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Why Moms Should Just Say No!

Written on November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm , by

 

By Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H

As we approach the holiday season, it’s absolutely crucial that moms practice using one word: No. It doesn’t make you an obstinate toddler or the queen of mean when you turn down an invitation to a holiday party or skip some items on your kid’s Christmas list. But it does free you from jam-packed days and help you become more discerning about how you spend your time. It makes you really think about what’s important and assures your pass on what’s not. Saying “No” to one person enables you say “Yes” to another: your husband, your child, even yourself.

This month, I’m challenging you to say yes to what’s a true priority and turn down everything else. And it starts right here. Even if it’s just one thing, post a comment below and tell me what you’ll say no to this holiday season.

A mother of four, Dr. Janet is a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.

Author Jay Asher on Bullying

Written on October 28, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Jay Asher, author of the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, on how to respond when someone who’s been bullied reaches out to you.

I speak at high schools and libraries across the country. It can be so inspiring to hear directly from my readers, both teens and adults, about what they liked and got out of my books. It can also be heartbreaking to hear how many of them have been through similar situations, or experienced similar emotions, as the main characters in my novel Thirteen Reasons Why. The male character is trying to understand and deal with a classmate’s suicide. The female character is the one who felt she couldn’t hold on any longer. The majority of the book is her character explaining the things she went through that brought her to the point of wanting her life to end.

Many times after visiting with my readers, I’ve returned to my hotel room and sat on the edge of my bed (without even turning on the TV!) to let everything I’d heard that day sink in. Readers come up to me after my presentations to get autographs, take photos, ask questions or share why they connected with the book. Sometimes it helped them understand a friend better. Sometimes it made them reconsider how they had been treating someone without knowing what else that person may have been dealing with. Too often, they tell me that my story was the first time they felt someone understood them. That’s always such a beautiful thing to hear, because the hope that there are people in the world who will understand is the first thing someone needs to have before they’ll reach out for help.

The thing that saddens me is that I know those readers are surrounded by people who will understand. So why don’t they realize it? It’s often because of the way we talk about bullying and all its accompanying issues. If they approach a parent, teacher or other adult for help or support after something another person has said or done and they’re told “Just ignore it,” or “That’s an unfortunate part of growing up,” or “I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you make it seem,” or “Did you do anything to encourage it?” they’ll feel like no one understands. And sometimes they’ll feel like no one cares. Because the first person they turned to, the person they thought was most likely to understand or care, didn’t understand or care. At least, that’s how it appeared.

Yes, sometimes ignoring it is all that can be done. And bullying can be a horrible part of growing up. And many of us can be melodramatic. Sometimes we do things that even encourage bullying. But every situation is unique. Every person has a different threshold for what they can handle. Most people are also dealing with more than just one incident. If someone opens up about a painful experience and the first thing they hear is a cliché that doesn’t address their very real emotions, then the next time something happens, they’ll be less likely to trust that their thoughts will be understood or appreciated.

Those people they turned to probably did want to help, they just didn’t know how. We’ve become so used to falling back on clichéd responses that they’re the first words to come out of our mouths. They are conversation stoppers for conversations that need to be nurtured. The next time someone tells you that they’ve been bullied, stop what you’re doing. Stop the cliché that raced to the tip of your tongue from coming out of your mouth. And listen. Think about what they’re saying. Consider what else might be going on in their life. Realize that this could be the only time they’re going to reach out to someone.

Listening matters.

So does how we speak.

Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel.

 

Actor Bob Balaban on the Importance of Bully Movie

Written on October 27, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Bob Balaban on the documentary Bully and bullying prevention.

In my new children’s book series, The Creature from the Seventh Grade, protagonist Charlie Drinkwater is mercilessly taunted by his oversize nemesis, Craig Dieterly. Although much of the book is inspired by my own childhood experiences, I am happy to say I was never bullied. Even though as a kid growing up in Chicago I fit the definition of underdog to a T—short, skinny, big-eared, awkward and brainy—I was never bullied. I had the good fortune to attend a tiny private school where I was in the mainstream and the kids on the football team were, ironically, far more likely to be considered outsiders than I was.

