5 Tips for Better Understanding Your Teenager

Do you ever feel like your connection with your teen is slipping? Here are five tactics for stopping the slip…steps you can take to get closer to them and to better understand them.

#1 Ask Questions and Listen

The first step to understanding your teen is to ask questions. Now there’s a strategy here. Many teens give yes/no answers when you ask them a question. The trick is to do it when they’re more likely to open up. Driving in the car seems to be a good time.

When you ask questions, make sure to listen to the answers – even if you don’t understand half of the words they’re using. It’s okay to ask for clarification. As you’re listening, take mental notes. They’ll come in handy in the next step.

#2 Google It!

If you have no idea what your child is talking about, Google it. Google the things they express interest in, the people, and even the language they use. The Urban Dictionary can be incredibly useful. For example, “Feels” – A wave of emotions that sometimes cannot be adequately explained. “Watching Back to the Future gives me all sorts of nostalgic feels.”

#3 Listen

One of the best ways to better understand your teen is to listen in to see what they’re talking about with their friends, and what kinds of things their friends are involved in. Try to be around them when they’re with their friends. Attend events with them. Volunteer to drive them and their friends to events. And encourage them to invite their friends over.

#4 Get Involved

Start taking an active interest in your teen’s interests. For example, if they’re involved in the local drama club then volunteer to help out with the club. If they are active online and have their own YouTube channel, then by all means watch that channel but also watch the other YouTubers that your child follows.

#5 Relax

Each generation has their own trends, language, and interests. Guaranteed, when you were a teenager your parents thought you were from another planet as well. It’s the way of the world. It’s okay to not be able to completely relate with your teenager. In fact, it’s normal.

Do what you can to connect with them. Let them know that you’re interested in their lives and then relax. You don’t need to be a friend with your teenager, nor do you need to share the same interests. It’s enough to let them know that you care.

For further reading:

10 Best Gifts for Your Teen: Raising Teens with Love and Understanding
10 Best Gifts for Your Teen: Raising Teens with Love and Understanding
Price: $11.11
Patt and Steve Saso navigated all the parenting perils from infancy to preteen insecurity, but nothing could prepare them for the unpredictability of adolescence. One day their teenager might say, “I love you,” after the morning ride to school, and the next he might sit in the back seat, sulking in silence. In their new book, 10 Best Gifts For Your Teen, the Sasos offer valuable advice to help families maintain strong relationships through the often turbulent teenage years. Combining Patt’s expertise as a marriage and family therapist with Steve’s experience as a high school educator, the Sasos share personal and professional anecdotes in this dispatch from the parenting trenches, detailing what adolescents want and need from their parents for emotional support. Teenagers will test the limits. Parents will make mistakes. But no matter how distant and resentful they appear to be, or how disrespectful of parental authority, teenagers internalize their parents’ words and actions. 10 Best Gifts For Your Teen – which include respect, room, role-modeling, responsibility and reconciliation – teaches parents how to relate when needed, and to relent when necessary, offering support without infringing on their teenagers’ burgeoning sense of freedom. Patt and Steve Saso have shared their wisdom through their Saso Seminars, providing inspiration and information to help parents raise respectful and successful children. And now, with 10 Best Gifts For Your Teen, they have given a gift to parents across the country who want their teenager’s transition from childhood to adulthood to be a smooth and rewarding one.

