Archive for the ‘Peer Pressure’ Category

I feel that talking about and planning for summer is an important topic each year.   Teenagers look forward to their summer break and usually start the countdown right after April vacation.  Whether you have a teenager home from college or a teenager out of high school (or middle school) for the summer, you are potentially less thrilled than they are about the summer “break”.  Parents often struggle with the summer breaks because they feel like their teen may have too much unstructured time or that they may “sleep their days away”.  In addition to this, they generally also want their teens to be able to have some time to relax, have fun and enjoy their time off from school.

I have found that when teenagers do not have any plans or expectations for the summer that it does not go well.  It is generally not healthy to have teenagers sleeping all day or not having any sort of responsibility for the entire summer.  Of course there are some teenagers who will work all summer full-time and there are some who will fight the idea of working or committing to any schedule as long as they possibly can.  It is my experience that doing some planning for the summer and giving teens choices produces the best results that are agreeable to both teens and their parents.

Below are some suggestions I have given to my private clients that I have seen work out well for teenagers during their summer breaks:

  1. Have a discussion with your teen prior to the summer where you set some expectations.  (For Example:  “I know that you want to have time to spend with your friends and relax this summer but three days per week you will need to be up and ready to leave the house by 10am –  the other days you can relax and sleep in more if you want”)  Such discussions both set the expectation and offer your teen some choice.
  2. Let your teen know that they will have household chores to do – outline them clearly (maybe make a chart) and negotiate any allowance they will receive (if this is something you have for them but it is certainly not necessary) if successfully completing their chores.  Hold them accountable to doing their chore before you give them any allowance.
  3. Let your teen know that they will be expected to work (if age appropriate) or volunteer for a certain number of hours per week.  I have had families who have had their teens volunteer at the following places, however, there are many, many more based on your teens interests and your location:  animal shelter, nursing home, hospital, library, daycare center, in a work setting that is of interest to them similar to an internship or apprenticeship, soup kitchen.  I once worked with a girl who volunteered to help clean in a gym in exchange for a summer gym membership which worked out really well.
  4. If your teenager is old enough to work, have them start filling out applications now – the earlier the better rather than waiting for everyone else who is finishing up school to begin doing the same thing.
  5. If your teen is not old enough to work you may encourage them to offer to mow lawns, walk dogs, baby sit locally, etc.  These are great ways to begin to teach responsibility and to help them earn a little extra money.
  6. Explore any appropriate summer sports leagues / camps.  This is a great way to help structure your teens days if this is an area of interest for them.
  7. Explore other enrichment activities:  art classes, music lessons, sewing classes, computer classes, photography classes, sailing classes, dance classes, etc.  Many of the local community colleges have programs for students during the summer months which offer a wide range of classes.

It is always best to find something that helps build both responsibility and competency in your teenager which will benefit them as they grow into young adults.

For more Parenting Tips designed specifically for parents of teenagers, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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Have you ever caught your teenager in a lie?  Of course you have!  All teenagers tell lies at some point.  Now before we all panic, this is not the end of the world at all.  Sometimes when I hear about lies they tell I don’t even know why they felt they had to lie in certain situations.  Remember, teenagers are going through a massive transformation in a fairly short period of time.  They are confused, trying to find their identity, experimenting with new things, and trying to be calm, cool and collected through all of this!  There are typically 3 things which drive teenagers to tell lies:

1.  To keep up appearances in front of their peers:  teens want to fit in, to feel like they belong and want to impress others.  Because of this, they will often lie about something they have, did or said to try to be the person they think their peers want them to be.

2.  To try to avoid facing up to the consequences for something they should not have done:  who wants to be yelled at, grounded, or in trouble for anything – especially teens.  So they will often tell a lie or lie by omission in order to avoid the consequences of something they did.

3.  To be able to do things their parents would otherwise not let them do:  teenagers are at a stage where they are experimenting and trying new things (many of which parents would not approve) so they lie about where they are, who they are with and the specifics of what they are doing so that their parents won’t tell them they can’t go out.