Until I saw Lee Hirsch’s deeply affecting documentary Bully last year (now available on Netflix), I was convinced that there were two types of bullying: the time-honored innocuous kind in which stupid overbearing lugs with names like Moose and Biff made a harmless nuisance of themselves as they tried to assert their authority over the weaker, smarter members of the class, and the much rarer, more destructive kind, in which sadistic pain-loving monsters destroyed the childhoods, and occasionally the very lives, of their anointed victims.

Bully obliterates the line between the two and makes it perfectly clear that zero tolerance is the only way to go. It tracks the cases of five abused kids, including two who committed suicide. Bullying is bad. It is never justified. And it isn’t a matter of “kids will be kids.” Its effects range from damaging to fatal. And it’s on the increase. See the movie. Show it to your teenage kids and their teachers. Tell your friends. You’ll be moved. You’ll be shocked. You won’t forget it.

Bullying often goes unreported and frequently survives the scrutiny of even the most well-meaning parents, teachers and guidance counselors. It is impossible to legislate against. It is considered by many to be a bogus issue invented by wimpy parents and their cry-baby offspring. Much like sexual harassment, it thrives on ignorance and apathy, and the commonly held notion that it’s a natural part of life and its victims are as much to blame for their horrific treatment as the perpetrators themselves. Throughout the documentary well-meaning parents advise their bullied children to “toughen up.” They tell them that they are encouraging the situation by not fighting back, that they have a valuable life lesson to learn by standing up for themselves.

The parents of one particularly abused child, cruelly nicknamed “Fish Face,” are brought to tears when finally shown documentary footage of their child being brutally assaulted on the school bus. They had no idea how serious his problem was. He had complained frequently, but he stopped reporting the incidents after his guidance counselor called him and his parents in to her office. She explained that she had ridden the bus specifically to look for signs of bullying and reported that the other students were polite and well-behaved, and that the victim was obviously confused. Or lying. Kids everywhere are facing the same reluctance on the part of their teachers and parents to take the problem seriously. And yet it is of epidemic proportions.

Bullies don’t exist in a vacuum. They echo the attitudes and prejudices of their parents, friends and teachers. The kids who are witness to their cruel behavior are generally too afraid or too complacent to say anything about it. Their silence is tacit approval and encourages bullies to keep on bullying. But like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” one lone protesting voice in the crowd really can stop a bully in his or her tracks.

We’ve got to encourage our kids to be that voice, to speak up if they’re witnesses to an incident. We must let them know that when we don’t say something, we become de facto bullies. That, as well as making our school and elected officials and public opinion makers aware of the seriousness and the urgency of the problem, are our best and only lines of defense.

Here is the trailer for Bully. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it. If it moves you, watch it on Netflix, you’ll be glad you did. It’s far more eloquent than I could ever be.

Bob Balaban is an actor/producer/director/writer who has appeared in over a hundred movies, including the recent Moonrise Kingdom. He produced and co-starred in the Academy Award–winning movie Gosford Park, directed the award-winning off-Broadway play The Exonerated and is currently writing the Creature from the Seventh Grade series for Viking Children’s Books.

Actress Alfre Woodard on Talking to Her Kids About Sex

Written on October 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm , by

In honor of Planned Parenthood‘s Let’s Talk Month, award-winning actress Alfre Woodad shares her experience about talking to her kids about sex.

When it comes to talking with my kids about sex, I’ve always thought that not talking about it would be like not talking about your hand: it’s a part of your body, so you need to know how to take care of it.

It’s why I started talking with my kids about sex and sexuality when they were young—putting it into context and letting them know how it relates to real life. In fact, my kids didn’t think it was weird to hear their parents talk about sex until they learned that their friends thought it was weird that our family talked about it.

We know our kids are going to hear about sex—it’s impossible for them not to since it’s in nearly every song they hear, TV show they watch, book they read, or website they surf—and I was determined that I was going to be their main source of information, particularly when they became teenagers. As a mother, part of my job is to make sure my kids have the guidance they need to decide when they’re ready for a sexual relationship and the information they need to prevent STDs and to prevent pregnancy until they are ready to become parents. We can’t leave our kids unprepared.

