Driving Contract for Teen Drivers



I understand that in my family driving is a privilege not an automatic right.  I understand that I can seriously injure myself and others by ignoring these rules.  I respect that I could end my life or that of another human being in a single second by not following these rules.  My parents will impose penalties if I violate the contract. I also understand that my parents will allow me greater driving privileges as I become more experienced and as I demonstrate that I am always a safe and responsible driver.

I agree to follow all the rules and restrictions in this contract


I, __________________________, will drive carefully and cautiously at all times.

I promise that I will obey all the rules of the road.

⃝ I will always wear my seat belt and make all my passengers wear a seat belt, even passengers in the back seat and even people who don’t want to wear a seat belt. I understand that I would feel horribly guilty for my whole adult life if I didn’t insist on someone wearing a seat belt and they become hurt or die while in my car. I am responsible for my passengers.

⃝ I will obey all traffic lights and stop signs. That means I will stop at stop signs, even when there are absolutely no other cars around. It shows that I respect the rules and can follow them even when no one is looking.

⃝I will stay within the speed limit and drive safely. It sounds easy, but I understand it will be hard to drive the speed limits as I get more confident. I understand that it will feel really slow and I may be in a hurry to get somewhere on time. Or there may be an impatient driver behind me who is pressuring me in my mind to speed up.  I will still follow the speed limit!

⃝I will never use the car to race or to try to impress others. This means I won’t squeal my tires or try a donut in a parking lot, or speed up past a kid I know from school. I am cool enough; I don’t need to hot rod to impress anyoneJ!

⃝I will never give rides to hitchhikers. While that may seem obvious, I agree that it’s worth a reminder now and then to be very careful about who I invite into my car. A last minute ride home from a “friend” who may be using me, is not my obligation. I can say no.

I promise that I will stay focused on driving.

⃝I will drive with both hands on the wheel. This means no eating or drinking in the car. My coffee or fries can wait ten minutes until I get home to enjoy it safely. I can work toward crossing this item off as I prove my driving abilities.

⃝I will never use a cell phone while driving. I will not call anyone while driving.  I will not answer the phone if it rings while driving. I will not check the phone just to see who called while driving, even if it’s my parents. I won’t know that it is them calling, because I will not even look at the phoneJ.  I will pull over or wait until I am at my destination.

⃝I will not TEXT or receive a TEXT while driving. Period. I will not touch my phone while driving. I will not check my phone at a stop light. I will not peek at it on a deserted, straight road. I will not touch or look at my phone while driving.

⃝I will drive only when I am alert and in emotional control. If my boyfriend/girlfriend just broke up with me and I am sobbing or enraged, I will not drive.

⃝I will use preset radio stations and not my device to listen to music. I understand that any device is a distraction and a violation of this contract. I have a radio. I will use the radio. Old school is in!

I promise that I will respect laws about drugs and alcohol.

⃝I promise to call my parents for a ride home if I am impaired in any way that interferes with my ability to drive safely. This includes alcohol and drugs, but also feeling too tired to drive. I will call for a ride or permission to stay where I am if I am impaired in anyway.

⃝I will not transport alcohol and or drugs for myself or anyone else in this car.

⃝I promise also not to get into anyone else’s car as a passenger if I know or suspect that they have been drinking, using ANY drugs or are too tired to drive safely.

I promise that I will be a responsible driver.

⃝I will drive only when I have permission to use the car and I will not let anyone else drive the car

⃝I will not drive any other car.

⃝I will pay for all traffic citations or parking tickets myself with money that I earn. And I know that they add up quickly and can completely derail my savings plan for something way better than a ticket. But I will pay them myself.

⃝Complete my family responsibilities and maintain good grades at school

as listed here:______________________________________________

⃝ Contribute to the costs of gasoline, maintenance, and insurance as listed here:             _____________________________________________________

Additional Promises:


Driver: _______________________________________ Date: ________________

Parent promise: I also agree to drive safely and to be an excellent role model.

