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4 ways being playful with teens can give them a confidence boost

*508dc2a7882d9upside_down_large_mediumRecently, I was running down the stairs “throwing” Harry Potter-esque spells, building a fort out of plastic cups, battling zombies, and collapsing in a fit of laughter on the trampoline. Why does this matter? Because, it was a complete boost to my kids’ confidence (plus it was so much fun!)

By nature, we are born to play; it’s instinctual. And, play is incredibly important to adolescents. It helps them thrive by connecting their ideas, feelings and creativity, to what he or she understands about the world. It helps to further develop their sense of well-being and identity. Play can also help develop a sense of command over their responses to tragedies, setbacks and obstacles. Additionally, it can calm and relax while simultaneously stimulating the brain and body. It helps adolescents become more inventive, smart, happy, flexible, and resilient. It is fundamental to physical, emotional and social growth. 

So, how can you make sure your tween-to-teen get the most out of playtime?

Make playtime YOUR priority. Playtime isn’t just for kids; it is just as important for you to play. Just as getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising is important to physical and mental health, so is play. As parents, it becomes easy to take playtime for granted when we have an endless task list of laundry, meal prep, sports, shopping, chauffeuring, working and more. However play is the time when a majority of parents say they feel most alive, and kids feel more connected to their parents.  So, eschew the laundry and play hoops with your kids.

Forget what others think.   It’s easy to worry about what others may think if you are getting silly or goofy with your kids. Stop.  Your kids love seeing you act like kids. When you let loose and act goofy, your tween-to-teens will see a side of you that gets them excited, but also encourages them to engage and connect.

Let your tween-to-teen choose. Let your child choose activities that interest him. Yes, you can suggest new things or present new options, but give him permission to be in charge. Adolescents spend their days being told “do this,” and “don’t do this.” Their lives are often busting at the seams with schedules, homework, rules, decisions, work and more leaving them few opportunities to flex their voice and their independence muscle.

Surround your family with playful people. Selecting friends who are playful provides more opportunities for both you and your tween-to-teen to connect, to alleviate stress, to laugh and just enjoy life. If your adolescent is feeling a little resistant to hanging out with playful people, have a friend with young children.  Playing with little ones offers new perspective and can help your own child re-experience the magic of play.

The attention you show your teen when you play together is key to building his self-esteem. Whether you are digging in the mud, playing a video game or just singing a few goofy songs, you are showing your child that you accept and value him.  Stuart Brown, author of Play, said it best when he stated that “Play is the purest expression of love.” And, that is the ultimate boost to anyone’s confidence.


The One Thing You Can Do to Get Closer to Your Family

feel closerIn today’s fast-paced, hectic often unpredictable world, I am often comforted with the relationship I have with my family  I feel like I know them inside and out. My son is fascinated by molecules and megabytes. My sister’s middle name is Suzanne. My dad’s is left-handed. Or is he? My mom’s favorite hobby is – hmmm, I guess I don’t know that either. My 11-year-old still wants to be a singer, I think. My 13-year-old’s least favorite food is lasagna. At least it was last week, when she refused to eat dinner. Maybe I don’t know my family as well as I thought. What about you? How well do you know your family?

Families share the same genes, and, if you have tween-to-teens, sometimes jeans too. We hug, and we fight. We squabble, and we make-up. We cry, and we celebrate. But do we talk? Unfortunately, no. Most people don’t know who their mom’s first boyfriend was or where their dad held his first job. Asking a sibling what it was like to learn to drive a car, or checking in with your son to see if he still loves bubblegum ice cream is pushed to the wayside. Most people know more about Hollywood celebrities than about their family.

Why is that? For many, year after year, the time with your family seems effortless. You see them daily, and feel very familiar with who they are, right? Wrong. That feeling of familiarity is often mistaken for authentic connections and knowledge. More often than not, more effort is spent on avoiding deeper discussions and just scratching the surface of getting to really know one another. We discuss the budding bed of petunias with Aunt Mary and the new set of cookware with Grandma. We may debate about what color to paint the living room or about what the best television show is this season. The list goes on and on. These are topics describe our day-to-day but not ones that lay the foundations families need.

So, how do you get to know your family? How do you gain that intimacy? Basically, how do you “meet” your family? 

