tweens

When Dads Need Help Understanding Tween Girls

Written on November 3, 2014 at 10:24 am , by

Carpools are supposed to make everyone’s lives easier, but this one ride may have caused more trouble than it was worth. Check out our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman’s correspondence with a mom who was upset by a dad who made her daughter feel like an outsider.

Dear Rosalind,

The father on carpool duty picked up my daughter and his from dance class and then took them to a party my daughter wasn’t invited to. When he dropped his daughter off, the windows opened, everyone saw my girl and she was humiliated. She is rightfully questioning whether this girl is a thoughtful friend, while I’m left wondering how to talk to the parents about this so the same situation doesn’t happen again. It’s hard enough to navigate new friendships and the party circuit without parents undermining your kid.

Signed,
Disappointed by Carpool Dad

 

Hi, Disappointed,

I am not excusing his behavior, but I always try to understand why a parent would do something that’s insensitive to a child. Once I understand it, it’s easier to figure out how to talk to the parent so it doesn’t happen again.

In this case, I am guessing that the dad didn’t have a clue what was going on until it was unfolding. Even if he did, he probably did what a lot of us do in awkward social situations: pretend it’s not happening. Think about it from his perspective. He’s picking up carpool and when he realizes that your daughter isn’t invited, he’s between a rock and a hard place. If he had called you from the car, that would have been worse for your daughter. If he hadn’t put her in his car, he would have had to leave her at practice. So my question to you is: What would you have liked him to do?

And regarding your daughter’s friends who attended the party, unless they’ve been excluding her in other ways, they could have felt awkward about the whole thing too. I totally understand that your daughter felt terrible and left out. However, I think this is one of those times (unless there is a pattern where the girls are being mean to her) when you acknowledge how crappy the situation is but she’s strong enough to feel those bad feelings, admit them and then move on.

Look forward to hearing back from you and I hope at least some of my advice is helpful.

Best,
Rosalind 

 

Dear Rosalind:

Ideally, I would have liked the father to bring my daughter home before dropping off his daughter at the party. We have seven elementary schools that feed into three middle schools, so there are new faces right now, and new friendships forming/shifting. My daughter was upset not to be invited, but not devastated. She didn’t think much of her friend going on and on about the party in the carpool ride. She interpreted that as rudeness and thought her friend should know better. She was most embarrassed by being seen in the car by friends she did know who were already at the party. She hasn’t let it bother her since and has moved on—a good sign.

Anyway, I resolved this with the parents, by text, and I’ll paraphrase.

Me: With that party, last week was rough on my daughter, so just wanted to let you know that it’s not a problem to shoot me a text or call, even last minute, if it’s not convenient to bring her home, or if plans change, it’s easy for me to come down to the dance studio. I know how quickly plans change with tweens on a Friday evening!

Other mom: I’m so sorry about that. I was away when the last minute request came for my daughter to go to the party and I was trying to communicate everything to my husband but was busy and didn’t think about all the implications.

Me: I absolutely know there was no ill intention, just wanted us all on the same page for the carpool to work for all the girls.

 

Now, here’s my bottom line after the back-and-forth with this mom: What I love about this parent is that she’s role modeling appropriate involvement in her tween daughter’s life. She recognizes her daughter was upset but not devastated. She reaches out to the other parent to share her concern but is clear about wanting to move forward for all the girls. The only thing I would like even more is if the dad was involved as well. We need to bring dads into these situations more often, especially when they are directly involved, as this dad was. I get that this can be hard, but I’d like to encourage dads to be involved in the social dynamics that can come up.

How would you handle this carpool conundrum? Post a comment and tell me.

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. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.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.

 

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.

5 Things Every Teen Should Know About Sex

Written on October 2, 2012 at 10:44 am , by

 

 

 

In our November “Sex Talk” feature, we offered up dozens of ways to get that important dialogue going with your kid. Looking for more conversation starters? Try these five  things every teen should know about sex.

1. You’re not the only virgin. Less than half of all high school students have ever engaged in intercourse.

2. It won’t make him/her fall in love with you. Sex and love don’t necessarily go hand in hand. If you’re looking for something to bring you two closer together, consider how you’d feel if it actually pulled you apart.

3. You can get pregnant the first time. Birth control prevents the sperm and egg from meeting up—not how often you have sex.

