parenting teens and tweens

Driver’s Ed 101: The Parent Edition

Written on July 1, 2014 at 7:30 am , by

Do you know any parents who love teaching their kids to drive? Me neither. Now that my husband and I are at our official halfway point—midway through our third teen’s permit—I’ve finally reached a point of peace with it.

With the first new driver, I thought I’d be the cool, laid-back stepmom who wouldn’t stress out or raise her voice. This was before I fully grasped that the things that exasperate you about your kids around the house will exponentially exasperate you when they’re behind the wheel, because now those annoyances are dangerous and expensive.

You put your reasonably intelligent teens in the driver’s seat and it’s as if aliens have abducted them and left poorly functioning drones in their place. The girl who speaks fluent French gets the brake and gas pedals mixed up. The boy who does complex logarithmic equations in his head fails to notice when the car in front of him brakes. The volleyball star who anticipates the moves of every member of the opposing team can’t anticipate a single move by another driver.

Yet even when they lull you into a false sense of security by pretending to ignore you, it turns out your kids are always watching you.

At a four-way stop, our second teen driver stopped smoothly and took her turn in order.

 “How was that?” she asked.

 “Perfect!” I said.

 “You have the best stops out of everyone,” she explained. “You let up on the brake a little before you come to a complete stop, and then it doesn’t jerk at the end.”

That’s a habit I developed in my 20s, back when I smoked and drank coffee from an open mug while driving (stopping like that keeps the coffee from spilling). I didn’t mention this.

When the third kid got her permit, I looked back on previous experiences and accepted a few things that have made it easier:

1. The car’s going to get dinked up.

The first teen jumped the curb in our driveway, ripping off the entire undercarriage covering while her father and I watched. She then proceeded to tell us how it wasn’t her fault. The second one ignored, for three days, the fact that the car had been bombed by a pack of wild turkeys. When we demanded she wash the car, she used a steel wool pad. She’s hit the retaining wall so much that the bumper looks like it was attacked with an industrial cheese grater.

We’re in no rush to get nicer cars.

2. I will accomplish nothing by holding my Jesus handle and pressing my imaginary brake pedal.

It is far more effective to calmly point out facts:

You should brake now.
Accelerate, or you’ll get run over.
You missed the exit.

3. I will accomplish nothing good by imagining worst-case scenarios.

Instead, I bring myself back to the present moment by calmly asking questions:

What’s the speed limit here?
Are you trying to crawl up that guy’s tailpipe?

4. I will raise my voice at some point.

It’s okay to yell when they do something truly dangerous. They’re new enough to the whole driving thing that they may not understand immediate danger. Parental anger usually gets their attention.

On a recent drive, the third teen did beautifully and didn’t make a single error. But as we approached our driveway, she didn’t slow down. Before I could speak, she turned, too fast and not enough. The noise was loud and jarring. I couldn’t tell whether she hit the retaining wall or the power line pole. I tried to be angry—I pulled out the old standby, “What were you thinking!?!” but it felt as if I were playing a part. She knows what she did and she’s unlikely to make that same error again. Fortunately, she only hit the retaining wall.

Inspecting the damage, I realized I couldn’t tell new scratches from old ones, and laughed. Accepting that these things happen—and being desensitized by two previous drivers—made it suddenly funny to me.

But I didn’t laugh half as much as I’m going to when the fifth one finally gets his license and I don’t have to teach any more teens how to drive.

 

JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand, and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.

Parent Shaming: Should We Criticize Will and Jada Smith for Their Parenting Skills?

Written on May 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm , by

 

Here we go with the latest episode of Celebrity Family Antics…

Over the past few years, the unconventional parenting choices of Hollywood power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have been under a microscope: their decision to let their children Jaden and Willow “self-govern,” allowing a then 12-year-old Willow to shave her head, permitting Jaden to unleash his views about the “evils” of education on Twitter, and their general belief in a no-punishment-zone for their teens.

However, when their latest drama, an Instagram photograph featuring 13-year-old Willow languishing on a bed with shirtless 20-year-old actor and family friend Moises Arias blew up on social media, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services took notice. They have launched an investigation on the Smith family.