But if I’m truthful, every conversation with my teens hasn’t flowed like honey. Some of them have been challenging ones to have. I realized a long time ago, however, that parenting is an art of practice: you get better at it and more comfortable with it the more you do it. That’s definitely been true for me when it comes to talking with my kids about sex. Teens, especially, aren’t always brave enough to ask questions even when they want and need answers. That’s why as parents it’s important that we don’t wait for them to start asking questions, but that we take opportunities to start and continue talking with them about sex and relationships even if it seems like they’re uncomfortable or hesitant.

A few months ago, I was taking my son off for his first year of college, and I realized that talking about sex really has become a natural part of the conversations we have as family. We were driving and listening to pounding rap music that was full of sex. I used it as an opportunity to remind him of all of the conversations we’ve had over the past few years. I gave him the same information I always do—think of women as equals. They are just as strong and smart. They have their responsibilities, but so do you when it comes to sex. I told him to always have his own condoms so that he knows that they’re safe to use. I brought this up as a reminder along with other reminders that I’ve given him over the years: remember to stay hydrated because it’s hot in the desert, eat something green every day, and use your own condoms!

As parents, we have to be willing to be bold and to remember that our kids’ abilities to be healthy and make good decisions about relationships outweigh any discomfort we may feel when talking with them about sex. As moms, it might help to remember that we’re the ones who taught them how to wipe their bottoms and brush their teeth, and we’ve picked stuff out their noses. These frank chats about sex are just an extension of that commitment.

Note: Check out Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month flipbook to see what actors Alfre Woodard, Cynthia Nixon and Elizabeth Banks, as well as non-celebrity moms and teens, have to say about talking about sex.

Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.

Alfre Woodard’s work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, four Emmy Awards with 17 Emmy nominations, three SAG Awards and a Golden Globe.  Woodard’s illustrious body of work includes Cross Creek, HBO’s Mandela, Grand Canyon, Passion Fish and more.

5 Common Parental Concerns About Talking To Your Kids About Sex

Written on October 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm , by

Amy Cody is the Parent Education Manager at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which offers Let’s Be Honest workshops to help prepare parents to talk about sex with their kids.

Planned Parenthood and Family Circle magazine recently conducted a survey to see how parents and teens are doing when it comes to talking about sex. As it turns out, parents are a lot more comfortable having these conversations than their teens. However, parents aren’t always tackling the tougher topics. I get it, some questions about sex may seem harder to tackle than others. Kids are notorious for asking questions that make parents squirm.

As a parent educator for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and a parent myself, I’ve heard just about every question you could think of. And in every Let’s Be Honest parent education workshop I host, after beginning to share possible answers and strategies, shoulders relax and parents feel more empowered to give it a try.

I want to share five questions that parents from my workshops have asked again and again, and tips for how you can address them with your own kids. You may not be able to anticipate every question your child will have, but there are four themes you can keep in mind during these ongoing conversations:

  • Fulfill your right and responsibility as a parent to be your child’s primary sexuality educator.
  • Share your attitudes, beliefs, and values around sex and sexuality.
  • Respect your child’s feelings and promote positive self-esteem in your child.
  • Provide accurate facts and knowledge.

Check out this website for more information about the four themes and try to keep them in mind as you answer questions that come up with your child.

Viewing questions about sex and sexuality as a natural and normal situation can help us keep our sense of perspective. Answering questions matter-of-factly, calmly, and honestly is the best policy.

Try some of these answers on for size and see if they make sense for you and your family.

My four-year-old is asking “Where do babies come from?” What should I do?

A question like this calls for active listening and asking gentle questions to find out why your child is curious about the topic and what she or he really wants to know. Answering “babies come from their moms” might be all they need to know. Let your child’s questions be your guide.

