad a few weeks ago about adult children, he said, “Once a parent, always a parent.” That statement is definitely true, but how you engage is very different. Hopefully, your adult child doesn’t need you as much, but they’ll want to be around you because they enjoy your company.

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    Steps for Keeping the Peace in Broken Homes

    “How do I get my ex to be consistent with discipline?”

    “Sometimes I find it very hard not to talk bad about my ex in front of the children.”

    “There is nothing that will make my blood pressure go up faster than when my ex says they will do something and they don’t.”

    “I honestly believe my ex does things intentionally to get back at me.”

    In the aftermath of a divorce, people often realize that instead of being better off as they hoped, they have traded one set of problems for another. There are a lot of frustrated moms and dads who don’t understand why they can’t agree on anything after the divorce when it comes to parenting.

    Life is Different

    Even though you have lived with this person for a number of years, you are now learning how to live separate lives while still parenting your children well. There may be things your ex is doing that you totally don’t agree with, but you have to figure out how to work within the boundaries of your new relationship - while always considering what will be in the best interest of your children.

    For starters, it is important for you to plan how you will manage as a single parent.

    • Get organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, friends who can provide support and backup, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.
    • Focus on family. Set expectations, keep the lines of communication open, establish boundaries and set aside time to be together as a family.
    • Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is more about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.
    • Ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, church friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate when you need them.
    • Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.

    This transition time can be very challenging. Having a plan in place will help you bring some order into your life and help you keep your cool when things don’t go as planned with your ex.

    Keep the Children out of the Middle

    An old African proverb says, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

    “Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession - their children,” says stepfamily expert Ron Deal. “Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass because they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.”

    Parents who want to reduce the negative effects of divorce on their children should strive to be effective co-parents because it reduces between-home conflict and increases cooperation. Taming your tongue, for example, is critical to cooperating. Conflict containment starts with controlling your speech. You cannot be an effective co-parent without doing so.

    “Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” Deal says. “While you may be relieved to be out of the marriage, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with you, the parents. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”

    According to Deal, children successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if:

    • The parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict.
    • Children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist.
    • There is a commitment from parents to cooperate on issues of the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.

    Many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurturing and disciplining of their children. That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.

    Co-parenting does not mean sharing all decisions about the children or that either home is accountable to the other for their choices, rules or standards. Each household should be autonomous, but share responsibility for the children. It also does not mean that rules or punishment from one home cross over to the other home.

    For example, if your child gets in trouble on Thursday and he loses his television privileges, in an ideal world it would be great if your ex were willing to enforce the consequence over the weekend. That may not happen in reality, so the actual consequence would go into effect when your child returns home to you Sunday evening. Telling your ex that he/she has to enforce your consequence usually leads to more conflict between the two of you and more angst for your child.

    Deal believes effective co-parenting should look something like this:

    • Work hard to respect the other parent and his or her household.
    • Schedule a monthly “business” meeting to discuss co-parenting matters. Make a list of things that need to be discussed. A word of caution: Do not discuss your personal life or that of your ex. If the conversation drifts away from the children, redirect it toward your children and their activities, schedules, etc.
    • Never ask your children to be spies or tattle-tales on the other home. The goal is to decrease distress, not create more. If you hear information about what happened while they were with their other parent, listen and stay neutral.
    • When children have confusing or angry feelings toward your ex, don’t capitalize on their hurt and berate the other parent.
    • Children should have everything they need in each home. Don’t make them bring basics back and forth.
    • Try to release your hostility toward the other parent so that the children can’t take advantage of your hard feelings. Bitterness, hurt and anger keep you from being the person and the parent your children need.
    • Do not disappoint your children with broken promises or by being unreliable.

    In the midst of a complicated and difficult situation, you have the opportunity to show integrity, honor and respect. Even when you don’t like someone anymore or you don't think they deserve it, you can still find a way to be respectful.

