Way to go Moms of 8th grade Girls!

You survived Middle School!

Happy 8th Grade Graduation

Middle school is brutal! Girls go through amazing physical, emotional and academic growth while they are interacting with hundreds of other girls going through the same incredible changes. Unfortunately, that looks like friends turning on friends, mean text messages, constant judgments and pits of insecurity!

One word sums up middle school for girls… DRAMA!

You and your daughter survived!

School was a daily roller coaster of super high highs and super low lows.

But you both made it! Here’s to you and your daughter!

Take a look at what you both accomplished during the middle school years!


  1. You both learned to deal with change! Lots of change! Change of friends. Change of teachers. And the biggest and scariest monster of change… mood!! The amazing up and down of mood change was frightening at times, but take a deep breath and celebrate for one minute, not much longer or moods will shift again, that you both learned a ton about change!


  1. Observation skills allowed the world to be noticed in new ways. Middle school girls are developmentally craving sameness. They want to fit in. They want to belong. Throughout this quest, girls learn to observe the world and make shifts in their behavior or expectations to find their place. Some girls find a way to fit in; others find a way to be ok not fitting in. Both are absolutely OK at this age. But your daughter learned to observe others and that is a great step to respecting others!


  1. Feelings were faced! The really hard ones too! The agony, the frustration, the feelings of loneliness, the sadness, the guilt, the shame, the excitement, jealousy, the thrill of being included, whatever the emotions were at that moment, you both faced them head on! You taught her to feel her feelings, to identify exactly which ones they were and what to do with those complicated emotions!


  1. You both worked on communication skills! You had to understand each other and hear each other. Sometimes that went well, mostly not so well. But she practiced communication skills every single day! She practiced! Not that darn instrument you pay for every month, but she practiced!



  1. Power was discovered! You both may have discovered the power to hurt people with words. Hopefully, both of you also learned that power of words can be controlled and better managed so they hurt people less often. Power to use words for positive change is right around the corner!


  1. Your daughter learned values! She learned what you believe and why you believe it. She may not like your rules or limits. She may fight the rules everyday or any chance she can get, but she is learning values. You are teaching her to decide what she believes is right. She is developing her own values!


Job well done!! Your daughter probably learned a new language, how to make a brownie in a mug,  algebra, state history and a whole lot more thanks to you! You have officially earned your Master’s Degree in Mama Drama Management!

And your teen is one step closer to being confident, powerful and absolutely sure of who she is! Take a minute and breathe because High School is next!!




Joy Hartman is  passionate about empowering girls to become strong, confident women. She works with girls of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising two soon-to-be strong, confident teenage daughters of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of  other parents at: Joyhartman.com or Facebook


Parenting Goal: Raise Good, Kind, Decent Human Beings

My goal in parenting has always been to raise good, kind, decent human beings. That’s it. Simple.

So why does it seem so hard??

When my path has been blocked by moodiness, frustrations, disappointments, complete failures, attitudes, defiance and straight up exhaustion, I try to come back to my simple goal.

The teen years have brought an ever increasing pressure to teach them every adult skill they could possibly need, give them the emotional tools to deal with life and life’s crazy ups and downs and keep them safe in a world that feels out of control. Sometimes the goal seems so far away.

I have always loved lists. I love making them…not completing them. I probably have notebooks filled with lists. Notebooks filed with lists that have only half of the items crossed off. I am a proud procrastinator and shining example of do enough to get it done. And not much more.

So what does that mean for my ultimate list of raising good, kind, decent human beings? Will they be ok, so-so, human beings?? Help! I need to step up my game!

So in true form I have made yet another list. My kids will tell you we have had every chore chart on the planet. I have scoured Pinterest and even made a few chore boards in pretty scrap book papers and cute little clothes pins to hold the adorably inspiring chore. I have yelled, ranted, raved, ignored, done it all myself, stopped doing anything at all, you name it we’ve tried it.

To be clear this is not tried and true. This is not backed by research. And it will probably be a joke to my teens in a month; another of mom’s crazy plans. But it’s my latest and greatest. It’s the tired mom’s check list. I’m still trying. That should count for something, I hope.

