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Posts Tagged ‘teens’

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With a household of young adults aged 15-20, I am in the final years of my hands-on parenting stage, and the empty nest is getting closer and closer. If I think too hard about this fact, I am liable to burst into tears. However, sometimes this revelation is a light in a tunnel of teenage moodiness and rebellion.

Each stage of parenting has both pros and cons, and these later teen years are no exception. I love that my kids are so independent now. I no longer need to coordinate their every move, or ensure they are properly entertained. All of my kids are capable of jumping on a bus or driving a car downtown to go hang out with their friends, and they earn their own money to pay their way for non-essentials. They make many of their own meals and keep track of their own homework. And I thoroughly enjoy conversations with them, because they are at a level where we can discuss things from current events to their natural day-to-day.

However, their growing independence comes with a price. Being so close to total independence, my kids tend to believe they should have the kind of absolute freedom all adults have, even while they are still a dependent in our household. They fight certain rules and obligations, and the power struggle is real. They have reached an age when forcing them to do anything is no longer realistic, and I have to rely heavily on the ideals I’ve raised them with, and hope with all my might that these ideals possess some sort of pull in their current decision making.

There are many times when I feel like just throwing my hands up in the air, and maybe even giving them the house while I move to some deserted island. But just when I have reached my breaking point with these rebellious, stubborn teens, they do something to remind me that they are really just brilliant human beings that I cherish more than anything, and they are only testing their wings before they are ready to fly.

I came across an article I wrote when my daughter was 13. In it, I was going through an especially difficult time with her, and I was frustrated with how far our relationship had fallen in such a short amount of time. But then I put myself in her shoes, remembering what it was like when I was 13 years old. I ended up writing a letter to my 13-year-old self, telling my younger self all the things I would have loved to have known back then. You can read that letter here.

My daughter is now nearing her high school graduation, my son is finishing his first year of high school, and my stepson is figuring out his career goals after college. It’s so easy to place my adult ideals on their day-to-day actions, and grow frustrated when they don’t do things the way I would do them. However, if I look back at the person I was at their age, and remember what it was like as an older teen getting ready to leave the nest, I gain a bit of perspective about their role in life.

I also remember all the things I grappled with at their age.

So in favor of understanding my teens a bit better, I took a stroll down memory lane and wrote a new letter to myself from way back when. Here’s what I came up with:

Dear 18-year-old Crissi,

At this moment, you are preparing for high school prom, graduation, and the moment when you can pack your bags and leave your over-controlling parents and all of their ridiculous rules. I get it. You can’t wait for your freedom. These are exciting times. However, as your 38-year-old self, I feel it my duty to share a few things I’ve learned about us in the past 20 years. I hope you will take some of these things in consideration.

1. If you are given the choice between moving in with that exciting bad boy or getting a college education, CHOOSE EDUCATION. Trust me on this, it’s going to save you a lot of headaches. That being said, I know you’re not going to listen to me. See #8.

2. Smoking does not make you look cool. Just stop.

3. Pay attention to who your real friends are, and stop wishing you were hanging out with the “cool kids.” Years from now, those cool kids won’t even know who you are. But your real friends? They’ll still care for you 20 years after you graduate.

4. You don’t have to fall in love with every boy who pays attention to you.

5. YOU ARE NOT FAT.

6. Right now, you believe you are completely plain and forgettable. But years from now, you are going to find out from several people that they looked up to you, had a crush on you, or wished they had been better friends with you. You are not as invisible as you think you are. However, the biggest takeaway I want you to gain from this knowledge is that you should really be kinder to yourself. You’re kind of awesome.

7. You will have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU. Sorry. And congratulations.

8. That boy you’re dating is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you. He is also going to be one of the best. Through him, you get to have two really awesome kids, and you are also going to gain a real life education.

9. You are going to be way too young when you start having kids. You are going to make countless mistakes. However, you will also learn so much as you all grow together. And when they are older, you will get to be the cool, “young” mom, and you will share a unique bond with your kids.

10. You will one day be friends with your parents. Right now, you don’t get why they are so strict, and why there are so many rules. You are even plotting all the ways you will be a much better parent than they are. Trust me, they actually know what they are doing—at least for the most part. One day, you will reach a point in your parenthood when you understand why they did things a certain way, especially when your own kids are being buttheads. You will also have many days when you want to call them and apologize.

