Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: teens

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    Parenting Teens

    “Raising kids through the adolescent years is like guiding your family in a raft through whitewater rapids,” says Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Running the Rapids: Guiding Teenagers through the Turbulent Waters of Adolescence.

    Like going down the river trying to navigate rapids, rocks and other hidden dangers, there is definite risk in experiencing the adolescent years. In fact, it can be potentially destructive for parents, teens and the entire family. Leman believes that how you choose to travel the river makes all the difference for you and your teen. Some people believe that the teen years are the most difficult, but Leman would argue they are the best years.

    “The teenage years are a wild ride, with good reason,” Leman says. “I encourage parents to talk with their kids before they become teenagers about some of the things that will happen or that they are likely to experience - including the idea that the day is coming when you are going to think your parents are really strange and don’t know anything.”

    According to Leman, the goal during adolescence is not for parents to be their teen’s best friend. It is to be a smart parent. There are three elements parents need to pay attention to as they guide their teen through adolescence:

    • Major on the majors. Not everything is worthy of concern and debate. During his teen years, Leman’s son came to the dinner table and announced he was getting an earring. His mother was frantic waiting for Leman to handle this situation. Leman did not say a word. Three days later, Leman showed up at the dinner table with an earring. Several minutes passed by before his son noticed. Kevin squinted and looked at his father with disgust and said, “You look ridiculous.” To which Leman responded, “Really? Your mother likes it.” End of discussion.

    • Learn to say positive things to your kids. Children are a gift. Make an effort to affirm your teen when he/she makes good choices.

    • Find something your adolescent can do well. Emphasize this strength and help your teen feel accepted and special.

    “My friend Stephen Covey tells people to start with the end in mind,” Leman says. “That is exactly what I encourage parents to do. What kind of young adult do you want to see emerge at the end of adolescence? The decisions you make and the decisions your teen makes during the adolescent years will make all the difference in the outcome. I know many parents who choose to put their teen in the raft without a guide, but I believe if you are interested in the best outcome for your teenager, you will put him/her in the raft with you as their guide.”

    As you navigate the whitewaters of adolescence, here are some additional thoughts on how to be a great raft guide for your teen:

    • Give your teenager freedom, but hold him/her accountable.

    • Sometimes parents are too quick to bail their teen out of trouble.

    • Are you raising your teen in a home or a hotel?

    • Mutual respect is the cornerstone of all relationships.

    • Everybody’s thoughts and feelings have value.

    • Watch your tone of voice. Rude behavior is not acceptable from anyone.

    • Use nonthreatening communication.

    • Laugh at everything you can and find reasons to have fun.

    “In spite of what you might hear from the culture at large, parents DO make a difference in the lives of their children. They watch every move you make and how you live your life. Recently, I received a note from my 32-year-old daughter that said, ‘Dad, thanks for teaching me that people are more important than things and living that out in your life. Love, Holly.’

    “Even if you are uncertain about your parenting skills, don’t be afraid to get in the raft and guide your teen through the rapids,” Leman says. “I have learned more from what I did wrong than all the things I did right.”

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    Sexting and Your Teen

    Dr. Sheri Madigan and her research team wanted to know the prevalence of sexting behavior (sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through technological means) among youth. Between 2006 and 2016, they conducted a meta-analysis, looking at 39 different studies about sexting that included 110,380 young people from all over the world, including the United States.

    Studies indicate that sexting has been on the rise among teens while teen sex has declined. Findings from the meta-analysis indicate that:

    • 1 in 7 teens send sexts, 
    • 1 in 4 receives sext messages, and 
    • 41 percent of teens are having sex according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
    • Additionally, older teens are sexting more often than younger teens.

    While boys are often portrayed as the requestors of nude images, studies show that girls and boys are equally as likely to participate in sexting. Plus, most of them use their smartphones versus a computer when they sext.

    Compared to boys, girls report feeling more pressure to sext and worry they will be judged harshly whether they sext or not. If they do, there is slut-shaming. If they don’t, they are considered a prude. Boys, however, may see sexting as a way to showcase their social status.  

    Many sexters assume the images will remain private, but the research indicates that:

    • 12.5 percent of teens are forwarding intimate photos without the sender’s consent. 
    • Another 8.4 percent of teens had one of their own sexts forwarded without their consent.