Daily 5

5 steps is pretty ambitious, but it had a nice ring to it.

If my teenagers want to be well rounded people with a life that is reasonably balanced, and reasonably successful, they should try to make their daily 5.

Here is what our family decided were 5 things that kept us healthy and balanced in a wellness and whole human being kind of way.

  1. Done. Done well-ish.
  2. Play or exercise. Preferably play. Something fun. Life should be fun. Basketball. Bike to a friend’s. Try to build a zip line from the old rotten swing set to the house. Whatever. Have some fun.
  3. Practice or learn something. Ideally that stupid instrument I pay for every month, but I’m good with You Tube videos of your choosing. Learn to change a tire. Learn Ukulele. Learn how to do awesome Henna designs. Bake, design, build; practice or learn something.
  4. Be helpful. Do a chore. See something that needs to be done and do it. Clean your poor beta fish tank (in the interest of full disclosure, out beta lives in my lemonade pitcher, never quite got around to a tank, but he does seem exceedingly happy with his home), water the ONE plant that is kinda alive.
  5. And last but not least. Spend at least one hour without any device. No TV. No phone. No video game. Being alone is good for them. Having a few thoughts strung together without snap chatting those thoughts as they come, is good for them. They don’t like this one as much but it’s been fun watching them try to combine 1-4 to count as 5 and to work the system as much as possible. But I figure they are at least aware of how hard it is to spend an hour without a device. That’s good, right? I even saw one of them pick up a book and read for a while as she was growling at me about the hour thing : )

Read more here for encouraging teens to be happily alone.


Parenting teenagers is no easy feat. But my guess is that you are doing an amazing job and your kids are well on their way to being kind, decent human beings! Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas and some of the lists that work in your family. We could all use the help!


Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com or Facebook






I’m Sorry….Possibly The Hardest Simple Phrase to Say!

I’m sorry.

These two little words are not easy to say.

Some people even pride themselves on never saying it.

Some think they say it but it never quite get it right.

“I’m sorry, but …” is one of my least favorite kinds of apologies. It doesn’t count as an “I’m sorry” if it’s followed by a “but”. Ever.  An apology is really very basic. A good solid apology has three simple steps. This formula works with little small events or huge, life altering events.

The three R’s of an apology…

  • Express Regret
  • Take Responsibility
  • Offer Resolution or make it Right

Simple.  A cheat sheet for how to do something that seems really hard.

The tough part is practicing!

So why not use it on the small simple things that happen every day? I regret being late picking you up today. I got distracted and just lost track of time. How can I make this right? (now of course you are a busy mom and if you are a few minutes late I hope their answer is don’t worry about it mom, no big deal, you do so much for me every day I totally understand). But it is showing them how to use the formula. It owns your piece of responsibility so that they too learn how to apologize and take responsibility.

If THEY are late when you are picking them up, it gives you the chance to say, you were late and are wasting my time, I’d like an apology. Instead of “OMG, mom, whatever, it was like 5 minutes, what’s the big deal?”, you might get,  “I regret wasting your and I take responsibility for stopping to talk to my friends when I knew you were waiting, how can I make this up to you?” Wouldn’t that be fun?? Or weird. But either way it is a great way to practice apologizing.

There are a million fears in parenting a teenager, but one of my biggest is that my kids will make a mistake that cannot be taken back. A mistake that can not be fixed with a grounding or consequence or that cannot be undone and will stay with them their whole lives. Teens cause horrible traffic accidents by texting and driving, teens kill one another in stupid pranks and making poor decisions, teens say hurtful words and contribute to bullying that can ultimately lead to suicide. None of these mistakes can be undone. The guilt we carry into our adult lives can be a heavy load to bear.

So let’s teach our kids how to apologize for the times in their life when they will really need it.  Hurting people we care about is a guarantee in life. But the three R’s of an apology is the formula they need to work through just about any apology needed in life. The “how can I make it right” part isn’t always going to be clear or easy, but at least they know it is their regret and their responsibility and within their power to find the way to make it right. Show them how to make it right  with the little things along the way, and you will be giving them a chance to carry less guilt with them every day.

