Teens are Not Problems. Teens Have Problems. 

All across the country teenagers have, or will soon, head back to school. If, like me, you were a teen in the 1980s it can sometimes be hard to separate your own school memories from those of John Hughes’ movies like The Breakfast Club.

The Breakfast Club has stuck with me all these years, not just because I thought Judd Nelson was flippin’ hot (c’mon you guys see it too, right?), but because of the way it so clearly illustrates the damage that labels do to teenagers. Not just labels from other teens and schools, but the labels that we as parents put on our kids.

I was recently lucky enough to give a Tedx talk about this damage. When we label teenagers as “problems,” we fail to see the problems that our teens may be suffering from. This failure to actually see our teenagers and their problems can lead to depression and alienation. Talking with teenagers isn’t easy, but it is doable. I hope that this video gives you some insight into ways you can connect with your teen and help them overcome the damage of labels, especially labels like “difficult” or “problem.”

Obviously, as a behaviorist and a licensed psychotherapist, I’ve moved beyond The Breakfast Club when it comes to understanding the teen mind. But, one of the first steps I ask parents to take is to learn how to empathize with teenagers, to try and remember what it actually felt like to be a teen, and honestly, for me, a taste of corn nuts and Mountain Dew, and a viewing of The Breakfast Club can put me back there.

I hope you’ll take some time out of your day to watch the video and give some thought to how our language and behavior affects our teens.

In the comments below, I'd love to know your thoughts around teens and labels. Do you feel that teens are labeled as problems?

Thank you SO much for watching, commenting and sharing.

If you have friends, fellow parents, educators or colleagues who are committed to helping tweens and teens overcome the labels placed on them, please share this post.

With love and appreciation,

“Ever since school let out, my 14 year-old has been moody, down, grumpy, isn’t sleeping and doesn’t seem to want to do anything. I don’t understand. It’s like this ever year. Isn’t summer supposed to be a time of fun and happiness? Is there something wrong with her?”

School's out, the sun is shining, the pools are packed with friends… it’s the carefree summer dream, right?  Not for everyone.  While much of the population can barely contain their excitement for summer’s arrival, a small percentage long for cooler temps and shorter days. If you have noticed that your teen has feelings of depression, sleeplessness and irritability that come at the same time each year, she may have a form of seasonal affective disorder.

Summer depression, also called summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that commonly shows up in fall and winter. For one percent of the population, the warmer seasons bring on summer SADness.

As the days heat up, those with summer SAD may become extremely irritable, sleep less, and eat less. They may withdraw from friends and activities and isolate indoors.  In its most severe form, people with summer seasonal depression may be more at risk for suicide than cold-weather SAD.  A person with summer SAD may remain indoors, darken the room, and turn up the air conditioning to feel a sense of “normalcy.” However, one step into the heat can take them right back to those feelings of depression.

It's sometimes easy for parents to overlook symptoms of SAD, or dismiss them as normal mood swings.  The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Additionally, summer SAD is often not thought about because there is a sense that everyone should feel happy when days and nights are homework-free, swimsuit-clad and YOLO-infused.  

For those affected (including myself), summer sadness is much more than a Lana del Rey song. Please consult a family physician or a licensed mental health professional to determine the right treatment.

julie

“Ever since school let out, my 14 year-old has been moody, down, grumpy, isn’t sleeping and doesn’t seem to want to do anything. I don’t understand. It’s like this ever year. Isn’t summer supposed to be a time of fun and happiness? Is there something wrong with her?”

School’s out, the sun is shining, the pools are packed with friends… it’s the carefree summer dream, right?  Not for everyone.  While much of the population can barely contain their excitement for summer’s arrival, a small percentage long for cooler temps and shorter days. If you have noticed that your teen has feelings of depression, sleeplessness and irritability that come at the same time each year, she may have a form of seasonal affective disorder.

Summer depression, also called summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that commonly shows up in fall and winter. For one percent of the population, the warmer seasons bring on summer SADness.