If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say?

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When it comes to Easter baskets, kids are easy to shop for. Grab some jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, gather a few small toys, add the artificial grass and voila, you have created the magic of the Easter Bunny.

And then they become teens, and the Easter basket dilemma begins.

First off, don’t think for a second that teenagers are too old to wake up to an Easter basket on Easter morning. It’s more important than ever for parents to keep the magic alive as long as possible – and Easter morning is just one of those occasions to do just that.

However, teens are notoriously hard to shop for. They have specific tastes in style and gifts, and many times their tastes can be more expensive than the average Easter basket item.

With the help of other parents of teens, I have gathered more than 100 things to place in your teenager’s Easter basket – most of them completely affordable. If I’ve missed any, be sure to leave them in the comments.

(P.S. To see 50 more things, click here)

Alternatives to Traditional Baskets
– Fill an upside-down umbrella
– Use a portable shower caddy
– Fill a lunch box
– Use a reusable shopping bag
– Create an Origami box

Handmade Coupons
– Get out of chore
– Date night with Mom or Dad
– Day at the beach
– Teen’s choice for family outing

It’s All About the Money
– Eggs filled with coins
– $5 gift card to local business
– Gift certificate for mani/pedi
– Gas card

Toys for the Kid in All of Us
– Stuffed animals
– Nerf guns
– Bubbles
– Wind-up toys
– Family game
– Lego set
– Playing cards
– Hula hoop
– Jump rope

Get Ready for Summertime
– Beach towel
– Swim trunks or bathing suit
– Pool toys
– Sunglasses
– Swim goggles
– Flip flops
– Sunblock
– Baseball cap or floppy hat
– Snorkeling gear
– Beach umbrella

Subtle Hints for Upcoming Vacation
– Disney coffee (or hot chocolate) mug
– Pine cone (for hiking or camping)
– Seashells
– Pineapple (for Hawaii)
– Croissant (for Paris)
– Calendar or photo book of destination

Plan for Rainy Weather
– Umbrella
– Rain boots
– Rain jacket

Tasty treats
– Candy, of course
– Cheese sticks
– Beef jerky
– Trail mix
– Old-fashioned soda
– Handi-snacks
– Granola bars
– Cereal
– Hot chocolate

Bath Time is Fun Time
– Bath toys
– Bubble bath
– Bath salts
– Washcloths
– Bath towel
– New robe
– Hair brush
– Bath sponge
– Pumice stone

Practical, But Cool
– Cute socks
– A new outfit
– Underwear
– Key chains
– Deodorant
– Flavored tooth floss
– New toothbrush
– Colored shoelaces
– New pajamas
– Travel mug
– Water bottle
– Fingerless gloves

For the Creative Teen
– Colored pencils
– Colored chalk
– Scented markers
– Coloring book
– Water color paints
– Gel pens
– Polaroid camera
– Sketch book

For the Studious
– A new book ;-)
– Cool pens
– Colored paper clips
– Cute office supplies, like this cat shaped Post-it dispenser
Refrigerator magnets
– Mad libs
– Erasers
– Flash drives

Things to Do
– Movie passes
– Sports equipment (basketball, bucket of baseballs, etc)
– DVD of their favorite movie
– New video game

For the Teen With the Green Thumb
– Flower seeds
– Gardening gloves
– Gardening tools
– Potting materials
– Collection of succulents
– Hummingbird feeder

For the Music Lover
– iTunes gift card
– ‘Retro’ mixed cassette tapes
– Concert tickets

For the Girly Girl
– Nail polish
– Lip gloss
Metallic temporary tattoos (I want these!)
– Mini lotions
– Hair accessories
– Jewelry
– EOS chapstick (shaped like an egg!)
– Body spray or perfume
– Henna kit

What else?

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I have a 12-year-old son who is a 7th grader this year. Like most 7th grade boys, my son’s actions don’t necessarily involve a lot of thought. Just this week alone, he decided that buying and consuming a Monster energy drink right before bed was a good idea, skipping his chores and lying about them being done was perfectly acceptable, yelling at his stepdad would have no repercussions, and leaving the house and not coming back until after 8 p.m. (with no cell phone or note) was okay.