Helping Your Troubled Teen: Learn to Recognize, Understand, and Address the Destructive Behavior of Today's Teens and Preteens
Helping Your Troubled Teen: Learn to Recognize, Understand, and Address the Destructive Behavior of Today’s Teens and Preteens
Price: $8.94
The first “adolescent primer” on the market Destructive trends among today’s youth are growing, making life very different from when their parents were growing up. The primary four self-destructive behaviors in adolescence today are excessive alcohol and substance abuse, promiscuity, self mutilation (ie: cutting and burning), and eating disorders. These will be covered in detail, along with other issues like Internet addiction and suicide. These problems are not only detrimental to teens’ mental and physical health, but the legal consequences for injurious behavior have also changed. Identification and prevention are the most important aspects in stopping teenage self-destructive behavior. This book offers a comprehensive look at teens self destructive behavior and gives parents solutions for dealing with it. Helping Your Troubled Teen instructs parents on how to identify an at-risk adolescent and discuss warning signs of injurious behavior, before the problem(s) become severe enough that a child is in crisis and/or legal actions are taken against them. Personal anecdotes and testimonials from both parents and their teenagers who have been confronted with and have engaged in self-destructive behavior are also included. McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric teaching facility of Harvard Medical School. Founded in 1811 as the original psychiatric department of the MGH, it moved to Belmont in 1895. McLean Hospital operates the largest psychiatric neuroscience research program of any Harvard University-affiliated facility and of any private psychiatric hospital in the country. The Child and Adolescent Program at McLean Hospital is one of the foremost clinical programs for helping young people and their families cope with psychiatric illness and the challenges it often brings. There are extensive ties with community services, and each therapeutic program of children and adolescents in inpatient, residential and outpatient services is tailored to the specific needs of the child and family.

Helping Your Kids with Life’s Transitions

Life is full of transitions – from preschool to kindergarten, middle school to high school, and many times they can be very challenging. Parents can help with the emotional challenges of transitioning, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to help.

Here are some tips on how you can help your kids make those important transitions.

Preschool to Kindergarten

Here may be one of the first big transitions in your child’s life. The emotional challenges of this age involve separation anxiety and social readiness (or unreadiness). Here are some tips.

* Tour the school with your child over the summer before he or she begins kindergarten. Familiarizing her with the teacher, classrooms, playground, and overall layout of the school will help a lot.

* Understand her feelings, say experts. Parents may get impatient with separation anxiety and tears, but if you’re going to support your child, it’s a good idea to understand where she’s coming from. Talk about how she feels, and help her put words to the feelings (that can be hard at this age). This helps her identify the feelings which may make them less scary.

Grade School to Middle School

This can be a big one. It’s an emotional age at this point, so parents would do well to prepare themselves. Some of these tips may help.

* Understanding feelings is important at this age, too, but it’s not the same as going from preschool to grade school. Obviously, your child doesn’t need words to identify what he’s feeling. As a parent, you can help by recognizing the priority shift your child will have. His emotions are more focused on peers and the opposite sex than they were in grade school.

* Asking questions without judgment can help parents connect emotionally with their kids during transitional challenges. Try to find out what your child’s concerns, fears, and apprehensions are, as well as the things he is looking forward to and is excited about.

Middle School to High School

Kids start feeling independent and “grown up” about this time. Here are some tips on dealing with this transition.

* Help them solve their own problems. At this point, calling the school for every complaint may not help your child. The transition may be smoother if you can offer some problem solving skills and strategies to help your child help herself. This is an opportunity to help your child come up with a plan to help solve the issues at hand.

* Go to orientation if it’s offered. If it’s not, tour the school. Find teachers and advisors who can talk to your student about her fears and concerns, which will help alleviate some of those concerns. Many times, kids fear high school for reasons that really aren’t realistic.

High School to College

Sending your child off to college is a big step! How can parents help their increasingly-independent child with this transition? Here are some tips.

* Validate your child’s feelings about this big change. It may be tempting to blow off their problems – they don’t have “real problems” grown-ups may think – but remember your college-aged kids don’t have the life experience and frame of reference that you do. Being patient with their concerns can help make their transition smoother. Let them vent!

* Keep in touch with care packages and special gifts at key times (like final exams or his birthday). This helps support them more than you may know!

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Have You Hugged Your Kids Today?


By Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. E…, www.DrEPresents.com

Our kids bring us so much joy. Sometimes it is hard to believe that we can love someone that much. However, just as can happen with a marriage, the same can happen with our kids. We can begin to take them for granted. It is so easy to get wrapped up in life and become distracted by work, and other life stressors. It is important to remember that our kids need to feel loved and need to know that they are loved. My goal with my daughter when she was born was one million kisses before she turns five, and I make a point to tell her I love her at least once per day—and it feels so good to hear her say in her 3 year-old voice, “Daddy, I lub you so much.” Do I keep count of the hugs? No, but I do know I am well on the way.