    According to the research team, these findings raise some concerns and challenges. Teens may feel that sexting is an expectation if everybody else is doing it. When sexting is coerced and images are used as a form of blackmail or a threat, the combination of digital insecurity and the teen brain processes could lead to compromised safety. Since teens’ brains are still developing, their capacity to critically analyze digital tools and apps may not be enough to keep them safe. So, what can parents do to help?

    If you're a parent, Madigan encourages you to talk with your teens about healthy dating relationships, peer pressure, digital security, sexuality and citizenship. Make it an ongoing conversation where you're being proactive instead of reactive.

    Also, discuss strategies for dealing with peer pressure surrounding sexting and the potential consequences of sending sexts. Once someone sends an image or video, there is no control over who sees it. 

    Family Zone offers these 10 tips to help you deal with sexting:

    • Have open and honest conversations with your children.
    • Don’t abstain from educating your own children about sex and sexualized behaviors. If you don’t educate them, somebody else will.
    • Do not assume that your child will not pass on a nude photo or take one of themselves and share it.
    • Discuss the risks of sexting, including how they would feel if their photos were shared.
    • Be very clear about the law and criminal consequences with your children.
    • Discuss their digital footprint and what that means.
    • Explain their digital citizenship responsibilities.
    • Warn your children to never share photos with people they don’t physically know offline. Consider providing examples of grooming and pedophilia.
    • Attempt to explore if these behaviors are part of a bigger problem with self-esteem and confidence. Like everyone, children like attention and reassurance, but as parents we need to help our kids find healthier ways to feel good about themselves.
    • Ensure they know who they can talk to and where they can get help if needed. They may not want that to be you, so ensure they have a safe person to confide in.

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

    If you'd like additional resources to help guide these conversations, here are some good ones: Common Sense Media’s Sexting Handbook, Common Sense Media, Connect Safely, Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership.

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    What You Can Do to End Human Trafficking

    An alert American Airlines ticket agent has been hailed a hero after preventing two teen girls from becoming part of a human trafficking scam. The girls showed up with one-way first-class tickets to New York City from California. They had no identification on them and the agent discovered the tickets were purchased with a fraudulent credit card. The suspicious ticket agent denied the girls’ tickets. While the teens walked over to a Starbucks table and made a call, the ticket agent alerted authorities.

    Authorities learned that a guy had invited the girls to New York City for the weekend so they could earn $2,000 performing in music videos and modeling. The teens had no idea their tickets were one-way.

    Who wouldn’t be excited about earning $2,000 in a weekend? Human traffickers often portray themselves as agents to connect young people to their dream career or to easy money. But that’s not the only way people end up being trafficked. Stories abound of people being preyed upon in stores, at truck stops and online.

    Research indicates that while human traffickers look for the most vulnerable at-risk youth, even young people who have loving, caring parents can fall victim to traffickers. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s website:

    • In the United States, on average, every two minutes, a child is bought or sold for sex.

    • The average age of a child sold for sex is 13 years old.

    • Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.

    “According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, 41 percent of those who are trafficked are trafficked by family members,” says Emily Aikins, director of survivor services at Second Life, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit in Tennessee. “Many people have this stereotype in their mind of the kind of person that is trafficked when in reality, victims of human trafficking come from literally all walks of life.”

    Todd Womack, Senator Bob Corker’s chief-of-staff, happened to hear a human trafficking-focused sermon delivered by International Justice Mission’s Gary Haugen at Passion City Church in Atlanta a few years ago. At the end of Haugen’s talk, he made a plea to attendees, saying the only way to end human trafficking is if everybody looks around and decides what they can do to shed light on this tragedy in their own sphere of influence. 

    Womack and Corker took that call to heart and began working with the END IT Movement and other nonprofit organizations to envision, develop and pass into law the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which is now operating as the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. 

    You may be wondering how you can help prevent young people from becoming human trafficking victims. Here are some ways anyone can help:

    • Get educated. Educate yourself and family members, especially your teens, and friends about the signs of human trafficking. The more educated you are, the more prepared you will be to stop it.

    • Be alert. Whether you are in a restaurant, airport, walking on the street, at a sporting event or getting a pedicure, you can help prevent children from becoming victims - just like the American Airlines agent. If something looks suspicious, alert authorities by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888. Tennessee’s own trafficking hotline is 855-558-6484.