Try this: “That’s a great question! A tiny seed from a man called a sperm and a tiny egg from a woman join together inside the uterus, a special place inside the woman. When the baby is ready to be born, it comes out through the opening between the woman’s legs called the vagina.”

What should I do if my child goes to school and shares information from our family discussions about sexuality with other kids who have not yet had this conversation?

Kids frequently compare information with each other about sex, whether parents want them to or not. When you start having these discussions with your child, tell her/him that you are sharing this information because this is something that families talk about with each other. Remind your child that friends will talk about it with their own families.

Try this: “I think it’s great that you are interested in learning more about bodies and how they work. You can always ask me any questions. And, each family has their own idea of when to talk about these things, so let your friends talk to their parents.”

What do I say if my middle school child asks me, “Why do people enjoy sex?”

Kids of all ages are curious about the world around them, their bodies and how they work, and how they relate to others. This is a great opportunity to talk with them about relationships and healthy decision-making.

Try this: “Just like there are many different ways to define sex, there are many different reasons why people enjoy sex. People usually enjoy sex when  both people have agreed to it, and when both people are emotionally and physically ready to be intimate (close and loving) with one another. It’s not like on TV. In real life, the emotional part is just as, if not more, important than the physical part. And, just like with other mammals, the human body is designed to enjoy sexual behaviors.”

How do I handle personal questions such as, “Mom, when did you start having sex?”

Our kids are often interested in this information to serve as a barometer of their own readiness. However, everyone has to make their own decision about when the time is right. Rather than concentrating on any specific timeline in conversations, instead discuss the importance of emotional, physical, and spiritual readiness, including respect, comfort, vulnerability, intimacy, and trust.

Try this: “I understand that you’re curious about my life experience. The age of when I had sex for the first time isn’t as important as what I was feeling or thinking about it. Although you will decide for you when the best time is, I want you to know that I hope you wait until you are older and in a mature, responsible relationship. When do you think someone knows if they are ready to have sex?”

My child is very shy when sex comes up. How should I approach this or initiate a conversation?

Many kids are shy or embarrassed about this topic and many parents are as well! I recommend that parents be proactive. Don’t wait for questions that may not come up. Parents can use television shows, music lyrics, movies, news stories, or magazine ads as ways of opening the door to ongoing conversations. Sometimes texting, e-mailing, or writing a note might be the best way to start.

Try this: “I know it’s hard to talk about this, but I love you and feel that it’s important that we can have these conversations. I am always here for you if you want to talk.”

As parents, we want to help our kids navigate the mixed messages and contradictions they encounter in our sex-saturated culture. Recent studies show that young people who have frequent and open conversations with their parents about sex and sexuality are more likely to make healthier, safer, and better-informed decisions related to sex.

It’s time to start talking! Let’s make sure that when kids have questions, they can turn to us for our values and age-appropriate, honest, and factual information.

Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.

Amy Cody is the Parent Education Manager at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which offers Let’s Be Honest and Seamos Honestos workshops in the community to help prepare parents and other trusted caregivers create an environment of trust and comfort in talking with their children about sex and sexuality. Learn more about Let’s Be Honest: Communication in families that keeps kids healthy.

What Parents Fear Most About The Sex Talk (And How To Overcome It)

Written on October 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm , by

 

John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Talk With Your Kids About Sex.

Most parents treat the topic of sex as if it were nitroglycerin: acting like one wrong move means everything will explode! So it’s no surprise that they absolutely dread having those conversations with their kid. In the “Sex Talk” survey Family Circle and Planned Parenthood conducted and reported on this November, they found that more than 70% of parents wait until their child is 11 or older to talk about any topics related to sexuality. And even when they do chat with their kids, it’s not very frequent. In a survey of over 45,000 parents and children of divorce that I’m conducting on Dr. Phil’s website, parents frequently reported that they spoke with their kids about sex; however, most kids disclosed that they don’t recall any such conversations.

Why the anxiety? Parents reveal that their reluctance to talk about sex with their kids stem from embarrassment about their own experiences that tap into their own associations and baggage with sex. They also worry that they will convey wrong information or that merely raising the topic will encourage their child to engage in sexual acts. Parents need to distinguish between their concerns about sex and the needs of their child at the various stages of the child’s growth.

