Wednesday, October 24, 2012

College Choices and Your Teen: How Parents Can Help

As a parent, you have to help your child make several decisions over his or her lifetime. At first these decisions are easy. You help them choose a Halloween costume. You help them pick out a gift for their teacher. You stand beside them as they decide to cut off all of their hair in a fit of self-expression.

Then gradually they get a little more difficult. You help them choose a first job. Pick out a smartphone then finally, one day you’re helping them select a college.

As you sift through brochures and applications, your mind begins to race as you consider just how important this decision is. Essentially, this will be where your child spends the better part of the next four years. This is where they will make the friends they will keep for a lifetime, and where they could potentially meet the love of their life.

Before you start freaking out and retreating from this milestone, take a minute and soak in what is happening. You’ve gotten your child this far, so you have to have SOME idea of what you’re doing. So, as you browse schools and campuses keep a few things in mind. The tips below will help make this a smooth, seamless process for both you and your college-bound kid.

Don’t Impose Your Dreams
Maybe you’ve always envisioned you son or daughter doing you proud in an elite Ivy League school on the East Coast, but their heart keeps pulling them West. Let that happen. As long as it’s for legitimate reasons and not just to chase some significant other they may or may not stay with through the end of the month, support your child’s dream.

Just because they don’t want to pursue the path you thought might be best, doesn’t mean they aren’t making a good choice. To help allay your fears and apprehensions, have them explain exactly why they want to attend the school they have in mind.  Have them elaborate on specific programs or classes that caught their eye. This will help you realize your child is using smart judgment, has thought this through and is not merely acting on spontaneous whims.

Visit The Campuses With Them
Although they might not let on about it, your child is likely feeling a bit nervous about being away from home for the first time—especially if it is miles away from where they grew up. Making the move in the fall will be hard enough, so don’t make them go on campus visits alone. They may act annoyed that you want to tag along, but once you’re there I promise they’ll appreciate every minute of it, especially when they start to notice the kids who aren’t as lucky to have their parents there.
Not only will you be able to keep them company and ask questions they might not think to ask, you will also be able to gain a bit of familiarity with the place they might be spending the next 4-6 years. This will make those long nights you’re up worrying a bit easier because you’ll have SOME idea of where they are, even if you can’t be there in five minutes.

Be Realistic About Expenses
These days more than ever, the COST of college is an issue. It’s always been expensive, but with the current state of the economy it can be downright farfetched for some. If you and your spouse are worried about the expenses that are to come with sending your son or daughter to college, talk to them about that.

For the first time in their lives, bills and fees will be addressed to them and them alone. Sure, you might still be footing part of the bill, but they will be the ones held accountable if the money’s not in time. They will be the ones who are given the fee bills each semester, so they need to know what they’re working with.

This is especially important for them to know early on, so that they may apply for scholarships and aid where possible. If there’s a program or school they are really interested in, but it seems a bit pricey, discuss alternatives and options with them like school loans, so that they can make informed, educated decisions about their future.

Overall, when you’re helping your child choose a college, just BE SUPPORTIVE. Continue being the involved, concerned parent you’ve been up until this point, but learn to loosen the reigns a bit. Don’t freak out when they set out to make decisions on their own. Let them do it, but be there, waiting in the wings, if they need you. While it is their future, and ultimately their choice, but your input can make a world of difference.

Contributor: Lenore Holditch is a freelance writer and blogger covering education stories for Lenore has a journalism background with an emphasis in covering higher education policies, student lifestyle, and the cost of college. Feel free to send some comments her way!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teen Driving Safety Week: Texting and Driving Kills

 It is a parents nightmare -- the call from a hospital or police saying your child has been in an auto accident.

Those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash. We are hearing more and more about accidents that are caused by distracted driving. This is why ATT is committed to putting an end to texting and driving.

Our goal is to save lives and make texting and driving as unacceptable as drinking and driving. - AT&T

Merry Dye, the mother of a teen who died in a texting accident the day before high school graduation, will host an AT&T-sponsored web chat this Friday, October 19, with students nationwide to discuss the dangers of texting while driving.


Be Smart. Don’t text and drive. No text message is worth a life.
Be in control. Remember it’s your phone. You decide if and when to send and read texts so take control. Download AT&T DriveModeTM – an app designed to curb the urge to text and drive.*
Be Caring. Don’t send a text when you know your family member, friend or co-worker is driving.
Be Focused. Never use your phone to take pictures, send and read messages, record video, or watch TV while driving.
Be an Example. A recent survey2 found that 77 percent of teens say adults tell them not to text and drive - yet do it themselves “all the time.” Still, 89 percent of those teens said their own parents are good role models in terms of not texting while driving, so please lead by example.
Be Proactive. Take the pledge and commit to never text and drive:
Be Aware. If you have teens, some wireless companies offer parents an easy way to manage their teen’s phone functionality, such as the time of day the phone can be used for messaging, Web browsing or outbound calling. However, 911 calls are always allowed and parents can also set up “allowed numbers” that the teens can call as parents or others deem appropriate.
It only takes a split second to find yourself in an accident. The message is simple, yet vital: When it comes to texting and driving, it can wait.

For more information, tips and tools, check out AT&T’s online resource dedicated to educating wireless users about the risks of texting and driving at It Can Wait.