    • Teach your children good internet safety skills. Know who is in your kids’ social network. Many predators connect with teens on social media and begin grooming them - then they do exactly as the person did with the two girls headed to New York City. They offer them something too good to be true, but even though they may know their parents wouldn’t approve, they aren’t quite discerning enough to realize they could be getting themselves into a dangerous situation.

    • Talk with your teens about healthy sexuality. Help them to know that sex is not a commodity to be bought and sold.

    No matter the size of your platform, everyone can do something. 

    Turner Matthews, who interned in Senator Corker’s office, learned of the END IT Movement two years ago. Upon returning to his school, he painted a huge rock on campus known as the “The Rock with a red X.” This year he not only painted “The Rock with a red X,” he also created an event around it to bring attention to human trafficking issues. He, like so many others, is using his personal sphere of influence to bring light to the problem.

    What will you do?

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    How to Know What Your Kids Are Thinking

    When state police called science writer David Dobbs to say that his teenage son had been driving 113 mph, he somehow kept from yelling, “What in the heck were you thinking?” Probably just like any other parent, he considered his son’s actions to be reckless. His son, however, refused to take ownership of that title. He said he chose a long, empty, dry stretch of highway on a beautiful day to drive his car that fast. 

    After hearing many parents complain about not being able to get into their teen’s head to understand what makes them tick, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn and her co-author Lisa Rice took on that challenge. With input from more than 1200 teens, Feldhahn and Rice discovered some interesting insights into teens’ lives. The results of their work can be found in the book, For Parents Only, Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid.

    In general, the culture believes peer pressure pushes kids to rebel and behave in reckless ways without thinking of the consequences, teens don’t care what their parents think, they don’t want rules or discipline, parents don’t listen, and teens give in easily to negative attitudes. Feldhahn and Rice say those beliefs aren’t necessarily accurate, based on their findings.

    What’s really happening is this: Our teens are experiencing the intoxicating nature of freedom and the fear of losing that freedom, and they want to figure out who they are as an individual. When they test their parents’ authority, they really want them to stand firm instead of giving in. Teens want to know their parents are making an effort to understand them even when they make mistakes. They tend to stop talking because they think their parents are poor listeners, and what seems like an attitude problem might actually be a sign of insecurity.

    While the authors do not endorse bad behavior or make excuses for poor choices, they do believe that their newfound knowledge could help parent-child relationships.

    Although many parents believe they lose a lot of influence and that peers become more influential in the teen years, Feldhahn and Rice found that freedom is most influential. One psychotherapist said, “Freedom is like cocaine to a teenager. It’s intoxicating. It’s addictive. And it is often their biggest motivator.” Nearly 3 out of 4 teens surveyed said they were strongly motivated to pursue freedom. Many said they couldn’t get enough of it. However, even though they want their freedom, teens said they understood that too much, too soon wasn’t good for them. 

    When asked which they preferred, a parent who acted more like a friend or a parent who acted like a parent, 77 percent wanted the parent, not the friend. While teens may want their freedom, deep down they realize they need their parents to provide structure and security for them while they figure out the whole freedom thing. Additionally, knowing what freedoms are most important to your teen is essential.

    Rice recalls when one of her teenage daughters called to say she had been involved in a really small accident and that everything was okay. She said her mom didn’t need to come and that she was going on to her friend’s house. Of course, Rice headed to the scene. Her daughter had been on her cell phone while driving, which was against the rules. The first thought was to take away the cell phone as a consequence, but the cell phone was a big part of her daughter’s freedom. 

    After discussing what happened, the daughter asked to pay all of the repair costs instead of having her phone taken away. This meant turning over almost all of her paycheck for four months. As a result, she learned a very important lesson and did not resent her parents for taking her cell phone or grounding her.

    If you want to get inside your kid’s head, this insightful book offers very practical ways to engage your teen during their struggle to separate themselves from you as a parent, and ultimately become a productive, healthy adult.

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

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    Tips for Setting Dating Standards With Your Teens

    It is vital for young people to set and stick to dating standards as they build relationships. The role of a parent is that of teacher and encourager, not dictator.

    Before your child gets to the level of maturity where he or she is ready to date, you should decide upon your dating standards. Determine how old your teenager must be to date. Set a curfew and describe in advance what the consequences will be for breaking this curfew and STICK TO THEM.

