Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: teens

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    Teens, Technology and Romance

    Today's teens have always had technology in their world, from learning colors and counting to playing games, watching movies and Skyping with their grandparents. Since teens are digital natives, it's logical for technology to play a role in relationships, especially romantic ones.

    In 2014 and 2015, the Pew Research Center survey examined American teens' (ages 13-17) digital romantic practices. The online survey and focus group results are telling.

    Though 57 percent of teens have digital friendships, teens are far less likely to start a romantic relationship online. Most teens with dating experience (76 percent) say they have only dated people they met in person. Only 8 percent of all teens have dated or hooked up with someone they first met on social media, and most of those introductions are on Facebook.

    Still, technology is a major vehicle for flirting and expressing interest in a potential partner. Teens also use social media to like, comment, friend or joke around with a crush. Among all teens:

    • 55 percent have flirted or talked to someone in person to express their interest.

    • 50 percent have let someone know they were romantically interested by "friending" them on social media.

    • 47 percent have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.

    • 46 percent have shared something funny or interesting with their romantic interest online.

    • 31 percent sent them flirtatious messages.

    • 10 percent have sent flirty or sexy pictures, or videos of themselves.

    Overall, 85 percent of teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their significant other once a day. Sometimes teens expect even more.

    • 11 percent expect to hear from their partner hourly.

    • 35 percent expect to hear something every few hours.

    • 38 percent expect to hear from their significant other once a day.

    Teens say texting is the top way to spend time together, which is interesting since they aren't actually together.

    Additionally, phone calls, in-person time and other digital means for staying in touch were in the mix. As for spending time with their current/former boyfriend or girlfriend, teen daters preferred:

    • Text messaging: 92 percent

    • Talking on the phone: 87 percent

    • Being together in person: 86 percent

    • Social media: 70 percent

    • Instant or online messaging: 69 percent

    • Video chatting: 55 percent

    • Messaging apps: 49 percent

    Thirty-one percent of teens who dated reported that a current or former partner has checked up on them multiple times per day. They use the internet or cellphone to ask where they are, who they are with or what they are doing.

    Teens were also surveyed about potentially controlling and harmful behaviors they may have experienced in relationships.

    • 15 percent (or 5 percent of all teens) say a current or former partner used the internet or text messaging to pressure them to engage in unwanted sexual activity.

    • 16 percent have been required by a current or former partner to remove people from their friends list on social media.

    • 13 percent said their current or former partner demanded they share their email and internet passwords with them.

    • 19 percent report that a current or former partner has used the internet, digital media or a cellphone to threaten them.

    • 8 percent report that a current or ex-partner used information posted on the Internet against them, to harass or embarrass them.

    After a relationship ends, 22 percent of teens state that a former partner used the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them. Fifteen percent report that a current or former partner used mobile phones or the internet to spread rumors about them.

    Technology connects us in many ways, but teens need more information about technology and romantic relationships.

    Although dating is an opportunity to get to know someone, identify common interests, see if your personalities get along and whether you enjoy each other's company — it is different from marriage.

    Teens still need your help to understand the meaning of dating and what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Furthermore, help them understand that:

    • Posting mean things is poor form and disrespectful.

    • Demanding passwords is inappropriate.

    • Constantly checking up on a partner is unhealthy.

    • Demanding to know who, what, where, why and how from someone is controlling, dishonoring and disrespectful behavior.

    • Texting back and forth is different from spending time with someone.

    Don't assume your teen knows how to successfully navigate romantic relationships. Take every chance you get to teach them how to respect and honor others.

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


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!


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    The Impact of Teen Childbearing

    In 1999 in Hamilton County, there were 240 teens between the age of 10 and 17 who became pregnant.

    Compare that to 98 teens in the same age range in 2013, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. It's a 59 percent decrease in unwed teen pregnancies. Even in the 18-to 19-year-old age group, pregnancies have dropped from 470 in 1999 to 244 in 2013, a stunning 48 percent decrease.