Parent (or guardian): ____________________________ Date: ________________ Parent (or guardian): ____________________________ Date: ________________



Contract Violation Penalties

⃝ Driving after drinking alcohol or using drugs, or getting into a car driven by someone impaired

No driving for    ______ months

Pay legal fine     $________

Pay parent fine $________

Community service or home chores for  _____hours

⃝ Getting a ticket for speeding or moving violation

No driving for    ______ months

Pay legal fine     $________

Pay parent fine $________

Community service or home chores for  _____hours

⃝ Driving after legal curfew or parent curfew

No driving for    ______ months

Pay legal fine     $________

Pay parent fine $________

Community service or home chores for  _____hours

 ⃝ Driving too many passengers

No driving for    ______ months

Pay legal fine     $________

Pay parent fine $________

Community service or home chores for  _____hours

⃝ Driving on a road or to an area that is off‐limits

No driving for    ______ months

Pay legal fine     $________

Pay parent fine $________

Community service or home chores for  _____hours

 ⃝Broken promise about texting, using a device in the car for music, seat belts (self and others) or other safety rules

No driving for    ______ months

Pay legal fine     $________

Pay parent fine $________

Community service or home chores for  _____hours






Girl Power! 5 Ways to Raise an Emotionally Strong Teenage Girl!

theresa 143_pe

  1. Time to Just Be. Our daughters are busy every minute of the day. They are busy socially, academically, physically, emotionally. They are constantly balancing friends and emotions. “Busy” has become more intense for this generation. Teens no longer have to wait even seconds between interactions and receiving information from their social world. They have constant pressures through social media to stay aware and informed so that they don’t get left behind. They need down time. They need moments in the day when they can rest from the social, emotional, physical and academic pressures. They need to curl up in a chair and read, or watch mindless TV, or perhaps color a picture or better yet, play.  Finding a whole day with nothing to do seems very rare these days, but build in down time for your teen, teach them to use down time, help them get comfortable being with themselves. The best time to teach your teen daughter to embrace down time is in the moments she is laying in bed ready to fall asleep. Keep her off any social media so she takes five minutes all alone to process her day, think through the next day, or just day dream about life!
  1. Adventure. Show your daughters they can accomplish things. Show them that they can conquer things. Show them they have power, physically and emotionally. Give them an experience they have never had and show them the thrill of accomplishing something new! Put them in a canoe, or in front of a rock wall, or behind the wheel of a go-cart, or give them a tool to fix the lawn mower. Teach them to set the iPad with a YouTube step by step by step guide for doing something adventurous! Do it together. Change a tire just so they know how. Climb up onto the roof just to see how far you can see. Take them somewhere far away with no internet connection! Simply, hop into the car with them and have them navigate their way somewhere new. Girls tend to get so wrapped up in texting and keeping up with the nothingness that is the day to day life of teens, they have no time for new experiences. Show them the thrill of adventure!
  1. Opportunities to Give Back. Doing for others teaches kindness, empathy and tolerance. Give your teen opportunities to give back. Maybe that’s within her own family, at school, in her town or within the world in general! She does not have to be paid for making dinner or doing dishes that is part of being a family. Everyone works together for the common good. Give your daughter a chance to contribute to the family just because she is grateful to be a part of this family. Help her organize a drive at school or participate in the ones offered. If there is a fun run, have her participate. As a family, gather things you don’t use anymore or food and donate to the local shelter. Have her come along. Have her donate items that have value, not just the junk she doesn’t want anymore. Perhaps give her a gift on her next birthday in honor of something bigger. Donate the money for food or education in another part of the world in her honor. Find ways she can give back and offer her those opportunities.
  1. A Soft Spot to Land. Our teens venture out into a scary world every day. They are physically growing and changing every day. They face enormous social, emotional and academic pressures every day. They hear about friends cutting, peers partying, crass conversations, sexting rumors, friends who are depressed, etc. They need a soft place to land at the end of their day. They need a place where they can shut down and relax. They need a comfy chair and a safe atmosphere when they can avoid all of those pressures. We can create that by being open to conversations or observations, by setting a standard of shutting off media and disconnecting for at least a short time every day. Create a home that is safe and comfortable emotionally. Be a soft spot for them yourself. Be kind and compassionate. Be open to offering support. Be willing to listen. Be willing to just let them be too.
  1. Know When To Offer an Opinion and When To Simply Keep Quiet. Ask questions, learn about your teen, encourage them to share, find out what makes them tick, what bugs them, what they want from the world. But more often just be ready to listen. Be quiet enough about homework and grades and responsibilities, to just hear what her worries are at that moment. That information that you patiently wait for is your moment to teach your teen, to support your daughter, to show her you care. A casual interest and openness to hear absolutely anything and maybe everything is a great place for a parent of a teen to be. Your daughter will most likely start talking at the most unlikely moments. You could schedule a Starbucks date every afternoon and give her 45 minutes of your undivided attention, but you will actually get the most information at strange, unexpected times. Maybe it’s the five minute ride to a friend’s house when she opens up, or she may say something really important as she strolls by your bathroom door as you are about to dry your hair and you need to get to work on time! Those are the moments to wait for, look for, and be open to. She needs you and will find you in the most unlikely moments! Be ready.