And in the past month or so, he has also pointed his fingers at other cars while I’ve been driving, pretending to shoot at them.

replica gunYesterday, our county was rocked by the news that a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by the police in a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood. The first reports spoke of a man carrying assault weapons who was shot down. But the developing story evolved, and it became clear that no would-be murderer was killed – it was just a boy, carrying “toy” guns, or rather, replicas of real guns.

I can’t comment on who is at fault in this situation. There just isn’t enough information yet about what went down in the time when this kid was spotted, and when he was fired upon. But I do know that nerves are rattled at the recent news of a boy the same age who brought a gun to his Nevada school, injuring two students and killing a teacher before turning the gun on himself. I know that there are news stories all over the nation of kids who are capable of heinous crimes. And I know that a boy around the age of 13 would think nothing of carrying around a toy gun that looked exactly like the real thing – because they’d WANT it to look like the real thing.

This morning, I sat down with my son and told him about this 13-year-old boy’s death and his family’s tragedy. I took the opportunity to discuss how there is nothing funny about pretend violence – how it can actually lead to something tragic like this. And I laid out some firm guidelines for him:

– Never go out in public carrying anything that might look like a real weapon. Nerf guns are one thing – their bright colors and odd shape makes them apparent they’re just a toy. But anything that is supposed to look real can be mistaken for the real thing, and could get you injured or killed.

– Never point your fingers at anyone else to look like a gun. You don’t know who you’re pointing at, and it could have the real thing pointed back at you in return.

– Always, ALWAYS respect the law and those employed to enforce it.

This boy’s death is a tragedy for his family, and for our community. There are no words to describe the sorrow I feel for everyone involved in this devastating event. Yes, there was a time when a kid wouldn’t get shot for carrying something that is only meant to look like a weapon. But times have changed. Even “just playing around” can be deemed unsafe.

I urge all parents to take a moment and speak with your kids about the importance of weapon safety – even if that “weapon” is just pretend.

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In the morning, I am usually the last one to leave the house.  I kind of like it that way, because it gives me a few moments of quiet in an empty house.  Of course, it also means that I am the one who is left with a sink full of dishes to fill the dishwasher with, and hungry cats that still need to be fed.

This morning was no exception.  In fact, the sink was filled with dishes, despite the fact that the dishwasher was close to empty.  This included a container from yesterday that still held the remnants of warm tuna.  Totally appetizing.  And to the right of me sat the stove with leftover food chunks from everyone’s breakfast makings.

I could have gotten mad.  Admittedly, I was a little irritated.  But honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

However, the appliances did not feel the same way.

Here’s the note the dishwasher left.

And the stove, not able to keep silent any longer, added its two cents as well.

I was concerned that perhaps my family might take offense to the appliance’s efforts to share their feelings.  But I didn’t want to stifle their voice either.  After all, everyone is entitled to their feelings.  So I left for work and went on with my day.

When I got home, however, apparently the loaf pans and my husband had a heart to heart while I was gone.  My husband heard I had made banana bread while he was away on a business trip, and none was saved for him.  The loaf pan felt bad about this, and felt the need to share its own feelings:

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And then, the calendar – who I keep forgetting to put the dang month on – decided enough was enough.  My daughter keeps reminding me to do my usual artistic month title, but I keep forgetting.  Guess the calendar felt a little slighted.

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I think my house has gone mad….

P.S. The teenagers in the house decided humorous notes totally beat out ordering them around.  When I came home, the stove was totally clean, and all the dishes were put away.

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Four generations of first borns – from my grandmother to my daughter.

This post will publish in the Press Democrat on Friday, September 7, 2012.

On a recent afternoon, my daughter DQ and I were on our way back from dropping my son, Taz, off at his friend’s house. I had assumed that DQ was going to spend the rest of the day bored since one of her best friends was grounded that day, so I racked my brain for something we could do together.

“What do you want to do?” I asked her, and was surprised when she said she already had plans.

“Katie and I are hanging out today,” she told me, even though her friend was not supposed to see the light of day for another 24-hours. From what I had heard, Katie had mouthed off to her grandmother pretty badly. As long as I had known Katie, I had never heard of any limitations being placed on her freedom. So she must have acted really badly for her mother to come down hard on her. But it wasn’t even a full day later and she was sprung from her cell and able to go free once again.

“What happened?” I asked DQ. “I thought Katie was grounded?”