    This is good news... sort of.

    The people of Hamilton County are definitely doing some things right in order to see this kind of decrease. However, we cannot forget the 321 children who were born to teen moms in 2013. The breakdown is: 227 18-19-year-olds, 88 15-17-year-olds and six 10-14 year olds.

    Research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies indicates that teen childbearing in the U.S. costs taxpayers — federal, state and local — at least $9.4 billion annually.

    Consider these statistics:

    • 66 percent of pregnant teens report histories of dating abuse.

    • Only 30 percent of teen fathers pay child support.

    • Teen mothers are nearly twice as likely to forego prenatal care during the first trimester.

    • Only 38 percent of teen girls who have a child before the age of 18 graduate from high school.

    • Daughters of teen mothers are three times more likely to become teen mothers themselves.

    • One in three teens becomes pregnant by age 20.

    If a teen mother does not earn a high school diploma or GED, the child will likely spend 64 percent of his or her life in poverty. In fact, a child born to a teen mother who has not finished high school and is not married is nine times more likely to be poor than a child born to a married adult who has finished high school.

    Research consistently shows that teen pregnancy is closely linked to a host of critical social issues — poverty and income, overall child well-being, responsible fatherhood, health issues, education, child welfare and risky behaviors. As previously noted, there are substantial public costs associated with adolescent childbearing. If more children in this country were born to parents who are ready and able to care for them, we would see a significant reduction in a host of social problems afflicting children in the United States.

    So what can parents do to help prevent teen pregnancy?

    First, talk about the facts of life. Communicate your values and convictions about love, sex, commitment and marriage.

    If you are having trouble deciding what to talk about, here are some questions teens have said they want to discuss.

    • "How do I know if I'm in love?"

    • "Will sex bring me closer to my girlfriend/boyfriend?"

    • "How will I know when I'm ready to have sex? Should I wait until marriage?"

    • "Will having sex make me popular? Will it make me more grown-up and open up more adult activities to me?"

    • "How do I tell my boyfriend that I don't want to have sex without losing him or hurting his feelings?"

    • "How do I manage pressure from my girlfriend to have sex?"

    • "Can you get pregnant the first time?"

    The good news is more parents are boldly talking about sex and healthy relationships with their teens. As a community, it is critical that we support them in their efforts to raise young people who are well on their way to achieving a successful future and marriage.

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    Fewer Teens are Having Sex

    There are some very positive trends going on among teens. That's according to the CDC 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which examines youth and their engagement in risky behaviors,

    The survey sampled public and private schools with students in at least one of the grades ninth through 12th in the 50 states (4,138 in Tennessee) and the District of Columbia.

    The results indicate:

    • Fewer teens are drinking.
    • Teen smoking is at its lowest level since 1991.
    • Less teens are involved in physical fighting.
    • The percentage of teens that have never had sex has dramatically increased.

    Since 1991, the percentage of currently sexually active high school students has decreased from 38 percent to 30 percent in 2015. Even more interesting is the drop in the number of teens who have ever had sex, falling from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015. That means nearly six in 10 teens are choosing to wait for sex – the highest percentage to date. This news follows a press release from the CDC in April stating that teen birth rates are now at an all-time low.

    More teens in every high school grade are waiting for sex in greater numbers than ever before.

    While this is great news concerning current high school students, a whole new target audience is approaching the high school years. It is imperative that they learn healthy relationship skills and understand the significance of the success sequence: Finish high school at a minimum, get a job and have children after getting married. Research indicates that the success sequence dramatically reduces the chance that youth will live in poverty as adults.

    What can you do to help your teen?