What’s The Perfect Gift For Your Teenager?

file000686965845The Number One Gift To Give Your Teen This Holiday!

Remember those early holidays when your kids were adorable in their matching pajamas, they had crazy energy weeks before the holiday in anticipation of the magic of Christmas morning? Remember when the gifts were piled high by the tree because the littlest things used to thrill them and it was actually fun to shop? And now…you have teenagers. They CAN completely control their excitement. Almost to the point you are not sure they even care. They would rather skip Christmas altogether than wear anything resembling pajamas, let alone matching pajamas! They want only two items, but each equals about one mortgage payment. And saddest of all, they have lost that little twinkle in their eye that was wonder and magic!

So, find the magic! Find the excitement yourself. If you are thrilled for Christmas morning and are ready to have fun, you may just be rewarded with a twinkle in their eye or at least a really great smile!

The very best gift for your teen is simply spending time together.

Here are 5 ways to find that perfect gift for your teen and your family!

  1. Find A Way To Rekindle Your Traditions. What has been a tradition for your family? Was it tradition to get the kids matching jammies? Get them really cool pajamas this year, and yes, of course they should match or correspond or at least look really cute together. Maybe it just comfy pajama bottoms that they can wear all year, but wrap them up and make a big deal. You may not be rewarded with huge thanks yous and shrieks of joy, but they will remember that it’s what your family does and they will wear them throughout the year and be reminded of their family traditions. The things that make you all dorks together are what holds you together. So embrace your dork and buy those matching jammies! Or maybe your teen is lucky and you have other traditions. Do you always buy them an ornament? What about playing a family game Christmas Eve? How about a fun family board game? And take the time to play it. Everyone. What other traditions do you have? What traditions have you let slide? Bring them back. Find them again. Your teen will love the connection to their childhood. They will have happy memories of those times and those things. That is the magic for teens. A connection, a belonging, a piece of who they are and where they come from is the biggest gift they can receive!
  2. Build On Your Family’s Hobbies. Does your family hike, bike, ski, scrapbook, take pictures, travel, play games, do puzzles? What did you do when the kids were little? How did you spend time together? Find a way to do that again. A family pass to the ski hill and the whole family agrees to go together. A state park pass and a promise to hike together? A paid registration to a running race in a month or two that the whole family participates in? What hobbies do you and your teens enjoy? Maybe a tough question and not an easy answer. But look to your past and you will find something. Try wrapping up a giant puzzle and setting it out this holiday. What can you do as a family?
  3. Something That Centers On Meal Times. Meal times are still one of the most important times in the life of a family. It is one of the few times where everyone is sitting in one spot, off of their devices and talking face to face with each other. If that is not happening in your family, make it happen! And why not use Christmas as a perfect time to give gifts that highlight the possibility of that time together? A Science experiments in the kitchen book for a teen? What teen wouldn’t make rock candy given the opportunity? Not a nutritious dinner, but a start to getting everyone in the same room for a same purpose of eating! How about a cook book by a celebrity chef and the supplies needed to make a recipe together that very day? Or what about really hip and trendy sushi making kit? Or kitchen gadgets that no one knows the purpose of and a commitment to make a recipe together using each of the crazy gadgets?
  4. Something Fun. A game or a silly toy can be great time together. How about a wrapped box full of Nerf Guns and you be the first to grab one and work out your holiday frustrations? Or have you seen the adorable animal poppers? What about a rousing game of capture the flag with animal poppers? http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dtoys-and-games&field-keywords=animal%20poppers&sprefix=animal+po%2Ctoys-and-games Does everyone have a sweet tooth? Maybe a gumball machine, make your own pixie sticks kit, gobstoppers or atomic fire balls? How about a hot sauce sample pack and challenge each other to try them all? What about a game? Something old school your teens have never tried or the latest family board game? Operation? Simon? Remember those? For a new game, try LCR. http://www.amazon.com/LCR-Center-Right-Random-Color/dp/B000F9YDKY. But instead of the chips that come in the set, try using quarters!
  5. Something To Make Together As A Family. What better way to spend the day after all this work, preparation, planning and paying, than enjoying a few moments of togetherness. How about making a gingerbread house kit? They may not love the idea of decorating a house together, but play up the fact that you ‘need’ it to be the centerpiece when Grandma gets there for dinner and they may just play along. If you followed the advice of the cute animal poppers or nerf guns for the family, the gingerbread house could become the tactical target and it can be team Family against team gingerbread house!

