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As a single parent, it is normal that at some point you will want to begin to date again and that hopefully you will find someone with whom you would like to spend a lot of your time.  At some point, you will need to introduce this other person to your teenage children which can be complicated and cause you some significant stress and anxiety.  Likely you will worry about what your teenager will think of this new person in your life and what this person will think of your teenager.  (Before going further, it is important to note that this article is referring to parents who are in at least semi-serious dating relationships.  It is generally never advisable to introduce children to individuals if the relationship is only causal as this can be confusing to them.  In addition, you certainly don’t want them becoming attached to someone who you know will not be in your life for very long.)  Introducing someone new to your teenager can be even further complicated if your teenager holds resentment following a divorce, or is still holding onto hope that you will get back together with their other parent.  In such situations, introducing a new partner to your teenager will force them to see the reality that you are not reconciling with their other parent which can result in some difficult emotions for them.

Below are some tips for you, as the parent, if you are in a situation where you are dating someone and feel it is time for them to be introduced to your teen.

  1. Make sure you are feeling the relationship is going to last.  By this I don’t mean forever since nobody can predict what will happen years down the road, however, if you see that the relationship will be short-lived, it is not advisable to introduce the other person to your children.
  2. Make sure the other person is open to meeting your children.  If they are not, you should take a close look at the reasons why and question if this is someone who is appropriate for you to be in a relationship with.  The reality is that you have children who are an important part of your life and if the other person is not interested in getting to know them, you will likely end up feeling very conflicted and set yourself up for a lot of guilt and stress.
  3. Prepare your teen.  Don’t “surprise” them with a visit from your new love interest.  This will likely not go over well at all and you will then have to undo any damage done.  It is best to tell your teenager that you are interested in someone and that since they (meaning your teenager) are the most important thing in your life, you would like them to meet this person and let you know what they think.
  4. Don’t “sell” your boyfriend / girlfriend.  Your teenager is smarter than you may think and they will pick up on this.  It is fine to just say, “I want you to meet this person because they are a really good person and they treat me well”.  If your teenager asks further questions then you should answer them honestly but don’t make the person out to be more than they are or feel you have to be a salesperson for them.
  5. Do something activity based.  Try to minimize the pressure of just sitting and having a conversation.  Even sitting and eating dinner can make people feel forced to just sit and talk which can be uncomfortable.  Think about going bowling, to a movie or to a sporting event that will allow for interaction but much less pressure to simply sit and talk.
  6. Don’t be phony.  Make sure that you act like yourself.  Your teenager will pick up on any changes to your personality and will likely see it as very negative.  They still want you to be their mom or dad as they know you, so make sure you are comfortable with what you do so that you can be yourself.
  7. Reassure.  Reassure your teenager that they are the most important thing in your life, no matter what.  If you have started dating, your time with them may have lessened or you may seem more distracted.  It is important to remember that your teenager will be sensitive to this and that they will need reassurance both verbally and through your actions that they are still number one.

For more free resources for parents of teenagers go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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It is recommended that teenagers get 9 hours of sleep per night because they are still having a lot of physical, emotional and brain growth which really does require this much sleep.  It can be a struggle for parents to get their teenager in bed at a reasonable time for a number of reasons:  teens get a lot of homework, have sports or other extra-curricular activity commitments that often going until later in the evening and of course teens also want to watch TV, play video games or chat with their friends via computer, text or phone.  Below are some tips that can assist you in getting your teenager to bed and asleep earlier and move them closer to that goal of 9 hours of sleep each night.

  • Keep a cool room – this is tough in the hot summer but it has been proven that people sleep much better in a cool room.
  • Adjust the lighting– when possible, dim the lighting in your house at 8 or 9pm.  Simply doing can create a more relaxing environment.
  • Try to not let them nap – many teenagers are tired after school and come home and nap.  This does not give them the time they need to refresh and results in their going to bed later and continuing in this cycle.
  • Encourage them to exercise at times other than right before bed – it is much harder to fall asleep if you are wound up after exercising.
  • Help them avoid caffeine – this will interfere with their sleep and many parents do need to place restrictions on their teen’s caffeine intake after school.
  • Teach calming techniques – whether it is listening to certain music, using a soothing scent like vanilla or lavender, drinking warm tea, reading, etc.  Try to help your teen explore activities that are soothing and calming for them.
  • Keep a schedule – this can be difficult but trying to have your teen going to bed and waking up during the week at the same time will help their body adjust to falling asleep earlier.  Also, not allowing them to stay up too late or sleep too late or all day on the weekends will further help with this.
  • Unplug at night – set a time for all electronics to be turned off and stick with it.  Remove them if you need to or set up a system where all wireless connections shut down at a certain time each night.
  • Be a good role model– even though as adults, our bodies are not growing and changing like a teenager’s body does,we need sufficient sleep also.  As you address your teen’s sleep needs – try to address your own also.

