teens

“My 15-Year-Old Son Has No Friends!”

Written on May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. My son is 15 and has no friends. He’s very shy and has become depressed and frustrated by his failure to be accepted. He stays home and spends all his time on the computer. I sent him to counseling but he said it was a waste of time. Please help—it is breaking my heart that his childhood is so unhappy!

A. Your son isn’t just depressed.You’re describing a kid who has extreme social anxiety and needs help. He must learn to express himself and develop social skills through a therapist who has been trained in working with boys. Try to get him into counseling again using a different approach. Say, “I realize I made a mistake about how we chose a counselor last time and I’m sorry. Let’s try again. I’d like to find five candidates you can interview beforehand. Perhaps you can setup a Skype chat.” If your son says he can’t think of any questions, suggest, “Have you worked with guys my age before?” and “Do you expect me to do most of the talking or do you give opinions?” Then remind your son that there’s no commitment—he can take it one step at a time.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Prom Shopping for Teen Boys

Written on May 17, 2012 at 10:13 am , by

 

Guest blogger Marian Merritt, member of Family Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board, on her “prom mom” experiences.

If I were to say to you “prom” and “fashion,” you immediately think of dresses, long and short, sparkly and sleek. Did you even consider what the boys are wearing? Moms of boys deserve equal time here! As I’ve been worrying about what my daughter was going to wear to her prom, I completely ignored what her boyfriend was doing to figure his own clothing out. Before I discuss that, I have to think back to my own high school days and what the boys did back then for prom clothing.

At my Southern California high school, there was the usual assortment of groups and cliques, each identified by what they wore or how they styled themselves. Open up any of my yearbooks and you’ll see styles of clothing for boys and girls ranging from retro preppies (remember The Preppy Handbook?) and 50’s rockabilly styles to surfers and punks. It was a pretty fertile playground for fashion experimentation and embarrassing yearbook photos.

Influenced perhaps by their parents, many of whom were employed in the entertainment industry, the boys at my school were willing to experiment with clothing and hairstyles. Many of us followed the fashion we were seeing on TV and in local clubs: Farrah-feathered hair styled with mousse and gel, lace and leather, black eyeliner or pukka shell necklaces. Camp Beverly Hills t-shirts and tight, high-waist jeans.

When prom rolled around, most people seemed to conform what they wore to evening attire standards. As I recall, the nightmare for most girls was if their boyfriend chose a colored tuxedo or (shudder) the dreaded tuxedo shirt with a ruffled front. If anyone’s date showed up with “interesting” shoes like Vans surfer shoes or a flamboyant bowtie, I don’t recall any fuss. My own date played it safe in his father’s tuxedo with a plain front white shirt but he jazzed it up with an old top hat he’d found but was too shy to wear in any of the photos.

My daughter’s boyfriend styles himself a “hipster” in his everyday life: skinny jeans, funky hats and indie music tastes.  So I have to admit, I’ve been pretty curious if he’s spending any time putting his prom look together or is he going to play it safe with a standard black and white tux. M. told me he wanted to match his tie to her dress and when we dropped the dress off to be hemmed, we snipped a small bit of fabric to give him.  I asked his mom to give me a peek at what’s going on in their household:

It is now about 20 days until prom and M’s date S., who also happens to be her boyfriend of several months, has yet to take the first step to obtain his tuxedo. Well that’s not 100 percent correct: S. has summarily rejected his dad’s suggestion that he borrow the old tux that dad last wore to a wedding in 1991. Instead S. plans to go with his mom to a tuxedo rental shop sometime this week (or next). He hopes that they will still have some cool tuxedos in his size because he is slim. He does not want to wear a vest, but S. is most excited about the tie. In fact, S. has posed the question, “What do you think of a bow tie, mom?” S. believes that this may be one of the few occasions in his life that a bow tie may be an option. The tie is also important to S. because he hopes to color coordinate it and his handkerchief with M.’s dress. Then, there are the shoes and the socks. S. doesn’t want patent leather shoes, and he plans to wear his own hipster socks with hot pink heels. S. is pretty fashion conscious and yet he’s not sweating it because there are not too many choices for the young man going to prom. The biggest choice is the gal he asks and S. has got that covered.  He is very, very happy with his date. Oh one more thing, S is thinking about the corsage and boutonniere. He plans to go to the flower store soon, too.