Time together may take a little more creativity but it can be done! Be together. Have fun!






Is Your Teen a Mean Girl? 6 StepsTo End The Drama!

theresa 143_pe
Do you have a decent, kind teenager or a mean girl?

Are You Raising A Mean Girl?            6 Steps To Ending The Drama!

Does your daughter live in a world of jealousy, gossip and judgment? Are you sick of the drama? Is she constantly on her phone texting to the point of obsessive behavior? Does she snap at you and others? Is she easily frustrated and irritable?  It is possible your daughter is caught up in the mean girl cycle and needs your help to change the pattern.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world conducted a survey that rank ordered the values parents believe are important in raising children today. The whole survey can be found at the end of this article. The most notable finding regarding mean girls and the drama that seems to persist around preadolescent and adolescent girls, is that Empathy, Curiosity and Tolerance scored significantly lower than other values such as Being Responsible and Hard Work. Obviously being responsible and hard work are amazing qualities for our teens to embody and are necessary for their future success. But are we raising competitive, self centered hard workers?

Here are six tips to keep in mind as you are raising responsible, hard working teens to be sure that they understand and live the values of Tolerance, Empathy and Curiosity too.

  1. BE AWARE. This may be the hardest step because it means you are willing to dive into the messy, ugly, endless pit of girl drama! It doesn’t mean it has to excite you or cause you stress. It means be aware of the drama so that you can move on to the next steps and teach your daughter how to be a tolerant, empathetic and curious teen. Be involved. Ask questions. Follow up on what happened yesterday, or how she handled a situation. Often times parents are overwhelmed with the details that go on every day in a teens life. It can be hard to keep up. Without following every social media update, you are often a thousand paces behind before you even have a cup of coffee in the morning! So go ahead and have a second cup and hang on for the ride! Be aware and willing to dive in!
  1. RESPOND. Call her out on meanness. Point it out at home with siblings, from stories you hear and actions you are now aware she is taking. Tell her that sounded mean. Give her consequences for being nasty to her siblings. Sure an outburst here and there or a straight up screaming match at 6:42 am about which sister actually owns that jacket is to be expected. But nasty language, meanness for the sake of meanness is not ok. If they use those words and tone at home, they will use them out in the world.
  1. EMPOWER. Most mean girls are desperate to fit in. They are at the top of that messy, ugly, endless pit of girl drama and they don’t want to get shoved in! Nobody wants to get thrown in. If they are somehow at the top of that pit, they are often forced to behave badly just to save themselves. If others start to climb out, they will be tempted to push them back down. They are afraid! They are very afraid if they don’t stay sharp and ready, they will get eaten up by the ugliness of meanness themselves. Give them new tools and new skills for staying out of the pit, yes, but also to support others in getting out too. Show them they have power in their words and in their behaviors. Junior High School does not have to be a giant pit of ugliness. It can be a wide open space where every kid can have friends. The jealousy and judgment is what throws them all into the pit and forces competitive, self preservation behavior. Empower your teen to understand jealousy. Show her how to support her peers and find genuine happiness for them. Help your teen be curious about others rather than judgmental. Ask question like, what makes her different? What is she really good at? What do you admire about that girl? Your daughter doesn’t need to be best friends with every other girl at school, but why not give her the power to see good in every person. What a great life skill!
  2. TEACH. Despite the fact that your teen probably acts like she knows it all, she does not. These years are for learning who she is what she stands for and that is done by learning about values! Complicated, hard values. Teach her how to make friends, keep friends and leave friends. Those are skills women need their whole lives. The average adult friendship lasts seven years. She will change friends. She will stay close forever with some, but she will make new friends throughout her lifetime. Show her how to grow apart kindly. Show her through your own friendships. Model healthy friendships yourself. Model making new friends and talk about it with her. At dinner talk about a new person you met who you are curious about and how you are going to make a connection. Talk about your high school friends and things that happened through the years with your own friendships. Those are all teachable moments.
  1. STOP. Teens are developing a fine understanding of the nuances, innuendoas and the subtleties of communication. Now teens now have to add communication through social media to the list of unique skills. They no longer have face to face feedback for much of their communication. Body language and other cues to communicating besides the actual words themselves can be up to 90 % of communication. Our teens are often left with abbreviations within a text to communicate with friends! They don’t stand a chance to understand one another and develop deep friendships. Stop guessing or assuming. Have real conversations yourself. Encourage them to have real conversations too!
  1. START. Get your daughters involved in something bigger than just their peer group. Invite girls other than just their main friend group to do something together. Perhaps the neighborhood teen girls are all invited to a book club, a running group, or maybe plan some experiences for a group of girls from church, the old school, daughters of your own friends, etc. Find more girls, different girls, and offer your daughter a chance to know them without all of the pressures of that big ugly, messy, pit of girl drama that is school. Maybe you sew or a neighbor mom is a makeup consultant, or a baker? Start something! It could grow into a lifetime friendships, rekindle old friendships and simply be a place your daughter can be tolerant, empathetic and curious about herself and all that life has to offer beyond the drama!