    • Make your custody structure work for your children even if you don’t like the details of the arrangement.
    • If you plan to hire a babysitter for more than four hours while the children are in your home, give the other parent first rights to that time.
    • Suggest that younger children take a favorite toy or game as a transitional object.
    • If you and your ex cannot resolve a problem, change in custody or visitation, agree to problem-solve through mediation rather than litigation.

    Moving On

    “The reality is many parents who were poor marriage partners are good parents and their children enjoy them very much,” Deal shares. “Give your ex-spouse the opportunity to be wonderful with the children, even if he/she wasn’t wonderful with you.”

    You are traveling in uncharted waters. While you probably have friends who have experienced this and are willing to give you advice, it may not be right for your family.

    A father once said that it had been six months since his divorce and it was time for his “kid” to get over it. Children of divorce don’t ever “get over it.” They may learn how to cope with it, but every day for the rest of their lives they will have to make decisions that are a result of their parents' divorce.

    As time goes by, you may feel like you are moving on, adjusting and putting this chapter in your life behind you. However, this is not something your children will ever “put behind them.” At every turn your child will gain new insights and more questions. They must understand the divorce was not their fault. Equally as important is being intentional about modeling healthy relationship skills with your children.

    Additional Resources:

    The Smart Stepfamily: Seven steps to a Healthy Family – Ron Deal

    Parenting After Divorce: How to Work Together with Your Ex-Spouse for Happier, Healthier Children – Ron Deal

    The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce – Judith Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakesless

    What About the Kids?: Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce – Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

    Smart Stepfamilies

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    7 Ways to Support Teens During a Divorce

    I was 18 when my father announced he was divorcing my mother. My sister and brother were 13 and 20 respectively.

    While some might think that the three of us were old enough to grasp what was going on, our lives were honestly in an absolute tailspin. Sure, we had heard our parents fight, but it never seemed like it was anything major.

    Never in a million years would I have suspected they were headed down the road to divorce. If you had asked anyone in our community about the likelihood of my parents splitting, they probably would have laughed in your face. The whole thing was a very big shocker.

    “What some people don’t take into consideration is the younger you are when your parents divorce, the more childhood you have left to travel between two parents whose lives become more different with each passing year,” says Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce and director of the Center for Marriage and Family at the Institute for American Values.

    “The older you are when your parents divorce, the more you have to lose. You have a long experience with your ‘whole’ family. You have (for yourself, the teen) a lifetime of memories, experiences, photographs and stories of YOUR FAMILY. All of that comes apart.”

    A World Turned Upside Down

    Going through the divorce process was an awkward time, not just for my family, but for friends, youth leaders, teachers, and neighbors. People knew what was happening, but seemed to keep their distance as if they weren’t quite sure what to say.

    Just recently I was talking with a childhood friend about my parents’ divorce. She said the divorce shocked her so much that she didn’t know what to say - so she never said anything at all.

    As a teenager, I had all these thoughts and feelings rumbling around inside my head and no idea where to turn to sort things out. Furious with my parents and the situation in which I found myself, I wondered how I had missed the severity of the situation and if there was any way I could have helped to prevent the divorce.

    I had questions:  

    • “Would we have to move?”
    • “How would I afford college?”
    • “Would we see our father and did I even want to see him?”
    • “What will my friends think of me?”
    • “Why me?”

    I would lie awake at night praying that this was just a bad dream and that I would eventually wake up and everything would be just fine.

    “Divorce is tremendously painful at any age (even if you are grown and have left home when your parents divorce), but especially so in the vulnerable teen years when you are just looking at the world and imagining taking it on, on your own,” Marquardt says. “You are standing on the rock of your family, about to jump off, but needing to know that the rock is there so you can jump back at any time. But before your eyes the rock fractures in two.

    “Teens can be more likely than younger children to get drawn into their parents’ needs and to worry about their parents’ vulnerabilities. And this is occurring at precisely the time when, developmentally, they are supposed to be identifying more with peers than parents. It’s not developmentally appropriate for a teen to spend the weekend ‘visiting’ his father or ‘visiting’ his mother. His parents are supposed to just BE THERE, steady, in the background, while the teen is focusing on other things.”