    • Model a healthy relationship.
    • Start an ongoing conversation, preferably before they enter middle school. Your tween may be naïve, but the people around him/her are not. You are the best one to educate and influence them when it comes to relationships.
    • Don’t assume your teen will just figure it out when it comes to dating. The world is a complicated place with confusing messages.
    • Talk about how to identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors. For example, healthy relationships don’t involve physical or emotional abuse. Healthy relationships empower people versus exerting control over them. Healthy relationships encourage individuals to grow and be themselves. When you see examples of healthy relationships, point them out.
    • Monitor involvement on social media. Some people in cyberspace are counting on your tween/teen to think they are invincible.
    • Have an open door policy when it comes to answering questions about relationships. If you don’t know the answer, investigate it together. Make sure your child knows there are no dumb questions.
    • Educate your child about how to protect themselves from sexual assault. This includes the danger of excessive drinking, why going to places in groups is a good thing, and why they should not accept a drink from anyone, even a friend.

    The trend indicated by the CDC report is great news. It means fewer teens are spending time worrying about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. It also means they can actually focus on their future while enjoying their teen years.

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    What You Should Know About Teens and Opioids

    Dr. Nita Shumaker, pediatrician and president of the Tennessee Medical Association, is on a mission. When she's not seeing patients, she's spreading the word about the danger of opioid use and its impact on people everywhere.

    “There were 64,000 deaths in the U.S. last year due to opioid use, and that number is probably underreported,” says Shumaker. “People do not realize how addictive opioids are and that it takes very little to become addicted. We have a very serious problem. It’s like a bathtub overflowing and my goal is to stop the spigot.”

    According to a Live Science magazine article, a new study found that most American teenagers who abuse opioid drugs first received the drugs from a doctor. Looking at trends in prescription opioid use among U.S. adolescents from 1976 to 2015, a strong correlation exists between teens taking the drugs for medical reasons and then taking them later for "nonmedical" reasons. In the journal Pediatrics, study author and research professor at the University of Michigan, Sean McCabe, observed findings over the past two decades. He also found that most nonmedical users of prescription opioids also used them for medical reasons in the past.

    “According to studies, 1 in 4 prescriptions for opioids is misused. They are not taken, given to somebody else or taken in a manner different than prescribed,” Shumaker says. “Furthermore, 1 in 10 opioid users are at very high risk since the drug hits a sweet spot because of how their brain is wired. Probably one of the most shocking statistics is that it’s not the dose of opioids, but the length of time you take them. If you take them for more than three to five days, the risk of addiction doubles. These medications have their place, but they are horribly dangerous. You may be that one person that it trips that sweet spot and it can destroy your life.”

    Shumaker encourages parents to be vigilant with their teens about the opioid epidemic.

    “Changes in behavior, in the friends they choose to hang around, or their grades, pay attention,” Shumaker says. “When teens are abusing drugs, their behavior may become erratic and they may become secretive. As parents and those who care about young people, we must place the highest priority on their health and wellbeing and stop being so concerned about invading their privacy.”

    Shumaker strongly encourages parents to get rid of old medications - it can keep them out of the wrong hands. The FDA says you can flush opioids. You can also crush them and mix them with cat litter or coffee grounds, then throw them away. Or, you can take them to special drop-off locations in the community. Additionally, if your teen has an injury, seek out methods other than opioids to manage pain. Taking opioids is like playing Russian roulette with your child’s life.

    “I don’t think people in general, much less teens, understand the magnitude of danger opioids pose to their life,” Shumaker shares. “The new Fentanyl on the streets, which is often being illegally made, is so powerful. If you touch it, you can stop breathing. Police officers are now having to wear Hazmat suits when making drug arrests.

    “This is an enormous problem. Almost no one is untouched by this epidemic. It is in the best interest of our community and future generations for all of us to pay close attention to what is happening with our teens. It is vital to remember that teens’ executive function, which helps us make wise choices, is not fully formed until age 25. We need to be checking in on our teens and helping them make good decisions.”

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    A Checklist for Sending Your Child to College

    In addition to sending her own two sons to college, Rose-Marie Hippler helps hundreds of families get ready for the college sendoff.