For more parenting tips and resources go to www.HowToParentATeen.com

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Is your child the “problem” or are their behaviors the symptom of another family issue?  I have worked with families in therapy and in coaching who are struggling with the behavior of a child.  When we talk about what is happening, they are absolutely correct to be concerned about the behaviors and to get support to address them.  Whether the child is completely withdrawn or acting out and not obeying rules, the concerns are valid without a doubt.  What is always interesting to me, however, is what we are able to uncover when digging a little deeper.  Often times, we find that the “problem” behaviors are actually a mask for other problems or concerns that may be going on in the home.  I am not saying this is always the case or that anyone is to blame for this, however, it is important to recognize this as a possibility because once families see this…things can change for the better.

It is very common for parents to be in situations where they are carrying around a lot of stress (financial, career, relationship, etc) and because of this stress, they may have a change in their presentation.  They may be more shut down or they may have less frustration tolerance and a shorter fuse at home.  This can then result in children either acting out in response to a parent’s short fuse or in children withdrawing in an effort to avoid the negative mood or fighting of parents.  Children sometimes engage in certain behaviors as a means of trying to control a situation they do not like or as a means of getting attention or letting parents know that they are not OK with what is going on.  Of course, it is preferred that they use their words and express themselves verbally however, children and teens are often not at a point developmentally where they can do this effectively or they do not feel they can speak up about something that is bothering them.  There are many ways this can play out in a family but what is important to note is that in such situations, the child can be labeled as the “problem” which results in a lot of focus being placed on the negative behaviors of the child which can then result in even more negative behaviors.  When this happens, the real concern is not addressed (parents who are carrying around too much stress, parents who are having adult relationship issues or financial issues, etc.) who now have even more stress and frustration because of their child’s behaviors so the problem is less likely to ever improve.

Below are some tips for parents who may be in this situation.  These tips will help you look at the larger picture and assess if there are things that are within your control to change which can result in positive changes for the entire family unit:

  1. Identify clearly the behavior you see in your child which is problematic and be clear about what you would like to see different.
  2. Try to see if there are any patterns to this behavior (certain time of the day, days of the week or following certain situations).
  3. Objectively think about how it may be connected to other things going on in the home (during hectic times, following someone having a bad day at work, following an adult argument, when others are preoccupied with other things in the home, etc).
  4. Even if you are not sure if there is a connection, try to see how this behavior can fit into the bigger family dynamic and then think about what you can change within the family dynamic.
  5. Change something – think about what you can change and stick with it for a few weeks and see if things get better.  Some examples may be:  focus less on their negative behavior and give them more praise when things are going well, make sure they are not exposed to adult arguing, take an extra 10 minutes after work to de-stress so that you come home in a better frame of mind or let them know that you will need some time when you first get home to unwind so that you feel less stress.  There are many, many things you can try based on your individual family situation so get creative!

When we live as part of a family system, the behavior of one impacts the behavior of all – even small changes can result in very positive and lasting results for all members of the family.

For more parenting information and free resources go to www.HowToParentATeen.com

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I have worked with so many parents who talk about the frustration and sadness they feel about how rude, disrespectful and entitled their children can be at times and with the amount of arguing that goes on in their homes.  I think what can be so difficult is that as adults, many of us could never imagine speaking to our parents or doing the things that we see some children doing today.  Let’s face it, we are living in a different time with kids being exposed to things that make them want to grow up faster, with kids being exposed to other kids doing bad things more often and with increased challenges in supervising children (more parents working, social media, more controversial content on TV, etc).  These are certainly not excuses for bad behavior, however, it helps to remember that kids today are living in a different world and navigating through different challenges.

