Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Parenting Tips and Resources for Raising Tweens and Teens Today

1. Communication: Keeping the lines of communication of your child should be a priority with all parents. It is important to let your kids know you are always there for them no matter what the subject is. If there is a subject you are not comfortable with, please be sure your child has someone they can open up to. I believe that when kids keep things bottled up, it can be when negative behaviors can start to grow.    Start with communication, don't want for a confrontation.

2. Knowing your Children’s Friends: This is critical, in my opinion. Who are your kids hanging out with? Doing their homework with? If they are spending a lot of time at a friends house, go out of your way to call the parent introduce yourself. Especially if they are spending the night at a friends house, it important to take time to call the parents or meet them. This can give you a feeling of security knowing where your child is and who they are with.  (BTW - don't forget to check out their virtual friends too!)

3. Know your Child’s Teachers – Keep track of their attendance at school: Take time to meet each teacher and be sure they have your contact information and you have theirs if there are any concerns regarding your child. In the same respect, take time to meet your child’s Guidance Counselor.  Especially those with teens that will be applying to colleges soon, let's be sure they have all their credits on place.

4. Keep your Child Involved: Whether it is sports, music, drama, dance, and school clubs such as chess, government, school newspaper or different committees such as prom, dances and other school activities. Keeping your child busy can keep them out of trouble. If you can find your child’s passion – whether it is football, soccer, gymnastics, dance, music – that can help keep them focused and hopefully keep them on track in school.  Community service is also just as important.  See number 6.

5. Learn about Internet Social Networking: In today’s Cyber generation this has to be a priority. Parents need to help educate their kids on Cyber Safety – think before they post, help them to understand what they put up today, may haunt them tomorrow. Don’t get involved with strangers and especially don’t talk about sex with strangers. Avoid meeting in person the people you meet online without you being there. On the same note – cell phone and texting – don’t allow your child to freely give out their cell numbers and never post them online. Don't rely on the schools to teach cyber safety - it starts at home.

6. Encourage your teen to get a job or volunteer: In today’s generation I think we need to instill responsibility and accountability. This can start early by encouraging your teen to either get a job or volunteer, especially during the summer. Again, it is about keeping them busy, however at the same time teaching them responsibility. I always tell parents to try to encourage their teens to get jobs at Summer Camps, Nursing Homes, ASPCA, Humane Society or places where they are giving to others or helping animals. It can truly build self esteem to help others.

7. Make Time for your Child: This sounds very simple and almost obvious, but with today’s busy schedule of usually both parents working full time or single parent households, it is important to put time aside weekly (if not daily at dinner) for one on one time or family time. Today life is all about electronics (cell phones, Ipods, Blackberry’s, computers, etc) that the personal touch of actually being together has diminished.

8. When safety trumps privacy: If you suspect your teen is using drugs, or other suspicious behaviors (lying, defiance, disrespectful, etc) it is time to start asking questions – and even “snooping” – I know there are two sides to this coin, and that is why I specifically mentioned “if you suspect” things are not right – in these cases – safety for your child takes precedence over invading their privacy. Remember – we are the parent and we are accountable and responsible for our child.

9. Are you considering outside treatment for your child? Residential Therapy is a huge step, and not a step that is taken lightly. Do your homework! When your child’s behavior escalates to a level of belligerence, defiance, substance abuse or God forbid gang relations – it may be time to seek outside help. Don’t be ashamed of this – put your child’s future first and take steps to get the help he/she needs – immediately, but take your time to find the right placement. Read Wit’s End! for more information.

10. Be a parent FIRST: There are parents that want to be their child’s friend and that is great – but remember you are a parent first. Set boundaries – believe it not kids want limits (and most importantly – need them). Never threaten consequences you don’t plan on following through with.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Smoking Cigarettes: When Your Teens or Child Starts Smoking

Many parents will panic when they discover their teen is smoking.  No one is condoning this – but you can’t panic.

Smoking cigarettes is bad for you.

Most know it, yet peer pressure can sometimes outweigh it when it comes to kids.

Kids can get pretty creative when it comes to hiding their bad habits from parents and most parents assume that their child would never do anything like take drugs, drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. In all cases there are certain signs to watch for that let you know if your child is indulging in any of these risky behaviors, no matter how crafty they may be at trying to hide them.