In working with kids, adults and parents, there are so many times that I have found that parents don’t tell or show their kids how they feel about them. Some of the reasons that I hear as to why parents don’t “love on” their kids are:

* As their children get older, they don’t think they need the reassurance
* They were never loved on when they were kids
* They don’t feel comfortable loving on their kids when they approach adolescence
* They didn’t realize that their kids felt unloved
* They just aren’t that type of person
* Whenever they try to love on their kids they squirm away or don’t respond in return

Our kids often give us our best opportunities to stretch ourselves. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to get out of old habits and to begin new patterns. What we don’t realize that what we are missing out on when we don’t share love with our kids is how we feel inside. Sometimes parents need to face their uncomfortable feelings and the boundaries that they put in place not just between them and their children, but between them and other people. Sometimes parents can face their fears of rejection from their own kids, that if they don’t love them too much, their kids can’t push them away. Sometimes it is just a matter of learning to love and share in the process with someone else.

Our kids offer us the best opportunity to make an investment in loving them without expecting something in return. When I grew up, I was not someone who felt comfortable saying “I love you.” My mom told us all the time, and my dad showed us through service. It wasn’t until we all went off to college that my dad realized the power of sharing how he felt with words. Keep in mind that even though you know how much you may love your kids, they don’t often understand the things that you do, but they do hear the words that you say and the number of times you hug them and even sit with them with your arm around them.

Take the time to hug your kids and tell them that you love at least five times a day. Even if your kids might squirm or act like you have the plague, keep doing it. Neither of you may be used to it. But I don’t hear many troubled teens or adults who said that they behave like they do because their parents gave them too much love.

About the author: Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. E…, is a licensed psychologist and author of two books whose work has been featured NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN. Visit him at www.DrEPresents.com to learn more about his new show, Off The Couch with Dr. E… .

Masters of the Airbrush


By Erik Fisher, PhD, AKA Dr E www.DrEPresents.com

Your kids are inundated with images every day, and the degree to which these images are valid representations of the human form will subtly and obviously affect how they view the world and themselves as they grow up. Some of you may feel that banning ads such as those in Britain is absolutely overblown and a violation of rights. While this was seen as a truth in advertising issue, it is a psychological health issue as well. To many kids and adults, they may not think twice about these ads. To others, they may bring up intense feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred. The fact that we accept these images as acceptable is a sign of our numbness to the alternate realities that are created by the media and advertising.

I remember when doing my graduate research that I felt that surely in 20 years, our society would grow beyond this obsession with our bodies and appearance. I was teaching about airbrushing, and the degree of eating disorders in the modeling industry, and I taught about the excessive pursuit of the male stereotype in body builders. I had believed that we would educate our kids and ourselves about how to feel better from the inside out, but instead, the problems have become worse, in some ways, and not only do young women have to look fit and thin, but even older women are still focused on the same pursuit of physical perfection at the cost of their self-esteem. Just look at the rate of plastic surgeries on everything from facelifts to calf implants, and the age range on these procedures is widening.

Jump on the Bandwagon, Guys

Men and boys are not immune to these issues. Their physique is just focused more on muscular aspects. Realize how the images that they see sell a muscular body that is often unachievable through reasonable means. Even men are going under the knife for various plastic procedures, including pectoral implants.

Imagine if we took the time energy and funds we spend on the way we look outside and focused it on improving our inner beauty? Don’t stay numb to these cultural phenomena that are influencing our kids. Let’s get real.

Here are some tips to pay attention to if you feel concerned about your kids and their body image.

1. Be aware of your and your spouse’s body image issues. Do you talk about your body and how you feel about it in front of them?

2. Do you notice your kids talking about how they look and/or are they preoccupied with their appearance or specific body features?

3. Are their friends focused on their body and/or do they make comments about others’ appearance?

4. Are you and/or any of your kids obsessed with dieting and/or exercise?

These are just a few questions to look at these issues in your family. Often parents, without realizing it, feed their children’s issues, no pun intended. Talk to them, and if you don’t feel equipped to do so, get some help to talk about it before it goes too far.