What these behaviors can do for many families is create unbelievable conflicts where parents are accused of being old-fashioned, not understanding, unfair, ridiculous…and worse.  This leaves children extremely frustrated with their parents and leaves parents extremely frustrated, hurt and disappointed with their children.  The dynamic that then plays out is one where children and their parents are on opposite sides of the battle field, both fighting for the “win” they so desperately want.

The problem is, it should not be about a win/lose situation.  It should be about what is best for the family and what is in the best interest of the children.  When parents are able to shift their mindset to this, situations can be easier to manage and responses can be more thoughtful and proactive rather than only reactive.  When parents remain calm, they are more in control and children understand this.

Let’s face it though, it is not easy to stay calm when your child is challenging you, questioning you, nagging you and telling you how awful you are, right?  What is important though, is that you DO stay calm during these times.  When anyone yells and repeats themselves over and over, it is generally coming from a place where they feel out of control (kids do the same – the less they feel heard, the louder they yell).  When parents yell and make harsh decisions in the moment based on strong emotions, children sense this and they know that they are in the driver’s seat.  If you are a parent who has done this, you are far from alone – most, if not all parents, do this because it is a natural reaction to a strong emotional state.  However, it typically results in either an unrealistic, excessive punishment, in saying things that shouldn’t be said or in having a completely ineffective conversation.

If you are a parent who wants to reduce your arguing with your teenager, try implementing the tips below:

  1. Control your behavior, don’t try to control theirs:  you have 100% control over your reactions and if you remain respectful and calm, it will make a difference.  When we change our behaviors, the behaviors of those around us usually change.  Don’t spend all your energy trying to make your teen stop yelling or swearing…just control what you do.
  2. Give your teen a quota:  expect that your teen will make some mistakes and will become emotional and remember that they have many lessons to learn during this time in their lives.  If you give yourself a quota (for example…your teenager will yell about a rule at least once per week), then you are going to be better prepared for this when it occurs and will not respond in a reactive way.  Over time, you will be able to help them better manage their emotions if your emotions remain under control.
  3. Don’t feel the need to rescue them all the time:  your teen will make mistakes and may have to tolerate some uncomfortable consequences for these mistakes.  This is healthy and will help them learn to be good decision makers.  Don’t feel like you need to control or prevent them from making all bad decisions.  They will end up resenting you for trying to “control them” and will never fully understand the consequences of bad decision-making.
  4.  When they are talking…listen:  when your teen is talking (even if you feel that the arguments they are making are not legitimate), listen to them.  Let them know that you are hearing them so that they don’t have to keep raising their voice.
  5. Walk away:  don’t continue to engage in an unproductive conversation that keeps going back and forth.  If you are on one side of a tennis court and walk away, the other person can no longer hit the ball back and forth – the same is true with interpersonal interactions.  If you disengage from the fight, there is no longer a fight to be had.  Simply say something like, “I don’t think this conversation is helpful to either one of us so I am going to leave until we are both calm enough to talk about this in a better way”.  Then leave (walk off the court)…if they want to get in the last word or comment as a means of re-engaging you…resist and urge to respond and maintain your control.

This is not always an easy thing to do but when done consistently it really makes a difference.  For some great tips on additional techniques that will improve your communication, relationship and overall parenting confidence with your teen – go to www.HowToParentATeen.com  and  gain instant access to the free audio program titled 3 Power Strategies for Parents of Teenagers.

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Have you heard the term “Helicopter Parents”?  This is a term that is frequently used for a particular parenting style in which parents “rescue” their children from the difficult things that come their way in life.  Parents who are Helicopter Parents will often make excuses for their children, take their child’s perspective of a situation at face value without looking at all the facts, blame others for their child’s behaviors or difficulties and take steps to eliminate any discomfort their child may be experiencing due to their bad behaviors.  It is understandable how parents fall into this particular parenting style – if you love your children, you don’t want to see them suffering or uncomfortable so you do what you can when situations arise that bring up these difficult emotions.  However, what happens when parents use a Helicopter Parenting style is that they don’t allow their children to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, they don’t foster positive decision-making in their children and they are not teaching their children to be responsible for themselves.  In many ways, Helicopter Parents do a disservice to their children because they don’t let them experience difficult things as children (when the stakes are much lower) which can cause major problems for them as adults.