    Teens Need a Strong Support System

    In many instances, teens don’t feel like they can talk with their parents about the divorce. I suspect there were many people who wanted to be supportive of me as I went through this tough time, but just didn’t know what to say or how to approach me. Honestly, I think just letting me know they were aware and available if I needed to talk would have been helpful.

    “Parents can do their teen a great favor by personally speaking with people who are close to their teen such as grandparents, a beloved aunt or uncle, coach, youth leader or close adult friend letting them know they want their teen to feel free to speak openly about how they’re feeling, even if it means sometimes saying something bad or unflattering about their parents,” Marquardt says.

    “Clearly, this is not about family members and the teen joining together in badmouthing the parents, but they do want to give 'permission' to the teen and family member to speak openly as the TEEN wishes. Parents need to understand that if this person is not someone the teen already has a close relationship with, the teen is likely just to see them as another adult and unlikely to form a trusting bond during that time, unless the person is especially skilled and empathetic.”

    Family members, friends or others who have their own feelings they need to process about the divorce should turn to someone besides the teen, cautions Marquardt.

    Local clinical psychologist, Susan Hickman encourages caring adults who find themselves in a position to reach out to teens who are experiencing divorce to consider the following:

    • Be immovable. Provide unlimited, unyielding support at a time when everything seems chaotic.
    • Be patient with their behavior. Remember that teens often express their pain through their behavior versus words. Respond to this with positive regard and consistent support for the child providing gentle limits and correction if needed.
    • Listen, listen, listen. Do more listening than talking. Teens experiencing divorce are in pain and confusion. Someone needs to hear them.
    • Validate their feelings even if you do not agree. Emotions aren’t reasonable. They are expressions of exuberance or distress. Acknowledge their emotions and tell them you understand why they might feel that way.
    • Save judgment or criticism for later. This is a time of repair – being there for them in the midst of distress speaks volumes. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth caring about.
    • Find a teen support group. Support groups for teens experiencing divorce allows them to connect with people their own age in similar circumstances.
    • Time is the key. Giving teens the time they need can sometimes be challenging. Just like there are times when we think people ought to be in a certain place in their grieving process after a death, people often assume that after a certain amount of time kids should just be over the divorce. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.

    “Teens going through this very hard time should get the help they need. They should also be encouraged that there are so many great ways to learn about having a good and happy marriage,” Marquardt says. “The pain they are going through is something they can use to inspire them to be a great husband/wife and father/mother some day. There are many children of divorce in happy, lasting marriages and that can be them, too.”

    They say time heals all wounds, and I suppose to some degree that is true.

    I remember talking to one of my college professors before heading home for Christmas break my freshman year. I did not want to go home. After listening to me for a while, he said, “I know you don’t want to do home. I understand that what you are experiencing is miserable, but you have told me that you plan to be a counselor. And while this is not something I would wish on anybody, what you are experiencing now will be helpful to you later on when you are working with people who are dealing with divorce.”

    He was right. I am painfully aware that my parents’ divorce left scars on my life. If there is a positive side to the divorce, it would have to be the tenacious passion I have for having a healthy marriage and for helping teens that are experiencing divorce. They need to know somebody out there cares and is willing to walk the road with them. 

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    Can Your Kids Ask You About Sex?

    Research says that young people who "sext" are more likely to have sex, and that dating violence is on the rise. 

    So, picture this scenario: Your child sits down at the dinner table and asks, “What is sexting? What is sex?” or “How do babies get inside their mommy’s tummy?” 

    In response, would you:

    A. Laugh and change the subject?

    B. Get irritated and tell your child that those questions are not appropriate at the dinner table?

    C. Thank your child for asking such a great question and either seek to answer it or tell them that you will talk with them about it after dinner?