Have you seen the photograph? I like to think of myself as a very open-minded person, and an open-minded parent. I lean toward a live-and-let-live philosophy, and it takes quite a bit to ruffle my feathers about other people’s choice. But I have to admit, that image did indeed ruffle them; it just didn’t look right, no matter which way I flipped it. I am not a prude, nor do I think I have a particularly dirty mind, but I tried to envision a scenario in which I would feel comfortable seeing my 14-year-old on a bed, draped at the feet of a half-naked young man, even a good friend of the family’s, and I really couldn’t.

Apparently, the couple has no issue with the photo; Pinkett-Smith has lashed out, saying that the image is not sexual in nature, and she has accused the media of acting like a bunch of pedophiles. I can’t image the authorities removing those kids from the house, but a thorough investigation is happening. I’m not sure if the situation merits such close attention. Although I am not  fully comfortable with what I saw, there is chance that a photo is a photo. Willow just hanging out with a family friend. I queried my kids for a reality check. My 21-year-old son, who tends to be the more conservative of the two, did not like what he saw, and even my 14-year-old, who didn’t immediately think it was wrong, understood how it would upset people.

I think all the uproar has, in part, to do with the fact that for so long the Smiths were seen as a golden couple who could do no wrong. Glimpses of their kids acting out a bit in the past few years have made them more human, and put a little chink in their dazzling armor. Who wants that kind of scrutiny?

Parenting is the great equalizer: You will be judged whether you live in a trailer or a mansion. I would never pretend to tell others how to raise their children, because I certainly don’t want to be told how to raise mine. As parents we all make choices that are seen, at one time or another, as unsatisfactory to other parents. For the record, I am not “parent-shaming” the Smiths, but I am scratching my head and having a bit of a what-the-heck moment with this latest conflama.

What are your feelings about it? Do you even care? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

One of these days, Alice—pow! Straight to the moon!

Written on May 22, 2014 at 4:17 pm , by

“One of these days, Alice—pow! Straight to the moon!”

I know, I know, the Jackie Gleason line dates me, but it kept running through my head last weekend when my 13-year-old and I were lucky enough to be invited on a two-day tour of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In a word, spectacular. We saw the launchpads and the ginormous vehicle assembly building. We witnessed an actual launch (unmanned), met and dined with astronauts (really nice guys), and peppered them with questions. (Nat’s comment afterward: “I will never forget this!”) We clambered through a model of the International Space Station, saw the Atlantis shuttle with its charred, atmosphere-reentry scars, and experienced the face-stretching g-force of the orbiter rocketing into space. We saw an amazing iMax movie about the last-ditch attempt to repair the Hubble telescope, with actual footage of space walks, and the impossibly awesome photos it captured of distant galaxies, mist-shrouded nebulae and dying stars. At times it was so moving I cried.

Plus we took an airboat ride along the St. John River with an outfit called Midway and saw gators up close! 

If you can get down to Orlando, don’t just head for Disney World and Universal Studios (though Nat was disappointed we didn’t have time to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). Take a detour to Florida’s Space Coast and give your teen the best STEM lesson ever. My girl now wants to be an astronaut. One of these days, Nat…

Sex 102: 5 Questions to Consider Asking Your Older Teen

Written on May 6, 2014 at 11:12 am , by

You might think there’s nothing you can tell an 18- or 19-year-old about sex—well, nothing that they’ll actually listen to. But that’s not the case. “More and more studies say parents do have influence over their teens in terms of delaying sex and using protection when they have sex,” encourages Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. And with 11% of 18- and 19-year-old girls becoming pregnant in 2009 (the year with the most recent data available), sex talks are critical. “As high school comes to an end and transitions to adulthood begin, it’s important to have conversations with teenagers about both birth control and condoms so they can protect themselves against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease,” says Kantor. Try these opening lines that go way beyond the birds and the bees.

“How do you feel about LARCs?”
If talking about birth control is on the table, be sure to bring up all forms that are available to teens. LARCs—Long-Acting Reversible Contraception—include options like the IUD and Implanon, and they mean your teen doesn’t have to remember to take a pill daily for pregnancy prevention. “Not all parents know there are really highly effective methods of birth control out there that are appropriate for teens, like the IUD and the implant,” explains Kantor. “New studies show they’re extremely protective.” Not only is this a good conversation starter for you and your kid, but it’s one he can spark with his partner and she can begin with her ob/gyn as well.