Boys have many prom style options if they are willing to go out on a limb. From colored tuxedos (though I’m not a fan, personally) to varying the cut of the jacket (single breasted, double breasted, shawl-collared, etc.) to patterned or colored cummerbund, bowtie and pocket square, there are numerous ways a boy can corral a complete look that is true to their personality. Yes, there is pressure for the couple to achieve a “look.” It’s also possible the whole effort can go terribly wrong and condemn their prom night photos to the “Can you believe we wore this??” web pages of their future. No wonder so many kids decide to play it safe, get the standard black tux and just mess around with accessories that don’t cost much and can even be removed as the evening progresses.

Marian Merritt is a mother of three (two teens and a tween) and works for security company Norton by Symantec. You can read her internet safety blog at www.norton.com/askmarian. She serves on Family  Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board and has written the award-winning Norton Family Online Safety Guide, now in its third edition.

A Summer Jobs Resource for Teens

Written on May 7, 2012 at 10:20 am , by

 

If your teen hasn’t nailed down a gig for the warmer months yet, have him take a look at Summer Jobs+. The job bank website was started this spring by the U.S. Department of Labor with the goal of generating 250,000 jobs and internships for teens during summer 2012.

Start searching at dol.gov/summerjobs and get more teen job tips at familycircle.com/teenjobs.

Has your teen found a summer job? Got any good tips for helping your kids land one? Share in the comments below.

Cassie Kreitner is an editorial assistant at Family Circle magazine.

Parenting Dilemma: “My Kid Doesn’t Like His Cousin”

Written on March 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm , by

 

The kids and teens I work with have shared a situation that they would like me to address with you.

Has your child ever told you that they hate another kid in your extended family? Or a friend’s child because they’re mean and you’ve responded by saying, “But he’s really a good kid, he’s from such a nice family,”? Or “You know he has had some problems. You just need to treat him they way you want to be treated.”

I recently watched this happen between an 8th grade boy and his usually very astute mother. The boy was unhappy with his first cousin–the oldest child of this woman’s sister. As she responded to her son, he glanced in my direction with an unmistakable expression of  ”I-love-my-mom-but-can-you-believe-she-so-doesn’t-understand?”

I don’t know this mother very well but it was pretty easy to see where her comments were coming from. She clearly loves her sister, she’s worried about her nephew, and maybe there’s something else she knows about him that she can’t tell her son. The problem is, this mom stepped on what I call a “landmine.” Landmines are things we parents do and say, usually with the best intentions, that upset our kids and make them shut down. Like landmines in real life, you don’t realize they’re there until they’ve blown up in your face. And in this case, the mother was left with an upset child who felt like she brushed him off.

If your child ever comes to you with a similar problem, here’s how to avoid a landmine: Listen to your kid because his experience here is more important than yours. Yes, the other child may have some problems. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you don’t have to deal with this kid–your child does. Think about it from your son’s perspective. This is an important moment for both of you. He’s telling you something that he knows you don’t necessarily want to hear. You want him to feel comfortable talking to you when he’s having problems. He won’t if you shut him down.

If you do step on a landmine, you can always go back and make it better. During the conversation–or after, when you realize what happened–you can go back to him and say, “I’ve been thinking about what I just said to you and I realized that I wasn’t really listening to you. I’m really sorry about that. Let me try that again…”

Now please don’t expect your child to respond with something like, “Mom, thanks so much for saying that. I’m so lucky to have such a great mom.” Much more likely, you’re going to get a shrug and, “Don’t worry about it.” But that answer is kid code for, “Thanks I really appreciate you apologizing, I see that you’re a human being and you make mistakes and now I feel even more comfortable talk to you when I have a problem.”