    Additional expectations should be that your teen must always tell you:

    • Where he/she will be;

    • A phone number or numbers where he/she can be reached;

    • Who he/she is going out with;

    • What they will be doing; and

    • When he/she will return.

    • If they don't know the answers to these questions, they don't go out on the date.

    • If he/she is going to be late, a courtesy phone call is expected to let you know about the situation; this does not excuse coming in after curfew and the consequences set.

    • If your teenager is a female, let her know in advance that you expect her dates to come to the door to get her and to meet her parents.

    • Your teen should always carry enough money to get a cab/bus ride home if necessary.

    Items for discussion before your teen dates:

    • Why does he/she want to date?

    • What does he/she hope to have happen?

    • Has your teen considered group dating? What are the benefits of group dating?

    • If you have a daughter preparing to date, does she have an emergency plan in case her date becomes forceful or violent? The "It won't happen to me" plan is not good enough.

    • Encourage a first-date activity to be something that provides opportunity for lots of conversation.

    • Talk with your teenager about treating their date with respect. What does that look like?

    • Discuss the potential for hormonally-charged situations and how to avoid them.

    • What kind of messages might your teenager send by the kind of clothes they are or are not wearing? If you are the father of a teenage daughter, think about this subject very carefully, and make sure your daughter knows that men can be easily aroused by…you fill in the blanks for her. Instruct your sons to be respectful.

    • Who will be paying for the date? The parents or the teenager? What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a date? Instruct your teenager that just because someone buys them dinner doesn't mean they owe them anything.

    • Make sure your teenager knows that you are there for them and willing to listen if they need to talk.

    • If your teenager is female, talk about the dangers of dating guys much older than them.

    • Discuss the idea that dating is about developing a growing friendship--NOT about having sexual involvement.

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

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    10 Signs of Teen Dating Violence

    If you have teens in your life, this topic is worth your time and attention.

    In a healthy dating relationship skills class for teens, the facilitator asked the participants what they do when they get angry at their boyfriend or girlfriend. One young man spoke up and said, “I just choke her.”

    Sadly, violence is a reality in many teen dating relationships.

    According to a study commissioned by Liz Claiborne and conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited in 2008:

    • 1 in 3 teenagers knows a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or physically hurt by their partner;

    • 62 percent of tweens (age 11-14) who have been in a relationship say they know friends who have been verbally abused (called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc.) by a boyfriend or girlfriend;

    • Only half of tweens claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship;

    • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up; and

    • Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser.

    National Center for Victims of Crime studies indicate that teen dating violence runs across race, gender and socioeconomic lines. Males and females are victims, but boys and girls are abusive in different ways. Girls are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves, pinch, slap, scratch, or kick. Boys injure girls more severely and frequently.

    A comparison of intimate partner violence rates between teens and adults reveals that teens are at higher risk in intimate partner abuse.

    Is your teen at risk? 

    Does he or she know the warning signs of an abusive relationship? Would you recognize the symptoms? Many parents say they don't know the warning signs of teen dating violence.

    If you are wondering whether or not your teen is in an unhealthy relationship, here are some warning signs from the Break the Cycle website:

    • She apologizes for his behavior and makes excuses for him.

    • Your teen loses interest in activities she used to enjoy.

    • She stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.

    • When your daughter and her boyfriend are together, he calls her names and puts her down in front of other people.

    • He acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to her, especially other guys.

    • A young man thinks or tells your daughter that you (her parents) don’t like him.

    • He controls her behavior, checks up on her constantly, calls and pages her, demanding to know who she has been with.

    • She casually mentions his violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.

    • You see him violently lose his temper, striking or breaking objects.

    • She often has unexplained injuries, or the explanations she offers don’t make sense.

    Teens need to understand that hitting a girlfriend or boyfriend is a crime. In the vast majority of teen dating violence, the female is the victim. However, this conversation shouldn't only take place with female teens. This is an important conversation for parents to have with their sons and daughters.

    A number of excellent resources are available to help you discuss dating violence together, including breakthecycle.org. The site has a parent’s guide for talking to your teen, statistics, warning signs and additional resources. 

    Being aware of the warning signs of violence and taking action can prevent the wrong types of relationships from happening. It can also end the abuse cycle for teens who are in the midst of it.

