* Helping Teens Make Responsible Choices

By Kelli Chambers, MSW, Courier & Press, June 27, 2017 –

The teenage years can be some of the best, and hardest, years in a person’s life.  During this stage of life, teenagers are often faced with difficult situations and struggle to make healthy and safe choices.

It can be challenging (and even scary) for parents to protect their teen from potentially harmful situations.  There are some basic guidelines to follow, however, to assist your child in the decision-making process.

As your child gets older, parenting becomes less about control and more about offering guidance.  According to parenting guidelines on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s website (pamf.org), the more controlling parents are, the more rebellious teens tend to become.

Providing a solid foundation of trust and love allows for an open dialogue of sharing experiences and values while spending time together.  It is important to remember it is normal for teens to challenge their parents’ values, beliefs, and practices.  This is an exploratory time for teenagers to develop their own autonomy.

Here are some quick tips to help parents convey their support while allowing the teen to make their own decisions:

  • Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation in their own words.
  • Talk with your teen about choices.
  • Help your teen identify and compare the possible consequences of all of the available choices.
  • Allow your teen to make decisions and carry them out.
  • Later, ask your teen how things worked out.

Helping build your teen’s self-esteem and self-respect can positively influence their decision-making process. Parents can help by:

  • Allowing the teen to voice their personal opinions
  • Involving the teen in decisions that may affect the entire family
  • Listening to his or her opinions and feelings
  • Helping the teen set realistic goals
  • Showing faith in his or her ability to reach those goals
  • Giving the teen unconditional love and demonstrating it
  • Being supportive, even when he or she makes mistakes
  • Being open and understanding whenever your teen needs to talk to someone

Teens need reinforcement from important adults in their lives.  This applies to the good decisions being made, too.  It helps teens feel they are on the right path.

It is easy to focus on bad decisions being made, but both good and bad decisions need to be discussed.  The best prevention tool is to start early with an open and honest dialogue.

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” – Ann Landers

* Life Skills Every Child Needs

By Christine Weinzapfel-Hayden, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 20, 2017 –

Many of us remember that when we graduated from high school we were not truly prepared for “real life” outside the classroom.  Sure, we probably learned basic history, math and English skills, but we may not have mastered some of the other concepts we needed to be successful in life.

Summer is a great time to work with your child on some of these essential life skills.  Successfulstudent.org provides a list of important basics to teach our children:

  • Saving: We need to spend less than we earn.  Teach your child at an early age to put part of the money received or earned in the bank.  Help your child set a savings goal, work toward their goal and then make the purchase of the saved-for item.
  • Budgeting: Teach your child the simple skills involved with establishing and following a budget.  Practicing this concept early on will make budgeting easier when they are an adult.
  • Charity: Encourage your child to give to charity – money, time and talents — as they are able.
  • Critical Thinking: Introduce critical thinking, the objective analysis and evaluation of a situation or issue in order to form a judgment.  Teach your child ways to look up information if they have a question that requires a thought-out answer or opinion.
  • Positive Thinking: It is important to have a positive outlook on life.  By helping your child find solutions instead of just registering complaints, they will learn to believe in themselves and block out negative self-talk and thinking.
  • Motivation: Teach your child that motivation is the key to reaching a goal.  Help them learn different strategies for self-motivation.
  • Compassion: Help your child put themselves in the shoes of someone else.  Help them understand and find ways to ease others’ suffering.
  • Listening: Children need to learn to listen attentively and respectfully, understand what is being said and empathize with others.
  • Basic Auto Mechanics: Both boys and girls need to know the basics of how a car works, what might break down and how it can be fixed (how to pump gas, check the oil, change a flat tire, etc.).
  • Household: When you are fixing things around the house, explain the process to your child.  Basic understanding of home repairs and maintenance can prepare your child for living on their own.
  • Cleaning: Teach your child how to do laundry, clean a house properly and keep living quarters clean and uncluttered.  Show them how to set up a weekly and monthly cleaning routine.  Instead of just telling them what needs to be done, teach them the process and then encourage them to do it on their own.
  • Be present: Live in the present and enjoy life.  Develop a close relationship with your child and model appropriate relationships with your spouse, family members and friends.  Teach them the skills for developing these types of close relationships and the importance of working through the bumpy parts as well.

Through modeling, teaching and being present with your child you are helping them prepare for the classroom outside of school – life!

* Teach Tolerance to Combat Bullying

By Joan Carie, LCSW, LCAC, Courier & Press, June 6, 2017 –

It is not uncommon these days to hear stories about bullying in schools.  Most schools have a zero tolerance policy for bully behaviors.  When addressing the problem of school bullying, it may be helpful to look deeper into what drives this type of behavior.

A quick look into our history finds that America is known as the great melting pot, encompassing a worldwide blend of cultural traditions and founded on freedoms and tolerance of differences.  If we focus on the positives of this rich diversity, we come to view our differences as opportunities to discover new ideas and values that can enhance our lives.

If, however, we focus on differences from the perspective of no value for cultural diversity and a “my way or the highway” attitude, then we have become narrowly focused; our ability to have tolerance and empathy for differences significantly decreases.  When empathy and tolerance are lacking, we are living in a perfect environment to foster bullying.

These intolerances have serious implications for our youth.  The American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

Children 3-6 are able to stereotype groups of people and can recognize blatant discrimination.  Children 6-10 become increasingly aware of others’ prejudices and can recognize the more subtle forms of discrimination, and by the teens years, these prejudices become internalized to eventually become part of the adult psyche.

Perhaps if we focus on tolerance, loving kindness and compassion in our own lives and live as examples to our children, we can reduce intolerance and bullying in our schools.

Some ways to foster tolerance with our children include:

  1. Teach love first.  Show examples of loving others despite the existence of differences.  Reach out a helping hand to others even if they are different.
  2. Be familiar with and acknowledge the values and biases you have.  It is important to evaluate ourselves in terms of our own beliefs and the differences we struggle with tolerating.
  3. Exposure to differences throughout childhood teaches children they do not have to agree with others in order to respect others.
  4. Allow children to explore other cultures and different viewpoints.  This can teach children an appreciation and respect for others while allowing them the freedom to express their own views and values.
  5. When intolerance rears its ugly head, including through media and social interactions, take the opportunity to challenge it.  We can teach our children to not endorse or participate in jokes that promote stereotyping, belittling or degrading others.

When children are confident and secure with themselves, they don’t feel threatened by differences.  To the contrary, they are comfortable and able to engage with others in spite of the differences that exist.

When looking at the bigger picture, if we can shift our focus to celebrating our differences we may take a huge step toward combating an ever-increasing concern, school bullying.