The best way to teach teenagers to apologize is to apologize to them and show them how it is done, talk to them and walk them through apologies they need to make, or point out great apologies when you see one. Or try this handout. Maybe when they are struggling to give an apology or accept a friend’s apology, this visual format will help them fine tune their own apology or might help them identify what is missing from an apology given to them.

A message to teenagers:

Apologies are hard. No one likes to say, “I’m sorry”. And saying it to your parents is the worst punishment in the world! Apologies are really hard when you are feeling mad and you don’t really feel sorry! We get that! But apologies are so important in life. Someday you are going to hurt someone’s feelings you really care about. Maybe not on purpose, but it will happen. You are going to have a huge fight with someone you really care about someday. You are going to make mistakes. We all do. The biggest fear from those that love you, is that sometimes really bad stuff happens; a really serious injury, permanent damage to a person or property or worst of all someone dies. These things can happen to any of us. Any one of us can make a mistake that really hurts someone. And those are the kind of mistakes that can haunt us for life. They can settle in as guilt and shame.  So many adults don’t like themselves for things they have done and they wind up being angry at the world or afraid of the world. No one wants that kind of life for you. So the little apologies along the way teach you how to use the three R’s (which feels pretty lame right now) but gets you ready for the bigger ones you will need someday. If you learn to apologize for all of the little things, you will know how to apologize for the big things. By using this apology and practicing the last step of what can I do to make it right, you will have learned how to deal with guilt and shame. And that is huge!

Here is a cheat sheet for making an apology easier:

  • Express Regret
  • Take Responsibility
  • Offer Resolution or make it Right

Think of three things you are sorry for. If you’ve got nothing, think of three things someone else thinks you should feel sorry about. Practice writing out an apology using the three R’s.

Apology Practice

I regret____________________________________________________________________.

I take responsibility for_________________________________________________________________.

I will do ____________________________________________________to make up for my actions.



I am sorry for  _______________________________________________________. It was my fault for ___________________________________________________________________________________________.

I will make it up to you by _______________________________________________________________.



Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com or Facebook

What is On Your Family Summer Bucket List?

As parents of young kids are making day care plans and having life as they know it turned upside down for the short season of summer, it’s a reminder that our teenagers will be out of school too! While they don’t need a babysitter anymore, they probably are the babysitter in some cases, they still need some structure and accountability! They can get a job, have chores, enroll in classes, but the bottom line is they are on their own a good part of the day, because most parents still work throughout the summer! So here’s one idea for adding in some structure and time together.

Take the  Family Summer Bucket List Challenge!

Here is how it works:

Everyone in the family puts down 5 to 10 things they want to do this summer. Preferably free or as close to free as possible.

As parent, combine the list and tweak what you have to for practicality reasons.

Have one of the kids make it into a poster, simple sheet of paper or high tech group list to somehow display this bucket list.

Start checking stuff off as a family. Remember, if you jump in and try the things they added to the list, they will be more likely to try the things you have added to the list. You have 5-10 items to add to the list. Choose wisely! Add what you love. Its a good chance for them to try something new. And a good chance to see who you are and what you like to do.

Find a way to work your way through the list to:

Connect with your teenagers,

Spend quality time with your teens and

Create memories with your teenager!

Here is a list of things I have seen appear on many Family Summer Bucket Lists

Tie dye socks in the backyard

Bike the trail to the ice cream shop

Make Bath bombs with Lavender from the garden

Plant a tree

Learn to drive

Make rock candy from scratch

A day without Cell Phones


What is on your Family Summer Bucket List?

We would love to have you share your list to inspire other families!

Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com or


Top Ten Reasons To Be A Social Worker

10.  Social Workers are never bored! Families and kids have a way of making every minute of your day interesting, in ways you would never have dreamed!

9. There is no such thing as sitting all day, trying to look busy!  Social Work keeps you moving and active! In fact, you are lucky to have 15 minutes to scarf down your lunch.