Teaching the Children: Sharp Ideological Differences, Some Common Ground

6 Ways To Teach Happiness To Teens

cora and katie 339Happiness….is it a losing battle for teens? Do we need to just wait it out and hope that someday our teens grow out of their grumpy, crabby, irritable, short tempered stage?  Doesn’t it seem that they live their lives in a persistent state of unhappy?

We know that happier people love longer, remain disease free longer and generally enjoy life more completely. How can we share this wisdom with teens in our lives? How can we model happiness? How can we instill resiliency in our teens? How can we be sure they grow from their experiences and not get stuck or traumatized from their experiences?

Here are six ways to teach happiness to your teen along with the bonus of finding your own happiness along the way!

  1. Curiosity. In a time of stress, teach your teen to react with interest or curiosity instead of fear or anger. Teens learn pretty quickly that life hurts sometimes. The next step is often forgotten. Yes it hurts, but what will change this hurt? How can this be different? How can I take something away from this pain? We need to inspire our kids to find a solution, find a reason and find a curiosity to change. We need to go beyond,” it hurts and that stinks”. Supposedly time heals all wounds, but time and a conscience effort to find the motivation to use the hurt in a productive way is how we teach happiness. This is not to say teens will find happiness every day, and sadly there will be brutal, awful hurts that it will be hard for even the happiest of persons to see the silver lining. But it is a suggestion for handling the small crisis of being a teen along the way, so that happiness can set down some roots and gain strength for the big life events.
  2. Social connectedness predicts happiness. Teens generally seek social connectedness, but may need reminders of what a true connection is. Teens may have 500 friends on line, but still feel lonely. Teens may sort through 100’s of tweets a day, but still not feel like they really know someone. They may take unlimited texting to a whole new level, but still not have a meaningful conversation for days. Our job as parents is to keep teaching them about meaningful connections. Encourage them to have face to face time with friends. Encourage them to pick up the telephone and call their friend instead of covering the day’s events in short texts to one another. Encourage your teen to meet each other for coffee or ice cream and put their phones away for a whole hour. Do the same for yourself. Instead of posting an update on Facebook, call your friend and have a ten minute conversation, or plan a lunch with a colleague or a walk with a neighbor you enjoy. The quality of conversation and the intensity of that friendship will improve. And in turn, you will be more connected and feel happier. This generation of teens may not ever know the connections of a true friendship, if we do not teach them the importance of making that face to face, electronic free time together happen.
  3. Teach and believe in Gratitude. Talk with your teen about gratitude. Not in terms of “you should be happy with what you have”, or “you have no idea how easy you have it these days”. Ask questions instead. What friend do you trust the most? Who has your back at school? Who do you trust? Who do you admire?  Who has a life you would like to have someday? Perhaps instead of groundings or taking away cell phone or car privileges, why not a letter of gratitude to someone in their life? Have them write a sincere, honest, grateful letter, just because. It will build a connection between your teen and that person. It also forces them to stop and think about the relationships and people they do have in their lives. Why not ask your teen to jot down one thing they are grateful for each day on a bulletin board or wipe board in a common area of the house? And you do the same. Believing in gratitude and the power it has to influence your happiness will translate to your teens. They will learn by hearing, seeing, feeling and knowing gratitude as a daily occurrence.