So, what should you do if you catch your teenager lying to you.  Let’s start with what you should not do and that is, you should not worry that this is something that will define their character for life – it will not.  As I said, all teenagers lie at some point and it does not doom them to a life of dishonesty or criminal activity.  With that said…lying is still not acceptable and they should be held accountable for their behaviors.  Some teens will really try to hold onto a lie if they feel there is even the slightest chance it will help them avoid negative consequences.  This can be really frustrating and hurtful for parents.  When this happens, sit down and speak with your teenager about your feelings and concerns with their lying (and only do this if you are in a calm state).  In all instances where you catch your teenager lying, let them know that you are hurt that they tried to deceive you and that you want to be able to trust them.  It often helps if you validate them by saying something like, “I know what it is like to want to do something you can’t do” or “I know that you did not want to get in trouble”.  Let them know you understand what the motive for the lie was and then tell them that lying damages trust and relationships.  Reinforce with them that you work really hard to be honest with them and that you need the same in return.  Try to keep the conversation focused and don’t let it drag on – make your point but don’t lecture on and on because you will likely lose their focus and you increase the chances the discussion will turn into an argument.

Then, discuss with your teenager what the consequence will be.  If were really angry or hurt by their lying, take some time to think about an appropriate consequence so that you don’t issue a consequence out of emotion.  As in all situations, make the consequence appropriate, time limited and enforceable.  If the situation will make it harder for you to trust them, let them know how they can start working to build this trust back with you and be open to their efforts to do this.

Do you want more tips about parenting teenagers?  Like us on Facebook for a FREE Report for Parent’s of Teenagers and to get regular tips and updates.  Also – go to www.HowToParentATeen.com for a free audio program for parents of teenagers.

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I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this!!  Whether it is the color of their hair, a new piercing, boys with long hair, girls with really short hair, clothes too baggy, clothes too tight or some other “teenage fashion” – it happens.  You wake up one day and look at your teenager and think – I can’t believe they are going out looking like that!  As a parent you may feel angry, embarrassed, frustrated or just plain exhausted with their quest for independence.  Before we go any further, let’s dissect this a bit more…so that you can figure out what is driving this emotion for you.  For some parents, having their teenager dressing or grooming differently than how they were raised feels disrespectful.  For other parents, it is another example of how their teen is going against what they taught them and it just plain makes them mad.  And let’s just be honest, for some, it is embarrassing.  Parents don’t want to show up for a holiday with their teenager who has blue hair and have to answer the questions of judgmental relatives for the next 5 hours and understandably so!  For some parents, how their teen looks feels like a reflection of the quality of their parenting so there is fear that they will be negatively judged if they have a child who does not just blend in with the “norm”.

Finally, in some instances, parents fear for their teenagers safety which tends to be more common for girls but can apply to boys as well.  Some parents become concerned that their daughter is wearing clothes that are too revealing or which may lead others to believe they are much older than they are.  Although, sadly, this is often what is promoted by the media – in such situations you should intervene and try to educate your teenager about the potential dangers of dressing in a provocative manner.  Unfortunately, there ARE people who will prey on teens who dress in a way that (whether intentionally or unintentionally) gives off the message that they may be promiscuous because they are willing to reveal a lot of their body with how they dress.  If your teenager is in this category and does not seem to be responding to your efforts to non-judgmentally educate them about any dangers or who are putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations, you may want to have them speak with a professional who can help you both understand what is driving this behavior.

However, for most teenagers, this is just part of their process of growing up and teenagers take their “differentness” to varying levels.  I was recently working with a parent who was concerned because her son was letting his hair get too long.  She felt like it would negatively affect his college interviews and was honest enough to also admit that it was embarrassing for her because her family gave her a hard time about it.  What was happening, however, was that her stress about her son’s appearance was causing her to have a lot of negative emotions towards him which he resented and therefore he started pulling away from her.  Through coaching, we were able to come up with a specific plan for her to re-engage with her teenager.   It involved her not addressing his appearance at all (which was not easy!) and to focus instead on what they were doing together, how he was doing in school and at home with chores, and just simply enjoying one another’s day-to-day company and interactions.  It was amazing for her to see how powerful this hair thing had become in their lives.  He had become defensive in all their interactions because he knew she would bring up his hair, and she became angry and frustrated because he was not willing to hear her pleads for him to cut his hair.  The hair became the center of their relationship and resulted in their not communicating, enjoying being around one another and both were feeling pretty bad about it.