8. Every day is different. There is no chance in the world to have two days of work seem exactly the same.

7. Clients will challenge you to be honest with yourself…always. Kids will tell you exactly what you think of your hairstyle or outfit!

6. You will learn to deal with conflict like a champ! Swearing, fist fights, name calling and yelling, will be a daily occurrence. And that’s just at the office before you head out into the field!!

5. You will understand policy and laws and how that impacts people on a very real level.

4. You will never have to deal with the ethical decisions that come with making more money than you need!

3. You can set your own hours…as long as you are OK working 24 hours a day!

2. If you like writing and organizing, paperwork is always an option in the day of a social worker. You can even take the paperwork home and continue on your own time!

1. But the number one reason is because every life matters and we are honored to be the people who can fight to change policies, to offer comfort and support, to stand up for human rights; to have the privilege of sharing everyday sorrows and celebrating everyday joys!


Joy Hartman, proud Social Worker,  is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com or  Facebook


6 Things Every Teenager Needs To Hear From You

Teens are notorious for thinking that they know everything. And they’ll tell you how little you know – communicated through a complex pattern of eye rolls, bad attitude, and sometimes even the profound words, “OMG you are so…” (Fill in the blank here with your teenager’s favorite words.)

As much as you thought your teen would never be one of “those” teens, they are. And that’s perfectly normal. Developmentally they are going through amazing physical and emotional changes. Based on brain size alone, they are technically smarter than us. Their brain is at its biggest and highest capacity right now. So they reach this level of knowing it all pretty naturally.

Sadly, what they don’t know, and few of us can articulate at just the right moment, is that their brain is big but not completely developed. They feel passionately about all kinds of things and their sense of justice and what needs to happen at home and school and the world is often turned on full blast. But the fine tuning of emotions that needs to happen is still a work in progress. It’s like they have a gas pedal but no breaks.

Teens need to learn how to tap the brakes on their emotions and learn to regulate themselves. They need to practice using their emotions at the right time, at the right speed, and in the right situations. Here are six things you can say to help. 

1 | I’m proud of you.

Find a way to say this as often as possible. Be proud of their knowledge and be proud of things they do or try. Go to games, go to competitions. Go to their plays and shows and concerts. And when you’re done, even though they’re walking four feet in front of you and acting as though you may possibly be the most embarrassing person on the planet, tell them you are proud of them. Maybe wait until you’re in the car, but tell them!

2 | I’m wrong.

This one hurts, but it’s the very foundation you need to build an adult relationship with your child. They act like you’re a moron and don’t know a thing, but the truth is their whole lives they’ve been watching you and counting on you to be their guide.

This is a time when teens start to figure out that you are not, in fact, the world’s greatest lasagna maker, or that their friend’s parents do things really differently. At one time you were their entire world and now they’re exposed to everything and anything and they need to see you in a different light.

That starts with an “I don’t know,” or “I was wrong.” This shows them that you’re fallible and doing the best you can, too. And isn’t that a great message to send to a teen who’s doing the best they can but still struggling every once in a while?

3 | You’re wrong.

Telling your teen that they’re wrong or could do better is a critical message to send to your developing teenager. They are not always right. But it’s not about proving wrong or needing them to have a better attitude about being wrong. It’s about having conversations that are honest. Include lots and lots of #1 – I’m proud of you – but also be honest.

There is no point in sending your soon-to-be-adult into the world believing she or he can literally do anything. Can they achieve their goals? Yes of course! But can they be a pop singer and make millions, not if they can’t sing to save their life! They probably aren’t going to find happiness as an accountant if they really hate math and love being around people all day. Praise them and steer them. Praise what is good (not everything) and steer them somewhere that fits for them (not where you want them to go). They need guidance. Give it. 

4 | I’m listening.

Teens range between talking nonstop and not talking at all. There’s rarely a middle ground – the whole gas pedal but no brakes concept. All or nothing. So when you do get a rare moment of non-stop talking, put down your phone, turn off your computer, hang up, stop whatever you’re doing and listen.