  4. Volunteerism and Good Deeds. Many high schools are now requiring teens to participate in a set number of volunteer hours. What a great message to send to teens! It’s telling teens they matter, they have something to share and they have the capacity to influence other people in amazing ways! Build this idea into your family. Volunteer together, do good deeds, act kindly towards neighbors or others in your lives. Show your teens from early on that helping others feels good. Nothing is needed in return because your pride and satisfaction in helping others is more than any money can measure. Find ways to volunteer socially. Invite your teen’s friends to come too. Be involved in an organization that routinely volunteers and does good deeds. Your teens will be connected with others and the positive energy will be contagious. If you are having trouble convincing your teen that volunteerism is a good idea, feel free to link the number of hours they volunteer to the number of hours they can use the car, or dollar amount deducted from their cell phone bill. It’s not bribery, just encouragement to do what you know they need : )
  5. Religion and Spirituality mean two very different things. You can have one or the other, both or neither. Having religion or feeling spirituality are well documented factors to feeling a connection to the world, other people or a higher purpose. A connection can be to other people who believe what you believe, other people who gather in the same place, in the same way or for the same purpose. Or a connection can be to a higher power or energy. Either way, spirituality and religion help people make connections. A connection to meaning leads to greater happiness. Show your teens the many ways they can become connected through religion or spirituality. Show them a place (church, synagogue, mosque, a special tree, a yoga class, somewhere outdoors, Sunday morning at Starbucks enjoying a few moments of peace) where you feel at peace and show them the connections that are made. Help them see and feel the connections. Be a part of your spiritual and religious life. It is harder and harder to find time in our fast paced world, but show them what matters to you and help them find something that matters to them.
  6. Eat, Sleep, And Exercise! The very foundation of good mental health comes down to committing to three very basic human needs. Eat, sleep and exercise. The benefits of keeping these three needs in healthy, working order has shown time and time again to lead to reduced feelings of depression, lessened anxiety and greater happiness.
    1. Teens need to eat regularly. They do not need to worry about gaining muscle or losing weight. Just ask yourself if they are they eating regularly? Are they eating relatively healthfully? Are they getting their metabolism up and running in the morning by eating and are they maintaining throughout the day? Teens are growing and facing stressors every single day. They need adequate nutrition to keep up with their bodies needs. Are they drinking too much caffeine? Are they obsessed with energy drinks? Both will interfere with their body’s ability to regulate mood. Three meals a day or six small meals a day, is not the point. Find a healthy eating pattern that works for your teen and help him commit to that pattern because he knows he feels better when he is on track!
    2. Sleep, sleep and more sleep! Teens need more sleep than they are getting. Nine to ten hours a night! Click here to read more about sleep and teens: http://joyhartman.com/put-cell-phone-better-sleep/. Teach your teens the value of a good, quality sleep. Help them figure out what environment is most supportive for their sleep. A dark, quiet space, free of distractions is a great starting point. Get their cell phones out of their hands at bedtime. Have them leave the cell phone away from their sleep space so they are not tempted to be on their phones checking on last thing or responding to one last text. Lead by example and get yourself to sleep on time and without distractions. Sleep is an invaluable gift to give your kids. Healthy sleep habits as they head off to college or life can make the difference in your young adult’s happiness and satisfaction in life.
    3. Exercise! Hmm. Couldn’t we all stand to do more of this? And who doesn’t feel better after a brisk walk or a peaceful run? Yet, it seems to be the first thing to go when life gets busy. Get your teen involved in regular daily exercise. Hopefully it’s a sport or club they love and this is the highlight of their day. If it is not, show them the value of walking the dog every day, or mastering yoga in the living room on Wii, or sign your whole family up for a festive 5K or take weekend hikes to new places. Find ways for everyone to be active. It will vastly improve the whole family’s happiness.