    "Having been through this personally as well as professionally, I bring experience and expertise to parents and their young adults as they leap into the next phase of life," says Hippler, who has a master's of social work and is an independent educational consultant at Winter Park College Consultants.

    "There are usually a lot of emotions stirring around as the anticipation of going off to college draws closer," she says. "I remember when we were on the countdown. There were days when I thought the first day of college couldn't get here fast enough. I decided that was God's way of preparing you to say goodbye."

    Hippler believes one way parents and their teens can keep nerves and anxiety at bay is to create a plan for all they need to accomplish before heading off to college. One way to keep emotions in check is to put together a plan of action.

    Here are some things that may not be on your radar, but Hippler says need to be on your checklist:

    • Make sure your teen has had a physical and all the shots they will need. If your teen is on a regular medication, you will want to transfer their prescription to a local pharmacy. And, unless you have signed the HIPAA form, healthcare professionals cannot legally give you information about your injured or hospitalized adult child.
    • Make a copy of everything in their wallet in case they lose it, which will probably happen at least once.
    • Mark all the upcoming events on your calendar. Don't forget parent's weekend, sports events you plan to attend, Christmas and spring breaks and even the mid-term and finals schedule. Make hotel reservations early for events such as parent's weekend and airline reservations for your student's Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
    • If your teen has not already opened a checking account, now is the time. Instead of writing all the checks, let them do it. It gives them a good indication of your investment in their education. Plus, it lets them get the hang of balancing a checkbook and keeping up with their own money.
    • Alcohol, drugs, sex, campus safety and mental health issues are factors on every college campus. Your teen probably thinks they have a really good handle on things. However, it's still a good idea to have some serious conversations about campus conduct. There are too many examples of teens whose poor choices during the college years forever changed their lives.
    • If they don't know how to do their laundry, teach them then let them do their thing. The first time Hippler visited visit one of her sons, she noticed a stack of sheets in his laundry basket. He explained that he put all three sets of sheets on his bed at once so he could pull off the top fitted and flat sheets and be ready to go. Then he waited until they were all dirty to wash them. It's not the way she would have done it, but it worked for him.
    • Tell them you believe in them and they have been preparing for this their entire life. From the time they went to kindergarten, to middle school, and then to high school, those firsts have been preparing them for this next step in their journey.

    If you're struggling with letting go, find experienced friends to walk you through this time of transition. And keep reminding yourself, this is normal.

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    What Girls Need to Know About Successful Marriage

    When Barbara Dafoe Whitehead was a girl, her father gave her some rules for selecting a husband.

    • He should be a man of good character and conscience.
    • He should be a man who will make a good father and be a good provider.
    • The last rule was: No asthmatics. (Her father was a doctor and an asthmatic.)

    Dafoe Whitehead has been married to a man who exuded all of these qualities for more than 40 years. The one area in which she rebelled: her husband is an asthmatic.

    “Things are different now for girls,” says Dafoe Whitehead. “Both of my girls are single and in their 30s. In college, someone told one of my daughters that to think about marriage shows a lack of ambition.

    "The reality is, we have left a lot of teaching about love, sex and marriage to the popular culture – reality TV, celebrity gossip, etc. Young women today hear messages of heartbreak and failure, heartbreak and cheating, heartbreak and lying. There isn’t a lot out there about being successful in marriage.”

    According to Dafoe Whitehead, only 20 percent of young adults came from broken homes in the late 70s compared to 40 percent in the late 90s. Many women have personal experience with divorce. These young people gather a lot of misinformation along the way that, if acted upon, will significantly lower their chances of marital success.

    “I believe there are five pervasive messages of failure that young women are receiving today,” Dafoe Whitehead says.