When the hair subject was taken off the table you would be amazed at what happened!  I want to be clear that this did not happen overnight but it did happen much quicker than my client may have imagined.  She stopped talking about the hair.  We came up with some great strategies she could use to help her let go of this topic (even though she still wanted him to cut his hair) and refocus on their relationship.  After about a week or two, they began engaging more and talking more.  Her son was able to see that they could have a conversation that did not turn to her criticizing his hair so he was more willing to engage and spend time with his mother.  Then the real kicker happened – his FRIENDS started telling him they did not like his hair long and that they thought he looked better with it a little shorter.  He also realized that it was somewhat of a pain to take care of as it continued to get longer and that he was not looking as good as he may have wanted with the long hair.  Then…TA DA…he showed up at home after school one day with short hair one day.  My client had the sense to not make too big of a deal about this – she simply told him he looked handsome and then focused on how the rest of his day went.  She knew not to make this the focus because there was a control piece to this whole thing.  My client’s son was trying to exercise his independence by having his hair the length HE wanted it and when she was insisting it should be short – he only wanted to keep it long.  Now, it was his decision to have it short so she was very wise to let him keep it as his decision and not say anything like, “it’s about time” or “I told you that you looked better with short hair”.

You see, often times this is a phase that teenagers go through but the phase can have a valuable purpose.  Some teens do this to rebel from their parents, some to just try to exert some control in their lives which sometimes feels out of control to them and for some, they are just trying on a new look to see how it feels and to see if it helps them define themselves.  As hard as it can be, if there are not safety issues at play, parents are wise to let their teenagers go through this process.  Don’t define them solely by their looks and continue to appreciate them as a whole person.  You can be honest with them and tell them that it is not your first choice of a look for them (because they are going to pick up on this anyway) but that you still love them just the same and want them to dress and look in a way that is comfortable for them.  And then…most importantly…show them this with your actions.  Accept them for who they are and don’t make them feel “less than” based on their looks.

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Teenage gambling is a behavior that can be addicting and very problematic for some teenagers. It has been reported that 70+ percent of all teenagers engage in some form of gambling and that up to 1/3 of those may develop and actual addiction to gambling. Gambling is often not considered as serious as other addictions such as alcohol or drug use, however, it can be very destructive to both the lives of teenagers as well as of their families. A gambling addiction is a very real problems and like other addictions, many teenagers are not able to stop despite the negative consequences of their behavior. Teenagers with gambling addictions spend money faster than they have it and often resort to stealing or selling items as a means of getting more money so that they can get the “next win”. Teens may engage in gambling online, in poker games with friends or by betting on sports games. I have seen situations where teenagers lost interest in other activities because they are so preoccupied with their gambling. They are always looking for the rush of the next win or dealing with the stress of trying to find money to pay for their latest losses.

As with any addiction, it is best to intervene early on so, as a parent, it is important for you to be aware of the potential warning signs that your teenager may have a gambling problem:

  • Either debt that cannot be explained or lost of money that cannot be explained
  • Stealing from friends of family
  • Missing household or personal items (which they may have sold)
  • Appears to get very upset when watching sports on TV if particular teams are losing (beyond normal emotions associated with sports)
  • Often on the computer or phone checking scores of games
  • Borrowing significant amounts of money from friends or family
  • Lying
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Distracted and decreased performance in school
  • Gambling sites in browser history

None of these warning signs alone means your teenager has a problem with gambling, however, they are red flags and if you see them, you should investigate further.

As is the case with any addiction, intervening early on and getting professional help will increase the change of successful treatment. Gambling in teenagers should not be minimized – it is serious and can have very serious consequences. Teens who gamble self destruct financially but also often place themselves at serious physical risk if they are not able to pay back their debts. If you are a parent and are concerned that your teenager is gambling, you should get support for yourself and your teenager so that you can address this behavior in the most effective way.

For more parenting tips go to the How To Parent A Teen Website or follow us on Twitter @KarenParentTeen.

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As heightened concerns remain following the school shooting and death of three students with two others wounded in Chardon, OH, many are asking – how do you know if someone is going to do something like this.  As I talked about in my previous blog post, there are no clear-cut answers and there is not one specific thing that would indicate that someone is going to behave in a violent manner, however, there are what we call Risk Factors, that may increase one’s propensity for violence.  I have listed some of these risk factors below.  These are not the only risk factors (for example, certainly females can be violent at well) and anyone with concerns about a child should seek a professional evaluation and support regardless of if they can be characterized by any specific risk factors. These are meant to be used as a tool to help identify those who may be at risk for violence.  It is always better to seek support and a professional opinion even if you are not sure and warning signs should not be minimized or ignored.