Happiness can be learned. Give you teens the right tools for learning this lifelong skill of finding happiness as they move through life!







Make Your Voice Heard Above All Others!

Find out how you can make sure your teen hears your voice when they go out into the world.

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. Teen’s 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 was 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 teen’s brain isn’t fully developed until their early 20’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 to them. That’s how they learn. That is how they grow. They need to know the expectation.


Sleepovers….Love Them or Hate Them?

“Can my friend spend the night”?

Do you dread that question? Do you love hearing it? The topic of sleepovers seems to be one of those issues in parenting where most have an opinion. You either love them or hate them. I find myself firmly in the “hate them” category. I hate having them at my house and I hate sending my teen to someone else’s house. I can’t decide if I hate them for legitimate reasons or if it’s because I truly LOVE sleep, which is harder to do with strange people in my house, or my important people missing from my house. We can all agree sleep is critical for our teens. All the research about sleep suggests our teens need regular, consistent, quality sleep. In fact, teens needs 9-10 hours of sleep a night!! Show me a sleep over where that happens and I will reconsider my position! Here are three pitfalls to watch for and ideas for compensating when you can no longer avoid the “Can my bestie sleep over?” question.

#1 The term sleepover is a straight up lie– even with the best of intentions, very little quality sleep actually happens. I think we can all agree teens are irritable, grumpy, and sleep-deprived most of the time, but definitely after a sleepover. Most teens will love the idea of a sleepover the day before, but can admit to being easily annoyed and irritated by everyone the day after a sleepover. They might even be an emotional disaster the day after. If the sleepover has to happen, be sure your teen has a comfortable place to sleep, the environment will be as conducive to sleep as possible, and that they can sleep in the following morning or will be able to have a relaxing day after the fact. Your teen is responsible for his or her own sleep, but you must show them how important good, quality sleep is on their development and ability to handle life’s stresses. Continue to talk to them about sleep and make connections for them about their mood and health when they are not getting the sleep they desperately need.

#2 Nothing good ever happens after midnight! Teens have a tendency to do something relatively dumb in the middle of the night that they probably wouldn’t have considered with the same enthusiasm in broad daylight. A still developing frontal cortex (the decision making part of our brains) combined with sleep deprivation, and most likely a whole lot of junk food, is a recipe for impulsive decisions. Remember Ouija boards? Truth or Dare? 7 Minutes in Heaven? Think back to your own sleepovers. Any embarrassing stories of things done and tried after those parents went to bed? Yep. Enough said on this one. Encourage teens to be in for the night, watching a movie or doing something structured after midnight.

#3 Social media + Sleepover = Whole New Ball Game. If we could set one major sleepover rule, it’s that there should be limited access to social media. If kids are coming together to hang out, they should actually be interacting with one another. Period. They are having the sleepover to spend time together. Is there any reason they should be tweeting, texting, posting pictures of themselves on Instagram, or sending Snapchats? Nope! First of all, they can interact on social media without being in the same place, so why would they need to keep us awake for that?? Secondly, some type of meanness — either intentional or unintentional – will happen if social media is the focus of the sleepover. Teens can post all about the sleepover while it is going on can make others who are not there feel excluded. Or the encouragement from each other may push them to post and say things they wouldn’t if they were alone. Comments on others post may get bolder, pictures may get more provocative, and comments can easily become more mean. Teens are braver in a group. This may backfire when braver can mean pushing the limits of social media common sense or rules to follow. Ideally, the teens agree to put their phones down for the night. It seems that is getting harder and harder for teens to do. But why not keep talking to your teen specifically about taking a break from social media for those few hours? Show your teen that in person, face to face, relationships and friendships are so much more rewarding. They won’t learn that lesson if they are not encouraged to give it a try. So, consider asking the teens at your sleepover to put their phones away for the night and enjoy each other. Shouldn’t they know the bonding experience of playing a game of truth or dare without the fear of their truth being shared immediately to 236 followers or their dare being videotaped and shared on you Tube?