“She was, but her mom changed her mind.” And then DQ said something that I’ll never forget. “It’s weird, but Katie has told me she wishes her mom would actually follow through when she punishes her. It would show that she actually cared.”

I’ve heard this theory before, that teens want boundaries to keep them safe whether they know it or not. But this was the very first time I had ever heard a kid actually voice this sentiment – that they wanted to know where the edge of their freedom stood through rules and discipline.  It made me think that maybe Katie was purposely pushing boundaries, testing her mom’s reaction when she got caught.

My friend Sara recently described a horrifying scene she‘d been witnessing on her Facebook newsfeed that only seemed to be getting worse. As of late, her cousin’s 15-year old daughter had been very blatant about showcasing her negative behavior all over her Facebook page. There were photos of her with friends holding bottles of alcohol and posts talking about staying out all night while she was partying, as well as call-outs to friends when she didn’t have any plans and was looking for the next reason to party.

Her mother seemed to turn a blind eye to her daughter’s antics, even though she has access to her daughter’s Facebook page and can see all that’s happening on there. Sara described how countless people had reached out to this girl only to be told to mind their own business by her and her friends, and sometimes ignored completely. But it was the latest incident that left Sara shaking to her core and unsure what to do. The young girl had posted an actual video of herself and some friends partaking in illegal drug use – right out in the open for everyone to see.

Was this video to share with her friends to make herself look cool? It’s possible. Was she looking for approval from others? Judging by the negative backlash from anyone concerned, probably not. Sara’s guess was that this was a cry for help, that she was trying to get her mom’s attention – someone who had made herself more of the “cool mom” to her daughter than the parent who was in charge.

Kids don’t need their parents to be “cool”. They need them to provide boundaries to keep them safe.

There’s a natural pull to want to be our kids’ friends. From the moment they’re born, we love them immensely. They are familiar to us, and under our influence appreciate many of the same things we enjoy doing or experiencing. My dad used to jokingly tell me that he and my mom were growing their own friends by having my sisters and me.

Silliness on New Year’s Eve with DQ

It’s ok to be friends with your child, but with limitations put in place. Staying involved in their lives, getting to know who their friends are, and keeping up with what their changing interests are is a good way to be a parental friend to your child. Having a moment each day for one on one time, and more importantly, listening to them, is a great way to keep a connection with them. But when you find yourself caving when it comes to discipline, confiding in them with issues of an adult nature, or forgoing rules altogether to be known as the “cool” parent, you’re actually failing your child.

Kids are going through a constant motion of change. They’re physically and mentally growing, and at times it can feel pretty out of control. As they earn more and more independence, they need a constant in their life to hold on to. They need boundaries to keep them safe. They need someone to be in charge.

They need you to be a parent.

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(This article is publishing in the Press Democrat on June 29th)

On a recent evening, I took my daughter, DQ, to the store to go shopping for some clothes and jewelry she wanted for a special occasion.  We not only looked for what she needed, but had fun going through the different aisles trying on scarves and making fun of gaudy rings.  It was an inexpensive way to get in some mother-daughter time – until we got to the checkout.  We both knew I ended up spending too much money on her, and she was extremely gracious about all her new pretty things I bought for her.  So I was caught off guard when the very next day she was blasting me via text about how uncool I was over a household rule I wouldn’t bend on, and how I always treated her like a baby.  We closed the conversation and ended up not speaking to each other for the rest of the day.

The following day she helped me put dishes away, finished her chores early, and then hung out with me all afternoon.  But that night at dinner she sassed back anyone who had the audacity to speak to her, making it clear that we were all idiots, and appalled when we required her to help out with cleaning up after dinner.  A mere 30 minutes later, she was lacing up her shoes to join me on a run around our neighborhood.  When we got home, she cracked jokes with her stepdad.  But when he joked back, she whipped around and snapped at him.

We are officially in the Jekyll & Hyde years, that lovely age when darling daughters turn into exceptionally moody beings that are sweet as pie one second, and then turn into raving monsters the next.  Sometimes there’s a buildup to the actual explosion, giving you some time to duck and take cover.  But mostly it’s without warning, the scene changing from serene to volatile in the blink of an eye.

“One minute you still have your sweet girl, the next minute she’s back talking and slamming her door. Never really know which one you’re dealing with,” Carley Harp of Rohnert Park said about teenage girls around age 14.