Then you have to promise me something. When your child walks out of the room, take a moment to give yourself credit for handling a difficult situation well and building the foundation for your child knowing that you are a source of comfort and guidance in difficult moments.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it? Share in the comments below.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Prom on a Budget: 4 Money-Saving Ideas

Written on March 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm , by

Prom is a memorable night for high school upperclassmen, but the costs—dress, hair, makeup, shoes, and jewelry—can quickly add up. Whether your daughter is looking at the red carpet for inspiration, local boutiques, or wants to make a homemade-DIY gown, there are plenty of ways to skip the expensive dresses and still send her off to the big dance in style. Here are a few ways I’ve found stylish formalwear on a budget for prom and special occasions:

Organize a swap: By the time I was a high school senior, I had a half-closet full of once-worn dresses that I would’ve been happy to see re-worn. Encourage your daughter to organize a dress swap for her group of friends and have each girl bring someone from a different school. It’s a great way to expand their social circle, and the dress your daughter’s out-of-town friend wore to a Sweet Sixteen could easily be another girl’s prom pick.

Search outlet malls: I’m a big fan of shopping at outlet malls (Premium and Tanger) a few times a year for basic tees and off-season deals, but I never expected to find a prom dress there. I got mine on whim at Diane von Furstenberg, a high-end designer whose dresses I would have never thought of looking at in a department store for fear of sticker shock. The floor-length floral gown I found was $185, marked down from $625. This was this less than I originally budgeted for a dress, and since I didn’t buy it close to home, I was confident that no one else would have it.

Borrow a dress: It’s common for boys to rent tuxes for prom, so why are gown rentals not more popular for girls? My favorite site to borrow from is Rent the Runway, which offers designer dresses and accessories at up to 90% off retail prices.  It’s super easy: browse the site and pick the date you want the dress to arrive (you can reserve six months in advance). They even send you the dress in two sizes, so you don’t have to worry about it not fitting. Shipping and dry cleaning are included, so you can just drop the dress in the provided envelope to return after the dance is over.

Get Creative: I always enjoy seeing what creations are submitted to Duck Brand’s annual “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest. Teens must enter as a couple wearing outfits made of duct tape, and the winning duo receives $5,000. Check out stuckatprom.com for inspiration or to learn how your teen can enter.

Check out our picks for prom dresses for every teen’s style—and budget—here.

How do you plan to handle the costs of prom season? Who will foot the bill: you or your teen, or do you plan to split expenses?

 

What are your money-saving tips for prom? Share with others below!

 

Cassie Kreitner is editorial assistant at Family Circle magazine.

Young Girls Are Posting “Am I Ugly?” Videos on YouTube

Written on February 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm , by

Pre-teen and teenage years have always been fraught with insecurity. But rather than seeking a confidence boost from close friends, many kids are turning to strangers on the internet. A recent article on the Huffington Post reports on a disturbing new trend: Young girls are posting videos of themselves on YouTube with a simple question–”Am I ugly or pretty?”

Responses in the comments section range from encouraging to obscene. Not surprisingly, many are concerned that the posters, who are often younger than the site’s required age (13), might not be able to handle the unabashed–and often vicious–anonymous feedback. To prevent long-lasting issues with self-image, some are calling for parents to monitor their children’s usage of the site. Pushback is also coming from teens and preteens, themselves. Some are creating and uploading videos in response to the trend, questioning its purpose.

While our lives are becoming increasingly public–Facebook profiles, YouTube pages, and personal blogs, for starters–it might seem natural to seek public affirmation to assuage our private fears. Yet, the what’s posted on the internet is permanent. So, too, can be the effects of hurtful comments, especially during the tumultuous tween and teen years.

Parents, are you concerned about this trend? Do you monitor your child’s internet use? What suggestions do you have for bolstering children’s self esteem and creating a positive body image?