Wait… let me clarify. Whatever you do, don’t act like you are intensely listening. Keep stirring something or doodle on paper, or drive around the block a few more times. The trick to keep them talking is to act like you are only halfway listening. But don’t really be halfway listening or you’ll offend them. They need to know that when they do have a question or thought or idea, you are there and excited to hear what they have to say.

5 | This is all you!

This is your responsibility. This is something you can handle. You got this! Don’t do for your teens. Just like they need to master freshman English speech class and Drivers Ed and ACT/SAT, they need to master life skills and emotional skills. Let them do the life skills; laundry, menu planning, shopping, cleaning, etc. Those are good skills to have.

But what’s so important and seems to have so much less focus than all the other things we just mentioned, is emotional skills. They need to handle drama with friends. They need to follow-up with a teacher or neighbor who’s disappointed in them. They need to call grandma and apologize for forgetting to drop that thing off. They need to cry when something is scary or sad. They need to laugh when something is funny. They need to feel guilt and shame and sorrow and any other tough stuff life throws at them. And it’s really hard as a parent to sit by and watch without fixing. Let them know you are there, and will always be there, but they can handle it.

6 | I love you.

Every day in the world of a teenager is full of emotion and change. They are pedal to the medal all day long. Teens are in constant contact with their world through social media and literally have the world at their fingertips. It’s more important than ever for your teens to know that you are there, are proud of them and growing right along with them, are excited for your next steps in the relationship. And that can all be communicated with the words, “I love you.” So even if they roll their eyes, or pretend they don’t hear you speaking, or respond with a grunt, say it anyway!

Raising teenagers is not an easy job, but you’ve got this and I am proud of you!

Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com

This article first appeared on Parent Co. http://www.parent.co/6-things-every-teenager-needs-to-hear-from-you/

Why Do They Insist On Pushing Every Single Limit?

Moms of teens don’t do a great job of supporting each other. I remember long days standing around the backyard watching my toddlers play with my neighbors kids and having supportive, figure out life together, kinds of chats. That doesn’t happen much anymore. Our teens are off on their own play dates and we rarely give ourselves time to sit and chat anymore. I need it more than ever and figure that on walks with friends or in rare moments sharing a coffee with a fellow mom. Last week a friend and I had one of those rare moments where we sat in a coffee shop and talked about our teens: the good, the bad and the ugly; an honest chat about figuring out our teenagers together.

Spoiler alert:


We did not completely figure out teenagers on this particular coffee date!

But she did say something that made me laugh.

She said, “ I understand that kids are going to test limits, to walk that very fine line, but why do they have to walk right up to that line and wrap their little toes around the edge”?!?

Our job is to create the line, or rules, values, boundaries, whatever you call it; we create the line for our kids. The line is there to keep them safe, to grow them into decent human beings, to guide them with good intentions. So why the heck must they continually walk right up to that line, wrap their little toes around it and peer beyond?? Why can’t they see that line off in the distance and stay clear? Why do some kids seem to appreciate that line, while others absolutely tight rope walk it every day??

It’s a great question. Family’s with two or more kids raised by the same parents in the same house with the same line will often produce one who sees the line and stays clear and another who is constantly walking that line. I’m going to take that as it’s not our fault! How can it be our fault if we have parented each kid the same way and one is a line walker?? Always a relief when it’s not our fault. It doesn’t mean we need to read more parenting books and articles. We don’t need to join another Facebook group for strong willed, line walkers, or employ new strategies to change our kids. We just need to appreciate that each of our kids is different and unique and amazing and are simply exploring the world in their own time and way.

Here is one of my favorite explanations for why kids test the limit or walk that very fine line. http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/teenager/parenting-teens/consequences-and-discipline/tips-on-disciplining-a-teenager

This is what he is saying…..

But this is more how it feels….

And if it makes you feel any better,

A new study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology and cited by the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that there is in fact a connection between defiance and rule-breaking in adolescence and earning a high income later in life.

Rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority were the characteristic that predicted higher income and more success in career later in life!