About the author: Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. E…, is a licensed psychologist and author of two books whose work has been featured NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN. Visit him at www.DrEPresents.com to learn more about his new show, Off The Couch with Dr. E… .

Learn more about Dr. E.’s books:

The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With
The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With
Price: $16.95
The Art of Empowered Parenting provides a unique look at the impact parents have on their children’s behavior by challenging them to first understand themselves. Information and advice blend with practical tips and exercises to both educate and help parents apply new techniques. Dr. Fisher’s well-known perspectives on power and emotion, as well as discussions on temperament, attachment, and their strategic interaction, provide the basis for a new look on empowered parenting that can make raising any child an easier journey.

The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict: Understanding Emotions and Power Struggles
The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict: Understanding Emotions and Power Struggles
Price: $43.95
We all have power struggles affecting each of us in every stage of our life, nearly every day. We all get wrapped up in conflicts, but often have no idea how to resolve them. This book dicusses the “hows” and “whys” of conflict and provides easy-to-use solutions for most situations. The focus is on the role of emotion. Conflict results from the way in which we view our own power, and our views on power are largely influenced by our emotions. So we must begin by looking closely at our emotions. Fisher and Sharp guide us to pinpoint those and see how emotions move us into playing one of the classic roles in conflict – Victim, Persecutor, Instigator or Rescuer. And we learn how emotions can play productive purposes; how they can be used to minimize and remove serious conflict in our lives. The text includes vignettes, anecdotes, personal inventories, illustrations and concrete exercises. While general readers will find this text of interest, it will also provide valuable information for students of psychology, sociology, business management, human resources and family studies.


7 Tips for Raising Confident Kids

confidence children
Photo Credit: superman by scottfeldstein, on Flickr

We want our kids to look to the future with more excitement than apprehension; more exhilaration than nervousness.

Here are few everyday tips and tools to help you raise your child’s level of confidence.

1. Be a confident mama. The best way to raise confident children is to be confident yourself. Show your children that you are confident in your own abilities – even if that means you don’t always get what you want. Let them see you struggle toward a goal.

Talk openly with your kids about the obstacles you faced and how you overcame them, or what you will do differently in the future.

It’s okay to let your kids see you fail. Kids need to understand that failure is a part of success.  When they realize you can feel confident in your own abilities no matter what the outcome, they can adopt the same attitude.

2. Make sure your kids have sufficient responsibility. One way to build self-confidence in your children is to begin giving them some important responsibilities, commensurate with their age and ability level. This doesn’t mean you have to give them huge tasks. Kids as young as three can put their clothes in a hamper and pick up their toys. Here are some good suggestions for age-appropriate chores, from about.com.

Give your kids age-appropriate tasks which you can know they can accomplish successfully. Then create routines in which they are asked to do these tasks. As your kids get older, ask them to do jobs that take more responsibility. They will see how your confidence in their abilities has grown; their own confidence in their abilities will grow in kind.

3. As much as possible, allow your kids to make decisions of their own. Very young children can be asked something as simple as which type of cereal they would like to eat. As kids get older, you can give them more important decisions to make. Guide them into making wise choices and you’ll also encourage their self-confidence to grow.

4. Praise your children often but be careful how you do it.
Some parents go overboard by praising everything their child does, and that can give them a false sense of identity. Kids might think they can’t do wrong. But if you praise your children for the effort they put forth, not necessarily for winning or succeeding, they may be less deterred by setbacks.

5. Tell your children – often – that you believe in them and their ability to make good choices for themselves. Choose your words carefully. Tell them “You’re doing better at . . .” or “I appreciate how you . . .”

Apply encouragement liberally. Really slather it on. Put notes in your children’s lunchbox to encourage them. Write them notes on their birthdays – and throughout the year -  with specific examples of good decisions that they made. When you believe in them, they will be more likely to believe in themselves.