It all starts with one thing: a question – actually a lot of questions, meaningful questions about life, love, sadness and more. Ask your grandmother about her first love. Query your daughter about her favorable childhood memory. Check in with your daughter to find out what she thinks she will be doing in five years. (For more ideas, check out this list of 225 conversation starters.)

After you ask the questions, listen. Suspend judgement or criticism, and just listen. Let the words paint a picture of hope, of sadness, of love, and of family. Don’t wait until you have everyone together. Start connecting today through emails, Skype, phone calls, letters – even text messaging. Get reacquainted with the people who spend each day with, those who raised you and those you are raising. By just the simple act of asking, you are connecting and creating that much needed foundation that families need. Most importantly, taking the time to ask a question says, “you matter.”

You really do matter,


If you liked this post, join me on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 10A (Mtn) for a *free* webinar on all things tween-to-teen. Reserve your spot here


Can We Talk? 225 Conversation Ideas to Get Tween-to-Teens Talking

“Help! My son (or daughter) never talks to me.”  


speech-bubble-quote-background225This question, or some variation of it, is one of the most frequent complaints I receive from parents of tween-to-teens.  This is often followed by, “My kid never listens to me!” The truth is that most adolescents don’t talk or seem like they are listening. Why? Often, they aren’t being spoken to; rather, they are nagged, disciplined, instructed. Rarely do they feel like anyone is speaking or listening to them. If kids don’t feel they can talk to you about little things, they will never come to you with the big stuff.

Carve out moments throughout the week to have open, comfortable, even silly conversations with your child. Not only will it help foster better communication in your relationship, it will help your child develop greater confidence and self-esteem.

Here are 225 conversation ideas (in no particular order) to get you started. If you have one you’d like to share, please add it to the comments.