–Carly Okyle, guest blogger

Teens Stand Up Against Bullying

Written on January 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm , by

Guest blogger Shawn Edgington on the NO BULL Challenge.

“Mom, I can’t go back to school, they want to kill me!” These are the words every parent fears, and hopes never to hear.  As the mother of a teenage girl who received death threats by text and on her Facebook page, I know first-hand how difficult it is when cyberbullies target your child.  I also know how critical it is for parents and educators to take the right steps before a cyberbullying situation goes viral.

It’s difficult to know when to act, because more than 80% of the time, adults don’t really know what’s happening within a child’s online world.  That said, what is a parent or an educator to do if they aren’t aware when a child really needs help?  Teens are falling witness to cyberbullying incidents every day, and in most cases, make the decision to remain silent about what they see or read.

The important questions to ask yourself are:  Does your constantly connected teen know when to take a “friend’s” dark or desperate status update as a serious cry for help?  Can your teenager recognize a potentially unhealthy or dangerous post when they see one?  The unfortunate truth is, most of the time we are left to rely on another child’s online friends to intervene by getting help on their behalf, which isn’t happening enough.  This is why every teen needs to know what to watch out for, how to stand up for their peers, when to report and who to go to for help before it’s too late.

What can parents and educators do to empower teens to stand up and help their fellow students in need?  Have them take The Great American NO BULL Challenge, the largest student-led campaign to fight bullying and cyberbullying in America. The annual campaign inspires America’s 25 million teens to learn how to eliminate bullying from their lives by creating a video with an anti-bullying message.  Students and educators are provided all of the information they need to know about making a video, cyberbullying basics, standing up, prevention, and intervention tips via the online NO BULL Cyberbullying 411 toolkits. View one of the NO BULL teen created videos submitted at: http://nobull.votigo.com/contests/showentry/1016336

The NO BULL Challenge gives teenagers the chance to compete for $25,000 in prizes and the opportunity to have their winning videos introduced to the world at the star-studded NO BULL Teen Video Awards show in San Francisco, promoted by Live Nation.  At the Teen Video Awards gala, students will watch artists perform live and meet their favorite celebrities on the red carpet. The spotlight will shine on the student-made films pertaining to NO BULL, offer students the chance to win thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes, and have their video presented center stage for the world to witness.

The Great American NO BULL Challenge is a massive collaboration between iSafe, National Organizations for Youth Safety, FCCLA, Dr. Mehmet Oz’s HealthCorps, teenDailyStrength, 4-H, Students Against Destructive Decisions, The Anti-Defamation League, Business Professionals of America, Project Change, American School Counselor Association, The California Endowment and Health Happens Here, iKeepSafe.org, The Megan Meier Foundation, National Collaboration for Youth, The Bully Police Squad, Communities in Schools, and The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Formspring, among others.

Now through March 14th, students in the 6th through 12th grade can submit their video at www.nobullchallenge.org and at www.facebook.com/NOBULLChallenge.

There is one thing that I know for sure; if we can educate and inspire America’s teens on how to stand up for what is right and say “NO BULL!” to all of the online mayhem, we will be steps ahead on the war against cyberbullying.

–SHAWN EDGINGTON

Shawn Edgington is the Founder and President of the Great American NO BULL Challenge and the bestselling author of The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media:  Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World. Shawn is also the CEO of a national insurance firm in California where she lives with her family.

 

Girls Showing Us the Way

Written on December 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm , by

Let’s look to girls to inspire all of us as we end this year and get ready for the new one! Check out four year-old Riley protesting to her dad in a toy store about the usual assortment of pink non-superhero toys for girls. Riley teaches all of us to never lose our passion for speaking out when things aren’t right. Even though I don’t have daughters, you can bet I’m showing this to my 8 and 11 year-old sons to show them how much I respect girls for speaking out against sexism.

The second video is a co-presentation at the TedXWomen conference by my colleague, Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out and founder of the Girls’ Leadership Institute, and 8th grader Claire Sannini.

