* Fostering Responsibility and Independence in Your Teen

By Valorie Dassel, Courier & Press, Feb. 13, 2018 –

Being a parent is often described as the greatest joy of one’s life.  It is amazing that an experience that is often described so fondly is also characterized by most parents as the greatest challenge they have ever faced.

A wide set of emotions can be experienced on this journey, particularly during the pre-teen and teen years.  Families are often extremely busy, which can result in many emotional reactions from parents as well as teens.

If we can relate to the developmental challenges our children are experiencing, it may help us to respond in a manner that results in the least resistance and greatest gain.

There are many physical, emotional and mental changes teenagers are experiencing.  Most teens are at the developmental stage of approaching individualization.

The beliefs, values, and subsequently the choices of most pre-teens are primarily based on what their parents have taught and modeled.  As our children approach the teen years, they begin the process to become their own person with their own set of values and belief systems.

During this process parents may interpret the teen’s behavior as rebellious and disobedient.  Decision-making skills are the last skills mastered during the development of the teen brain.  As teens seek independence, they often experience conflict between wanting to have a good time and their desire to be taken seriously.

Independence for teenagers can be translated to finding ways to “belong” outside of the family.  Research indicates that parents have the most influence over their child’s decisions.  Their peers often take a close second.

Social media creates greater access and a closer bond with peers.  Now more than ever, parents should facilitate this independence while maintaining a healthy relationship.

Independence and responsibility must occur in harmony; otherwise the teen may feel out of control and act accordingly. Parents must allow consequences and use discipline when necessary to help teenagers make better decisions.

For many parents this transition can be difficult; allowing your child to fail is tough. The old adage “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child” can ring very true while we allow them to experience the pain that can go along with poor decisions.

It may also feel as though you are losing your close relationship with our children as they nurture their friendships more than familial relationships. With work and dedication, most parents find maintaining good communication and providing rules that strike a balance in time spent with friends and family often results in healthy and enjoyable relationships.

Dinkmeyer & Dinkmeyer provide good guidelines for parents to follow when deciding whether or not to get involved in a problem their teen is experiencing.  In their book, Parenting Teenagers, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens, they discuss the importance of deciding who actually owns the problem before forcing parental involvement. The following questions are encouraged to be explored:

  1. Can anyone get hurt?
  2. Are any rights being disrespected?
  3. Is anyone’s property threatened?
  4. Is my teen unable to take this responsibility?

If any of these questions are answered with a “yes,” then both the parent and the teen own the problem.  Joined problem solving and parental monitoring should be in place.

If each question has a response of “no,” the teen would own the problem and be allowed the independence to make a decision regardless of a potentially natural consequence occurring.

Raising a teenager can feel stressful and chaotic.  It is important to schedule time to enjoy each other without conversation over tense subjects.  Remember -they will quickly pass through the teen years and potentially raise a teen of their own someday!

* Life Lessons Learned From Organized Sports

By Ashley Hale, January 23, 2018 –

I am a big believer that taking part in organized activities can instill principles and life lessons that kids will utilize in their teen years and beyond.

Most of my childhood memories revolve around sports.  From ages 5-18 sports were such a huge part of my life.  I loved competing.

At age 15 a huge curveball was thrown, curtailing my sports career.  I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and was told I had to stop participating in everything but basketball.

I pushed through basketball for another 2 years until I had to stop because my body was giving out.  Saying I was devastated is an understatement.  I knew playing sports was very important to me, but I never realized just how important until the opportunity to play was taken away.

It took two whole weeks to gather myself enough to sit down with my coaches and deliver the news.  I was sure I would walk out of the room totally devastated, but to my surprise I didn’t.

I still remember the exact words my coach said:  “Ashley I’ve watched you give 150 percent since all of this started.  It kills me that you can’t play anymore, but you know the game so well and we’d love for you to stay with us to be another eye and help with coaching and stats.”  I was speechless.

That changed my perspective completely.  I immediately realized that just because things don’t exactly go our way doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it.  There are so many valuable lessons I learned about life and about myself that I gained from participating in organized activities.

  • The value of hard work – I had to work hard to achieve my goals and reach my potential. You can’t snap your fingers and be the person you want to be.  You have to set goals, put in effort, and be consistent.
  • Teamwork – For a team to be successful we had to work together. If a piece of the puzzle was missing, things were out of whack.  We had to figure out how to make them fit together to reach our common goals.  What may be out of reach for one individual can often be accomplished through teamwork.
  • Discipline equals success – It’s a lesson you learn quickly in organized sports; you get out what you put in. If you want the joy of victory you must put in what it takes to improve and excel.
  • Overcoming adversity – Life sometimes isn’t fair and obstacles arise. Through organized sports I learned to sit back, review a situation, make appropriate changes and try again.  The feeling of accomplishment after a setback provides the same high as the adrenaline rush right before a jump ball in a basketball game.

The greatest thing I learned is that although sometimes we lose the things we love most, with support and determination we can make it through. Medical issues took me out of the game but they didn’t take me out of the amazing friendships, bonds, and lessons years of participating in organized activities gave me.

In fact, if it wasn’t for key influences from coaches, teammates, my parents and friends, I know I would have had a much larger mountain to climb.