  1. What is your favorite / least favorite word? Why?
  2. When did you last lose your temper?
  3. What’s your favorite birthday memory?
  4. How important is a birthday celebration to you?
  5. What’s your favorite way to celebrate a win?
  6. What are you most grateful for?
  7. If you were on a deserted island what 3 things would you take?
  8. Do you remember your dreams?
  9. What was your most recent dream about?
  10. Who do you most respect? Why?
  11. Do you think respect should be earned?
  12. How can someone earn respect?
  13. What are you looking forward to this school year?
  14. What’s your favorite way to unwind
  15. What’s your all time favorite dessert? 
  16. Who is your favorite YouTuber?
  17. What’s your favorite social media platform? Why?
  18. What videos have you been watching non-stop lately? 
  19. What do you want to make happen over the next year? Month? Year?
  20. What frustrates you most?
  21. Where’s your dream travel destination?
  22. What’s your favorite season or holiday? What do you love about it?
  23. How does your ideal day begin?
  24. What makes you happy?
  25. What was/is your favorite class in school? 
  26. What’s your favorite quote?
  27. What book have you read more than once? 
  28. What idea excites you?
  29. Who would you most like to ask for a piece of advice from? 
  30. Who is your hero?
  31. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
  32. What is your biggest fear?
  33. What is your favorite family vacation?
  34. What would you change about yourself if you could?
  35. What really makes you angry?
  36. What motivates you to work hard?
  37. What is your favorite thing about your career?
  38. What is your biggest complaint about your job?
  39. What is your proudest accomplishment?
  40. What is your child’s proudest accomplishment?
  41. What is your favorite book to read?
  42. What makes you laugh the most?
  43. What was the last movie you saw?
  44. What did you want to be when you were small?
  45. What does your child want to be when he/she grows up?
  46. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
  47. What is your favorite game or sport to watch? Play?
  48. Would you rather ride a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car?
  49. What would you sing at Karaoke?
  50. If you could only listen to one radio station or one type of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  51. Which chore would you rather do: wash dishes, fold the laundry, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or vacuum the house?
  52. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  53. Who is your favorite author?
  54. If you could go back and repeat one year of your life, which year would it be?
  55. What is something you would like to learn?
  56. Do you feel like you are a good listener?
  57. What is your all-time favorite TV show?
  58. What is something you want to do before you die?
  59. What is on your “bucket list?”
  60. What are the three most important things in your life?
  61. Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with?
  62. What talent would you most like to have?
  63. Nicknames: yay or nay?
  64. What do you worry about?
  65. Do you like or dislike surprises? Why or why not?
  66. Would you rather vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?
  67. Would you rather win the lottery or work at the perfect job? And why?
  68. Who would you want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
  69. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
  70. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
  71. How would your friends describe you?
  72. What is the best gift you have been given?
  73. What is the worst gift you have received?
  74. Aside from food, water, and shelter, what one thing could you not go a day without?
  75. List two pet peeves.
  76. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  77. If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
  78. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  79. What form of public transportation do you prefer? (air, boat, train, bus, car, etc.)
  80. What’s your favorite zoo animal?
  81. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
  82. If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
  83. What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep (and why)?
  84. Would you rather trade intelligence for looks or looks for intelligence?
  85. Have you ever had a secret admirer?
  86. What’s your favorite holiday?
  87. What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
  88. What’s your favorite type of foreign food?
  89. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
  90. What kitchen appliance do you use every day?
  91. What’s your favorite fast food chain?
  92. What’s your favorite family recipe?
  93. What is your favorite thing to eat?
  94. What is one food that you will not eat?
  95. Describe the perfect party.
  96. What is your favorite type of art?
  97. What sport do you think you are the best at?
  98. What was the last book you read?
  99. What’s your favorite magazine? book?
  100. What’s your favorite movie? Actor? Actress?
  101. If you write a book, what would it be about? What would title it?
  102. Which is your favorite song? Singer? Band?
  103. In the evening, would you rather play a game, visit a friend, watch a movie, or read?
  104. What’s one book that you think everyone should read?
  105. Do you want to be famous?
  106. If you could become a character in a TV show or movie, who would you chose to be?
  107. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
  108. If you could be a cartoon character, who would you want to be?
  109. Tell me one. 
  110. What is the one thing that makes you laugh the hardest?
  111. What is your favorite way to exercise? Least favorite?
  112. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
  113. What’s your favorite family tradition?
  114. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  115. Is your glass half full or half empty?
  116. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of love?
  117. What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
  118. What was your favorite subject in school?
  119. Do you collect anything?
  120. Is there anything you wished would come back into fashion?
  121. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  122. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
  123. Have you ever had a surprise party? (that was an actual surprise)
  124. Are you related or distantly related to anyone famous?
  125. Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken?
  126. Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
  127. What three things do you think of the most each day?
  128. If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
  129. What song would you say best sums you up?
  130. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
  131. Who was your first crush?
  132. What’s the most interesting thing you can see out of your office or kitchen window?
  133. On a scale of 1-10, how funny would you say you are?
  134. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  135. What was your first job?
  136. If you could join any past or current music group which would you want to join?
  137. How many languages do you speak?
  138. What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
  139. Who is the most intelligent person you know?
  140. If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be?
  141. How do you define honesty?
  142. What is your biggest fear or worry?
  143. What is the main thing that makes you unique?
  144. If you had to evacuate our house, what would you grab on the way out?
  145. What facial expression or movement do you do when you are lying?
  146. What is the oldest item you own?
  147. If someone was giving you a gift (money is no object), what would you want to receive?
  148. Would you rather watch the sunrise or the sunset? Why?
  149. What does it mean to have courage?
  150. Do you like your name?
  151. If you could change you name, what would you change it to?
  152. What is your greatest strength?
  153. What is your worst weakness?
  154. If you could predict the future, what would you do with that knowledge?
  155. Is your favorite time the past, present or the future?
  156. Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
  157. Who is the one person that helped to make you who you are today?
  158. If you were punished for a crime, what type of punishment would you choose? 
  159. Describe a time you got into trouble.
  160. What do you do when you first wake up in the morning?
  161. What makes you a good person?
  162. What would your obituary say?
  163. What is your greatest regret? 
  164. How would you describe standing on a beach looking at the ocean?
  165. What is your favorite outfit to wear?
  166. What do you do when you are driving alone in a car?
  167. If a friend is being bullied or harassed by someone, what do you do?
  168. Reflect on the characteristics of your best friend. What makes him or her so special?
  169. Can you keep secrets? Describe a time you didn’t.
  170. How do you show your love for others?
  171. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
  172. If you could become anyone’s friend that you want, who would you choose?
  173. Are you the type of person with lots of friends or just a few close ones?
  174. What is one quality you admire most in others?
  175. Do you prefer to be with those who are younger or older than you are?
  176. If you could ask me one question, and I had to answer you truthfully, what would you want to know?
  177. What is the meanest thing you have ever done to someone?.
  178. Who is one friend from your past you want to reconnect with?
  179. When did you kiss for the first time and what was it like?
  180. Describe an activity that you think is truly romantic.
  181. When you are in trouble, whom do you call for help?
  182. Who are the people you love the most?
  183. If you could speak any language, what would it be and why?
  184. If you had to pick one place in your town to bring a tourist, where would you go?
  185. What is the one cause that you feel most passionate about?
  186. If you lived in the pioneer days, would you have traveled west or stayed put in the east?
  187. If you found a genie in a bottle, what three things would you wish for?
  188. What are five thing that would make your life easier?
  189. Which is your favorite non-profit organization or cause?
  190. If you could travel to space, would you go?
  191. If you could move anywhere, where would you go and why?
  192. Would you want to travel the world on a boat in the sea?
  193. When you travel away from home, do you miss it?
  194. What is the greatest crisis we face as a world?
  195. If you could write your own bill of rights, what would you include?
  196. What is going on today in the world that affects you the most?
  197. What bad habit would you be willing to give up if it guaranteed you’d live to be 100?
  198. What are your bad habits?
  199. If you could have someone else’s face, whom would you choose?
  200. What physical feature do you least like about yourself?
  201. Would you want to know the exact day of your death?
  202. Would you describe yourself as a ‘people person?’
  203. What three things make you happiest?
  204. If you could pick one thing to change about school, what would it be?
  205. Are you the kind of person who wants to be the big fish in a little pond or the little fish in the big pond?
  206. Describe a time when you wanted to quit, but didn’t.
  207. Is competition good for you?
  208. What is something you learned in school that you think is useless to you today?
  209. If you could pick any career, what would you want to be?
  210. What is your favorite outside activity?
  211. If you had to spend a day not using any technology, what would you do?
  212. What makes our family unique from others?
  213. What was the hardest part about being a kid?
  214. What are some of your favorite traditions?
  215. Do you know how you got your name?
  216. Do you think you take after anyone in the family?
  217. What is one thing you will never do again?
  218. Who knows you the best?
  219. What is the best life lesson you have learned?
  220. What do you like most about yourself?
  221. What’s a special memory you have with an extended family member?
  222. If you only had one year to live, what if anything, would you do differently?
  223. Do you look more at the facts or your feelings when making a decision?
  224. What do you want to do?
  225. What’s one thing that you need from me?