6. Take time to listen to what your children have to say. Your kids need to know that what they say matters to you. Help them learn to express their fears, frustrations and emotions. Support them as much as possible, but correct them if they’re wrong.

7. Allow natural consequences. Rather than always trying to spare your children from pain or heartbreak, let them experience what happens when they make mistakes. Teach them to “own up” to their mistakes and to learn from them. Allow them to see you do the same.

More information on raising confident kids:

Parents Do Make a Difference: How to Raise Kids with Solid Character, Strong Minds and Caring Hearts
by Michele Borba

Momscape articles by Dr. Michele Borba:

Simple Secrets that Create Happy Family Memories
Research has found that doing simple rituals enhances our feelings of togetherness and family belonging by almost 20 percent. And those home traditions and customs also increase our kids’ social skills and development. Here are nine simple, no-cost secrets moms are using to create happy memories.

Teaching Kids How to be Appreciative Even if They’re Disappointed
Dr. Borba on teaching kids how to accept gifts graciously.

Ten Ways to Tell If YOU Need a Time-Out

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

A time-out is something one takes or is given when one needs a break from their surroundings. A time-out is what we need when we’re sad and want to be alone. It’s useful when we are feeling hurt and don’t know what to say. A time-out is valuable when we’re confused and don’t know what to do. A time-out is an opportunity to reenergize and get ready to effectively address the situation at hand.

Children need time to calm their minds and relax their bodies when they’re frustrated. So do adults. Adults as well as children can use a break from the world around them when they are angry or frustrated. They need an opportunity to get themselves ready to learn a new skill or face a problem. They need time to get back into a solution-seeking mind-set.

The concept of taking time out as it was originally designed was an attempt to give children time to cool down. Its purpose was to provide a safe space and time for a child to calm herself.  Adults need that safe place to calm themselves as well. This can be achieved by taking a walk, riding your bike, or closing the bathroom door. It can be created through gardening, mowing the grass, or hiring a babysitter for an hour.

But how do you know when it is time for a time-out? How can you tell when it would be helpful to enter time-out mode? Check the following guidelines. Here you will find ten ways to tell when taking time out would be helpful.

1. Are you yelling? Is the volume of your voice escalating rapidly? Have you forgotten that increasing the volume of an ineffective verbal  skill only makes it a loud, ineffective verbal skill?  When you hear yourself yelling, be assured that it is time for a time-out. Yours.

2. Are you feeling anxious?
Do you have knots in the pit of your stomach? Is anxiety racing through your body? Do you feel your stomach muscles tightening as you prepare to deal with the latest behavior chosen by your child? If so, you could benefit by granting yourself permission to take a time-out.

3. Do you have a strong need to be in control? Are you regularly bossing your children, ordering them about, and telling them what to do? Are you having trouble letting them do it their way? If so, you are overfunctioning and need a break. Give yourself a time-out.

4. Have you noticed that you are not mentally present when you are physically present? Have you been thinking about other things when you play with your children? Are you preoccupied with your adult agenda when you are with them? Then it is time for a time-out.

5. Do you find yourself coming up with new ways to keep your kids occupied, distracted, or entertained? In other words, are you creating or buying things they can do so you can keep them out of your hair? Parental expediency—doing what is easiest for you, what meets your needs—does not always meet the needs of your children. It is a sign that a parental time-out is in order.

6. Have you been hearing any sarcasm come out of your mouth lately? Sarcasm is not funny. It is not a joke. It is a thinly veiled putdown that mocks your child and prevents them from receiving honest, open, descriptive feedback. It is a sure sign that you could use a timeout.

7. Have you struck your child recently? Hitting—yes, this includes spanking—is a major indicator that the time is ripe for you to be in time-out. If you are hitting children, you need to get a grip, get yourself under control, get your temper in check, take control of your runaway ego, and move from the animal part of your brain to the frontal lobe, where reasoning, solution-seeking, planning, and listening can occur. Time out is a good place for that to happen.

8. Are you playing the blame game? Are you good at finding fault in your children without looking inward to see what role you played in creating the current situation? Blaming exhausts your present moments and keeps you from searching for solutions. Take a time-out and use it to reorganize your thinking.