    Just thinking about answering these questions has and will cause anxiety for many parents. When asked about talking with her children about sex, one mother replied, “My parents didn’t talk with me about it. I think I would just die if I had to talk with my son about it. He’ll figure it out.”

    Let's consider that statement for a moment.

    When young people are left to figure things out for themselves, the results can disastrous. Parents can help their children/teens understand that relationships based on sex aren't healthy or cool by talking openly with them about topics such as sex, love, lust and romance. It's also an opportunity to help your child think about how certain actions now can impact their goals for the future.

    If you are on the fence about talking to your children about sex, sexting and the like, consider the benefits.

    • Children develop an accurate understanding about their bodies, and about sexuality, instead of getting inaccurate information from friends or the media.
    • They learn that talking to you about sex doesn't have to be embarrassing.
    • You equip your child with information they need to make wise choices for the rest of their life.
    • You are teaching them life skills like self-discipline, problem-solving and planning for the future… skills that will help them move toward productive living.

    So, here are some helpful tips for taking the plunge and starting that conversation with your kids:

    • Be an askable parent. Encourage open communication. Tell them it is okay to talk with you. If you don’t know the answer, find the answer together.
    • Don't overreact. The number one complaint from teens is that parents jump to conclusions when they do ask questions. The goal is to keep the dialogue going.
    • Take advantage of teachable moments. The latest sexting research, the pregnancy of a friend and television sitcoms are teachable moments.
    • Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen as your child shares. It is a great way to learn what they are thinking. Hint: If you want to know what is really going on, do carpool duty and keep your mouth shut.
    • Less is more. State the facts, be honest and keep it simple and age appropriate.
    • Share your expectations and values, too. Whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol or something else, tell your children what you expect. Be clear about your family values.

    The best way to protect young people is to educate them. Are you an askable parent?


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    Preparing Kids for Responsibility

    Kay Wyma, mother of five, had a revelation one day while taking her kids to school that prompted some dramatic changes at home and ultimately led her to write Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.

    “My teenage son asked me what kind of car I thought he would look best in, a Porsche, Lexus or Maserati,” says Wyma. “Deciding on the Porsche, he said he planned to get one when he turned 16. Fighting back nausea, I’m thinking, ‘What planet are you on and how do you plan to pay for it?’ All the talks about ‘materialism and how things don’t make you happy’ clearly hadn’t penetrated his brain.”

    On the way home, Wyma called her friend to vent and get reassurance that the self-centered teenage stage doesn’t last forever. Wyma realized mid-discussion that maybe she was contributing to her kids' self-centeredness.

    “My kids are great. But I wondered if what we were doing was helping prepare them for the real world,” Wyma says.

    “I made their beds, picked up their rooms, taxied them here and there, fixed their meals, and showered them with accolades but rarely gave them the chance to confirm the substance of that praise. My words said one thing, but my actions said, ‘I’ll do it for you because I can do it better or faster than you can.’ I realized this was a major disservice to our children. Instead of preparing them to launch, we are creating a sense of dependence on us as parents.”

    After seeking wisdom from women with adult children, Wyma came up with 12 skills for her children to learn before they fly the coop. Here is a sample of what’s on the list:

    • Make a bed and maintain an orderly room;

    • Cook and clean a kitchen;

    • Do yard work;

    • Clean a bathroom;

    • Do laundry;

    • Run errands; and

    • Act mannerly.

    “After deciding on the 12 skills, we called a family meeting and we told the kids that things were going to be different,” Wyma says. “We started with their rooms. They had to make their beds before they went to school and pick stuff up from the floor. We got the usual whining and complaining, but I was actually surprised at how quickly they started doing what we asked.”

    To help get the ball rolling, Wyma decided to add an incentive: She put 31 dollar bills in a jar for each child. They could get an additional dollar each day they did what they were supposed to or have one taken away. Most of the kids chose to have one taken away if they didn’t follow through on their tasks. Interestingly, she rarely had to take bills out of the jar. But the child who chose to have money put in the jar could have cared less.

