Dating

How young is too young? Does it seem like your teen is in such a rush to grow up and experience dating? Is going out the same as dating? Here are some guidelines to follow:

  Encourage your teens to have friendships with boys and girls. The teen years are about learning to get along with both genders. It’s about feeling confident in who you are and in starting to know what you like and don’t like. It is impossible to pick a cute guy, or have a cute guy pick you and just be a perfect match. They should start to see how different families believe and do different things. They should start to see that people are all very different with different values and beliefs. This helps your teen start to figure out their own values and beliefs. As your teen gets older they can start to see beyond cute and dive more in depth into understanding who another person is and how that person can compliment themselves. When they can say no to someone of the opposite gender who is not a good match and when they can start to see beyond looks or coolness factor and see a person’s personality and values, then they may be ready to start dating. A 14 year old is not sure of who they are yet. Give them a chance to develop their own personality. Give them a chance to define their own values and beliefs. Give them time to build confidence in who they are and what they stand for. Growing up is hard enough. Don’t allow your teens to have to grow up while dating someone else who is still growing up!

  Our parents wouldn’t let us close the bedroom door when a boyfriend was over. But why not extend that rule to the whole family? No guests allowed in bedrooms. If you can’t adopt that rule, then definitely no closed bedroom doors when you have a guest. Period. And why just opposite gender friends?  This should be a non-negotiable rule. Bedrooms are for sleeping. Bedrooms are private, personal space. They should be a place to reflect on your day, plan for the next day a place to sleep and a place to slow down the crazy pace we set for ourselves these days. It is more about respecting private space. Hopefully that translates to your teen respecting his or her private space of her body too.

  Talk with your teen. And keep talking to your teen. The more conversations you have, and the more open you are during those conversations, the more likely it will be that you know what is happening in their lives, that they will come to you with concerns or problems and the more likely that you can influence their decisions about dating and respecting themselves. If they are respected by you, they respect themselves, they will expect others to respect them too.

  If you are harsh, disrespectful and not willing to talk about the rules and the reasons for the rules, you can expect rebellion. But rebellion is not a rite of passage through the teen years. It does not have to happen. They need to understand the rules. They need to understand the values and beliefs behind the rules. They don’t have to like the rules but they need to know that the rules come from a place of wanting your teen to be safe. Keep talking, not commanding.

Set the bar extraordinarily high for who is good enough to date. Expect them to date someone worthy of your amazing teen! Tell them this often. If you let them know it is OK to be without a date, to wait for a good one, to expect the best out of others, they will too. Set the tone of not being in a rush. Don’t get swept up into the idea and excitement of dating yourself. Encourage groups of friends. They will know that is OK. Often society, media and parents put pressure on teens to date. Give them permission not to date. Give them permission to wait. Expect them to make good choices about who to date.

Put Down The Cell Phone For Better Sleep!

The average teen needs 9 hours of sleep! What?!? How is that even possible with how early they need to get up for school? We know that it is imperative for teens to sleep. We know that they are moody, crabby, downright nasty when they are over tired. We know that they would do better in school if they were well rested. And we know on some level that they need sleep to keep their bodies growing, developing and continuing to mature. We know all of this logically, but when do they sleep? The answer is simple. Go to bed earlier. Not necessarily hours earlier, just a half an hour or hour earlier a few night a week.

The number one step to more and better quality sleep for teens is to get all electronics out of their bedroom. That’s right. I said it. No iPod and no phone. Yes, I can hear them now, “But it’s my alarm clock”. I am sure it is. I am also certain it shouldn’t be their alarm clock. Go and get them a good old fashioned alarm clock that plugs into an outlet and beeps obnoxiously at a set time. That’s it. Just a clock. If teens learn to set their device down and walk away from it at night they gain a quiet moment in an otherwise busy day.  Your teen, and maybe even you, carry a device up to bed, you brush your teeth aware of texts coming in or Facebook updates, you probably even lie in bed and play a quick game of Candy Crush before setting it aside to fall asleep. Your teen is processing so much information at any given moment of every single day. They have so much access to the world, their friends, information, etc. They need to learn how to be with themselves. How to sooth themselves. They need that valuable down time of getting ready for bed, laying in bed and thinking  through the past day or planning for the next day. Give them a quiet brain to do those things. Once they set that device down for the night and walk away, they are valuing sleep and time for themselves more than contact with the world. They are valuing themselves and they are taking care of themselves. It is not an easy sell once they are used to the security of knowing who is doing what every second of the day. But it will be a healthy life skill to give them from an early age. If your teen is not sending last minute texts, checking in on social media one more time, calling a friend to discuss something they saw on social media, playing one last game, etc, they are resting and sleeping maybe even an hour more a night. Just from putting the phone down in the kitchen and heading up to bed without all of those last minute checks, they are getting more sleep.

A Parent’s Guide To Mobile Phones

The decision to get your teen a cell phone is probably long over and already assumed by your teen to be a necessity in life. But it is never a bad idea to do a parenting check on yourself about how and why they are using the phone.