Here are some signs to watch for if you think your child may be smoking.
  1. More use of breath mints or chewing gum – Has your child suddenly felt it necessary to always chew gum or have breath mints? If so, there is a chance that they might be trying to cover up the bad breath that smoking causes.
  2. The dirty ashtray smell – Chances are if you confront your child about smelling like a dirty ash tray, their first response will be to blame it on the friends they hang around. This may or may not be true. If their clothes and possessions constantly and regularly smell like smoke, then there is a pretty good chance they are smoking.
  3. Yellowing teeth – Smoking causes the teeth to yellow from all of the chemicals they’re exposed to, so if your child’s teeth are beginning to turn a shade of yellow then you may have a problem on your hands.
  4. Shortness of breath – Smoking does affect the lungs and decreases lung capacity, so if your child is beginning to get easily winded it may be time to sit down and have a talk with them.
  5. Bad breath – If your child has really bad breath that reeks of smoke, it’s definitely time for you to have a heart to heart conversation about smoking and all of its negative side effects.
  6. Poor performance in athletics – If you see your once active child suddenly begin to decline in athletic performance this could be a sign that tobacco use is to be blamed.
  7. Yellowed fingers – Nicotine from cigarettes can cause yellowish staining of the fingers that commonly hold the cigarettes. If you’ve already had a suspicion you’ll want to watch for those telltale stains.
  8. Unexplained coughing – Children can cough due to colds and allergies but if your child is coughing and there is not a cause of which you are aware, you may want to ask some questions.
  9. Their space becomes off limits for you – As kids get older they want their privacy and their space becomes sacred to them. This is natural, but only within reason. If their room becomes completely off limits to you, look into the reason why. Does the room smell like smoke? Are they constantly burning incense?
  10. Overuse of perfume or cologne – Attempting to hide the smell of smoke on their clothes by using extra perfume or cologne is another possible sign that your child could be using cigarettes.
While none of these signs alone are necessarily cause for concern two or more together may warrant a closer look. If you find that you do need to talk to your child, do your best to stay calm and keep the lines of communication open.

Now is not the time to lecture or sermonize. Find out what the appeal to smoking is and remind your child about the costs both financially and to their health. Having an open and honest conversation will show your child that you are genuinely concerned about their well-being and hopefully will cause them to rethink developing this unhealthy habit.

Tobacco Free Florida Quitline is a tremendous resource and hotline for both parents and teens to help you and your child kick this habit.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bullying and Cyberbullying: How Technology has Made it Worse

When we were growing up there were bullies.  Nobody liked to be bullied, but it was a fact of life that you had to deal with kids that weren’t very nice.  Now, schools are so anti-bullying that anything that even slightly seems like bullying is taken very seriously.  At least when we were growing up they didn’t have Facebook to upload embarrassing videos to that would ruin a person’s life.

Check out 10 ways technology makes bullying worse.
  1. Facebook: Embarrassing pictures and videos can be uploaded to Facebook in a matter of a few seconds and ruin someone’s life forever.  Kids do not understand the damage that something like that can do to a person.  People have actually committed suicide because of events like these.
  2. Cell phones: Growing up we did not have cell phones.  Kids these days have the ability to take pictures at a moment’s notice and sometimes not in the most appropriate places.  Nude pictures of students in the shower or in the locker room have also caused suicides.
  3. Texting: Kids can bully by texting now.  They can text everyone else at the same time something bad or embarrassing about someone else.  They can also send pictures over their phone to everyone on their contact list.  Bullying like this can make someone’s life miserable.
  4. Flip cameras: These cameras are used to shoot quick videos at close range and can be uploaded to the Internet.  Kids that want to bully just have to take embarrassing videos of a student and share them with everyone.  Or a video can be sent to a parent as well that would get them grounded or in trouble.
  5. You Tube: A lot of good things have happened to people by posting a video on You Tube, but a lot of bad stuff has happened too.  People love to be the first one to dish the dirt on someone else.  They witness a fight they grab their cell phone and upload it to You Tube.  Or they set someone up and post what they think is a funny video to You Tube, but it’s actually very embarrassing.  People don’t think they are bullying when they do this stuff, but they really are.
  6. Gaming systems: Many online gaming systems allow conversations between the players.  Teens have reported that someone pretending to be them said mean things or embarrassing things to another person.  This kind of bullying is hard to stop and hard to track.  It does however cause a lot of problems for today’s teens.
  7. Blogs: There are teens that create blogs that post the latest gossip about people and will say nasty things about people.  Teens feel that they are anonymous and that no one can tell who is doing the bullying, but there are ways to track down who’s doing it and there are some big consequences.  If the bullying leads to a suicide the teen who is behind the bullying can be brought up on charges and sent to jail.  Lesser sentences are losing privileges to use a computer for 2 years.  Try doing your homework without a computer these days.
  8. Chat sites: Other sites online have chat rooms where teens can go and chat with their friends online.  People can go into these chat rooms and make up a user name and start saying bad things about kids in that chat room.  Many times there is a chat room that the students frequent because all their friends go there so when someone bullies in a chat room a lot of that kid’s peer group could be reading it.
  9. E-mail: Bullies steal identities and will sign into an e-mail account and send damaging e-mails pretending to be that teen.  Inappropriate messages to a female teacher or a nasty message to the principal are all things that can really get that child in trouble and they didn’t do anything.  Remind your child to keep passwords absolutely private.
  10. Instant messaging: Bullies will try to send nasty instant messages threatening to do something to a teen when they see them next.  Or tell them that they are going to make sure that they don’t get something they want at school like a part in the play or a solo in choir.  Bullying can take many forms even if it’s just telling someone that they did a terrible job on their audition or they overheard someone important say that they did a terrible job.  Anything like that is going to put undue stress on that child.  Make sure that your child is aware and being safe.
Source:  Full Time Nanny

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