If you have a tendency to fall into this parenting style – this post is not to make you feel bad but rather to offer some insight into why this is not always the most effective parent style and some tips for adjusting what you may be doing.  If you function as a Helicopter Parent, your child will continue to depend on you to solve their problems and will look to you to blame others for their mistakes.  It may result in less conflict in the moment (since we all know that children – especially teenagers – can lash out when you are holding them accountable for something), however, they are not learning anything other than to come running to you when the going gets tough which will be exhausting for you!

Below are a few tips to consider which will help you not fall into this parenting trap and which will help your child grow into a responsible, independent adult:

1.  Be an advocate, not a rescuer:  of course your child will need you for support or to help them out if things are difficult and this is part of your role as their parent.  When you function as an advocate, you support your child, you help make sure they are heard and you step in when you need to.  However, what you don’t do, is bail them out of all the difficult situations they experience.  For example:  Your child is struggling in a particular class because they get a lot of homework and they are not seeming to understand the information learned in class so they are doing poorly on their homework assignments.  As an advocate, you may set up a meeting with the teacher and talk about ways of getting your child extra support in the subject matter so that they are able to understand and complete their homework.  What you would NOT do is go to the school, attack the teaching by saying they are not teaching effectively and demand that your child be moved to a different class with less homework.

2. Validate them but don’t always agree with them:  validating your child shows you are listening, you are understanding what they are experiencing and let’s them know you can appreciate that something is difficult for them even if you don’t fully understand why or if you don’t agree with their perspective.  For example:  Your child has a sports game and does poorly in a game.  They complain that the coach was being unfair or that their teammates were not helping them be successful during the game and they are really upset about it.  You may know that the reality is that they skipped 2 practices and stayed up late the night before the game and that they simply did not play as well as they typically do.  In this situation, you can validate them by saying that you know they are upset because playing well is important to them and acknowledge that it can be really frustrating to know they can play better.  If you do this, they will feel heard and supported but you will not reinforce their view that everyone else is to blame for their bad game.

3.  Let them sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come with mistakes:  this is a really important tip.  Children need to experience being uncomfortable and learn to manage it.  Our feelings drive our behaviors so when children are feeling uncomfortable, it will influence their behaviors which is important.  This can be difficult to watch but it is life and a much better lesson to learn as children than as adults when the consequences and stakes are much higher.  For example, if you teenager cannot get up for school on time and ends up with a Saturday detention that causes them to miss something they were really looking forward to, it is much less of a consequence than showing up late for work as an adult and being fired and then unable to support oneself.  If children are always comfortable, they will never learn to make good decisions because they know that regardless of what they decide that you will make them comfortable again.

Loving your children is critical and necessary for their positive growth, however, rescuing them can actually stunt their emotional growth and development.  For additional parenting tips go to How To Parent A Teen and sign up for our free, weekly Ezine.

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I have heard so many parents say that they do not understand how their teenager can behave for teachers, with their friend’s parents, with relatives but not with them.  This often causes parents to question their parenting abilities and can create a lot of negative feelings between parent and teenager.  What is likely happening if you are in this situation, is that you are receiving the biggest backhanded compliment from your teenager.  It feels more just like a backhand period…but it many ways, it really is a compliment.

What happens is that teenagers walk around confused, unsure and often feeling out of control much of the time.  You, as their parent, are their “safe person”.  This means that they know (whether consciously or unconsciously) that despite their behaviors, you are still there every day and they know you will take care of them.  They know that you will still love them and that you will not “cut them off” like friends may do if they acted out with them or “kick them out” like schools may do if they were to act out too much there.  When teenagers act out with their parents, they typically don’t even understand what is going on.  They just feel a wave of strong emotion and it all gets released towards parents who are the safest.  With this said, it is not okay for your teen to continue to do this.  Understanding it can help you reshape their behavior, but this is not behavior you should tolerate ongoing from your teenager.

Below are some suggestions for addressing this with your teen so that you do not continue to be on the receiving end of all their difficult emotions:

1.  Be realistic about changes:  if your teenager has been yelling, screaming and swearing at you – understand that this will not change overnight.  Be clear about what you need to change first and focus on that (i.e not screaming and slamming doors, not swearing at you, etc).