As the days heat up, those with summer SAD may become extremely irritable, sleep less, and eat less. They may withdraw from friends and activities and isolate indoors.  In its most severe form, people with summer seasonal depression may be more at risk for suicide than cold-weather SAD.  A person with summer SAD may remain indoors, darken the room, and turn up the air conditioning to feel a sense of “normalcy.” However, one step into the heat can take them right back to those feelings of depression.

It’s sometimes easy for parents to overlook symptoms of SAD, or dismiss them as normal mood swings.  The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Additionally, summer SAD is often not thought about because there is a sense that everyone should feel happy when days and nights are homework-free, swimsuit-clad and YOLO-infused.  

For those affected (including myself), summer sadness is much more than a Lana del Rey song. Please consult a family physician or a licensed mental health professional to determine the right treatment.

julie

3 Things to Do Today if Your Tween or Teen is Bullied

Bullying: it is a top worry in every town and every school. For many tweens and teens, the worry has turned into a reality which can leave them feeling discouraged and hopeless.

Those feelings of hopelessness aren’t anything new. Bullying has been traced to the 18th century and, unfortunately, it is part of our culture. Movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Karate Kid and books like Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid show how bullying shows up in mainstream media.

While you cannot control whether bullying shows up in movies or books, there are three things you can do right now to minimize the damaging impact bullying has on your tween or teen.

Understand the motivation behind bullying. Bullying is an attempt to gain power typically by someone who is hurting. The taunts, aggressions, and abuses are a bully’s misguided attempt to cause someone else to feel the same pain they are feeling. Bullies hope that when they cause others to feel pain, it will reduce their own. This does not excuse the behavior but it can help you, as a parent, to understand the motivation and adjust your responses. (i.e. think compassion over cruelty.)

Listen to and believe what your child has to say. It is critical that your child feels heard and believed. When you take on the role of good listener, you send the message “you matter.” When your child tells you that he is bullied and what is going on, as much as it hurts to listen, be open and able to hear what he has to say. When you react too strongly to what your child is saying, he might stop talking because he’s afraid he’s going to upset you. One of the most effective questions you can ask your tween or teen is, “What can I do to help?”

Develop a bully-free plan. A bully free plan is a safety plan to help your child avoid bullies, respond appropriately in aggressive situations and reach out for support. Together, discuss the following: the safest way to/from school, space places to eat lunch or spend free time, who he or she can talk to including friends, interventionist, teacher, coach. Additionally, it is helpful to brainstorm responses that could be used when confronted by a bullying. For example, retaliating is not helpful but deflecting a taunt with humor could diffuse the situation. The bullying is looking for anger and tears as it is their attempt to pass along hurt and gain power. When your child doesn’t give that reaction, the bully may move on.

Dealing with bullying can erode at your tween or teen’s sense of self and confidence. Encourage them to spend time with peers and in activities outside of school. And, as always, say “you matter,” and “I love you,” often.


Receive a copy of the bully-free safety plan get instant access to the support and essentials you need to know What to Do When your Tween or Teen is Bullied.

Developed by Julie Smith, LMFT, What to Do When is an online resource library for parents of tweens and teens on topics such as communication, bullying, tech use, depression, anxiety, anger and more.

Six Ways Parents Can Help Their Tween or Teen Post Election

Post election day, I woke with a heavy heart. It wasn’t just the announcement of a new president that I didn’t choose that filled me with sorrow. It was the announcement that a transgender boy committed suicide after midnight because he feared for his safety.  It was the stream of insults and a few punches middle schoolers were throwing at one another during a mock election. It was the several voicemails and text I received overnight from terrified teens asking “Why” and messages from their parents asking how. And, it was my daughter reaching out at 4:30am saying, “mom, I’m scared.”

I’m scared too.

