Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: safety

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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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    Parenting 101

    When David and Victoria Beckham were criticized by parenting experts for allowing their 4-year-old daughter to have a pacifier, David fought back. He took to social media to set the record straight.

    "Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren't feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it's a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people's children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent," said Beckham.

    His response garnered over 600,000 likes on Instagram and more than 23,000 comments. Most of the comments encouraged him in his efforts to be a great dad.

    Isn't it interesting how people can take a snapshot in time and make assumptions that may or may not be correct?

    The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish, a parenting book by pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, lists seven basic needs of children. They are:

    • Nurturing relationships;

    • Physical safety and security;

    • Opportunities based on individual personality;

    • Developmentally appropriate experiences;

    • Rules and expectations;

    • A supportive community and cultural continuity; and

    • Future protection.

    Anyone with siblings or children knows that, even when children have the same biological parents, their personalities can be as different as night and day, and their needs are not the same. A parent may not be able to turn their back on one child for a split-second without something happening, where another child entertains himself for lengthy periods of time. One child may be more outgoing than the others. Some struggle with what seems like non-stop ear infections while the others are the picture of health. 

    Engaged parents know things about their children that other people usually do not.

    Have you ever been "that parent" in the mall, watching your child have a meltdown while feeling helpless and beating yourself up inside because you know people are watching and probably judging your parenting skills?

    Parenting is complicated. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge, but when you are in the throes of it, it just isn't that simple. There is no one cookie-cutter approach for every single child. Most parents are doing the best they know how to do. Being critical without being privy to the big picture is not helpful unless there is legitimate concern of abuse.

    Every human being needs to know they are loved, capable, valued and safe. Children look to their parents and want to know if they love them and believe in them and if they measure up.

    How parents express answers to these questions probably will look different depending on the child's needs. Some may need a pacifier when they don't feel good, even when they are 4 years old. Others may cross a clear boundary and receive a very loving, firm and needed consequence. From an outsider's vantage point, it may even seem harsh.

    Some parents really do need help with their parenting skills. However, it doesn't seem like judging them publicly without knowing more details is the answer. Remembering that healthy parenting choices vary depending on the situation, the child and the environment can help foster empathy while avoiding a rush to unfair judgment.

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    Tips for Creating a Family Safety Plan

    In a matter of days there has been a mass shooting at a Florida school, a drive-by shooting at a local eatery and bar, and a tragic accident resulting in a young mother’s death.

    Some say these events make them want to go somewhere and hide. Unfortunately, running away from it all is not an option for most people, but you can take steps to help keep your family members safe.

    We have all been taught to “stop, drop and roll” in the event of a fire, and for years we have taught children about stranger danger in an effort to avoid child abductions. Now, ready.gov says we should be ready to “run, hide and fight.” 

    Although the thought of having this discussion with your kids can make you sad, talking about it and sharing ways your children can protect themselves may help them feel more secure. Your discussion will certainly vary based on age, however. 

    For elementary-age children, the American School Counselor Association recommends the following: 

    • Try to keep routines as normal as possible. Children gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.

    • Limit a younger child’s exposure to television and the news. This is actually good for adults as well.

    • Be honest and share as much information as your child is developmentally able to handle. Listen to their fears and concerns. Reassure them that the world is a good place to be, but there are people who do bad things.

    For older tweens and teens, specifically talk with them about how to take action should they find themselves in danger. For example, if they see something, they should say something. Show them how to be aware of their environment and to notice anything that looks out of the ordinary.

    In addition to these things, you can make a family plan to ensure everyone anticipates what they would do if confronted with an active shooter or some other type of violent situation. Look for the two nearest exits anywhere you go - the mall, a movie theater or restaurant - and have an escape path in mind or identify places you could hide. 

    If you ever find yourself in an active shooter situation, getting away from the danger is the top priority. Leave your belongings behind and get away. Help others escape, if possible, but evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow. Warn and prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be. Call 911 when you are safe, and describe the shooter, location and weapons if you can.

    If you can’t escape, hide. Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Silence all electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate. Lock and block doors, close blinds and turn off lights. Don’t hide in groups - spread out along walls or hide separately to make it more difficult for the shooter. Try to communicate silently with police. Use text messaging or social media to tag your location, or put a sign in a window. Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all-clear. Your hiding place should be out of the shooter's view and provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.

    As a last resort, fight. Commit to your actions and act as aggressively as possible against the shooter. Recruit others to ambush the shooter with makeshift weapons like chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, books, etc. Throw items to distract and disarm the shooter, and be prepared to cause severe or fatal injury to the shooter. 