Let those children walk that line. Let them hang their little, adorable sassy toddler feet or in our case their size 10 1/2 toes around that line as often as they need to learn about the world, to know their limits, to feel safe, to prove their independence, to laugh in the face of danger! Whatever their reason, it’s not your fault. You didn’t create a rule breaker. It’s also not your problem to fix. It is simply your job to hold the line!

I would recommend erasing some lines as they grow. It’s exhausting to hold every single line, every single time, but draw the big lines, the non-negotiable lines and hold them tight!

The novelist Wallace Stegner summed it up in his novel, All the Little Live Things: “It is the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by.”

Keep holding the line! They are growing and learning and discovering every time they walk that line. Talk with other parents of teenagers! Find someone who loves your kids for who they are and love their kids back! We can all hold the line stronger and longer, if we have a back up mom on duty!


Litany for Leaving…Preparing Ourselves and Our Teenagers for Leaving

The end goal of parenting is to raise young adults who are capable and ready to leave.  How sad is that? All this effort put into creating and raising pretty amazing human beings and the goal is they will leave us!?! In parenting, a job well done is our children leaving. And every day is a preparation for that leaving. We have many leavings; first days of school, first sleepovers, weeks away at camp, and ultimately college and independent lives.

We can choose to dread that day or to welcome that day with anticipation and hope for a new relationship and a new chapter. To help with the leaving, develop a litany for leaving with your kids.

A litany in religious places means a prayer with a series of responses shared by the leader and the group. A litany is also defined as a repetitive chant or a lengthy recitation. What I love about this word is it means a series of responses between one group and another. I am always looking for a way to have a simple conversation or back and forth sharing of information with my teenager. On top of a good excuse to communicate, it says right in the definition that a litany is lengthy. That almost sounds like I’m allowed to nag and annoy my teenager : ). A litany is repetitive. I can say the same thing a million times over in the hopes that it sinks in and becomes routine and known to my teenager. I love that my words will get stuck in their brain!  I hope they will someday hear me. Hear my voice, hear my words, but most importantly, hear my love and my guidance and my deepest desire for their safety.  I want them to know as they grow and leave, I will still be here. I will still be a voice to hear; a person who loves them, a safe place to return anytime they need a snack or a hug or a place to crash. I envision them carrying those words into their adult life and feel my love whenever and however they need it.  As I am about to send a teenager out into the world as a new driver, I am terrified and excited. The leavings are about to begin more and more regularly. The leavings may be farther and farther. And the big leaving of moving out  is just around the corner. Here is how our leavings go…

Me: What are your plans?

Teenager: Going to a friend’s house and watching a movie.

Me: Do you have gas?

Teenager: yes

Me: Do you know how to get there?

Teenager: yes

Me: Do you have your phone?

Teenager: yep

Me: Do you know what time you need to be home?

Teenager: Yes

Me: Do you know who you are?

(My teenager knows that means about an hour’s worth of pep talk on making good decisions, safe decisions, being kind, being a person of good character, living her truth, setting expectations for herself and sticking to them. Basically every lecture and hope and dream I have for a solid, strong, healthy kid who can navigate the world in a way where she is safe and she is loved. You can see why the shortened version is preferable to her. Having a therapist mom has to be hard on this poor kid)!

Teenager: yes mom (insert eye roll and irritation)

Me: I love you.

Teenager: I love you too.

The litany is said every time she heads out. My hope is that the routine and predictability while annoying now, no doubt, becomes an internal voice that speaks to her anytime she needs to hear the words or know that she is loved.

What is your repetitive, lengthy litany for your kids?


Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at:

Joyhartman.com or on Facebook




Kids Need Love and Safety…Parenting Through Scary Political Times

Our country is facing a huge divide and our kids are watching us for how to react. They need us now more than ever, especially our tweens and teens! When parenting our little children who are afraid we offer comfort. We offer a hug or we move over in bed to make room for a little body to sleep close during a thunderstorm. We offer nightlights and step stools.

But most importantly, we offer the encouraging words, “You are OK”.