Studies show that parents who discuss sex in a loving and honest way actually decrease the likelihood that their child will engage in sexual activity. In fact, kids who share a good relationship with their parents and can honestly discuss their concerns about sex, dating, and love are less influenced by peer behavior regarding drugs, alcohol, and sex and report less depression and anxiety and more self-reliance and self-esteem. These kids are also more successful in school and develop more meaningful relationships. Such studies confirm that the quality and importance of our communications at home strongly influences our children’s life.

Remember: You don’t have to pretend that you know it all. If you’re natural about any uncertainty yet show that you are willing to learn as you go along, you set the stage for an honest relationship with your child. Providing accurate information and details is important, however, it’s more critical to express interest, support, and openness and respond to your child’s needs.

Parents need to demystify sex and guide their kids to manage the physical aspects of sexuality and support their children’s emotional, social, relational and spiritual sexual growth. We need to help our kids make the connections between intimacy and love and understand healthy relationships. If we don’t take effective action to communicate with our kids, they can’t be expected to make effective decisions—and they will go elsewhere to find answers.

Parents go to extraordinary lengths to nurture, strengthen and support their kids—academically, athletically, socially and spiritually. It’s not okay to leave your child to fend for himself regarding his or her sexual development. Parents need to reclaim their role as their child’s guide concerning sex. By communicating with our kids, in an age appropriate manner, from infancy through adolescence about sex, we will come through for them on concerns when our children need us most.

John T. Chirban, Ph.D., Th.D. is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Talk With Your Kids About Sex, which clarifies what kids need at each stage of development and how parents can effectively communicate. For more information, go to drchirban.com and sexualproblems.com.

Read more about having the sex talk with your teen here.

Teach Your Teens to Say No–or Yes–to Sex

Written on October 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm , by

Deborah Roffman, author of Talk To Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your kids’ Go-To Person about Sex, shares advice for parents and “the sex talk” for Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month.

If you define the word “sex” the way most Americans define it, the title of this blog might seem pretty controversial. Perhaps even misguided. Educating teens to say “Yes to sexual intercourse? Why would a parent want to do that?

In my experience as a parent educator for more than 30 years, most parents definitely prefer that their children postpone potentially risky sexual behaviors until they are mature enough to manage the physical, social and emotional aspects of deeply intimate relationships. (There are other parents who prefer that their children postpone these behaviors until they are married or in a long term committed relationship, no matter their level of maturity.)

But the thing is, the kinds of sexual experiences teens engage in run the gamut from kissing to French kissing to hugging to touching breasts or genitals to more intimate and potentially riskier behaviors like oral sex or vaginal intercourse. These are all forms of sexual behavior, and engaging in any one of them constitutes being “sexually active.”

Unfortunately, when adults use phrases like “sexually active” as the equivalent of “having intercourse,” as most Americans do, we imply to kids that these other forms of sexual behavior don’t really count and don’t require careful decision-making.

Each of the behaviors along this continuum represents a real yes or no choice, regardless of the particular behavior involved, and many if not most of our kids will eventually find themselves in situations where they’ll need to make decisions about participating, or not, in one or more of them. Moreover, many parents might even consider some of these experiences during the teen years to be a healthy and normal part of growing up.

So, indeed, most parents don’t want their children to always say “no” to all sexual experiences. Giving our children guidance about good decision making means giving them the tools to know how and when it might be okay to say yes to a particular sexual experience, and under what circumstances it would probably, or definitely, be best for them to say no. That means talking with them about a host of issues, including relationships, pressures, values, motivation, communication, mutuality, consent, caring, empathy and respect for boundaries, our own and others’.

If we wait to begin these conversations until the point in time when our children might be contemplating engaging in sexual intercourse, we’ll have missed out on lots of opportunities to teach them how to make good sexual decisions, regardless of whether they’re going to say yes or no.

Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.