    These misleading messages are:

    • Teenage sex has nothing to do with having a healthy marriage later. Two-thirds of today’s teens believe it is OK to have sex if you are in love. Unfortunately, the consequences of teen sex can last a lifetime--but the relationship usually doesn’t.
    • It is OK to have kids first because you can find a guy later. The highest percentage of unwed births today are to women in their 20s. Although they hope to find a guy later on, evidence shows that their chances of successful marriage, or every marrying at all, decline.
    • People should live together. The evidence suggests that living together does not increase one’s chances of having a successful marriage, but there is strong evidence that it increases the chances for divorce.
    • You cannot prepare for a healthy, successful marriage. There are many who believe having several bad relationships is the only way to have a good one, and that heartbreak is unavoidable.
    • Your chances of divorce cannot be changed. The mantra for today’s young people is, “Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.” They believe that a successful marriage is a roll of the dice. Not true. There is a lot you can do.

    “The truth is, young women in their teens and 20s should have tremendous hope for a successful marriage in the future,” Dafoe Whitehead says.

    A lot can be done in the teen years to prepare for a healthy marriage later.

    Making a Love Connection is an excellent resource to help teens make healthy decisions. At the heart of its hopeful message is the issue of sequence or timing. Young women can significantly improve their chances of having a healthy marriage by finishing high school, waiting until after the teen years to marry and having children after marrying. This sequential order also dramatically decreases the chances of poverty or divorcing.

    If you are looking for a committed relationship, don’t settle for any old guy, and don’t settle for living together. Most women want a committed relationship.

    Marriage is typically a public ceremony, leaving no doubt regarding the couple’s commitment to each other. Moving in with someone is private, and the only witnesses may be the moving people. One young lady said, “I really didn’t care about wedding vows, but when I lived with my boyfriend we didn’t vow to do anything.”

    If you want a healthy marriage, here are some things to consider.

    • Plan to complete your education in your 20s.
    • Marry before the age of 30. In general, research shows that people who marry in their 20s are distinctly happier than those who marry later.
    • Date with the intention and thought of marrying. Know what you are looking for in a mate and don’t date guys who aren’t marriage-minded. Frequent places where you are likely to meet the kind of person you'd want to marry.
    • Don’t wait until you are engaged to get marriage education. Get as much relationship education as you can, value the knowledge and share it with others. People who know better do better. 
    • Finally, consider a small wedding if you're planning to marry. Many people delay the ceremony until they can afford a huge bash or a destination wedding that causes stress and fatigue. Focusing on the relationship instead of the big day itself has its perks. It allows couples to get a good emotional and financial start. Plus, it gives them more time together instead of creating debt and overwhelming tasks with the potential for conflict.
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    Love Shouldn't Hurt: Teen Dating Abuse

    The former professional athlete sat in the therapist’s office, sobbing. He and his wife had taken away their daughter’s cellphone the day before. While watching television that night, a picture of the boy their daughter was “talking” to popped up. It wasn’t just any picture. It was a sexual pose with private parts exposed.

    Shocked at what they saw, they had their daughter open up her phone. They were stunned to see many compromising pictures, not only of the boy, but of their daughter as well.

    Devastated, the father asked the therapist, “How could this be? I will never be able to erase these images from my brain. What do we do now?”

    At a July 2016 conference on healthy relationships, Dr. Jill Murray, psychologist and author of But He Never Hit Me and Destructive Relationships, shared her experience working at a domestic violence shelter. She found that every woman she interviewed there began their abusive relationships when they were 13 or 14 years old, going from abuser to abuser.

    While many parents might automatically suspect physical abuse, some don’t consider the possibility of abuse with incredibly controlling behavior using cellphones.

    Consider this:

    • 54 percent of teens say they communicate hourly with the person they are dating via cellphone between midnight and 5 a.m.
    • 38 percent of teens receive texts 30 to 50 times an hour by their boy/girlfriend inquiring about what they are doing.
    • 78 percent of parents are unaware their teen feels afraid in their dating relationship.
    • 87 percent of parents are unaware their teen has been asked to have sex via their cellphone.
    • 82 percent of parents are unaware of cellphone use through the night.

