Written on February 19, 2014 at 9:15 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
I have two teenagers, and I know a lot of things about these complicated young people. Here are two: They like to text so much that it’s become the best way to talk to them. And they tend to stay up late for no good reason. (I do my best to stop that, but you can’t force someone to sleep. All you can do is not provide distractions.) From those facts, I extrapolate that there will be times—probably some of them in the middle of the night—when they’ll want to send a text asking for help. I’d like to think that they would always feel comfortable sending that text to me. But I was a teenager once, so I’m pretty sure there may be things that seem too awful to those inexperienced minds to confess to Mom. That’s why I like the mission of Crisis Text Line: to provide teens with free, 24/7 emotional support and information via the medium they already use and trust, text.
The average teen sends 3,339 text messages a month (and opens every text she gets). Texting is quiet and discreet, so kids can do it even if they’re afraid of someone in the room. They can text from school, late at night, whenever and wherever they’re in need, and no one in their world has to know that their thumbs are sending out a cry for help. This makes it the perfect medium for teen crisis intervention.
But here’s the best case for why Crisis Text Line is a good idea: It didn’t come about because someone dreamed it up. It exists because teenagers asked for it.
Nancy Lublin is CEO of DoSomething.org, an organization that helps young people take action on causes they care about. That outlet discovered that the best way to get messages out to teens was via text. Lublin started the project that became Crisis Text Line because the staff at DoSomething.org started getting shocking cries for help from the teens they were communicating with. One of those texts read,
“He won’t stop raping me. He told me not to tell anyone. Are you there?”
Lublin could do little but refer that teen to a crisis center. But she decided she had to do something to create a texting help line for teens that was empowered to provide assistance.
And she did. So make sure the teens you know are aware that free help is available via text 24/7. They just text “LISTEN” TO 741-741.
A great side benefit is that this forum also provides terrific data on when, where and to whom bad things are happening. If the Crisis Text Line sees a spike in texts after specific events or at certain times of day, this tells them that schools or cities need to provide help in those places and at those times. Maybe, Lublin says, that will make it possible to stop kids from being bullied, from cutting themselves or from being raped. You can watch her explain all this herself in the video below.
Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.
Written on February 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm , by Jill Feigelman
A Michigan boy is in for a very big birthday surprise, all thanks to his mom.
When Jennifer Cunningham asked her 10-year-old son, Colin, if he wanted a birthday party, the response she got back was heartbreaking. He said no, because he had no friends to invite.
Colin has a hard time connecting with kids because of a condition similar to Asperger’s syndrome.
Jennifer decided to make a Facebook page, “Happy Birthday Colin,” with the hope that friends and family would wish Colin well on his special day. To her surprise, the page went viral and now has over a million likes and counting. Strangers from across the world are sending messages for Colin’s big day. And the best part is Colin doesn’t know about the page at all. The plan is to reveal it on his birthday, March 9.
His little sister (who is keeping the secret as well) thinks that when Colin sees the messages he will “scream his pants off.”
The web can lead to wonderful things, don’t you think?
Written on February 11, 2014 at 2:53 pm , by Janet Taylor
Just when I thought I had seen or heard everything, a news item really floored me—or in this case simply made me sick.
Recently, a 17-year-old young man, Ethan Couch, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and an unspecified amount of time at a rehabilitation facility for an unspeakable crime. While driving 70 miles per hour with a blood alcohol level three times the limit, he slammed into innocent bystanders who were trying to help someone get a car started. His foolish decision to drink and drive—30 miles per hour over the speed limit—killed four people and seriously injured two others. Legally, what would have appeared to be a very horrific and sad case for everyone involved became frustrating and complicated by a single word.
According to his defense, this condition—having a privileged upbringing and lacking parental boundaries—apparently resulted in the disastrous events. Ethan’s wealthy parents raised him with a sense of entitlement and poor judgment, and thus he was incapable of being held completely accountable. Yes, a sociological term used to define the downright destructiveness that results from greed, selfishness and ruthless behavior brought on by the quest for the almighty dollar became a defense.