Whether you voted for this president or not, this is unchartered territory for all of us. And, teens are especially fearful about what to expect. Their thoughts are racing, and their fears are mounting.  A few of the questions and concerns I've heard have been: “Are my friends or their families going to be deported?,” “Am I going to be beaten up because I’m gay,” “I’m worried about being attacked,” “Why can’t people just be kind.”, and “Does it even matter anymore? Do I even matter anymore?”

Yes. It does matter, and here is how you help your child thr0ugh his or her worry: 

(1) Breathe. Deeply, fully, wholly.  Deep breathing has been scientifically proven to calm the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system. Simple take a slow, deep breath in through you nose, hold for a few moments and then exhale slowly through your nose.

(2) Ask your children what they need right now as well as assess any self-care needs. If you find your child having self-harm or suicidal thoughts, please take your child to the nearest medical center or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also anonymously text a crisis counselor at 741741.

(3) Step away from social media. Encourage your child to take a break from the SnapChat stories, Twitter stream and Instagram feed to go for a walk, play a game or just listen to music to allow some space between the emotionally charged comments and memes that are circulating.

(4) Open the space for courageous conversations. Ask your children what they are feeling. Then, listen. Be mindful not to dismiss their feelings or their fears.  Anger, fear, worry and sadness are valid feelings. Let your children express them. Then remind them that they are strong, capable and loved. Let them know that they can make a difference.  And, then….

(5) Be that difference.  Remember all those times you and your family talked about respecting others and the importance of the golden rule? Well, now is the time to put that into action. There are people in this country - women, people of color, LBGTQ and displaced humans - who deserve to be heard and protected and seen. Stand up for them and with them.  (see a list of organizations below)

(6) Lastly, hold your child tight and say, “I love you.” Let you your child know that you will be okay. We will all be okay.  There is so much good in the world. We *are* the good in the world.  And, together we stand to make America kind again.

jws-300x191

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***

Neither you or your child is powerless. Rather than give up, stand up with compassion and conviction for causes and organizations that need your support.

teenager-422197_1280“My 12YO daughter seems so down. What should I do?”

You are drawn in by the playful personality, the mischievous gleam in the eye, the witty and sometimes warped sense of humor humor and the smile …oh, that spirited smile.

These are the characteristics of a happy-go-lucky person, right? Not always. For many, this entertaining persona hides something darker and becomes the mask of depression.

Depression is more than just feeling down; it is a serious illness that doesn’t discriminate.  Men, women, girls and boys of every age, educational level, and social and economic background suffer from depression. Three-hundred-fifty (350) million people worldwide are caught in it’s grip. Left untreated, it can lead to eating disorders, self-harm, relationship conflict, substance abuse, even suicide.

An estimated 1 in 30 tween-to-teens suffer from depression. It can be triggered by specific situations or traumas (i.e. bullying, breakups, death, family conflict, friendship troubles, etc), genetics, or a developmental milestones (i.e. being one of the only kids without a cell phone, boyfriend, etc). Your child may also have a fewer happy-inducing neurochemicals. That’s the downside. The upside is that a child suffering from depression has a very good chance of overcoming the disease; and, it begins at home.

Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to a child’s well-being. Things to support your child include:

Check in with your tween-to-teen: Your child’s “job” is to separate from you and form his or her own identify. This can make communication challenging even on the best days. Don’t let that deter you; make the effort to talk to your child. Ask about classes, friends,  … anything. If your child can’t talk to you about the little things, they will never come to you with the big stuff.

Know potential red flags. Depression in tweens and teens often goes unrecognized. The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Possible signs to look for include: 

  • personality changes and behavior outside of your child’s norm.
  • fatigue or loss of energy.
  • increased frustration and anger.
  • being uncharacteristically “down” or irritable for several weeks.
  • lack of interest / withdrawal from friends.
  • reluctance to participate in activities, and hobbies that they once enjoyed.
  • changes in appetite (eating too much or not enough) and sleep (sleeping too much, not sleeping well, sleep avoidance).
  • obsessing over body image.
  • overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, guilt or a significant decrease in self-esteem.
  • stomaches, headaches or other body aches that can’t be explained and don’t respond to treatment.
  • Difficulties concentrating or completing simple tasks.
  • Declining grades.
  • Self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting or burning.