    Current statistics indicate that:

    • 1 in 5 young women will be a victim of sexual assault in college.
    • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 guys will be in a physically violent relationship.
    • The vast majority (85 percent) of teen violence is not physical at all. Rather, it is emotional and verbal abuse.
    • 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner.
    • Gender is not a qualifier.

    “This is a huge epidemic,” asserts Murray. “The reason I use the word 'epidemic' is because if we had a disease in this country that affected 85 percent of teens we would consider it an epidemic. This is a huge problem that we can’t overlook.

    “When I speak to teens I tell them, 'If you are ever in a relationship where you feel frightened, scared to tell the truth, scared of making them angry, scared not to keep your cellphone on all night, or you spend a lot of time crying about your relationship, you are in an abusive relationship,'” Murray says.

    “It is important to remember that teens have limited life experience and perspective. Their perspective is shaped by music, video games and the Kardashians. When we tell them it is not normal to be afraid or to not answer your cell at all hours of the day and night, they are shocked.”

    A typical 14-year-old has no idea that a relationship is abusive when one person makes the rules, constantly changes the rules but doesn’t follow them and causes the other person in the relationship to be afraid of breaking the rules. Murray believes adults everywhere have a responsibility to educate young people about what healthy relationships look like and how to protect themselves from abusive ones.

    “Education is the key,” Murray says. “In addition to teaching teens, parents need to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships.”

    Your Teen Might Be in an Abusive Relationship IF:

    • He/she becomes physically agitated, nervous or unreasonably upset about giving up their cellphone at night.
    • He/she is always tired and seems like they don’t rest because of nighttime texting.
    • The person he/she is dating seems to try and isolate them from friends, family and their typical activities.
    • They cry frequently, seem nervous and have trouble making decisions.
    • They are constantly “reporting in” to their boy/girlfriend.

    What Can You Do?

    “I tell teens, love is a behavior,” Murray says. “Teens are feeling, feeling, feeling to the 10th power. Everything is big and dramatic. You can tell yourself that your feelings are anything. Then you get them to just look at behavior. Things like: He cheats on you. Is that loving behavior? She lies to you. Is that loving behavior? You're losing sleep. Is that loving behavior?

    “It gives them the opportunity to open up boxes in their head. It’s a new way of looking at their relationship that focuses on behavior. This is really important. This is the only way we can talk with them. Essentially, we are backing them into a corner where their only out is logic. Then, I tell them there are three things you have control over: your thoughts, your actions and your reactions. And hoping things will be different is not a strategy.”

    Although most parents probably don't think this could happen to their child, ignorance can be very dangerous. Despite the tension it may cause, conversations on this topic are critical. Make sure they understand what healthy and unhealthy behavior looks like in a relationship, because this has the potential to impact them long into adulthood.

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    13 Reasons Why (You Should Talk About Teen Suicide)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Help them effectively use communication tools.

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

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

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

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

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

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    How to Help Teens Have Healthy Relationships

    What do young people think about relationships these days? That’s what Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard and his team wanted to know. They set out to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Much of what they found surprised them.

    “Based on the responses from our research with more than 3000 young adults and high school students, it is clear that we as a society are failing to prepare young people for perhaps the most important thing they will do in life - learn how to love and develop deep caring, healthy romantic relationships,” says Weissbourd. 

    Additionally, they found that most adults appear to do shockingly little to prevent or effectively address prejudice against women and sexual harassment among young people. These problems can infect both romantic relationships and many other areas of life.

    Weissbourd was troubled that at least one-third of respondents in their most recent survey said:

    • It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television;

    • Society has reached a point that there is no more double standard against women; and

    • Too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    “Another finding I think parents will find most interesting - while parents are uptight about having the sex talk with their teen, 70 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds told us they wished they had received more information from their parents about how to have healthy relationships, including how to have a more mature relationship, how to deal with breakups, how to begin a relationship and how to avoid getting hurt in a relationship.”

    On the positive side, it appears that teens and adults tend to greatly overestimate the size of the “hook-up culture.” 