2. Be clear:  during a period of calm, talk to your teen in a non-blaming way.  Let them know that you have been thinking about things and that you want both of you to work on making changes.  Then be clear about what needs to change, what you will do to work on it and then try to allow them to come up with a plan for what they will do.  If you avoid blaming them, they will be more likely to engage with you and will be more likely to feel understood and cared about.

3. Let them know the consequences:  come up with a clear consequence if they continue to engage in the problem behavior and make sure they understand it.  You will need to be committed to enforcing this each and every time as needed or else none of this will be effective.

4.  Don’t escalate the behavior:  if your teen begins to escalate themselves, don’t allow yourself to escalate to their level (easier said than done!).  This is really important – try speaking calmly, in a soft voice and let them know you should both take some space if they continue to escalate.  Then you can come back to the situation when you are both feeling calmer.

This is a process and will take committment and work, however, you should not be subjected to all your teenager’s challenging emotions.  Instead, you want to teach them self-control and how to express themselves appropriately which is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

For more parenting tips, go to the How To Parent A Teen website at www.HowToParentATeen.com.

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So why are teens so embarrassed of their parents?  Well, a major reason is that teens don’t find their parents to be cool or stylish (sorry but that is the truth and in a way it is because you are dressing and acting age appropriate!).  Teens often view their parents as “old” and generally not trendy and often times simply old-fashioned.  Now, that does not mean that as parents you really are not cool and stylish, it just means that your teenager’s perspective is that you are not.  As for old-fashioned…well…often teens think some of your rules are old-fashioned and that maybe you are not dressing like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Biance or Jennifer Lopez so therefore…you are old fashioned!  The point is that most of the time you are not doing anything at all to make your teenager embarrassed, however, because of the developmental stage they are in they just view you as embarrassing.  They don’t want to be seen with mom and dad at the mall, they want to be dropped off down the road from the dance, they don’t want you to come in to pick them up at a friend’s house and they certainly don’t want you being involved in school events!  They are trying to gain autonomy and having you too close by makes it seem like they are still quite dependent on you (which they are but don’t want to admit).

There are certain situations where teenagers do have a valid reason to be embarrassed of their parent and these involve situations where parents intentionally embarrass their teen.  I used to have a friend whose mother would drive us to dances.  We would ask that she park a little ways down from the front door so that people did not see us getting out of her car, which is something a lot of teenagers do.  However, she thought it was funny to pull right up front, let us out and then honk the horn and yell, “have a good time”.  Talk about embarrassing!!!  To her it was really funny and looking back now it seems really funny, however, as a teenager who was insecure, easily embarrassed, trying to gain independence and “look cool” it was anything but funny.  I have also heard stories where parents show embarrassing pictures or tell embarrassing stories about their teenager to friends or boyfriends or girlfriends.  This is generally devastating for teenagers who work tirelessly to build up an image and positive sense of self.  There is a good chance that embarrassing stories will spread like wildfire around a school and the fear of that happening causes some teenagers a lot of anxiety and unnecessary stress.

The following are a few helpful tips for parents who are feeling like their teenager is embarrassed of them:

  1. Don’t take it personally.  It is a phase that teens go through and the majority of children begin seeking the companionship of their parents again in their early to mid 20’s if not a bit sooner.  Many adult children consider their parents their best friends.
  2. Don’t try to explain yourself or prove yourself as “cool”.  It is not worth it and remember – it is likely not about anything specific you are doing.  Not trying to justify yourself will save you from further frustration.
  3. Check to make sure you are not actually doing anything embarrassing to your teenager – especially in front of friends.  If you find that you are (telling stories about them, babying them in front of friends, etc) you may want to think about changing what you are doing.  Even though it is likely harmless, remember that teenagers are extremely sensitive and insecure and can be devastated by such situations and your teen may really appreciate the changes you make.

If you are a parent who is fortunate enough to not have these issues (and it is not because your teen views you as a friend rather than a parent) congratulations and I would love to hear your comments about how you have been able to do this and am sure other parents can learn from it as well.

For more parenting tips and our free audio program designed specifically for parents of teenagers go to How To Parent A Teen (www.HowToParentATeen.com). 

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