    Clearly, this sensitive and intense topic should be handled with the utmost care. You know your family and what is in their best interest. These are trying times for everyone, so make sure you take the time to listen to your children. Encourage them to ask questions and to share their thoughts and feelings. Watch for any changes in their behavior, too, because stress and anxiety can show themselves in different ways depending on the child.

    Our world has changed, and many are experiencing a level of fear and anxiety that has not been present before. Sticking our heads in the sand or being unprepared is not constructive, and although accidents happen and you can’t prepare for everything, the best offense may be a good defense. Just as “stop, drop and roll” has saved many lives, learning protective strategies to implement in the event of violence can also make an impact. 

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    How to Prevent Bullying

    Paul Coughlin’s passion to prevent bullying comes from his own bullying experience while in elementary school. He understands how a campaign of cruelty can damage a person’s emotional and psychological well-being, not just in childhood, but often for life.

    This knowledge, along with his passion, led him to start an anti-bullying effort called The Protectors, whose primary focus is on the potential strength, heroic desire and rescuing capacity of bystanders. Studies show that bystanders possess the most potential to transform an environment of bullying into one of character, freedom and justice. One study revealed that if only one bystander, whether popular or not, uses his or her assertive but nonviolent words in defense of a target, the incident of bullying can end 58 percent of the time within six to eight seconds.

    How prevalent is bullying in schools?

    • One out of every four students report being victims of bullying during the school year. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015)

    • Of children who are bullied, 64 percent did not report it. (Petrosino, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010)

    • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. (McCallion and Feder, 2013)

    • The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks (55 percent), body shape (37 percent) and race (16 percent). (Davis and Nixon, 2010)

    According to Coughlin, an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, bullying is not about conflict and miscommunication. It is about standing in contempt of another human being.

    "It is a myth that the bully has anger management problems,” says Coughlin. “Bullies are highly predatory people. Bullies tend to come from homes with coercive parenting styles where parents express disdain and contempt of people who are different from them. Young people learn through modeling, this is how you treat people.”

    What can you do?

    • Speak Up. If someone is bullying you, tell them to stop.

    • Bystanders are the best front line of defense. Stand up for the victim when you see bullying happen. Phrases such as, “Stop it, that’s wrong,” “Let’s do something else,” “I am going to report you” are powerful and can stop the bullying.

    • Schools can adopt anonymous reporting. One of the top five apps changing the world for good, as reported by CNN, is an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.

    • Take the incident seriously. Act sooner rather than later.

    • Don’t look the other way. When you know something is happening, report it.

    “What’s really going to change bullying is when we change parenting,” Coughlin says. “As parents, we need to expect our kids to help someone in need. It needs to be part of your family mission and purpose. I have actually had this conversation with all three of my kids. I expect you to do something life-affirming. We don’t stand by and watch someone’s psychological flesh get seared from their body and do nothing.

    “Research actually shows that when we see someone being targeted and you have the power to act yet you do nothing, our capacity for courage, sympathy and empathy decrease. We become small-souled. If we want strong kids, this is a pivotal moment. This is a tremendous opportunity for character development.”

    Although it is not possible to prevent bullying altogether, there is no excuse for allowing it to continue if you know it is going on. Speaking up for yourself or another victim can make a huge difference both now and in the future.

    For tips on parenting get our E-book "How to be a Guide for your Teen" Download Here

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    Preparing for Prom

    For many high school students, the senior prom is one of the highlights of their school career. They're ready to celebrate 13 years of hard work during this rite of passage before the next phase of life.

    But even though the prom’s focus is on the teens, this season can be tricky for parents, too. Even they experience the peer pressure. Plenty of parents know the realities of dealing with idea of being the “cool” parents.

    “The whole notion of being the cool parent who has the after-prom party, takes the car keys and allows alcohol in order to keep their teen and the rest of the group ‘safe’ is a flawed thought process,” says Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw. “What we really need is for parents to be the parent.”

    According to Tennessee law, there is no time when a child can legally drink before age 21. If an 18- or 19-year-old is caught holding a beer without even having a sip, he or she can still be arrested for underage possession. And unfortunately, the mugshot on Right to Know or Google won’t go away unless all charges are dropped, which could certainly impact future job opportunities. 

    A 16- or 17-year-old caught with alcohol at a house party or behind the wheel automatically loses their driver’s license. Then, they must go through an expensive, long, arduous process to regain their driving privileges.

    If you have a teen headed to the prom, there are some things you can do to help them have a great time.