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Tween-to-Teen Sexuality … “…it’s time to have more than just the birds and the bees talk…”

“I think it’s time to have more than just the birds and the bees talk with my 11-year-imageedit_8_3323710799old son, but I’m not sure how much to share or even how to get started. Any ideas?”

It’s common to feel nervous about talking to your children about sexuality, especially when questions move beyond the “basics.” Many parents feel uncomfortable because they grew up in an environment where sexuality wasn’t discussed, or because they worry that they won’t have the right answers.

On top of that, there is an air of confusion about how much children should hear about sex. There is a worry that too much information begins to sound like permission to have sex or will increase your tween-to-teen’s interest in experimentation.  Actually, research suggests that well-informed children tend to make better decisions about their situations. Adopting a “no subject is taboo” mindset makes it easier for kids to ask questions and come to you with concerns. If children pick up on clues – even subtle ones – they will likely steer clear of seeking answers from you.

So, what does your tween-to-teen need to know about sexuality.  First, remember that sexuality is a much larger topic than sexual intercourse. It also includes things such as gender, emotions, intimacy, caring, loving, flirtation, sexual orientation, and reproduction. Talking to your tween about sexuality is an opportunity to share with them your beliefs about healthy behavior and relationships.

Here are some things that tween-to-teen need to know about…

Puberty: Address the emotional, physical and social changes your child can expect in their bodies. Talk about when and how these changes occur in both males and females. (It is just as important for you son to understand menstruation as it is for your daughter.)