    “I think people forget how exciting it is to equip your kids to tap into the opportunities that come to them,” Wyma says. “If I am always doing everything, they don’t own anything nor do they have the opportunity to be challenged and build confidence. Our children are in a very different place than they were two years ago when we started this experiment. I think we would all agree things have changed for the better.”

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    Things Your Teen Won't Tell You

    Ellen Pober Rittberg is the mother of three. She had three children in three years and she spent 13 years representing young people as an attorney. Both of these experiences have given her insight into the lives of young people which led to writing 35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will.

    “I wrote this book as a message to parents that you can do this,” says Rittberg. “I think that it is probably the hardest time to be raising a teen. There are threats to their safety, head-spinning technological advances, they are encouraged to dress provocatively by celebrities who they see dressing provocatively, and peers are more important to them than family. The book is really a form of cheerleading in an informed, honest and positive way.”

    Rittberg believes the biggest mistake parents can make is to trust their teen all the time.

    She cautions parents that in spite of the fact that their young person seems really smart, their judgment is defective and they will make poor decisions because they are adults in the making.

    35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will is the manual I wish I had had when I was raising my teens,” Rittberg says. “I didn’t want to be preached to and I didn’t want to read clinical pieces written by educators, psychologists or medical doctors. I wanted to know the practical do’s and don’ts, the big mistakes to avoid, what to do when you are at the end of your rope and ways to enjoy the challenge of raising teens.”

    Rittberg encourages parents to be open to the fact that they can learn to be a better parent.

    “When I was pregnant with my first child, I read a ton of books because I didn’t know how to parent,” Rittberg recalls. “We need to continue exposing ourselves to information that will help us be better parents. Parents also need to consider the values they want to impart to their children and how they will be intentional about doing it.”

    Here are a few of the 35 things Rittberg wants you to know:

    • You shouldn’t be your child’s best friend. We have a role as parents to be responsible and reliable. If you act like a teenager, your teen won’t respect you.
    • Your child needs meaningful work. Anything that encourages a healthy work ethic and sense of family duty is a good thing.
    • To know your teen’s friends is to know your teen. If you want to know what your teen is up to, get to know their friends. Make your house a welcoming place. You have to be there when they are there.
    • A parent should not buy a child a car. There are large consequences to buying your child a car, the largest is that the child who doesn't earn a significant portion of the car will likely total it soon after getting it. When they have worked for it they will take better care of it.
    • Know your child’s school. School officials should know your face, what you do and that you want to help.
    • Curfews are good. As the old saying goes, nothing good happens after midnight!

    “Parenting teens is challenging, but you can do it and be good at it,” Rittberg says.


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    Survival Plan for Parents and Teens

    Parenting a teenager can be a mind-boggling experience. 

    One minute they are yelling things like:

    “I hate you!"

    “Don’t speak to me.”

    “Nobody else’s parents do that.”

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

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

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

    Consider these things:

    • Parenting experts say that one of the reasons adolescence is so challenging is that parents often don’t recognize the strongest needs of their teen.

    • Parents look into their teen’s world through adult eyes and needs. They tend to miss all of the change and internal conflict their teen is experiencing in continuing to have their needs for belonging, freedom, power and fun met.

    • Parents need to feel in control whereas their adolescent is competing for his freedom. 

    • Both parent and teen have well-developed strategies for getting their needs met. These differing needs and strategies often intensify to the point that the relationship between parent and child becomes strained.

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

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

    • Remember your own teenage struggles.

    • Don’t panic. It is important not to let your fears control you.

    • Don’t overreact. Most teens say they do not open up to their parents because they tend to overreact.

    • Make sure to handle things in a way that builds your teen up versus tearing them down.

    • Take time to enter your teen’s world – spend time with them, listen to their music, get to know their friends.

    • Provide direction according to their needs… not yours.

    • Understand that teens don’t want you to fix it for them. They want you to listen to them. A teen’s self-confidence is built through learning to problem solve and come up with reasonable solutions.