Sad, crazy and true! As the grieving widower and father of two of the victims said, “I only wanted to hear two words at the trial: ‘I’m sorry.’” And Ethan never uttered them. The devastated father went on to say that his home is now empty and just a house. Tragic.
How did this happen? How can parents with or without economic resources raise children who have absolutely no regard for their peers or fellow citizens? Have we overindulged our children to the point that being responsible for multiple deaths is excusable because they didn’t know?
I can think of two people who are directly responsible and need to be held accountable for this tragedy: his parents. You would think that instead of hiring a high-priced lawyer, they should have invested in parenting classes and psychotherapy for their spoiled, remorseless son. You would think that multiple apologies would have been forthcoming from them. You would think that a judge would understand how her ruling reinforced the double standard of leniency largely related to class and socioeconomic status.
My hope is that as parents this tragic case reminds us that teaching individual responsibility to our children is more important than buying them a new iPad or the latest video game. May it force us to realize that we are raising not just children but citizens of the world, a world that needs compassion and just behavior instead of more senseless deaths and devastated communities.
Do you know any children that suffer from “affluenza”? Post a comment below and tell us about them.
Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at email@example.com.
Written on February 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm , by Family Circle
By Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood.
Recently, a friend asked me about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. She had heard that the virus can “clear up” on its own, so wanted to know whether the vaccine was really necessary for her child. Another friend wondered whether her daughter, a high school senior, should get the vaccine, though she may not have had sex yet.
These are common questions and concerns about the HPV vaccine among parents. I’d like to put them to rest and tell you why I advised both my friends to be sure to get the HPV vaccine for their kids. Vaccinating our children against HPV is one of the most effective things parents can do for their kids’ health. It helps protect against the types of HPV that can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and throat, as well as genital warts.
Here are a few more frequently asked questions about the HPV vaccine.
How does the HPV vaccine protect against cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, a very common sexually transmitted infection. In many cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally, but certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical and other cancers. Given in three separate injections over six months, the HPV vaccine protects against two HPV strains that cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases.
Is the vaccine safe?
Studies show that the HPV vaccine is extremely safe. It is FDA-approved and routine vaccination is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society and Planned Parenthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it be given to girls and boys ages 11-12.
Should my son get the HPV vaccine?
Yes, the HPV vaccine benefits boys as well as girls. For boys, it can prevent genital warts and some cancers of the anus, penis and throat, as well as prevent the spread of HPV to his future partners.
When should teens be vaccinated?
It’s recommended that preteens get the HPV vaccine when they’re 11 or 12 for maximum effectiveness, but for teens and young adults the vaccine still offers some protection against HPV and cancers associated with HPV, especially if given before a person becomes sexually active. The closer to age 11 or 12 it’s given, the better. At age 13 or older, the vaccine is considered a catch-up.
Does it cost a lot?
Under the new health care law, HPV vaccines are covered at no cost. Millions of Americans who are uninsured can enroll in new, more affordable health care plans right now. For additional information, check out PlannedParenthodHealthInsuranceFacts.org. There are also programs that allow some people without insurance to access the vaccine at reduced or no cost, based on income. The staff at Planned Parenthood can help with accessing these programs.
Will giving my child the vaccine give him/her permission to have sex?
No, having the vaccine does not promote sexual activity among teens. Research shows that young people who get the HPV vaccine are no more likely to have sex than those who have not been vaccinated.
As parents, we certainly want to protect our kids from cancer—and this vaccine can do that.
Written on February 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm , by Janet Taylor
By now most of America has seen the infamous recent television appearance by Kate Gosselin with her twins on NBC’s The Today Show. It started off promisingly enough, with the 13-year-old twins clamoring to talk about “how normal their lives are.” Compelling stuff! What transpired was both shocking and sad. The twins were painfully silent on live television, creating the dreaded dead air. After glares and a curt “Use your words!” from Kate in response to their silence, one of the twins uttered a few sentences. Whew!