Again listening to girls is inspiring. Claire speaks so powerfully about being a girl in this culture and reminds us of what we all deserve. Claire describes the painful and damaging cycle of trying to please a peer group in spite of their constant rejection. When she realizes she’s sacrificing her self-esteem, she leaves those relationships and develops friendships that are more authentic and healthy for her.

For all of us, Claire’s story is an opportunity to ask ourselves about the quality of our own relationships with the people that are most important to us. Are they based on mutual respect and dignity? And like Claire, if we find ourselves in unhealthy patterns, what can we do to develop better relationships that bring us up instead of tear us down?

Riley and Claire should be our role models. I know they’re now some of mine. Happy new year!

Teens, Politics and Social Media

Written on December 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm , by

I came across this great article on how teens using social media to express political opinion know and defend their freedom of speech, why that sometimes causes adults in positions of power to overreact, and what this changing landscape means for politicians, businesses and teens.   Yes, she could have been more eloquent, but sometimes this  new media world we live in is a good thing. What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Talking to Teens About Paterno, Penn State, and the High Price of Bystanding

Written on November 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm , by

Introducing Family Circle contributor and the new Parenting Advice guest blogger Rosalind Wiseman, who will be writing weekly about the issues surrounding parenting teens and tweens.

 

If there is anything to be learned from this week’s revelations regarding Penn State it is which institutions are most likely to abdicate their fundamental responsibilities and what are the dynamics that stop people from following what so obviously looks like the only moral course of action.

This is a problem I know too well and it’s an important one to discuss with young people. Over the last 15 years that I have worked with schools, I have witnessed many tragedies in which students, teachers, or coaches have abused the most vulnerable members of their communities. From freshmen boys being sexually assaulted in hazing rituals, girls being severely sexually harassed, to teachers having sexual relationships with students. It happens. And while I have worked with many administrators who take action immediately, I have too often also seen people in leadership positions look the other way, isolate and discredit the victim, do the minimum, and justify keeping it “in-house.” Make no mistake: all of those reactions condone the abuse in the eyes of the victim, the bystanders, and the abusers and empower the perpetrator to continue the abuse.

The consequence of all this is not only on the people directly involved. It profoundly impacts the way all young people perceive adults as credible role models and trusted figures. So if any of us really want to contribute to stopping these kind of tragedies from occurring, we must be clear about how it happened and willing to have honest discussions with the teens in our lives.

So how did it happen?

The more an institution links masculinity with being loyal to the group and their superiors, the more likely its members will say little or nothing when they experience or witness abuse.  In this type of culture, speaking out is being disloyal.

When you add the discomfort of revealing homosexual sexual interaction in what is supposed to be an absolutely heterosexual environment, the victims and bystanders can be so ashamed and/or shocked that they describe the abuse in general terms. As in, “something bad happened in the shower.”

It is in this moment, when a victim or witness comes forward to a leader that the leader’s character is truly revealed. Will he protect the victim and immediately take measures to keep him safe? Will he support the witness, recognizing how hard it is to break the code of silence? Or, will he act in such a way that communicates to all under him that he protects the bully?

This is the essence of ethical leadership. You have three choices: Support the victim’s right to be safe, stay “neutral,” – which in reality is siding with the abuser – or overtly back up the abuser. The more unquestioned public power the leader has, the more likely the leader will back up the abuser and sacrifice the vulnerable to maintain the institution’s appearance of greatness.  Consider also that while school traditions and “institutions” can be a positive force on campus, if there isn’t a constant examination of how people in positions of power within those traditions can abuse it, it’s only a matter of time before an abusive leader exploits the willing blindness of those around him.

We see such blindness in those Penn State students who chose to demonstrate–– or riot-– in support of the coach last Wednesday night. This reminded me of a common high school reaction when a high social-status student is expelled for hazing or harassment. It is common for his peers to dismiss or rationalize the student’s behavior and do whatever they can to undermine the administrators who are holding the expelled student accountable. They can vandalize the school, wear black arms bands, get their easily-manipulated parents to back them-–all to punish the school for “overreacting” and tarnishing the punished student’s reputation.