“Are you comfortable talking to Dr. Williams?”
“I’ve heard from young people that they’ll lie to a doctor if that doctor is being judgmental,” reveals Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. If your teen doesn’t have a good relationship with their doctor, it’s time to repair it or find a new person they can relate to and won’t be embarrassed to go to for help. Allowing younger teens a few minutes alone with their MD—instead of monitoring the whole appointment—helps build that relationship.

“So where exactly is the campus health clinic?”
If your kid’s in college, waiting until Thanksgiving or spring break to see a doctor at home isn’t always the best idea. If they need faster care or have pressing questions, they should know where to find answers at school. Again, being at ease speaking with an MD is critical. “It’s not just knowing where the campus health services are, but helping to give your kids a confidence booster to handle themselves in a clinic setting too,” explains Nightingale.

“How do you know if someone wants to have sex with you?”
Chances are they’ll be conjuring up images of a movie scene while you’re about to drive home a much more real message about consent. “I think giving consent is something young people are not getting enough information about in their school sex education programs,” says Kantor. “We have to help young people understand that if someone is drunk or high they can’t consent to have sex in a number of states. The absence of no doesn’t mean yes.”

“Do you think you’ll want to stay in our hometown after graduation?”
This isn’t about your desire to turn their bedroom into a crafting corner. It’s about getting them to imagine their future, like with this app. “What profession are they interested in? Where do they want to live? Really considering these things makes them think about how becoming a parent as a teen would get in the way of that,” explains Kantor. “When teenagers are ambivalent about pregnancy, they’re more likely to take risks. So just getting young people to think, Is this something I’d want? gets them to delay sex and use birth control.”

One last, critical message that experts want to drive home with teens: “You can always say no to sex—even if you have said yes before,” explains Nightingale. “That’s really important for young people to know.”

Lynya Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine. Read more of her posts here.

Have you taken the “sex talk” to the next level with your older teen? What messages were important for you to share? Post a comment and tell us.

Fool Me Once…

Written on March 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm , by

By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom

It’s that time of year again, when I peruse the Internet for ideas for April Fools’ Day pranks I can play on the kids that won’t require either a trip to the emergency room or some intervention from the authorities.

You get a glimpse into the deep psyche of the prank-posters when you do this. They reveal a great deal about their daily routines, how they keep house and how they raise children. I feel like I’m creeping through their bushes and peeking in their windows at dinnertime.

Gretchen Rubin’s Facebook page is great for prank ideas. If you don’t know her, you should definitely check out this author of The Happiness Project. I do love her, even though her suggestions and those of her like-minded fans (read: more organized than merely being able to consistently leave the house wearing pants) are for a seemingly different species of mom than I am. I find a ton of great ideas that simply won’t work in my house.

Dye the milk green. My kids would reach for that gallon in the fridge, notice that it was green, and walk away without realizing it was a prank, or thinking to tell an adult there was something wrong with the milk. Someone finally revealed that you have to have a cardboard carton for the element of surprise, i.e., something smaller than a gallon. The only reason we don’t buy milk in containers larger than a gallon is because it only comes in Cow after that, and I’m not going there.

Glue their toilet paper together.
 They regularly are without toilet paper for days at a time in their bathroom before telling me. I do not know what they use instead. I refuse to go in that room.

Put towels in the sleeves of the jackets so they can’t get their hands through. I could pull this off if I knew which sweatshirt of their dad’s they would swipe that morning when forced to wear a jacket, and if I could use dirty towels. I can never find a clean hand towel, but I know exactly where 17 used-only-once hand towels are: on their bathroom counter. I dearly hope the hand towels are not related to my previous observations regarding toilet paper.

Fold the top sheet of their bed in two and put the cover on as usual. They will not be able to get into bed. This implies that we make the beds and that they have both a sheet and a cover of some sort.

Crumble a biscuit into their bed. Wouldn’t notice (see above).

Mix up all their morning ritual stuff: toothbrush in the shower, shampoo where the blow-dryer belongs, etc. This assumes that these items actually have a place that they are regularly returned to. In my house, this will likely lead to the blow-dryer going in the shower and electrocuting somebody.

Superglue coins to the sidewalk.
 This could work if my sidewalk were made of wood, and the kids hadn’t stolen all my change and let the dog eat the superglue.

Wake the kids up 45 minutes early and tell them the time changed again and they’re late. Did I mention I work nights?