  • Male
  • Minority (for overall violence, however, Caucasian for school shootings in particular – see below)
  • Substance use (teens are more likely to lose their inhibitions when using drugs or alcohol)
  • Unhealthy home life (abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc)
  • Having adults / older peers in their lives who role model violence
  • Living in a gang involved area with prevalent threats of violence
  • Little attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Little or no attachment to community and school environment
  • Adult attitudes that support or condone violence
  • Behavioral issues at a young age
  • Too harsh or too lenient discipline
  • Poverty and few economic opportunities
  • Academic failure
  • Untreated Mental Health issues that may increase impulsivity or irrational thinking
  • Access to weapons

Factors that many believe have been common for those individuals who have been accused of school shootings:

  • Male
  • Caucasian
  • From a troubled  home (broken, drugs or alcohol, abuse, domestic violence, etc)
  • Withdrawn (not engaged in their communities or in school social activities, sits alone at meals, does not engage with others in class)
  • Outcast – rejected and/or bullied by peers over time
  • Living in a rural community (thus far, these shootings have not taken place in cities)
  • Having access to a gun (as troubling as thoughts of violent in children are, these violent acts remain a fantasy until a teen has actual access to a gun at which time this fantasy can become an actual event)

If you see these risk factors in a teen you know – you should not ignore them.  Of course having certain risk factors does not mean that a teen will act violently or that something is wrong with them, however, these risk factors could place a teen at increased risk to behave in a violent manner and may indicate that they need support and help so it is always best to further explore what may be going on inside for individuals at risk.

For additional parenting advice go to How To Parent A Teen where you can download a free audio program designed specifically for parents of teenagers.  Click HERE now for your free audio program.

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I can remember being a teenager on a luxurious vacation with my family in the Caribbean and caring about nothing more than what I was missing with my friends due to being away from home.  In the summertime we would go to Nantucket on our boat and I remember being so angry with my parents that they MADE me go on a summer vacation because it meant I might be missing out on something with my friends at home.  What I wouldn’t give now to have those problems!!!

The point is that for most teenagers, nothing is more important than having friends and fitting in.  Especially for teenage girls – often their moods are dictated by what is going on with their friends.  When they are having successful relationships with their friends they are feeling good and are in good moods.  When they are struggling with friendships, feeling “out of the loop” or inadequate – watch out!  They will often present with an intense negative mood regardless of what else is going on in their lives.

As most people are aware, teenage girls can be cruel, jealous and quite vicious at times.  Relational Aggression is a term which refers to the way in which girls can be mean to one another through low-level bullying, gossiping, ignoring and excluding and through verbal attacks.  The result of this relational aggression can be devastating for teenage girls.  Being excluded from the lunch table, the weekend outing, the online chat group, etc. can cause teenage girls to feel worthless, alone and extremely insecure.

Teenage girls often judge their value by where they stand in social groups which can cause significant stress, anxiety and uncertainty.  Once teenage girls are able to form solid, longer lasting friendships, their reaction to this social pressure decreases.  Being in with the most popular group becomes less important as girls get older and as they begin to form solid relationships with a smaller group of friends who they trust and care about as individuals.

As a parent, this can be a very difficult stage to witness.  It can be heartbreaking to witness the sadness of your teenage daughter if she is feeling like she does not fit in or if she is on the receiving end of bullying or exclusion.  What can be helpful is to know that this is a stage that will usually pass as girls reach their 20’s and into their mid 20’s (sometimes earlier).  Parents should not interfere in these friendships  (unless there are true safety concerns) since this will likely create further problems for their teenager or result in their teenager resenting them.

A few helpful suggestions for parents who have teenagers experiencing difficulties due to social pressures are:

  • Be there to listen to them when they are ready to talk about what is going on with their peers or to talk about how they are feeling.
  • You can gently offer suggestions but being too directive or telling them what they should do could result in their shutting down from you.
  • Don’t try to minimize what they are reporting or feeling.  Don’t say, “things aren’t that bad”,  “people DO like you”, etc.  If they are telling you it is really bad then that is what it feels like for them so you should validate how they are feeling about the situation.
  • You may want to offer them an opportunity to have different exposure to social situations.  This may give them an opportunity to have some success with a different peer group while they are trying to sort out the difficulties they are experiencing.  For example, if you daughter is having trouble with peers at school you may want to explore finding her other, out of school activities where she can meet a new peer group.  A dance class, sports league, YMCA, music classes and art classes are all great places for teens to become involved in group activities with their peers.