Know where to turn for help. Many tweens and teens will cycle through symptoms routinely. That doesn’t always mean they’re suffering from depression. When those symptoms last more than two weeks, though, it is time to enlist support. Visit the family doctor, an adolescent counselor or a psychologist for an evaluation. Consider connecting with teachers, coaches, school counselors, and other adults who have regular contact with your child.

Keep them healthy. The mantra of “be healthy” feels a bit cliche at times, I know. However, the cold and hard fact is that good physical health can contribute to positive mental health. Eat well, get rest, exercise.

Love them. Always. Your role as a parent is to be an advocate, support system and a supplier of love. When your child speaks, listen without judgment. Tell them, better yet, show them that you are always there no matter what. Repeat the message even when they say “I got it.” Tween-to-teens – especially those experiencing depression – need to know you will be there for them and that you love them fully and always.

Oops! See a typo or an inaccuracy? Please contact us so we can check it out!

12 Killed, 50 Wounded at movie theater…    School shooting, several wounded…  An attack on our capitol… What do I tell my 11-year-old about all these tragedies we hear about?”

A hand writes the word "Violence" on a chalkboard.Far too often, these are the headlines that confront you. It makes your heart drop and can fill you with such sorrow about the victims and their families. It often feels that senseless acts of violence are everywhere – in the media, in our communities, in our schools and, yes, in our homes. Over time, too much exposure can desensitize kids. Initially, though, most children feel frightened, unsafe and insecure.

 

Disturbing events can be difficult for parents to explain; however, avoiding a conversation with your child is a missed opportunity to help your child learn to communicate and cope. Research shows that children, especially tween-to-teens want parents and caring adults to talk about tough issues. Those who have early conversations are more likely to continue turning to their parents as they become older. Here are five tips to begin the courageous conversation about violence (or any tough topic).

 

Provide a Safe Space: Adolescents need safe spaces to share their feelings, and it’s up to you to provide it.  Talking about his feelings with you can help ease the worry and fear he may feel, especially if he thinks he has to face his feelings – anger, sadness and helplessness –  alone. When your child asks a question, provide straightforward answers. This helps to distinguish between fact and rumors.  If you don’t have an answer or the correct information, admit it. Then, together with your child, find the answer. Hiding information or offering “white lies” causes tween-to-teens to be mistrustful rather than comforted. Also, avoid ignoring, discounting or judging your child’s questions or feelings. Doing so allows her to make up her own explanation which is often more terrifying than any honest response you could offer.

 

Reduce Exposure to Media: While watching the news with your child can open a discussion about current events, too much exposure can feed your tween-to-teen’s fear of not feeling safe.  For adolescents, limit media exposure to times you can watch and discuss together.  Then, turn off the television and computer to do something else – play a board game, go for a walk, have a picnic – something that doesn’t expose your child to more accounts of the tragedy.

 

Monitor Your Behavior:  As a parent, these acts of violence leave you with a horrible, sickening feeling in your stomach.  At the same time, your child is watching and listening to your reactions. It is okay to be upset; and it’s okay to show your child that you are upset. Don’t let those feelings consume you because your reaction influences your child’s reaction. Instead, acknowledge how you are feeling and then discuss ways to manage concerns. This opens the lines of communication and helps reestablish a sense of safety for your child.

 

Get Support: If you or your child are depressed or unable to participate in activities, please seek out support from your clergy or a counselor. 

 

Hold Your Child Tight: Tragedies – especially senseless acts of violence – are terrifying for parents and child alike. Holding your child provides reassurance that you love him and are doing what you can to make his personal world safe.

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

This 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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guest post by Amy Williams

Do you believe a parent should be held accountable for their teen’s online behavior?

Some local governments do. They are beginning to press charges against parents of children who torment others with technology. In the state of Georgia, an appeals court case has prosecuted two sets of parents for their childrens’ cyberbullying.