Tell your kids the lawn mower is broken and the homeowners’ association is about to fine you and you need them to cut the lawn. Give them each a pair of scissors and a ruler and tell them to cut it to an inch and a half. Let them go for about 5 minutes before you call out “April Fools!” The woman who submitted this is my hero. Her little boys were quite enthusiastic about the task and her daughter was mortified that her friends would see her. Unfortunately, my “lawn” is so small you actually could cut it with a pair of scissors, in about 10 minutes. To pull this off, I would first have to find one of our six pairs of Magically Vanishing scissors. I would then set the kids on task, pour myself a cup of tea and, due to the peace and quiet, completely forget I was in the middle of an April Fools’ prank. They would be done cutting the lawn before I finished my tea. Also, we don’t have a homeowners’ association, which is truly for the best. If we did, they would have mandated martial law on our property by now.

What are your best April Fools’ pranks?

 

JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand, and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.

 

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.

Parenting Q&A: “My Daughter Looks Too Sexy in Facebook Photos!”

Written on October 16, 2012 at 10:58 am , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. My sweet 14-year-old looks too sexy in her Facebook photo. How can I get her to take it down?

A. I’m going to assume it’s just slightly too sexy and not a provocative pic where it looks like she’s topless in front of a stripper bar. Start by presenting information to your daughter from a third party, like a movie or book. I’d recommend watching the documentary Miss Representation with her. (You could even host a screening party with other parents and girls so you can discuss it as a group afterward.) You want your daughter to understand the pressures girls face to present themselves in highly sexual ways and what the consequences are for her self-esteem. A few days after the movie, ask her to think about her FB profile picture and putting another in its place. Yes, you can tell her that she must change it or she doesn’t get Facebook, but if you only do that, then you’re missing the larger point: having your daughter develop a sense of how she wants to appear to the world.

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.

The Sex Talk and Your Teen: What’s Porn Got To Do With It?

Written on October 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman offers advice on having “the sex talk” with kids for Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month.

Pornography: It’s the reason kids are uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex.

That’s what immediately came to mind when I read the Planned Parenthood and Family Circle survey finding that while half of all parents are comfortable having the sex talk with their kids, only 18% of teens said they feel very comfortable having the sex talk with their parents.

I thought this because I regularly talk to tweens and teens. I know how common it is for them to have questions about sex, so they type “kissing” into YouTube and a few seconds later they’ve clicked onto a porn site. I know that boys regularly show each other favorite porn sites—like their dads did with Playboys and Penthouses a generation ago.

According to Family Safe Media, the average age at which children are first exposed to pornography is 11—earlier than most parents think they need to talk to their kids about sexual decision making. Ninety percent of kids between 8 and 16 have seen pornography, usually while doing their homework.

Before you think, “Where are the parents?” or “Why don’t those parents have filtering devices on their computers?” realize that both questions are irrelevant. Kids have regular access to devices that allow them to research and share topics they’re curious about. And sex has always been and always will be a topic kids are curious about.

If you’re a parent and don’t know any of this, you’re going to approach the sex conversation from an entirely different context than your child. Imagine: You get over your discomfort and sit down with your child to impart your deeply held values about healthy sexual decisions—without keeping in mind that there’s a good possibility they’ve seen graphic, up-close sexual intercourse and oral sex.

Of course kids don’t want to tell us they’ve seen these images. What are they supposed to say? If they admit what they’ve seen, you’re probably going to respond by asking in a very intense, accusatory tone, “Who showed you those? Where were you? What exactly did you see?” They don’t want to have that conversation with you. Plus, they think if they tell you, you’ll react by taking away their phones or computers.

You can have all the filters on your computer you want, block the TV and take away their phones—it won’t matter. You can’t take away every portal to the Internet in your child’s life.

This is what I say: ”I know that if you want to see those pictures, you’re going to figure out how to do it. I could take away every computer in the house and every phone and it wouldn’t make a difference. Here’s why I don’t want you to watch porn. It brings you into a really complicated world where you’re being exposed to really messed-up images and messages about how men and women interact sexually. It’s also all fake. It’s a performance where women are supposed to look a certain way and always like whatever the guy wants to do and the guy never cares about the woman he’s with. I think you deserve to have more accurate information than what you’d see there. But you do have the right to have information about sex in a way that’s accurate and appropriate for you. If you have questions about sex, I want you to ask me or another adult who we both think is a good person to answer your questions.”