Our big kids are afraid right now. I’m afraid! Every morning I fire up my computer or turn on the news and I am greeted with new tragedies, new atrocities, and new horrors.  And even scarier to me is that my kids are old enough to understand. They are old enough to know these are real dangers. They are old enough to know that the world is hurting. They are old enough to see that the people they trust the most to offer comfort are afraid too.

So what are we parents suppose to do?

In the wake of changes and fears that are filling every crevice of our lives, I encourage you to keep parenting!

In my twenty-five years as a Family Therapist, I know that kids need two things:

They need to feel loved.

They need to feel safe.

They need to know that the people who love them will keep them safe. That’s really it.

Keeping kids safe is crazy complicated! With babies and toddlers, safety is exhausting and immediate and an every minute of the day kind of thing. But it gets harder as they grow up. As they go out into the world on their own more and more often, keeping them safe gets more complicated. But they need to feel safe more than ever as they grow. Developmentally, they need to push the boundaries so they know the boundary is there. They need to tests the rules to be sure the rules are not going to budge.

So what are we parents suppose to do as the boundaries and rules seem to be changing?

We love them and keep them safe!

The hardest part of keeping them safe is that as they grow older they have to learn to keep themselves safe and we have to equip them to do that!  How can we keep these kids safe when they fight us every step of the way? They have to set their own limits, set their own values, and set their own rules. Kids need to believe that even though parents set the limits right now, they have power! Not just the power to drive us crazy, or test every single limit!

But they have real power; power to make decisions and power to make the right decisions.

Here is the secret formula for lovingly keeping our older kids safe as we all face a scary time in our country.


Smile and laugh everyday! Seems simple. I don’t know about you but some days it feels like an overwhelming task to just not be angry. I have to turn off the computer or put my cell phone away. Think about a smile or a good laugh to be the warm embrace we lovingly gave our toddlers during a thunderstorm or scary movie. Obviously, a hug is great too if today is the day they are accepting human contact! If today isn’t the day, know that the ability to find the smile and laughter, in spite of the adversity, is the reassurance they need that they are going to be “OK”.


Encourage kids to find their give back! Start with just buying a product that gives back to a cause. Shop on line and buy stuff? Seriously? Yes!! It’s a great start in teaching our kids that their voice does matter! They choose how they spend their money. They choose which cause. They begin to see that their choices impact a certain group. That gives them control. And keeping kids safe requires control. Kids can feel like they have some control in a very out of control time, to make the impact they want to make. Here are three of my kid’s favorites at the moment, Lokai, Ivory Ella, Toms.

Shine a flashlight

Give your kids every chance to volunteer. Sign up for events, donate items to charity, organize a drive, host a dinner, give your time and energy. When our little kids were afraid of the monster in the basement, we gave them tools to deal. Maybe a stool to reach the light switch or a flashlight that hung at the top of the stairs to take down to the dark dungeon of the basement. We gave them things to do to cope with their fears. Sharing their time and their energy with others is a tool to better cope with their fears now.  

Just Be

My middle daughter loves Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Encourage your kids to Be. Be who they are supposed to be. The change comes from artists, teachers, coaches, accountants, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, or whatever else they might be!!  There is safety in finding our adult path that makes us happy and allows us to be who we are supposed to be. Whatever profession your kid grows up to be matters much less than who they who they grow up to be as a person! Guide them along this path! The journey is what is important. Let them explore interests and develop typical behaviors and thoughts. They may be less political than you feel at the moment. They may disagree with you completely; they may have simplistic views at the moment, all of that is OK too.

In this time of fear, let’s keep our children safe by giving them the tools they need to face any fears as they grow older. Let’s show them they have a voice that needs to be heard (whatever crazy ideas they may have), and power to control how they use their time and energy. We are all going to be OK. I hope…


Joy Hartman is passionate about empowering teens to become strong, confident adults! She works with teens of all ages as a family therapist in Wisconsin and has the unique experience of raising three moody, eye-rolling teenagers of her own. For more fun and support on this crazy roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers, join Joy and hundreds of other parents at: Joyhartman.com or Facebook