    • Separate the behavior from the teen. Love your teen, but don’t be afraid to deal with unacceptable behavior.

    • Develop a support network of parents who have been there, done that.

    • Remember, you and your spouse are on the same team.

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

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    8 Ways to Show That Truth Really Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here are some helpful suggestions for parents:

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

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

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    9 Ways You Can Be Your Teen's Best Friend

    Lots of celebrity moms go out on the town and party with their famous kids. But while some teens might think it sounds really cool that a mom would party with them, most young people say they don’t want their parents acting like they do.

    According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Adolescence Isn’t Terminal, It Just Feels Like It, some parents believe they need to become their teen’s best friend in order to navigate the teen years.

    Many parents believe that teenagers know enough to make good decisions with little or no guidance from their parents. However, brain research has shown strong evidence that when it comes to maturity, control and organization, that's just not the case. In reality, all key parts of the brain related to emotions, judgment and thinking ahead don't finish forming until the mid-20s. This means teens definitely need their parents actively involved in their lives.

    “Sometimes as the parent you have to make decisions that will not be popular with your teen, but are in their best interest,” says Leman.

    Teens do not want their parents to act like them, talk like them or dress like them, either. Despite grunts, attitude and carrying on, young people do want you to act like their parent.

    “Kids who have parents who try to act, look and talk like teenagers tell me that they feel very self-conscious and embarrassed when their moms or dads attempt to be teenagers,” Leman says.

    If you really want to be your teen’s best friend, here's what Leman suggests:

    • Make your home the center of activity. Instead of your child always being somewhere else, make your home the place they want to be with their friends.

    • Listen to your teen when he or she is ready to talk. Being approachable is the key, even if it is 1 a.m. and you go to bed at 10 p.m. This gives you a chance to continue to build a close relationship in the midst of your child's growing independence.

    • Be an imperfect parent. It isn’t about you being perfect. Admit your mistakes and don’t be afraid to say, “I am sorry.” Share stories about when you were a teen. Be real.

    • Spend time with your teen. Make it a point to notice what they do well. Be approachable. Guard against becoming a critical parent who only notices mistakes and weaknesses. Be REAL with your teens: Real, Encouraging, Affirming, and Loving.

    • Expect the best from them. Keep your standards realistic. Expect them to make good choices. Research shows that daughters with affirming fathers are most likely to marry a guy with those qualities.

    • Don’t snowplow the roads of life for your teen. When they fail, let them experience the consequences. There is no better time for them to fail than when they are at home around people who love them. You can actually help them get back on their feet.

    • Love and respect your mate. Young people learn how to treat their future spouse by watching you. Model the behavior you want your children to practice when they are married and have children of their own.

    • Never beat or bully your child into submission. Take time to think about what you will say or do and the outcomes you are looking for. Shepherds use their rod to guide their sheep, not to beat them into submission. As parents, our role is to guide our children and teach them how to live as productive citizens.

    • Pray for them daily. The teenage years can be very challenging. Make sure your child knows you are on their team and you love them unconditionally.

    “Your goal as a parent is to help your children become all that they can be,” Leman says. “The best way to steer our kids through the stage of adolescence is to know ahead of time what type of children we want to raise.”

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    20 Warning Signs in Teens

    If you live with a teenager, one thing is certain: their emotions change as often as the weather or their clothes. They ascend to the heights of joy one day, the depths of teenage despair, the next.

    The teen years are a time to explore new ideas, new attitudes and new feelings. Since a certain amount of unpredictability is normal, how can you tell if your teenager’s emotional swings are beyond the normal ups and downs of adolescence?

    Although it's not always possible to know what goes too far, there are some things you can look for in the process.