One mom I know was astounded when she discovered that her daughter had a secret Facebook for her friends, and a more innocent one she kept for all her family.  Another mom stated that her daughter had recently stopped speaking altogether to her parents, her only form of communication done by rapidly moving fingers over the keyboard of her phone.

Having worked with teenagers for years at a summer camp our family attends, I have witnessed girls around my daughter’s age who are incredibly mature in their responsibilities.  But get them around their parents, these same girls are suddenly spewing venom and hatred.  And have you ever witnessed a Facebook newsfeed filled with hormonal teenage girls?  Emotions create an avalanche of ups and downs, ranging from exaggerated excitedness to depressed song lyrics and cryptic codes begging for others to ask “what’s wrong”.

“My girl was sweet, calm and gentle up until puberty,” Caren McLerran of Santa Rosa said about her own now-adult daughter.  “Then wham, she changed into a secretive, defiant person that I didn’t know.”  But she offered hope to parents going through the same thing with their daughters, having observed her own daughter coming back to her senses around age 18.   “Let’s just say that the caterpillar stage of a girl’s life is hell, eating her way through the feelings of everyone around her. But as she emerges from her rather toxic chrysalis she has once again returned to her beautiful butterfly-self.

The fact of the matter is that girls around age 13-15 are going through a huge shift in how they view their bodies, what it takes for boys to be interested in them, the pressure of popularity and fitting in, and the hormonal and physical changes going on inside and outside their bodies.  According to statistics, 50% of young teenage girls view themselves as fat, and 80% have dieted in some form or another (visit anad.org and eatingdisorders411.com for more statistics on teens and body image).  Peer pressure, whether it be drugs, sex, or any other pressure of “going with the flow”, are the strongest in the early teen years.  And this is the age when teens begin to make real adult decisions that could impact the rest of their lives.

So how do you deal with the fragile temperament of these cantankerous cherubs?  There is no cookie cutter answer.  The best you can do is try to remember what it was like when you were a teenager, and have empathy for what your daughter is going through.  And whenever she’s on the sweet side of her Jekyll & Hyde mentality, savor it for all its worth.

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Don’t freak out.

What did my parents say? “We hope you have a daughter just like you.” Guess what, it’s happened. And now I get to deal with the same stuff they freaked out on me about, but try to do it in a way that won’t cause her to rebel and get worse.

Like I did.

I was 17 when I met him. He was charming, thought I was beautiful, and made me feel like I was on top of the world. He was so much more than the boys I went to school with.  In my eyes, he was the boy who became my pedestal, lifting me up in ways I’d never experienced. In my dad’s eyes, he was trouble. If I wasn’t sure of it before, it became incredibly abundant when my father stood outside his house ready to fight this 18 year old kid to save the innocence of his daughter.

But dad, that ship had sailed long before.

The hatred that ensued only made me fall deeper into this boy’s arms. I snuck out at night to see him. I skipped school to be with him. I talked on the phone with him till the early hours of the morning. I visited him every chance I had and revolved my whole world around him. And when he was kicked out of his parents house and found himself with no place to live, I snuck him into my room – as if I could really hide him like bringing a pet home.

My parents found out, of course. At this point, the power struggles were getting exhausted. But guess who had more resolve? Me, the teenager. And I was going to fight till the end. My parents must have sensed this because they did the exact thing I never expected – they let him move in. There were rules, of course. And we stuck to them for about a day. And then we were having sex all the time under my parents’ roof almost as if we had their permission. If my dad suspected anything, he kept tight lipped and furrow browed about it. And this boy lived with us until the day after graduation.

Around this time my parents gave me a proposition. I could go to college, anywhere I wanted, and they would pay for the whole thing. However, if I moved in with him, I would forgo any money for college and would be on my own.

I was a smart girl. I had aspirations to be a writer. For years I actually had thought about where I wanted to go, and had it all picked out. A deal like this doesn’t come just anytime.

And of course, I chose the boy.

Fast forward to a one-bedroom apartment, too many cigarettes, strange people coming and going, thrown on the floor and kicked around, pot and alcohol flowing, never having any money, a diet of Top Raman, his disappearance for days, girls claiming to be his girlfriend, a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from, being unable to reach out to my family who no longer knew what to do….

And all because I felt the need to win this power struggle.

So don’t freak out. Talk to her. And then, just listen.

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