As a mom, it upsets me that I have to raise my children in a world where pornography is readily accessible to them. As a teacher, it upsets me that porn is giving our girls and boys unrealistic and often very unhealthy messages about sexuality that will influence them to some degree. But as upsetting as it is, we have to face what our world is like and respond in an informed way. If we don’t, we can’t be relevant in our children’s lives when they need our guidance the most.

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

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.

Q&A: “I’m a 12-Year-Old Girl Who Doesn’t Like Her New School”

Written on October 9, 2012 at 10:50 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. I’m a 12-year-old girl who doesn’t like her new school. People aren’t open to helping me, there are so few kids to make friends with and I’m getting frustrated. Is there a way to make things better?

A. That’s terrible! You’d hope everyone would realize how hard it is for you as a new kid. It’s time to take matters into your own hands. First, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you can make one or two friends by spring break, I’d consider that a win. It’s possible the kids in your class have grown up together and that can be really intimidating, but the work you do as a team will give you opportunities to strengthen bonds. Are there any group projects coming up? Things you’re interested in at school that other kids are into as well? If so, invite a group over to your house to work or hang together. Friendships will develop from there.

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.

Important New Book “Bully: An Action Plan”

Written on October 4, 2012 at 10:07 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

A year ago AC360’s town hall special Bullying: It Stops Here premiered. Several experts (myself included) and wonderful, brave children participated that day, and we showed clips of Bully, an extraordinary documentary profiling five young people who had been bullied. Working on that special and supporting the movie have been heartfelt projects for me, and I’ve watched with real pride how both have done an outstanding job of bringing attention to this problem.

I remember when I first saw the movie. I was so surprised, saddened and in some ways relieved that Lee Hirsch had captured on film what I unfortunately see too often: desperate kids, well-meaning adults who don’t know what to do, and parents who are torn between frustration—sometimes at their own children for being silent targets—and helpless fury at school administrators who do nothing, at best.

It’s a painful movie with no happy ending. There are no talking heads offering helpful strategies. For these understandable reasons, many people who saw the movie and would have liked to show it to their kids wanted more resources to pick up where the movie leaves off. That need has been answered: The creators of Bully recently published Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis.

The book takes over where the movie ends. Interwoven with the stories of the children in the movie is advice from experts on how to recognize when your child is being bullied and what we can say as parents and educators. Particularly moving to me are the words of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “Bully probably has been something of a reality check for many classroom teachers. Some teachers who see the film find themselves wondering if they’ve missed bullying in their classrooms and hallways: Have kids suffered because they didn’t notice? Is this behavior happening in their school? The fact that those questions are being asked and that educators are having ongoing conversations about the answers is another example of how the power of this documentary extends far beyond the individual stories it tells.”

In addition, experts such as Dr. Robyn Silverman, Peter Sharas and Michele Borba (as well as yours truly) offer commonsense ways for parents and educators to reach out to kids who are targets, bystanders and aggressors.

Our efforts are making a difference. Just watch this local news anchor passionately articulate her experience of being bullied by a viewer for being overweight. She’s a great example of how each one of us can transform a painful personal experience into a powerful opportunity for leadership. She and others like her are the kind of adults kids need to see more of.

Read our other posts about “Bully.”

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.

Parenting Q&A: “I Can’t Afford to Give My Kids Everything. Will They Suffer Emotionally?”

Written on October 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. How do you keep your family happy? And by “happy,” I mean comfortable without cost. Times are tough now, but I don’t want my kids to suffer emotionally because I can’t afford to give them everything.

A. Although life can be horribly stressful when money is tight, it’s so clear to me from my work around the country that having a lot of cash is no guarantee of a child’s contentment or a family’s harmony. So I’d like you to consider redefining happiness as striving for these four things in life: curiosity, hope of success in something you feel good about, being a part of something beyond yourself, and feeling connected to your loved ones and your community. I’ve found that’s where true joy lies for adults and kids. And if your children still complain about not getting the latest iPhone, have an honest conversation with them that includes a look at the family budget. When you do this calmly, your kids are more likely to accept (and appreciate) why their entire Christmas list isn’t going to end up under the tree next month.

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.