The resulting debate centered upon Kate’s fitness as a parent, conjured up memories of Mommy Dearest, questioned the twins’ sanity (they’re fine), and suggested that their performance was meant to get back at their mother. What an intriguing concept. Are teens that smart and deceptive?
Teens certainly know how to push mom’s buttons. Television and radio personality Wendy Williams recently burst into tears when talking about her 13-year-old son, who “doesn’t like me anymore.” She didn’t get the memo: No crying when raising a 13-year-old. Really? Of course not.
The reality is that 13-year-olds will try you to make you question your own sanity. They alter their personalities and responses to situations in the blink of an eye. The same cuddly child giving you hugs and saying, “I love you, Mom,” can give you a look and spew words that make you search for the 666 that must be somewhere on her forehead.
Thirteen. Hormones are raging, friends are confusing, parents are annoying and life can feel full of pressure and confusion. The good life…
Instead of labeling them as crazy or mean, we need to just hang with them and show them love. We must parent with limits and consequences in spite of how they push back. Remember when you were 13 and how easily you communicated with your parents? Yeah, right.
If you need proof that teens come around, fast-forward to the Gosselin segment on The View a few days later after their initial debacle. The girls were pleasant, relaxed and laughing. It was good to see, as it was further proof that if you wait long enough, the kids have a way of letting you know that they’re all right.
Has your teen ever tried your patience in public? Post a comment below and tell us what happened.
Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written on January 28, 2014 at 8:00 am , by Family Circle
The ever-amusing Ana Gasteyer, who plays Suburgatory’s resident PTA mom, Sheila Shay, is serious when it comes to keeping her household running smoothly. The mom of two shares how her family spends quality time together—it doesn’t include sitting around the dinner table.
By Ana Gasteyer
So there have been a million studies that say your children will be perfect violin-playing, early-acceptance-to-Harvard types if only you get your whole family to sit down and have dinner together every night. But let’s face it—this just doesn’t work for every family, and I’m pretty sure there have been wonderful people whose moms never followed this tradition, and some degenerate criminals who learned to say “Please pass the peas” at three and half years old.
Here are my top reasons why it’s okay to give up on family dinners.
1. No more battling over the menu. My husband is a carnivore, my daughter’s a vegetarian and my son is kind of a nothing-atarian. The poor kid is allergic to dairy, and getting him to eat anything is a challenge. Dragging him to the table so everyone can stare at each other, eating food they don’t want to eat—it’s not my idea of quality family time. I’d rather have everyone happy.
2. Everyone can eat when they’re hungry. When 5:30 hits, my kids are starving because they basically just got home from school. It’s a documented fact that they eat better, sleep better and are at least 200% less crabby when they don’t have to wait for Dad to get home from work. Plus, I don’t necessarily want to eat at early-bird-special hours either.
3. You don’t have to eat together to spend dinner together. I’m not suggesting that you plant your kids in front of the TV (unless you happen to have dinner on a Wednesday evening at 8:30, in which case, Suburgatory makes a great family dinner tradition). My kids eat so early that I still have plenty of energy. I use that time to hang out with them and make their lunches for the next day.
4. It gives you a chance to have more grown-up time. Because of our different work schedules, by the time my husband gets home, our kids have already eaten. They’re happy. Their bellies are full. And that gives me a nice window of time to have an adult evening and enjoy grown-up food with my husband. We both do Weight Watchers and love to cook delicious food, so we’ll experiment with ingredients, but I’ll always be a fan of a good go-to cookbook. One of my new favorites is What to Cook Now from Weight Watchers. We love the chicken pot pies with cornbread crust or the lemon-yogurt tart because they taste amazing and I don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen.