    • Make sure they have a plan for the evening. Your teen should give you a complete rundown for the evening, including who they will be with and where they will go before and after the prom. Set expectations for checking in. Some parents want to hear from their teen whenever they move to a different location; others expect their teen to check in periodically throughout the evening.

    • Discuss curfew. Work together to determine a fair curfew. Consider your teen’s trustworthiness, maturity level and ability to be responsible.

    • Be specific about your safety concerns. Explain why prom night makes it more difficult to make safe and smart decisions. Don't leave anything to their imagination; discuss the dangers surrounding drinking, drugs, driving under the influence and sex. Know who will be driving. If your teen rents a limo with friends, check out the limo company’s rules about alcohol.

    • Be sure you have information about the after-party. Don't assume that your home rules also apply at the after-party location. Some parents believe it's OK to serve alcohol to underage teens as long as the keys are checked at the door. But parents who choose to have a party at their house where minors are drinking alcohol need to consider the consequences. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days in the Hamilton County jail or probation for that amount of time. These consequences are minor compared to dealing with the loss of a life caused by teenage drinking.

    • Give your teen an unconditional offer for assistance. Make sure your teen knows that you want to be their first call for help. Some parents and teens have an agreed-upon code to use in case the teen feels uncomfortable with her date or does not want to go along with an unsafe plan. Be clear that you are willing to pick them up at any time and will save the lecture for later.

    • Most importantly, your teen needs to know you love him/her. One of the best ways to show love is to set limits. Help them understand that limits are there to make sure prom plans are safe.

    “The stakes for today’s teens are higher in some respects,” Philyaw says. “Being crazy in 1984 and being crazy now are two very different scenarios.

    “It is true: You only live once. We need to help our teens make wise decisions that will not haunt them as they launch into the next stage of life.”

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    Should Your Child Stay Home Alone?

    When summer approaches many youngsters get excited and look forward to attending camps. And many middle-schoolers are pleading their case for staying home alone.

    But exactly how old is old enough?

    Surprisingly, only three states have laws regarding a minimum age for leaving a child home alone. Basically, the parent decides if their child is mature enough to be unsupervised at home.

    Many parenting experts agree that it is not a good idea to leave a child under the age of 9 home alone, but how do you know if your child is ready for this responsibility?

    For starters, assess whether your child:

    • Is physically and mentally capable of caring for him/herself.

    • Obeys the rules and makes good decisions.

    • Responds well to unfamiliar or stressful situations.

    • Feels comfortable or fearful about being home alone.

    When it comes to safety:

    • Is there an emergency plan and does your child know how to follow the plan?

    • Does your child know his/her full name, address and phone number?

    • Make sure your child knows where you are and how to contact you at all times.

    • Does your child know the full names and contact information of other trusted adults in case of an emergency?

    After answering these questions, if you feel confident that your child is ready, here are some tips to help him/her feel comfortable and confident about being home alone:

    • Have a trial period. Leave your child home alone for short periods of time to see how they manage by themselves.

    • Role-play potential scenarios. Act out possible situations, such as how to manage unexpected visitors or deliveries and how to talk on the phone without revealing that a parent is not home.

    • Establish rules. Make sure your child understands what is permissible and what is not. Be clear about expectations concerning technology, having friends over, going other places, how late they are allowed to sleep, chores that need to be done and exactly what is allowed while you are away. For example, should they bake cookies in the oven when you are away?

    • Discuss emergencies. What constitutes an emergency in your eyes and in your child’s eyes? Would they know that an overflowing toilet is definitely an emergency? Have you established a code word to use for emergencies?

    • Check in. Have established check-in times in addition to random times that you call to make sure all is going well.

    • Talk about it. Talk with your child about staying home alone and encourage him/her to share their feelings.

    Staying home alone is a big deal. Even if you stayed home alone as a child, it is a new day and age. Your child may not be mature or confident enough to handle this type of responsibility right now. If not, look for inexpensive alternatives such as volunteering, community center programs or faith-based organization opportunities. Or perhaps a neighbor or fellow parent would be willing to help out.

    Remember, although your child may seem smart, 9 is just 9, and 12 is not considered a young adult. The executive function of the brain, which is responsible for decision-making and self-control, doesn’t completely develop until the mid-20s.

    While leaving your child home alone may seem like the logical and most cost-effective thing to do, preparing your child for this kind of responsibility takes time. It isn’t too soon to begin the preparation process.

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    Spring Break Safety Tips

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

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

    The pressure is on for sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe

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

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

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

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

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

    Put safety first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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