Sexuality: Human sexuality is a natural part of life. Explain how behavior could been seen as sexual. Talk about the foundations of a healthy relationship such as trust, respect, and communication. It is also important to discuss intercourse, oral sex, pornography, bi-sexuality, homosexuality and so forth. (These are topics that are discussed daily in the halls of middle school.)

Contraception/Pregnancy/Abortion: Address how to prevent pregnancy including contraceptives (pill, condoms, IUD), abortion and the decision not to have sex.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): This is not a time to be squeamish. Discussion how a person can get STIs, how STIs are treated and how a person can protect his or herself is information your child needs to know.

Risky Situations / Abuse: Role-play scenarios with your child so he or she has a better understanding on how to handle peer pressure and leave an uncomfortable / risky situation Both males and females need to recognize and protect themselves and potential abuse – physical, mental and sexual.

Vocabulary including slang: Nowadays, it is important for kids to know the correct terms of body parts and behaviors. Additionally, kids need to know the slang terms of both. Without knowing, kids could agree to something a sexual act or say something offensive without even knowing it. 

As you begin to talk, your child will ask more questions. Make a point to understand the question without making a big deal of what he or she is asking. The more askable you are, they more sexuality can become a normal topic of conversation.  Having courageous conversations about sex with your tween-to-teen is the cornerstone of a healthy parent-child relationship.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



Tween-to-Teen Sexuality … “When Should I Talk with my Tween-to-Teen…”

Consulting-Icon-e1380123243240When should I talk to my tween about dating and sex?

In general, you should start talking to your child about sexuality long before their body starts changing with puberty. For most children, the changes of puberty start by the age of 9 or 10. With that said, many parents put off talking about the birds and the beesfor as long as possible.

However, learning about sexuality is a normal part of child development. You can begin conversations about human development and sexuality in an age-appropriate way as young as two- and three-years-old. Remember that if your child is old enough to ask a question, then she/he is old enough to hear the correct answer and learn the accurate words for body parts.

A general guideline for what all kids can understand is:

2 to 3: Your young child can understand the correct terms for body parts, such as breast,” “penis,and vagina.

3 to 4: Your preschooler may be curious about where a baby comes from but cannot, at this age, understand all details. Keep your explanation simple, until babies are born, they  live inside a mommy close to her tummy.

4 to 5: Children this age are often interested in how a baby is born. Again, keep your explanation simple: “When you were ready to be born, you were pushed through Mommy’s vagina.”

5 to 6: This is the age of Where did I come from?Kids are able to understand a general idea of how babies are made. Rather than defaulting to the olstork, a response of Mom and Dad made youmay suffice. Other kids will ask more details. If so, share that moms egg joined with dads sperm. (see below to answer how they were joined.)

6 to 7: Kids are able to have a basic understanding of sex.  For example, you could share that when you are older, sex is one of the ways people show love for one another. It is part of a loving relationship.Some parents have explained that  males and females are a big like puzzle pieces. The penis fits into vagina which allow the sperm to join with the egg.  It is also appropriate to share your thoughts and feelings on sex and relationships with kids this age.

8 to 9: At this age, kids are talking about sex on the playground. Whether they have heard about it from friends, an older sibling or the media, they are beginning to understand what sex is and that it is important. Children can handle basic explanations on most topics, including masturbation, intercourse, even rape (chances are high that they have already heard the term through media or their peers.)

9 to 11: Kids have been exposed to sex talk at this age. Many are already experiencing hormonal and physical changes.  Be prepared to speak openly with your child about puberty and sex-related topics / situations your child has seen/heard on YouTube, radio, television or video games.

11 to 12+: Kids at this age are developing their own beliefs and values around dating, sex and life. Check in with them periodically about what is going on. Have deeper conversations that they may be exposed to at school – intimacy, sex, pregnancy, even slang terms for body parts and sex.

Its important that your tween-to-teen feels comfortable talking to you about sexuality. Research shows that not only do children prefer to get information about sexuality from their parents, but children who do talk to their parents about sexuality are less likely to have early and unprotected sex. By having courageous conversations about sexuality, you can help them develop healthy beliefs, values and behaviors that support their best interest.