    Weissbourd believes one of the biggest takeaways from this research is that a high percentage of young people want guidance about developing healthy relationships.

    “I want parents to begin conversations with their teens about love,”Weissbourd says. “The media promotes so many misconceptions about what love looks like. We need to be teaching young people the difference between attraction, infatuation and love.”

    Weissbourd believes we should help young people find answers to the following questions: Why can we be attracted to people who are unhealthy for us? How do you know when you are in love? Why and how can romantic relationships become deeply meaningful and gratifying? How can the nature of a romantic relationship and the nature of love itself change over a lifetime?

    If you’re a parent, the report also encourages you to:

    • Teach your kids what it means to be respectful in a romantic relationship. Specifically identify what harassment looks like and what it means to be caring, and discuss the characteristics of a vibrant romantic relationship.

    • Step in and proactively address the qualities of a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one. Intervene when you see inappropriate words or behavior, because silence can be misunderstood as permission to continue an unacceptable behavior.

    • Talk about what it means to be an ethical person. Teach young people the skills to maintain caring romantic relationships and how to treat each gender with dignity and respect. This also helps strengthen their ability to develop caring, responsible relationships at every stage of their lives and to grow into ethical adults, community members and citizens.

    “For adults to hand over responsibility for educating young people about romantic love and sex to popular culture is a dumbfounding abdication of responsibility,” Weissbourd contends. “Lots of middle and high-schoolers experience trauma at their first and failed attempts at relationships. We need to make sure that kids know that breakups are not the end of the world.

    “The huge question for all of us is this: Given the troubling downsides of our neglect of these issues and the large health, educational and ethical benefits of taking them on, how can we not push down this path?”

    The results of this study encourage me personally, because this is what we have been promoting for two decades. It’s gratifying to see research repeatedly validate something we have taught teens in the schools and adults in this community for many years: Healthy relationships are key to success, in more ways than one.

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    10 Ways to Help Your Teen Succeed in School

    When children first start school, parents usually have a pretty clear understanding of how to help their child have a successful year. But when those kids become teenagers, parents sometimes struggle with their role.

    Parents usually play a much more active role with younger kids in making sure homework is completed, volunteering in the classroom, dealing with friendships, interacting with teachers and making sure their child gets enough rest. Too often, though, parents believe they can be less involved when a child moves from elementary to middle school.

    While parents may want to change how they engage their tween when it comes to school success, research indicates this is not the time for parents to back off. The tween/teen years bring their own unique challenges, and teens aren’t sure how to talk with their parents or any other adult about many of them.

    If you want to actively engage your teens and help them have a successful school year, these ideas can help you out.

    • Have a back-to-school discussion about expectations. Ask them what they want to accomplish this year and discuss ways you can help them reach their goals.

    • Establish healthy sleep patterns. When it comes to rest, plenty of research indicates that tweens/teens do not get enough sleep. On average, teens need 9.25 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. For various reasons though, many of them get significantly less than that. You can help with this by teaching them organizational skills. Have them look at their overall schedule of school and extracurricular activities, then develop a plan.

    • If you are still waking your teen for school, purchase an alarm clock - their phone doesn’t count. Make them responsible for getting themselves up in the morning.

    • Set a budget. Instead of constantly forking out money for this and that, allot a certain amount for school supplies, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc. and teach them how to manage this money. If they want to purchase things that aren’t included in the plan, resist the urge to figure it out for them. Instead, guide them in finding ways they can earn the extra cash.

    • Give them added responsibilities such as doing their own laundry, assisting with meal preparation and packing lunches.

    • Talk with them about the qualities of healthy relationships - friendships, dating relationships, relationships with teachers and school administrators. Discuss how to treat people with respect even if they aren’t respectful in return.

    • Avoid handling their problems for your teen. Talk with them about the issue, then help them problem-solve and determine a course of action. Facing a challenge head-on and making it to the other side is a huge confidence-builder.