We know the protesters loved “JoePa” and think the punishment is too harsh.  We know they are furious that his legacy will be forever tarnished. This is just like those high school protesters. By holding Paterno and others like him accountable you acknowledge the reality that in the moment when it really mattered, the leaders you feel so much pride in and even tie your self-identity to acted in ways that were entirely hypocritical to everything they purported to stand for. Instead, it’s much easier to lash out and refuse to admit what actually occurred. But really, although it is sad that someone who worked for almost 50 years coaching football will not end his career with the dignity of being in attendance for his last home game, that is nothing compared to the victims whose dignity was literally stripped from them as they were sexually assaulted.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Penn State tragedy is that for many of us it is the first time we’ve seen leader who did the bare minimum pay the price for his inaction. Joe Paterno has paid that price at the highest, most public level.   Let us hope others will learn from this example.

But how? How do we make a difference out of this horrible thing?

Sit down with your teens and ask them what they think about these adults betraying kids. Ask them what they think the issues I have raised above. Our kids needs relationships with adults that they can depend on. Who know with 100% certainty that there is at least one adult in their lives who they know is ethical and morally sound. And while it may be uncomfortable to have these discussion with them, it is actually the very act of reaching out and showing that you are willing to talk about this betrayal that makes the biggest difference in the lives of the young people you care about.

Teens Who Make a Difference

Written on October 25, 2011 at 7:11 am , by

 

In Family Circle‘s November 29 issue, writer John Hanc profiled five young adults who are changing the world, one small project at a time. Kristen Powers, 18, cleaned up an abandoned lot and started a community garden in its place. Jordan Coleman (pictured above), 16, created two films that educate his peers about dating violence and staying in school, respectively. Sisters Ritwika, 15, and Radhika Mitra, 19, provide Indian artisans with tools to help them make crafts–and a living. And Adin Lykken, 20, holds road races to raise money to support a local animal shelter. Read about them and learn how to get involved in their causes here.

I find their stories humbling and inspiring. I’d love to hear about other teens involved in similar pursuits. Do you know of any? If so, share their stories below.

Are Math-Hating Shirts Sending the Wrong Message to Girls?

Written on September 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm , by

Have you noticed the Math-Hating fashion trend hitting stores this Fall?

First it was JCPenney’s “I’m too pretty to do homework” sweater and last week it was their possibly sexist shirt for tweens that declares Boys, Shopping, Dancing and Music as a girl’s best subjects (see our Momster Discussion on the topic). Now it’s Forever 21′s “Allergic to Algebra” tees. Can’t a girl catch a break?

When I saw the first of these shirts, I didn’t think much of it. I shop at both of those stores all the time, so I shrugged it off.

But then there was another. And another. Is this a thing now? Is it OK to make fun of girls for not being great at math?

I’ll admit that I am not the best at math. In fact, I always say I hate math and joke to my friends that there’s a good reason I’m in publishing. When the check comes at the end of the night, it takes the combined power of my iPhone calculator and my fingers to count how much I owe.

Yes, I still count on my fingers and I’m not ashamed that math isn’t one of my strong suits. I have plenty of other skills to make up for it. And yes, I hated algebra. But would I want to wear that on my chest? I don’t think so. Maybe being bad at math is something I should be working on improving instead of making fun.

Are these shirts sending the wrong message?

I know plenty of women who are strong at math. Great at it, even. Both of my paternal grandparents were math professors and my grandma actually wrote a math book that’s still being used in Universities today. She wasn’t allergic to Algebra, for sure. And I’m sure she would appreciate the Math Prize for Girls competition this Saturday, Sept 17th, on the MIT Campus more than she would appreciate this fashion trend.

What about you? Did you have strong women role models growing up? Are you one for your daughter? And what do you think of these tees– are they just annoying, really fashionable or a little bit offensive? Share in the comments below!