    Here's a warning-sign checklist from the Minirth-Meier psychiatric organization that can help you:

    • Deterioration of grades;

    • Chronic truancy;

    • Chronic school failure;

    • Mood swings;

    • General Apathy;

    • Drug/alcohol use;

    • Blatant sexual behavior;

    • Verbal or physical displays;

    • Withdrawal or feeling of hopelessness;

    • Sleeplessness, fatigue;

    • Low self-esteem;

    • Sadness, crying;

    • Secretive;

    • Suicidal thoughts, unexplained accidents;

    • Death of significant person;

    • Interest in the occult;

    • Poor impulse control;

    • Family history of substance abuse or mental illness;

    • Extreme change in appearance or friends; and/or

    • Inability to cope with routine matters/relationships.

    Jay Strack suggests that a parent’s first response to these signs of trouble is crucial. He's the author of Good Kids Who Do Bad Things.

    “Overreacting parents often drive kids into an emotional shell from which they are reluctant to venture. Underreacting parents send a message to their kids that says, ‘I just don’t care.’ Either response can be devastating when the individual loses his emotional balance,” he writes.

    Strack says it is important to differentiate between the normal pressure of life and crisis situations.

    If your teen is demonstrating a number of the warning signs, here are several action steps you can use.

    • First, don’t panic. “This is no time to lose control of yourself,” Strack says. "A calm demeanor and a listening ear are crucial."

    • Next, act quickly. Strack writes that parents should not sit around “hoping the problem will solve itself or just go away. Timing is crucial in a crisis.”

    • Then, seek advice. Seek the advice of those who can really help, like counselors, pastors and teachers. You may need lawyers, police and other officials, depending on the situation.

    • Always stick to the main issues. “While your teenager may have several areas in which he needs improvement (e.g., self-acceptance, personal discipline, study habits, etc.), it's important to stick with the major issues of the crisis until they are resolved,” Strack says. “Only then will the teenager be clear-headed enough to focus on the other issues in his life.”

    • Finally, strike a balance. Strack’s fifth guideline is important. Teens need to know that you love and cherish them, despite their behavior.

    “At the same time,” Strack says, “you will need to balance love with discipline when necessary so that your teenager doesn’t just run over you.”

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    5 Ways to Rise to the Challenge of Single Parenting

    The challenges of single parenting are many. Holding down a job, taking care of the children’s needs and household repairs, and a whole host of other things vie for the 168-hour week. How do single parents make it through the trials and come out feeling good about themselves and their children?

    When Martin Luther King III was asked how his mother handled being a single parent, he responded, “My mother did the best she could. She surrounded us with caring adults, including my grandmother, who loved us and provided structure and security to help us grow to be responsible adults.” 

    Census reports indicate there has been a significant increase in single-parent households. In fact, more than 13.7 million men and women find themselves in the position of parenting alone. Things that have never been issues before are now on the radar screen, often producing anxiety, fear and many sleepless nights. 

    “I have been a single parent of three for six years,” says Richard.* “I didn’t know a soul when I moved here and had no family support. The biggest obstacle for me was keeping all of the balls up in the air. I was launching a new business and trying to keep my family going.” 

    Richard describes his transition into single parenthood as highly emotional.  

    “I was living in a one-bedroom place,” Richard says. “At the outset it was very difficult. I realized I was insecure emotionally. I remember taking lunch hours to do laundry at the laundromat.”

    Fortunately, Richard found resources that were available to assist in his parenting efforts. 

    “The aftercare program at school was a lifesaver,” Richard shares. “There were teachers and friends who helped out in many ways. We were befriended by many people to whom I will always be grateful.”

    If you’re a single parent trying to find your way, here are some helpful suggestions from seasoned single parents:

    • Get organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.

    • Focus on family. Set expectations, establish boundaries, keep the lines of communication open and set aside time to be together as a family.

    • Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances. 

    • Ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, church friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate. 

    • Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. 

    After going through the trauma of a breakup, loss or abandonment, it’s easy to shy away from asking for help for fear of being seen as weak. Most single parents will say this is not how they wished things would be. But over time, many single moms and dads realize the experience has made them stronger and that it is truly okay to ask for help.