Take the pledge here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Teen Depression: Helping Teens Feel Good About Themself

Teen depression, sadly, is common today.

Feeling good has a lot to do with the choices your teen makes regarding their health.

The life of a teen is filled with choices, and most teens do not base decisions on their health, future, or long-term risks. Keeping up teens' health ultimately falls on the parents' shoulders, even though most teens are already making many of their own choices.

If you struggle finding a balance when it comes to your teen's health or want to be sure that you're doing as much as you can with the time you do have, here are a few simple ways to make a big impact on the health of your teen:

1. Require consistent exercise. There is no need to be a drill sergeant or make exercise feel like a chore, but there is something to be said for requiring exercise from your children. Whether they take up a sport, enroll in a dance program, or just join the gym with you, teens need to start now with a consistent exercise program for optimum health in the future.
2. Buy daily vitamins in gummy form. Daily vitamins are no fun. And, it's difficult as a parent to, a) remember to dole them out, and, b) make sure your kids actually take them. But, vitamins should no longer be a dreaded routine. The vitamin gummies offered today are delicious and taste like candy. Teens will want to take more than their daily share.
3. Fill plates with more greens and fruits and less grains and protein. The FDA has recently re-vamped the old standard of food charts and opted for something simpler: a plate divided into four sections. Half the plate is filled with vegetables and fruits. The remainder contains a fourth grains and a fourth protein. This is a simple and easy way to see that your teens are getting the proper servings of the food they need.
4. Restrict TV to certain hours. Monitoring TV hours is a challenge, especially when teens have become accustomed to turning them on whenever they want. But, in order to maintain optimum health, the TV has to go once in a while. Teens need time and space to go outside, call friends, read, create, and do other things that help maintain a balanced life. This can be as simple as turning them off during regular chunks of time when you know you'll be around.
5. Make doctors' appointments a part of the norm. Many of us restrict doctor's appointments to emergency visits when we come down with the flu and need a quick prescription. But, it's very important to get your teen started with regular physicals and preventative doctor's visits. This will get them in the habit of seeking out the advice of a physician and setting dates for those much-needed physicals.
6. Talk about sensitive health topics early-on. Instead of waiting until the last minute, it's important to discuss any health topics that your teen needs to know as early as possible. This applies to the menstrual cycle, the birds and the bees, and your preference on the best forms of contraceptives or abstinence. Waiting until your teen finds out about these hugely important issues from friends, television shows, or the school counselor means that you have missed the chance to help form extremely important choices your teens will make and prepare them for life events that will come up soon.
7. Drink more water, and get rid of soda. This is simple, but definitely worth it. The health benefits of drinking enough water cannot be overstated, and the harmful effects of soda have been well-documented. Most soda contains such a huge amount of sugar that the body has difficulty digesting it properly. Once and a while, it's fine, but make sure your teens are reaching for something else on a daily basis.

Contributor: Leslie Johnson is a freelance writer for

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Teens and Online Reputation

It’s hard for kids to think that the things they do now will matter later. But the reality is, those things will, especially if they have put them anywhere on the Internet. Sure, having a Facebook page is cool and fun, but kids and teens need to know that what goes on Facebook, stays on Facebook. Once something has been put online or sent out as a text, it’s out there, and unfortunately, there’s no getting it back.

Read on to find out more information about online reputations—and how you can protect your own and your child’s.

What You as a Parent Can Do

As parents, it’s your job to get this in your child’s head. Kids and teens need to know there are viable repercussions for posts, pictures, and texts they might publish. Parents need to let them know this. Explain to your kids it’s not as easy as deleting a post—or even an account—to get rid of something. Explain how fast things can travel through social networking and how easy they are to dig up.
Parents should monitor cell phones and computers and see what their kids are texting, emailing, tweeting, and posting. Let your kids know you’ll be doing this and make some surprise attacks as well. Reality is that as technology gets better, more of it becomes accessible to kids. When cell phones first became the norm for kids to have, you could still find one without texting or cameras; now you’d be hard pressed to get one of those. But set boundaries and make your child aware of what can happen—where that one picture could end up, or who may come across that Facebook post.

How Will This Affect Kids Later?

But really, what’s the big deal, your kid may ask. Who’s going to see it? Well, the answer is as simple as it is broad—anyone! Most employers now do a quick Google search on any potential employee, and they also take a look at Facebook pages. If your child has a bad online reputation, whether from pictures he or she has posted, or from posts that even mention his or her name, it can surface. And it can be ugly.
Imagine a potential employer looking at a few applicants. Does the one with the partying life on Facebook, the ugly comments directed at others, and vivid accounts of late nights and hangovers win over the one with the more professional online presence? Probably not.

It’s not just potential bosses that will look at online reputations, but so will the people who decide on college applications. What your child has put online over the years can have a huge impact on getting into a college of choice or not.

Think Ahead

 Though some future concepts are hard for kids to understand, it is vital that they keep clean online reputations. If a parent can simply impose the standard of “If you don’t want your potential boss to see it, don’t do it,” maybe there would be a lot less regrets of posts and pics on the Internet by kids and teens.

Special contributor:  Heather Legg is an author who writes on parenting tips, technology, and healthy lifestyles.