5. You can focus your energy on family bonding that everyone enjoys. What I’ve realized is that parenting is like one of those weird mathematical equations, so you adjust until you find what works. We don’t have family dinners, but we walk to school together every single day, and we have a regular night that we go out for dinner. The best days in my life are when we get away, unplug and live a very simple, card-and-bingo-playing life together—while all eating totally different foods.
Read more of Anna’s amusing parenting anecdotes on Familycircle.com.
Written on January 23, 2014 at 10:00 am , by Rosalind Wiseman
Do you have to be buddy-buddy with the parents of your kid’s friends? Chances are that at some point you’ll come across a mom or dad you’d rather not pass time with or who just doesn’t fit into your schedule. Our parenting expert, Rosalind Wiseman, recently got a letter from a woman struggling with just this dilemma. Here’s what happened, why it may be a personal red flag for you, and—no matter what your true desires—how you can handle the situation with grace.
I have two boys, 10 and 14. Neither gets invited over to friends’ houses but friends do come over to our house. My sons think I should be friends with the other boys’ mothers. I don’t think so. I think being friends with those women isn’t good because these friendships are with his friends. What do you think?
Let’s take a moment to appreciate that your boys see you as more than the person in their life who does things for them or enforces rules they don’t like. They, at a pretty young age, know that friendships are important for everyone, including you. The question is, why do they feel this way? Are they worried you don’t have a support system? Do they think you’re lonely? Whatever their reasons, that’s what I’d pay attention to.
I’d sit down with them at dinner and first acknowledge that you appreciate their concern. Then I’d ask them to explain their motivation and which of their friends’ parents they respect the most and why. Obviously, you get to choose who your friends are, but this is still a great conversation to have with your kids.
Your question brings up an important issue about being friends with the parents of your children’s friends, because you may be spending a lot of time with these folks whether you like it or not. So here’s what I’d suggest.
At the very least, it’s wise to have a good working relationship with them. This means you know the other parents well enough that you can ask each other for help in times of need—like picking up and dropping off when the other parent has to be somewhere else at the same time. As our kids get older, it’s helpful for other parents to be part of your collective reconnaissance team because some of us have children who give us the least amount of information possible about what they’re doing and where they’re doing it.
That doesn’t mean you have to be best friends. But don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and realize that these people who have shared all the incredible highs and lows of raising kids have truly become your friends.
Have you ever NOT wanted to be friends with the parents of your kid’s friends? Post a comment and tell me about it here.
Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Do you have a parenting question? Email email@example.com.
Written on January 22, 2014 at 12:43 pm , by Danielle Hester
There’s an art to taking the perfect selfie—just ask your teen, or James Franco. From how you angle the camera to what your hair looks like to how you smile and tilt your head, it all matters. The point is to appear effortlessly perfect and carefree because, after all, these pictures will live online indefinitely.
Recognizing how hard it is to create such an impression of carefree perfection, Dove challenged a group of young women to confront their insecurities by taking, you guessed it, selfies, and getting their mothers to do so too. In the eight-minute short film simply titled “Selfie” (there’s a three-minute version here), the girls admit to having insecurities that their mothers also express feeling. Through a photography workshop, the teens and their moms begin to have an honest discussion about what beauty is and question the way they define it.
“You have the power to change and redefine what beauty is,” professional photographer Michael Crook tells the girls in the film. “The power is in your hands, because now, more than ever, it’s right at our fingertips. We can take selfies.”
Written on January 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm , by Family Circle
By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom
I don’t make my kids’ beds. This doesn’t stem from some lofty ideology, unless you count self-preservation as lofty.
The thing about mess is that it is not linear. It’s logarithmic. If one neat child and one slovenly child share a bedroom while three children who are too young to properly clean their rooms by themselves share a bedroom, how long does it take their new, not-neat stepmother to give up on making beds? Answer: no time at all.
My main neatness requirement in the children’s bedrooms is that there be a path from the door to the bed, and that the door be able to close. Out of sight, out of mind, thus freeing the mind for other pursuits, such as what to feed everyone for dinner, how to get them to their scattered, simultaneous activities, and whether or not I can take a shower before work.