Deborah Roffman

Deborah Roffman is a teacher, parent educator and author who has given hundreds of presentations for parent groups across the country. Her most recent book is Talk To Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your kids’ Go-To Person about Sex. Her website is Talk2MeFirst.com. Read more of her advice on talking to teens about sex in our November feature, “How to Have the Sex Talk with Your Teen.”


How One Mom Talks to her Teen Daughter About Sex

Written on October 9, 2012 at 8:00 am , by

In honor of Let’s Talk Month, an annual effort to get parents and teens talking about sexuality, Mom Judy Forbin-Morain shares how she talks about sex with her daughter, Jada Kearse. Blog by Judy Forbin-Morain and Jada Kearse.

As mother and daughter, we don’t always agree, but we know we can always talk with one another.  Like most families with teenagers, conversations about sex and relationships can be pretty tricky in our home.  Like a couple days ago, when Grandma said, “I hope you never have a boyfriend until you’re, like, way older.”

Afterwards, we talked a little about that comment, and we both agreed that it was a pretty old-fashioned to think that way.  It was a little awkward though, because, even while we could agree that Grandma’s way of thinking isn’t how we both feel, we still have different expectations when it comes to boys and dating. So, we talked about establishing some ground rules, like no one-on-one dates with boys before 16.

We didn’t always agree with what the other was saying, but we talked it out.  In the end, we both agreed that it was important to set boundaries when it comes to dating, and that you shouldn’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with when it comes to relationships.

Our best conversations usually happen when one of us sees or hears something—like a song or something on TV—that  gets us talking.  There is a commercial, for example, where a mom invites her daughter’s friends over, and then she orders pizza for them so that they will all see that she’s the “cool mom.”  Then one of them says, “Maybe we can just toke up in here.”  The mom just leaves and lets them do it.  So we talked about that, and how that’s not going to happen in our house.

When it comes to sex, relationships, and really serious topics, we’re both grateful that we talk with one another about these issues.   And it isn’t just about serious things — we talk about having crushes, cute boys, and other topics.  We also try to find ways to make conversations funny so it isn’t scary or awkward.

We try to keep an open and honest dialogue with each other, which is why Let’s Talk Month in October is so important to both of us.  It’s a reminder that we need to continue talking about these issues.  It’s also a chance to let our friends know they should be doing the same with their parents or teens.  Don’t be afraid; just be honest and keep the lines of communication open.

Judy Forbin-Morain is a former volunteer for Planned Parenthood New York City Adult Role Model program. She and her daugther, Jada, 14, live in Brooklyn, NY.

Talking About Sex With Your Teen

Written on October 2, 2012 at 8:30 am , by

By Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Vincent Guilamos-Ramos, Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU

When Planned Parenthood and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU (CLAFH) began thinking about our second annual survey looking at how parents and teens talk about sex and sexuality, we couldn’t think of a better partner than Family Circle. We all share a common goal of wanting to help parents and teens become comfortable talking about sex and sexuality so that young people can make good decisions. And there is no better time than October for parents to be reminded of this since it’s Let’s Talk Month—an annual effort to get parents and teens talking about sexuality.

Our national survey polled more than 2,000 parents and teens living in the same households, and the results quickly made one thing clear:  what parents intend to say is different than what teens are hearing.

We asked parents to tell us what messages about sex they most wanted to send to their teens, and we asked teens to tell us the main message they had received about sex from their parents.  Here’s what one parent told us, and what her teenager heard:

To make a healthy choice about who she wishes to date and have a physical relationship for the right reasons.”
— 50-year-old mother

 

Not to do it.”
— her 16-year-old daughter

Time and time again we saw similar communication breakdowns between parents and teens. The good news is most families are talking about sex and sexuality. Still, these talks aren’t as productive as they could be. Parents, for example, think they are having these conversations more often than their teens think they are, and surprisingly, teens are actually much more uncomfortable talking about sex than their parents. Half of all parents and just 18 percent of teens said they feel very comfortable having these talks.