As I stated above, witnessing your teenager experiencing difficulties with peers can be very painful to watch.  Even with the most connected and loving family, a teenage girl will experience significant distress if she is not feeling connected to a group of friends.  The good news is that this phase will inevitably pass and generally girls are able to form solid, trustworthy social networks as they move into adulthood.

For more information related to Parent Teenagers, go to www.HowToParentATeen.com where you can access our audio program designed specifically for parents of teenagers.

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I can remember being in social situations where, even though there were a lot of people around, I felt very alone.  Have you ever felt like this?  Like everyone else in the room or at an event has strong connections and you are kind of just there, on the outskirts, looking in with no real friends?  This can feel very lonely and can cause sadness and even fear.  Now, imagine being a teenager who is already so insecure and unsure of themselves and unclear about where they fit into the world and how this type of situation must feel for them.

As human beings, we all want connection.  We all want to be part of something larger than us and to feel like we belong and that we are important.  Unfortunately for teens, this desire can cause them a lot of insecurity and pain.  Let’s face it, teenagers can be mean and hurtful at times.  They can work hard to make someone feel excluded and like they don’t belong (which they are likely doing to address their own insecurities) which can result in strong feelings of isolation.  The danger in this is that often times these teens, who feel excluded, will seek out that connection anywhere they can get it because they want so desperately to belong and fit in with others.

I have worked with many teens who are heavily gang involved and who became involved for this very reason.  Maybe they did not fit in at school because they did not do well academically, maybe they felt afraid in their neighborhoods and wanted people who could help protect them, maybe they never felt connected to their family, maybe nobody ever reinforced their talents or encouraged them to get involved in sports, music, drama or any other activities so that this was all they knew.  I have also worked with many teenage girls who become very promiscuous because they feel that this is a way of connecting with others and feeling cared about.  The reality is that others are taking advantage of these girls for their own personal gratification and they do not have any emotional connection at all which leaves these girls feeling even more lonely, abandoned and ashamed.   Similarly, this is how teenagers can become involved in illegal behavior, drug use, skipping school or other at-risk behaviors.  They want to be part of something and if they do not feel accepted by others, they will seek out those who will accept them.  Typically teenagers engaged in at-risk behaviors like company and are accepting of anyone who will participate in what they are doing and who will take risks with them.

What is difficult for teenagers is that once they fall in with a negative group, they can be “labeled” and it actually makes it more difficult for them to connect with positive social groups due to this labeling as well as their own shame for what they may have done. 

As a parent, what can you do to help make sure you teen is getting their need for connecting fulfilled in a positive manner? 

  1. Know who your teenager spends their time with – who are their friends, who do they text, Facebook and talk to on the phone
  2. Point out your teenagers strengths – make sure you tell them what they are good at, that you admire their talents and that they are important
  3. Give your teen access to various ways of connecting – these do not need to be things that cost a lot of money.  Look for events, groups and organizations through churches, town recreation centers, school, local youth groups or just get together with some of your friends and their teens
  4. Have other adults give your teen positive praise and attention – this is especially important if you have a teen who is not strong academically because they may not get a lot of this in school.  Have other relatives, friends or neighbors point out your teen’s strengths, encourage them and be curious about them in a sincere manner
  5. Make them feel connected to your family – even if they act like they don’t care.  Ask for their opinion about things, include them in the decision-making when possible, tell them you love them and that you are proud of them, make an effort to be around them (and if they reject this – don’t take it personally)
  6. Open up the dialogue – even if your teenager says they don’t want to talk about it, check in with them, ask them how they are feeling, tell them if you see that they are looking sad, let them know you are there for them to talk or help

As you know, this can be a difficult period but having a good connection with one or two positive individuals can make such an important impact in the life of a teenager.  Anything you can do, as the parent of a teenager, to foster or provide opportunities for these connections will make a difference for your teen.

For additional resources designed specifically for parents of teenagers and to get our weekly Ezine and Free Audio Program:  3 Powerful Strategies For Parents Of Teenagers you can click HERE.

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