We can’t tell ahead of time what the end result of our parental decisions will be. My overly optimistic hope was that the kids would learn to make their beds. What happened is that they have a resentment against sheets.
My children neither know nor care about the difference between a flat sheet and a fitted one. Pillow shams and pillowcases are identical to them, and they were genuinely baffled by the discovery of a bed skirt in the linen closet. More than one of my children was surprised to learn that a mattress pad does not count as a sheet. They can sleep on a bare mattress with a naked pillow and can’t even tell the difference. This may also be due to the fact that they sleep in more clothes than they actually wear in public. Twice as many.
It’s not surprising that “Change your sheets!” on the chore list is viewed as punishment. They try many creative ways to bypass it. They’ll put all the bedding—including their comforters and mattress pads—in the laundry room. Whatever child “wins” starts their wash load, usually cramming the machine full with the sheets balled up in the mattress pad and the comforter stuffed in too, if they can get the lid closed.
Then nothing else happens.
The load does not move from the washer to the dryer. No further sets of sheets are washed. None of the 37 extra sets of clean sheets in the closet—which would have eliminated the need for them to do laundry in the first place—are put on their beds.
They operate under the delusion that their sheets will magically cycle themselves through the machines on a Saturday, when their dad and I both work a long day in the city, in time to put themselves back on the beds before bedtime, and that if it doesn’t happen, we won’t notice. Well, that last part is pretty true.
They dig out sleeping bags and blankets and lay them out in pretense of having made their beds. They will then sleep on bare mattresses and pillows until the ruse is discovered.
They’ve finally gotten hip to the fact that if they remove only their sheets and not the rest of their bedding, we won’t know they’re sleeping sheetless unless we go in the bedroom and check. Frankly, I try to avoid their rooms as much as possible.
I was talking with a friend of mine about this recently and she’s the exact opposite of me. She has two teenagers and cleaning is her hobby; she still makes their beds every day. She’s currently engaged in a passive-aggressive battle with her teen daughter. When the daughter throws attitude at her, the mom doesn’t make her bed. The next day the daughter retaliates by halfway making her bed by herself. I totally recognize that teen girl gauntlet being thrown down.
I just surveyed the bedrooms and found three kids are using only one sheet, one has no pillow coverings at all, and the one who has both a fitted and a flat sheet is using a pillow sham instead of a pillowcase.
I retaliated by closing all their doors again.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.
Written on January 16, 2014 at 9:30 am , by Janet Taylor
Many outsiders would look at Chiara de Blasio, the 19-year-old daughter of newly elected New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, and see a young woman with a completely charmed life. A recent fashion spread in a well-known teen magazine does little to dispel that image of a magical existence.
Fashion mavens may argue about her style, but few could dispute her honesty. In a video released by her father’s campaign last month, Chiara’s struggles with depression and substance abuse, which began in her teenage years, add a sobering reality to what it means to be a first family.
She details her difficulties with fitting in and self-esteem, and the need to self-medicate with marijuana and alcohol. Describing how her mental state impacted her academic and social progress, she offers wise advice to others, stating: “If you’re suffering…getting sober is always a positive thing…It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s so worth it.”
Mental health issues can be present in any family. Being an elected official doesn’t exempt one from them. What’s most important, however, is a family’s reaction to the problem, which can make the difference between a person’s shying away from treatment and their embracing it.
Chiara’s openness may help break the stigma associated with mental illness and seeking the appropriate treatment. By simply telling her story, she potentially can help so many others.
As parents, we try to protect our children as much as possible. However, there are times when silence is not productive. Instead, it can reinforce negative behaviors by not addressing them. We can all learn from the example set by the de Blasios.
If your child is struggling with similar issues:
Support your teenager. Be open to their getting a professional assessment and treatment. They may be resistant, but purposefully and gently push for treatment.