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

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    10 Steps for a Low-Risk Teen Dating Strategy

    Dating is a big deal for most teenagers. 

    Many parents will tell you that questions like, “When will I be old enough to date? And when I date, what time will I have to be home?” start coming long before their teen is really old enough to date. Some parents go to great lengths putting rules in place for dating. There's even been a show on the topic – Eight Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

    Regardless of the dating age in your household, perhaps the most important question is, “Is your teen prepared to date?”

    “In our rush to teach young people sex education, I believe we have left out some of the important basics like: If you have a crush on someone, how do you let them know you like them? How do you start a conversation? How can you tell if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy?” says Marline Pearson, author of Increasing Your Relationship Smarts, part of Love U 2, a comprehensive relationship curriculum.

    “Teens are on a journey to learn about love, relationships, themselves and their emerging sexuality. As they jump into relationships, teens are in the throes of powerful feelings of attraction, rejection and a myriad of other emotions. Most teens want affection, respect, love and connection. Yet, our young people get little guidance on navigating the world of teen relationships and the sexual culture. While we tell them what to say ‘no’ to, we do too little to help teens build the healthy relationships to which they can say ‘yes.’”

    Pearson believes we need to help teens understand things like infatuation. Yes, you have strong, wonderful feelings, but you won’t see clearly for 3-6 months. It could be the first step to love, but it isn’t love at first. When you think you are falling in love with somebody, you are really falling in love with an image of who you think the person is at first. You have to put in some time to see if your snapshot is accurate.

    Since most teens want to date, they are usually willing to participate in any conversation they believe will help them reach this goal. Parents can take advantage of this place in time to prepare their teens for dating.

    If you want to help your teen develop a low-risk dating strategy, try Pearson's tips below.

    • Seek a good match: Look for common interests. Pay attention to how the person acts. Do you find them interesting?

    • Pay attention to values: People give off clues all the time as to the values they hold. A relationship is doomed if the other person shuns your values.

    • Don’t try to change the other person: Performing an extreme makeover on another person never works. Sometimes people are so desperate to be in love they try to make you into something you are not.

    • Don’t change yourself: Don’t be somebody you are not just to get somebody’s love and attention. If you find yourself trying to alter who you are to get someone’s love, that is a problem.

    • Don’t run from conflict: Expect good communication.

    • Don’t play games, manipulate, pressure, be phony or use power plays to get what you want.

    • Ask yourself these questions: Does this relationship feel controlling or nurturing and supportive? If physical touch wasn’t part of the relationship, would there be a relationship?

    • Have a bottom line: You need to have a bottom line for how you expect to be treated. Never tolerate abuse. Expect respect. People will treat you the way you allow them to treat you.

    “Teens today live and breathe in a culture emphasizing casual sex and casual connections where no relationship can be trusted to last and where even the most important family bonds can’t be counted on,” Pearson says. 

    “Teens are short on positive models. They have few road maps that will lead them into healthy relationships and away from destructive ones. Teaching your teen about committed and healthy love relationships is one of the greatest gifts you can give them and it will last a lifetime.”

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

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    New Year, New You

    In the movie Spanglish, the mother, played by Tea Leoni, is clearly obsessed with exercise and her looks. Her daughter, played by Sarah Steele, is not overweight, but clearly not thin enough to meet her mom’s standards. Leoni tries to motivate her daughter to lose weight by going on shopping sprees and buying her beautiful, but too-small clothing. Steele is excited about the clothing, but her self-esteem tanks when none of the clothes fit.

    “Between these types of movies, television shows and airbrushed photos in magazines showing women with ‘perfect bodies’, impressionable young girls get the idea that it just isn’t acceptable to be anything but a size 6 or smaller,” says Pamela Kelle, licensed nutritionist and registered dietician. “What many don’t realize is what they see on the screen isn’t real. Their body was never intended to be that size, yet they go on fad diets and do all kinds of obsessive workout routines to get themselves down to their dream weight. The only problem is, even when they get to the size they wanted to be there is still this small voice inside saying, ‘It’s not good enough.’”

    As each new year gets closer, many people, including teenagers, resolve to lose weight in order to feel better about themselves. But, is it really about weight loss?