Teens love to be with friends. Finding real, face to face social time can be challenging. A sleep over can be a perfect solution. As parents, let’s all commit to keeping the sleep in sleepover. Our teens need the sleep for their emotional and social development. They need the sleep to help them make good decisions. And hey, I need my sleep too!

Happy 13th Birthday!

Your little girl is turning 13! This feels like a big deal to her because she is officially a teenager. To you it feels monumental and you wonder how the time has flown so quickly. While the day marks different things for every family it can be the year some girls are allowed to wear makeup or the year they can go to co ed birthday parties, or the year they can roll their eyes a few more times and be excused because they have the free pass of being a teenager. Turning 13 is amazing and wonderful and a cause for celebration.  It is a time to build a bridge between the little girl she sometimes is and the woman she is going to become. She is still growing, still learning, still developing her body; including her brain and her ability to make decisions, she is also still shaping her personality and the essence of who she is going be as a person when she is grown. Thirteen is not the goal. Not the end of the road. It is a beautiful bridge on the path your daughter is walking. You probably need to be reminded that this is only a bridge. It is big and scary and overwhelming and maybe a sign of changes you must face while parenting. To her it may be something she can’t wait to sprint across to get to the other side. Perhaps she cannot wait to wear makeup or be allowed to date or wants to rush into whatever she thinks is on the other side of this 13th birthday bridge?

Celebrate all that comes with 13! Celebrate your need to hang on and linger before crossing the bridge and celebrate her excitement to cross over to whatever comes next! Look at your daughter and see her growing up. See her enthusiasm, see her hope, see her beauty and her confidence. Those are the gifts she gives to you today. These are also the gifts you have given her every day. Continue to give each other these gifts. Celebrate that sweet, spunky, shy, quiet, crazy little girl who is growing up and becoming a confident, powerful woman. Continue to walk together on this journey. Be proud that because you always held hands on the bridge in the past you kept her safe and unharmed.  But know that with turning 13 there may be lots of days she sprints ahead without looking back, lots of days you feel like refusing to cross, lots of days she walks ahead of you pretending you do not exist, days when you may be tempted to run ahead yourself just to get it over with! Perhaps even a day or two that one of you can’t see forward or backward on that bridge and just feel trapped. It’s a long bridge. It is a beautiful bridge. It is still one you walk together. One way or the other, holding hands or ten paces ahead, you are together. One of you has the enthusiasm, one of you the healthy fear to keep her safe. Find your own balance together. Support each other and share each other’s gifts along the way.

Cyber Safety

Cyber bullying

Exposure to inappropriate content too soon

Online predators

revealing too much personal information

being constantly glued to social media

getting caught up in saying things you would never say in person


All of these are on line dangers. With technology these dangers are invited into our homes, our kids bedrooms, our kids lives every day. They are very real. Statistics are showing that teens are talking to their parents more openly and are becoming more concerned about posting pictures and videos of themselves on line. That is a promising trend!

Here are some guidelines to keep that trend moving in the right direction:

  1. Keep your computer in a common area. Be sure to walk past your kids and teens as they are on the computer.
  2. Learn how to set up parental controls on your computer, phones and all devices, including iPods. Teens have access to the world on all of their devices. They will be smarter and more savvy than we are as parents. Learn how to set the controls and how to check them. Ask for help if you need it. This only slows teens down. They will still find what they want online, but this requires them to think before they act., to purposefully seek out what they are looking for and hopefully give them time to rethink.
  3. Know how to check your computer’s history. Know how to check your teens device history. Know that if it is cleared, there is something hidden.
  4. Know all passwords to your teens devices.
  5. Know what apps your teen uses to communicate.
  6. Talk about cyber issues often. Talk to them about the rules stated above, but talk to them about how their cyber world is going. Ask questions. Share your own stories. Teach them to monitor their own usage. By the time you drop them off at college or their first apartment, they need to be able to keep themselves  safe on  line. That is a big task. You only have a few years to teach them to be safe and to show them how to set limits and not let devices and social media rule their lives.