Our survey also found that 80 percent of parents of sexually active teens knew their teens were having sex. That fact alone highlights the importance of parents talking with their teens and continuing to engage them even after they become sexually active so that they know how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to make sure their teens’ relationships are healthy. So this month Planned Parenthood, CLAFH, and Family Circle are providing tips and a story packed full of information that can help parents start the conversation with their teens.

We know that parents make a difference when they talk with their kids about sex, so let’s teach them how to say no if they’re not ready to have sex, and if they are, let’s continue having these conversations and encourage them to make good decisions about relationships and their sexual health. Bottom line:  keeping our teens healthy and safe means talking with them about sex.

So let’s talk.

Leslie Kantor is Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Vincent Guilamos-Ramos is Co-director of the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at NYU. Read more about having the sex talk with your teen, all month, here.

5 Ways to Save Money on Back to School Shopping

Written on August 14, 2012 at 10:46 am , by

 

Guest blogger Cherie Lowe on teaching your kids about money while saving big on back to school shopping.

The thrill of a shopping victory comes when you see that grossly disproportionate number at the bottom of your receipt telling you just how much money you saved. You totally know what I’m talking about. It’s the kind of receipt you want to show the people in front and back of you in line, as well as the greeter at the door. It’s the kind of receipt that invokes an embarrassing mom dance in the parking lot. And it’s the first thing you show your spouse when you see him next.

Don’t keep all of that giddy pride to yourself. Back to school time is the perfect opportunity for you to teach your tween how to handle money well–and possibly earn her own receipt worth showing off. You’ll need patience and you’ll have to relinquish control, but the byproduct is a money-savvy kid who learns that each penny counts. Here’s how to start:

1. Help your tween evaluate his needs before going shopping. Block off an afternoon to take inventory of what fits, what doesn’t and what he can re-use from last year. After you have a nice stack of items donate or hand down, compile a list of needs. Be sure to take stock of school supplies, in addition to clothes. Rulers, scissors, backpacks, lunch boxes and even USB drives usually have lifespans of 2-3 years.

2. Set two cash budgets: one for clothing, one for supplies. Based on what you’ve spent in the past and what your kid needs, go to the ATM and pull out EXACTLY what you plan to allow her to spend. If you let your kids shop with plastic–even debit, and yes, even if you’re present–they will always spend more.

3. Narrow your shopping venues and clip coupons. Don’t just wander the mall. You and your teen need a plan of attack. Sit down together and decide which stores you’ll hit. Then, google their names, along with the word “coupon,” to see what’s available for both clothing and supplies.

4. Steer your kids towards the clearance. Now’s not the time to buy sweaters and jeans–purchase capris, shorts and Ts, which are on sale now. Most schools start when the weather is still hot. Wait two months to shop for fall and winter clothing; by then, prices will come down substantially. If your kid desperately wants something spiffy for the first day, let her choose one fall outfit. (It can double as picture day attire, too.) But for everyday wear, urge her to choose clearance first.

5. Give them guidelines and set them free. It’s time for the little bird to fly from the nest. If you let your teens know that it’s their money to spend, they might have a different attitude than if you’re paying the bill. So if their shopping list calls for 3 pairs of pants, 2 tops and some socks, let them choose. This is extremely hard, as a parent, but it will make them realize that sometimes you have to decide between one pair of expensive jeans or two off-brand pairs. Obviously, you’ll need to help them navigate their school’s dress code–and perhaps your own household’s possibly stricter dress code. And let’s be clear: They may blow their budget and have to live with it. But you will not be sent to parent prison or turned in to Child Protective Services. And your kids will gain some valuable life learning.

How do you help your tween navigate the back to school aisles?

For more Royal Money Saving Back to School Tips, check out:

Cherie Lowe blogs at the Queen of Free, where she wears a plastic tiara and plans on never growing out of playing make believe.  Through written word and speaking engagements, she has shared the Royal Family’s Journey of Paying off $127,482.30 over the last four years.