    "In most instances I would have to say that losing weight is about a lot more than shedding pounds,” Kelle says. “At every turn, sometimes even in the home, teens are bombarded with negative messages about how they look. I strongly encourage parents to be aware of how they talk about food and weight. Many parents talk negatively about their own looks. Teen girls pick up on this and often internalize it. If mom doesn’t think she looks good, the daughter thinks she must not look good either. The goal for our kids should be overall health, not a certain weight.”

    If you own a scale, Kelle says to get rid of it. None of us needs a scale to know when we have put on a few pounds. The way your clothes fit tells you all you need to know.

    You can protect your kids from the dangerous lies in the culture. If you want to teach your children about healthy living, Kelle's tips can help you out:

    • Encourage and model healthy eating and exercise;

    • Provide healthy foods and nutritious meals consumed by the whole family;

    • Do not praise or glorify someone for being a certain body size or losing weight;

    • Don’t talk negatively about your own body; and

    • Don’t expect perfection.

    Our bodies are the canvas upon which our internal conditions express themselves.

    “Helping teens have healthy self-esteem and body image can be challenging in light of all the external messages they hear and see,” Kelle says. “Making your home a safe place where your teen can be real and talk about these issues will go a long way toward helping them fend off unhealthy habits. This is a gift that will last a lifetime.”

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    6 Steps to Help Teens Get Organized

    When the school requested a conference with the Goldbergs regarding one of their sons, all kinds of things ran through their mind. Late homework was probably the last thing they expected to discuss.

    “After the school conference we tested him and went through all kinds of processes to make sure we had him in the right school and in the right environment to do his best work,” said Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student: Teaching Students Skills for Success for School and Beyond.

    “We determined he was in the right place. Our son kept telling us that we didn’t need to do the testing, but we assured him we did. The following year, on his own, he made a goal to turn in all homework on time and not ask for extensions on anything. At the end of the year, he told us what his goal had been and he was very proud of himself for accomplishing it.”

    Goldberg's experience with her son led her to write the book and help students master organizational skills.

    “We teach children to tell time, but we don’t teach them how to manage it,” Goldberg said. “When I started this, schools did not require work planners. Now they require planners, but few students know how to use the tool to help them accomplish their goals for the year.”

    Encouraging your teen to start school with goals can help them succeed in the classroom and generally, in life. Whether they want to make the football team, turn in homework on time or be on time for school, learning how to organize is foundational to their success.

    “Just because parents are organized does not mean their children will be,” Goldberg said. “In many instances, I see parents who expect their children to learn organizational skills just by watching. Just modeling a particular behavior does not ensure that teens are learning it. We have to break it down for them step by step. In that process, parents need to remember that although a certain way of doing things works for them, that same system may not work for their teen.”

    Goldberg believes these six steps can help teens develop organizational skills:

    • Work to establish trust with your teen. Your don't allow your teen to rummage through your purse or briefcase without your permission. Instead of just going through their backpack, ask them to go through it with you.

    • Recognize success, no matter how small. Just because you want your teen to get organized does not mean he'll remember everything. Have a system in place, allow it to fall apart, and start again from where you left off.

    • Don’t bite off more than your teen can chew. Some teens can work on an entire organizational system quickly. Others need to take it slowly.

    • Remove the academic component from the equation. If the goal is to complete work on time but your teen made a terrible test grade, celebrate their progress for turning in homework on time. Discuss the grade another time. Deal with them as two separate issues.

    • Make sure everybody knows: this is a process. Organizational skills don't just happen, and it takes practice. There will be missteps along the way. But, as you consistently work the process, teens begin to internalize the system.

    • Keep everything in perspective and be positive. Stay focused on organization and remember that great achievements don't always show up on the report card.

    “I think many parents do not understand how difficult it is to be a student today,” Goldberg said. “Teens are inundated with information from the time they get up until they go to bed. It is very difficult to be organized when you are constantly transitioning. A child who does homework while messaging and texting can’t focus because he is going from one thing to another.”

    Remember that teens rarely plan to be inefficient. When a child struggles with organization, try different ways to help your child problem-solve the situation.

    When push comes to shove, most teens can come up with some excellent ideas. It requires time and energy, but you are teaching valuable, lifelong skills.

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

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    The Teen Years Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    6 Guidelines for Teen Dating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Struggles Can Lead to Success

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

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

    • Swoop in and save them from experiencing further pain?

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

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

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

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

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

    Think about it.

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

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

    Here are some tips for when your children fail:

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

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

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

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

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