Talk to other families. Many families feel like they’re the only ones going through challenging times. You are not. Talk to your health care professional about support groups.
Look at the big picture. Staying sober is a lifelong journey. Buckle up and be prepared for the peaks and valleys. Celebrate successes while being mindful of a blueprint.
Share your struggle. Breaking the silence about issues like depression and substance abuse can assist others in getting help. I applaud the de Blasio family for sharing their story—and hope more families do the same.
Is there someone in your life who could benefit from getting support for substance abuse? Post a comment below and tell us how you plan to approach them about this and offer them help.
Got a question for Dr. Janet? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written on January 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm , by Family Circle
As a parent, you constantly have doubts and concerns about how to raise your kids no matter how many parenting books you may read. But when these worrying moms listened to what their kids really thought about them, it was priceless.
Written on January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm , by Family Circle
By Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood.
A recent Dear Abby submission came from a woman whose teenage daughter confided in her that she was sexually active, and asked her mother if she would buy her condoms. The mother purchased condoms and then learned that her daughter was supplying them to her girlfriends who couldn’t talk with their own mothers about sex. While it’s great that this teenager has such a great relationship with her mother that she feels comfortable bringing up tough topics, this situation illustrates that more teens need help doing the same.
It’s okay to be nervous about talking with your teens about sex, but it turns out that parents are less anxious about talking about these topics than teens are. A survey released last year from Planned Parenthood and Family Circle, with assistance from the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at New York University, found that only 18% of teens reported they were very comfortable talking with their parents about sex.
We know that teens need guidance and direction, and often name their parents as the biggest influence in their decisions about sex. Teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.
Teens may worry about their parents’ reactions, but the truth is that most parents welcome the chance to talk about these issues. As parents, we want our kids to feel comfortable confiding in us and coming to us for advice. We can try to make these conversations as natural as asking them about school, and encourage teens to open up whenever a topic comes up related to sexuality. For instance, when teens ask what we think about something “a friend” may be doing, that’s often their way of trying to assess what our values are and whether we are going to overreact or be extremely judgmental. Be careful not to get upset if they bring up sex and dating, because we want to keep the lines of communication open. But do take the opportunity to share your values and expectations related to when sex should and shouldn’t happen, how to deal with pressure to have sex, and the importance of caring, respectful relationships and using condoms and birth control when sex does take place.
The Dear Abby piece brings up another issue: Teens probably will share any information you give them with their friends. So it’s a good idea for parents to think about some of the issues that may arise in advance—this way, you’re prepared for whatever your kids may bring up over the years.
Here are some things to consider if you are the parent of a teenager:
· What will you say if you realize your teen is looking at pornography online?
· What message will you give to your child about masturbation?
· What dating rules do you plan to have?
· What will you tell teens about sharing personal information online and the risks of activities such as sexting?
· What would you say if your teen is interested in a member of the same sex?
· How will you help your teen stay safe and healthy once s/he becomes sexually active?
· Will you buy your teen condoms, or take your daughter to get birth control?
To help ease some of the discomfort that young people may have, Planned Parenthood designed “Awkward or Not?,” a quiz teens can take on their cell phone or computer that allows them to explore their feelings about communicating with their parents and offers encouragement and tips to start talking. There’s also a funny video they can watch, “How to Talk with Your Parents About Sex,” with some do’s and don’ts about bringing up sexuality topics with their parents.
Planned Parenthood also offers resources for parents to help start and improve these conversations, including information, videos and tips for talking to children of all ages on Planned Parenthood’s Tools for Parents page and the Let’s Talk Month page, including “Parenting Tips,” a series of interactive videos on talking to your teens about sex and relationships; a fact sheet and information on parent-child communication and a tip sheet on talking to your kids; and information on setting boundaries, helping teens delay sex, parenting LGBTQ kids and more.
With more tools than ever before to help initiate these important conversations, there’s never been a better time to talk with our teens.
Follow Leslie on Twitter @LeslieKantor.