4 Organizing Tips for Back-to-School

Written on August 10, 2012 at 11:15 am , by

By Lorie Marrero

Ready for the kids to be back on a regular schedule? New routines and classes can make for a challenging adjustment from a relaxed summer pace. Let your home support you in your transition by establishing the following four stations for commonly needed functions:

1. Get out of the door faster every morning with a “Destination Station.” Set up your Destination Station at the place where you most often enter and exit the house. Every home can utilize this concept, whether you repurpose a piece of furniture like a sideboard or bureau in a hallway, add some sturdy hooks and shelving to a wall, repurpose a coat closet, or use a dedicated mudroom. This station provides a home for all of the comings and goings of a busy family, like backpacks, purses, briefcases, and phones. Phone chargers can be helpful here, along with a shelf for errand items such as library books and store returns. Develop the habit of hanging up keys here on hooks or stowing them in a bowl. Each evening you can place everything here to be ready to leave the next morning.

2. Make homework time a happier time with an “Education Station.” This station is a place to centralize school supplies and create a space that feels comfortable and functional for working on those dreaded math worksheets. If you have a desk or table dedicated for studying, that’s ideal, but if your kids like using the kitchen table, make it easier to clear off for meals with some clever containers. A shower caddy can hold frequently used supplies like pencils, pens, calculators, and rulers, and the handle makes it easy to grab and move quickly. A rolling cart of plastic drawers can serve up supplies and get “parked” in a nearby closet when not needed. Make sure you have a pencil sharpener, erasers, paper, a surge protector strip, and good lighting.

3. Combat confusion with a “Communication Station.” Make sure you’re ready for the accelerated activities of the school year by having a place for shared information, including phone numbers, grocery lists, and schedules. A Communication Station can be as simple as a bulletin board in a high-traffic area or as formal as a built-in kitchen desk. Elements of this station may include:

  • Paper and pens for notes
  • Trays, cubbies, or bins for each family member’s mail and messages, if needed
  • Family calendar, I recommend a large paper calendar, since dry erase versions don’t allow you to refer back to the history, such as when your last dental appointment
  • Grocery list and menu plans
  • Posting space, use a corkboard, magnet board or similar display area to keep current information
  • Family Binder, this binder is like “Command Central” for the most frequently-needed information. Use a 3-ring binder for school bus schedules, medical reference information, school policies, and often needed phone numbers
  • You can also consider using a shared online calendar for these functions

4. Move it on out with a “Donation Station.” Back-to-school time means buying new school clothes and taking stock of the clothing that may have been outgrown. As a result, you might have lots of clothing to donate. Oftentimes, items for donation just end up sitting neglected in your closets. Setting up a permanent area where donations can be gathered allows you to make decisions about your stagnant stuff and get those items pulled out of circulation. Keep paper sacks, shopping bags, or cardboard boxes in a corner of a closet, on a shelf, or even in the trunk of your car to gather your donations before taking a load to your nearest Goodwill. Also, you may want to keep a clipboard with paper and a pen close by if you want to make a list of donated items for tax deduction purposes. Just as there are things we recycle, there are things we donate, it’s a planet-friendly habit that keeps billions of pounds out of landfills and helps people in your own community with training and other job-related services.

 

 

 

Lorie Marrero is a certified professional organizer and bestselling author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life.

 

How to Tell Your Kids You Are Getting Divorced

Written on August 8, 2012 at 11:15 am , by

Dr. Janet Taylor offers advice on how to manage your moods, relationships and your life.

Q: How do I tell my tweens that their father and I are divorcing?

A: Before you sit down with your kids, you and your partner should agree on what reason you’ll give them for the divorce. You’ll need to speak honestly but simply about your decision. A statement like “This is our issue” can go a long way. When you come together as a family to discuss the break, reassure them that the divorce is not their fault. It is natural for kids to take on guilt with divorce, but critical that they don’t. Finally, encourage your children to express their emotions. When there is a reaction—and you should expect one—be thoughtful and avoid blaming your soon-to-be ex. You’re there to support your kids. Tell them their feelings always come first and make them believe it with your actions.

Do you know someone who faced this issue? How did they handle talking to their kids about divorce? Tell us in the comments.

Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email us at AskDrJanet@FamilyCircle.com.

Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H. A mother of four, Dr. Janet is a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.