4. Two condoms are not better than one. Doubling up condoms increases friction and decreases effectiveness. The only 100% effective form of birth control is abstinence.

5. You can tell if someone has an STI. Not always. And remember, not all sexually transmitted infections have cures and many can impact your fertility or overall health.

Sources: CDC.gov, PlannedParenthood.org and KidsHealth.org

What do you wish every teen knew about getting intimate? Post a comment below and tell us!

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

Lyna Floyd is the health director at Family Circle magazine.

How We Embarrass Our Kids, and How to Stop

Written on August 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

I can’t even sneeze without my child wanting to die of embarrassment! I can’t even breathe!

As parents of tweens and teens we tend to marvel and laugh about how embarrassed our children are of us. Okay, you’re allowed to sneeze and breathe however you want. But these aren’t the only ways we mortify our kids. I’ve recently come to the unfortunate conclusion that sometimes when our children are embarrassed of us, they’re right—even though our behavior is based on good intentions or understandable concern.

Let me give you a few examples. Look at them from a kid’s perspective and you’ll get it. And for the record, I’ve been guilty of every one.

 

An adult asks your child a question and you answer for her.

Let me set the scene: Your child is introduced to a new teacher, coach, your boss, who asks, “So what are you interested in?” Instantaneously you’re worried and thinking to yourself, Is he going to shrug his shoulders and mumble? Is he going to say he likes to play Call of Duty? Is she going to say, “What I really like doing is texting my friends?” So before your child can answer, you’re answering for her about her love of robotics club, student council or the team she’s trying out for next week. When your child stands there mute and then gets mad at you, you accuse her of being rude or a moody teen. But when you answer for her, she feels she’s being treated like she doesn’t have the capacity to answer for herself and you aren’t giving her a chance to practice presenting herself to other people.

You introduce your child by his deficits.

Imagine if your kid introduced you by saying, “Here’s my mother, Rosalind. She’s really shy.” Is it any wonder that the 15-year-old boy whose mother recently introduced him to me like this ran into his room? Yes, he might be shy, but it certainly didn’t help for his mom to point it out and increase his self-consciousness.

 

Oversharing.

She never cleans up her room. She’s on that phone texting all the time to her friends. It’s amazing how early puberty starts these days! It’s just so hard raising a teen isn’t it?

 

You shouldn’t be telling random people about your relationship with your child. This includes people in the grocery checkout line, strangers you strike up a conversation with, or even good friends if your son or daughter is around. When you’re having a problem that you really want to talk to another adult about, do it privately—away from your child.

While it’s hard to admit, our kids have the right to be angry and embarrassed if we discuss aspects of their lives that they consider intimate. They don’t want to be put into the box of being the moody teen. They want you to respect their privacy, and that means treating them respectfully in public.

***

If you’re guilty of any of the above, go to your child and say, “I’ve realized that sometimes I talk for you and don’t give you the opportunity to speak for yourself. From now on, I’m going to really try to stop myself. But if I don’t, I want you to say politely, ‘Mom, it’s okay. I’ve got it.’ I promise I’ll stop. And if I overshare, you can politely tell me to stop and I will.”

Yes, your child may not believe you’re capable of changing. He may not be able to resist expressing his doubt. Prove him wrong! I guarantee that your overall relationship will improve significantly. You may even get fewer of those annoying eye rolls and “Mom…you’re so embarrassing” comments.

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.

“I’m a 13-Year Old Girl. Everyone Harasses Me About My Chest Size”

Written on June 13, 2012 at 11:55 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. I am a 13-year-old girl in a difficult situation. I know boys are obsessed with breasts. But even my girlfriends harass me about my chest size and spread rumors that I stuff my bra. Why do kids do this if they know it hurts so much?

A. Unfortunately, you’re on the receiving end of everyone else’s body-image insecurities. For the boys you represent sexuality, and they’re confused and terrified of the power you have over them. As for the girls, our culture says they need big breasts to be beautiful, so they’re probably comparing themselves to you and resenting the attention you’re getting—even if you don’t like it. You must ask your friends to be your allies. Say, “I need you to believe me that comments about my chest make me feel really self-conscious. Please back me up when people say mean things to me.” To the boys say, “Look at my eyes when you’re talking to me. Yes, I have breasts. All women do. Deal with it.”

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.

“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.

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.