9. Are you using inappropriate language? You know what words we mean. The ones that you don’t want your children saying, the ones they get in trouble for using at school. Watch your language. When you hear yourself use one of these inappropriate words, take a turn in time-out. Use that time effectively by coming up with appropriate synonyms.

10. Have you been engaged in the exact behaviors you want to eliminate in your children? Do you threaten them to stop threatening their sister? Do you tease them about their teasing, hit them so they will stop hitting, yell so they will talk more softly, or bite them to show them how it feels to be bitten? Stop. Proceed immediately to time out.

Use time out to calm down, get centered, and relax. When you can see things differently, from a new perspective, you are ready to return. Focus on solution-seeking, listening, and creating mutual understanding. Take a teaching stance first. If consequences are called for, use them with an open heart. Come from a space of love and caring. Leave anger, annoyance, and frustration back in time-out. Let the child be the child. You be the adult.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
are the authors of The Only 3 Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need. They are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today: www.uncommon-parenting.com.

The Best Insurance for Raising Safe and Happy Kids

Paula Statman Head Shot

Paula Statman Head ShotThe Best Insurance for Raising Safe and Happy Kids
By Paula Statman, M.S.S.W.

Love is more than a wonderful gift to give your children; it’s also good insurance.  Showing your love tells them they are worthy of love and respect and shapes their expectations of how others treat them.

A child who feels loved is less likely to look for love in the wrong places…from the wrong people. It’s a documented fact that kids who feel loved don’t accept affection from just anyone who offers it.  They accept it from those who respect them and their boundaries.

Children who have an unwavering belief that they are loveable and worthwhile know they don’t have to “earn” someone’s love by doing something they don’t want to do.  On the other hand, children who are hungry for affection are more likely to believe they don’t deserve to be loved and that love has a price tag.

So, telling our kids we love them every single day—including those days when we question why we became parents—is good insurance.  It makes our kids less vulnerable to being exploited.  It shows them that they are treasured and worth treasuring.  It makes them feel cherished and special.  And that’s how we want them to feel when they go out the door.

Here are some examples of how to express your love and appreciation anytime, anywhere.

Things you can say:

  • I love you.
  • I am so lucky that you are mine.
  • I’m so proud of you.
  • You are very special to me.
  • I love spending time with you.

Things you can do:

  • Show your pleasure. Let your children know that parenting is something you enjoy, not a dreary chore that exhausts you.  Take good care of yourself so that you have the time and energy to be the kind of parent you want to be.
  • Learn about your children.  You are an important observer of your children’s behavior and the person they turn to when they have questions and concerns.  If you don’t feel comfortable in this role, consider taking parenting classes.
  • Appreciate their special qualities.  These include personality traits that make them good human beings, like kindness, intelligence or compassion for others.  Appreciate how unique they are…just as they are.
  • Care about and get involved with their interests, whether it’s school, baseball, ballet or other activities.  The more they see your interest, the better they feel about themselves.  Show up in your kids’ lives as their number one fan!
  • Take time to listen to your children wholeheartedly, without distraction.  Being listened to and understood is something all children want.  Be a parent your kids can come to who listens, understands, and believes them.  This kind of attention is worth its weight in gold.
  • Spend time one-on-one with your kids.  Make a date, schedule it and don’t postpone it due to work or other demands in your life.  Make this time a regular thing, rather than a special occurrence.  Time invested now will bring major returns in the long run.
  • Celebrate your child. Look for creative ways to send the message that you feel like the luckiest parent in the world.  Make a big deal of your kid, without spending a ton of money.  The key is to find fun ways to share joy and laughter in your relationship and show how much you appreciate and cherish your child.

There are many ways to show your love and appreciation.  Remember, the more you show, the happier and safer your children will be.

About the Author:
Paula Statman
offers advice for Raising Uncommonly Wise Kids with Common Sense Wisdom.  An award-winning author, speaker and media guest expert, Paula provides practical tips and hope to parents and professionals who work with children.  For more articles and information about her books and speaking topics, visit www.kidwisecorner.com.