Keep in mind that your teen is still learning to use a phone appropriately. They may make mistakes or get into bad habits. Your biggest parental responsibility is to keep talking with your teen about cell phone use, limits, dangers and pitfalls. It is not enough to tell them once. It is important to keep talking about the phone. Keep modeling appropriate cell use yourself. Make comments about your own phone use. Point out horrible cell phone behavior when you see it. Put limits on their cell phone time and usage. Put limits on your own time. Do you all put your phones down during dinner? Do you all plug your phone in somewhere in the common, shared spaces of your home at a certain time each night? Do you ignore texts that come in past a certain time? Do you keep your cell phone well out of reach while driving? When you slip up on those guidelines, talk about it. Ask your teen to help you follow the rules. Expect your teen to follow those rules. The beauty of docking your phone and your teens phone in a common are of the home is that there is an understanding that no none persons phone is private. Not that you are scrolling through each other’s on line lives, but that anyone could. Therefore, if you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t text it. If you shouldn’t be saying something on your phone, don’t. Its a good rule for you and your teen.

The link below is a great review for parents.

http://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/mobile_english.pdf

 

Make Your Voice Heard Above All Others

5 Ways To Make Your Voice Heard Above All Others

 

In today’s world of instant contact with peers and a constant connection to one’s social media world, it is more important than ever to be sure that your teen hears your voice. When they are faced with a dilemma or a challenge in their world outside of the home, will they know what you would expect, will they know your thoughts, will they know your expectations?

Here are 5 ways to be sure your teen can answer all of those questions and hear your voice in their head amongst all of the other pressures and noises they are hearing:

 

1. Be sure your teen knows her own story.

Little kids love to hear the story of their birth or the day they arrived in a family. Teens are no different. They need to know their story. They desperately want to feel a connection to their family. Sometimes that is to stand out and be different and that is OK. Mostly though it is to feel a connection as they face huge changes in their own lives. Give them chances to hear funny, cute stories of themselves as babies and children. Give them new stories that they weren’t old enough to understand or digest as small children. Give them a connection to their younger self. Sometimes a teens greatest strength is their greatest strength as a young child. Was your teen the most smiley baby? Was your teen  stubborn and determined as a young child? Was your teen the roundest, chubbiest baby with an infectious giggle? Those stories may inspire your teen to gain confidence and a sense of connection to his social skills or may find his determination or maybe, if you are really lucky, your teen will smile and laugh a little bit more often!

2. Do they know who came before them? is there a connection to other generations?

Teens typically feel very removed from other generations. Their parents probably had no internet as teens, their grandparent s probably remember getting  a TV in their home as a child, and their great grandparents might even remember getting a telephone with a party line in their home! If a teen can understand how rapidly the world changed, they can start to grasp how rapidly it will change again. They can start to see themselves as bigger than just a teen. They can start to see the connection between the struggle unique to each generation and their own challenges. A modern teen can begin to feel a connection to something other than peers. Even if past generations weren’t the role model you want for your teen that is ok, they can handle the family stories and decide for themselves what their story will be. They understand that they are a part of a greater, bigger story. They can hear the voices of not only you, but past generations too!

3. Give them a cheat sheet for quick decisions.

A teens brain isn’t fully developed until their early 2o’s and therefore, they are incapable of making decisions as quickly as they need to in the world. Find the delicate balance of giving your teen freedom to explore his world while limiting the amount of decisions they need to make rapidly. Talk to them about what to do in very specific situations. Give them the actual words to navigate many different scenarios. If they are at a party where they should not be, it is not enough to tell them to call you, no questions asked. It is important to give them the words and actions needed to get the phone call made. Maybe your teen calls in front of all of his peers and says “what did you want mom? No, I’m fine. (insert sarcasm and eye rolling to impress the friends) Oh hey, I forgot to tell you I got called back by that dude from dad’s work”.  Little do his peers know, “that dude from dad’s work” is the secret code to come and get me or demand that I come home or call parents to check on me, etc. The code can be anything, (how is Granny feeling today?, that cake you left on the counter was moldy, have some fun with it) but it should be discussed ahead of time so there is a cool way for your teen to let you know she is in trouble without having to make decisions about how and where to call. Think about other scenarios your teen may face and talk through the decisions and role play the potential solutions.

4. Establish routines that teach family members to be tuned in to each other’s schedule.

Know where your teen is and whom he is with. Period. Not cool. Agreed. But necessary. No need to track their phones, or develop highly specialized spy technology. Ask them. Follow up on occasion as a spot check. That’s it. It is a polite way to behave in a family. Mom’s and Dad’s talk about their day; what they have special or deviations from the norm. Mom’s ask little kids if they are having hot lunch or cold lunch. When a grown up is going to be late, they call so that no one worries. It is OK to ask where they are going and how long they will be gone. If their plans change, they check in. Set that expectation early on in your family.

5. Highlight what works and don’t ignore what doesn’t work.

As your teen becomes an adult, she may have lots of new ideas and opinions to test drive and swirl around. They are developing a sense of who they are and what they stand for. Don’t be afraid to have your own opinions about those things too. Highlight or compliment the opinions that you support, i.e.: it’s nice to see you studying and caring about grades, I’m proud of you. Or I am glad you are such an independent thinker. But don’t shy away from having an opinion that is different than theirs. Express your belief. Tell them your opinion. Respectfully. But tell them. If you hate tattoos and piercings, tell them. They may still get one down the road, but they should know what you think. If going to visit grandma is important to you, make sure they know it is important in your family. They don’t have to love it, or agree that having the longest most boring meal on the history of the planet is a family obligation. But if it is to you, it is the them. That’s how they learn. That is how they grow. They need to know the expectation.