    • Be clear about your expectations when it comes to bullying behavior. Research indicates parents are often the last to know when this is going on - whether your teen is the bully or the victim.

    • Talk about addiction. Discuss the opioid crisis and the impact of drugs and alcohol. This conversation makes it more likely for your teen to talk with you when they do encounter challenges.

    • Be very clear about your expectations and consequences for lack of follow-through, and avoid putting anything out there that you will not enforce. A great rule of thumb is this: less is more. Remind them that nothing they can do would make you love them any more or any less. Your teen needs to know you believe in them.

    The teen years are incredibly challenging because everything in their world is changing. Their brain is growing, their body is changing, relationships are different, and they are establishing their independence while still being dependent in many ways. While they may be taller than their parents and seem smarter, especially when it comes to technology, it’s good to remember that 12 is just 12 and 15 is only 15.

    Be present. Keep your eyes wide open. Let them make mistakes. Be there - not to lecture them - but to help them figure out what they could do differently in the future. Stay focused on your goal of launching someone who is capable of caring for themselves and being a productive person.

    Even though they may begin to push you away, adolescents need their parents. Don’t be lulled into believing they needed you more when they were younger. The truth is, they need you now more than ever as they navigate the potentially-turbulent teen years.

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    How Friends Influence Behavior

    You only live once! Life is short, make the most of it! Sow your wild oats while you can!

    You have likely heard these messages or perhaps said them to your teen or a friend. However, those who take the message to heart without any boundaries often experience ongoing ripple effects from their actions or the choices of those around them. For example, consider Olympian Ryan Lochte’s fellow swimmers that night in Brazil or the young man who took the up-skirt pictures at school and sent them to friends.

    In his series, “Guardrails,” Andy Stanley reminds us that friends influence the direction and quality of our lives. Guardrails are things that can protect us from danger, such as going over a cliff.

    “The thing that makes friendship so great is the very thing that makes friendship so dangerous,” says Stanley.

    He contends that people drop their guard when they are around those who accept them. And, when they feel completely accepted, they are much more open to the influence of the people around them.

    Nicholas Christakis, in his TED talk, “The Hidden Influence of Social Networks,” also addresses being open to the influence of other people. Christakis’ research shows that non-drinkers who spend time with people who drink significantly increase their chances of becoming drinkers themselves. This also holds true with risk of divorce, obesity, violence, immoral activity and other issues.

    An ancient proverb even says, “Walk with the wise and become wise. For the companion of fools suffers harm.”

    “Wisdom is contagious,” Stanley asserts. “If you surround yourself with wise people, it is contagious. You will become wiser by just being in their company. A wise person understands that all of life is connected. What you do today, think about today will influence who you are tomorrow. There are no isolated events, thought patterns or relationships.

    “When you are with people who live as if life is connected, who make decisions as if life is connected, it will impact how you make decisions, view the world, your morality, your reputation, your family, everything.”

    Regardless of age and life circumstance, Stanley offers five “red-flag” scenarios that indicate a need for guiding or protective guardrails.

    • You realize that your core group isn’t moving in the direction you want your life go. Having opposite value systems is a cause for concern.

    • You catch yourself trying to being somebody you are not. If you ignore your values in a certain group, you are moving away from who you really are.  People who know you well may say things like, “When you are around them, you are different.”

    • You feel pressure to compromise your values. If something has never been a temptation before and you begin to actually consider it as an option, ask yourself why.

    • You say to yourself, “I’ll go, but I won’t participate.” Although you may not actually do the behavior, you are there when others do it. A companion of fools suffers harm.

    • You hope the ones you love don’t find out where or with whom you have been. It may not be that you have to defend yourself, but something on the inside tenses up when you think about telling them.

    It's true: You only live once. But, it is also true that your actions and the actions of others can powerfully impact you for the rest of your life. Teaching your teen how to put guardrails in place could be one of the most powerful and long-lasting gifts you give them.