With the advance of dangers and risks like sexting, cyberbullying, and online predators, many parents are left to question how much privacy a teen deserves.TeenPrivacy

A Teen’s Need For Privacy

As children mature, they naturally begin to form their own identities. This phase often occurs during adolescence when friends become more important and children strive to differentiate themselves from their parents. Teens begin to seek out new experiences in order to define their personalities and what they stand for.

According to many researchers, the teenage brain is anything but mature. Science is proving that human brains continue growing until the mid 20s. During this process, the prefrontal cortex is still a work in progress.

This is important to understand, because this frontal lobe controls emotions, judgment, and risk assessments. This region of the brain is also being exposed to a variety of hormones and emotions which influence how the prefrontal cortex functions.

With all the biological changes, it’s natural for a son or daughter to want a little privacy. Teens tend to pull away from the family which can leave parents in the dark when it comes to their child’s safety. If parent’s notice a distinct change in their child’s demeanor and behavior, privacy can quickly become a hot issue.

The Teen Privacy Debate

The days of searching for a hidden diary are long gone. Privacy that was once easy to achieve is now only a fleeting idea. Technology has changed the landscape of concealment and in today’s surveillance rich environment, many people believe that privacy is only an illusion.

Teens need to be conscious that almost everything they do has the possibility to be made public. Everyone is under the watchful eyes of cameras at school, intersections, and even while purchasing their favorite iced mochas. Bank accounts, telephone records, and Internet usage is all tracked and stored on the Internet forever.

Every post, message, and image has the possibility to hurt a teen’s future prospects.

This reality is frightening for parents, because the majority of teens overshare private or questionable material online. The teen brain lacks the development and foresight to think ahead. Some are unable to process how a compromising photo or colorful language can haunt them well into their adult years.

This quest to protect children can encourage parents to cross a line and invade their teen’s need for privacy. Sneaking around and spying on a child’s devices (cell phones, tablets, and computers) might allow a glimpse into his behaviors. Unfortunately, it almost always results in a lack of trust between both parties and breaks down all effective communication.

How To Monitor Without Overstepping Boundaries

One solution to avoid a communication breakdown is to actively monitor a teen’s Internet use. Here are 8 methods to encourage communication and safe technology use:

Teach and model acceptable etiquette for Social Media. Explain acceptable online behavior and why it is important.

Encourage open dialogue. Start conversations and make it a point to listen without lecturing.

Carve aside time to bond. Family dinners, fun days, or game nights are great ways to put family first. Don’t underestimate the important role a parent still plays.

Develop a technology plan.

Designate certain hours that devices are allowed to be used. Many families shut down from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. to allow a rest from technology.

Allow teens and children to use their devices in open areas, but not behind closed doors.

Create a no phone dinner policy. Use this time to talk and connect.

Have zero tolerance for cyberbullying, sexting, or inappropriate use of technology.

Remember people are naturally prone to making mistakes. Afterall, we are human. Parents need to guide their teens on effective ways to handle adversity.

Be aware of current trends. Stay up to date on possible threats and popular apps a teen uses. Tindr and YikYak are a few apps that can be dangerous.

Implement monitoring software to stay updated on all texts, messages, and images posted. Simply install an app for convenient access to streamline all a teen’s Social Media and cell phone activity.

Working Together

Parents do play a vital role in a teen’s life- even when the adolescent refuses to acknowledge their importance.

In our social and connected society, parents need to be aware that they can be held accountable for their teen’s indiscretions. This could range anywhere from prosecution to being fined $114 for every cyberbullying threat (if you live in Wisconsin). Awareness and open communication can be the key to keeping a teen’s technology use on track while encouraging privacy.

Hopefully, these techniques will avoid any unwelcome trials and errors.

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be

Step aside, Facebook. There a whole new crew in town taking the attention of today’s tweens and teens.  Here are nine of the top apps and social media networks your adolescents are on:

Instagram:  Instagram is by far the most used social media outlet for adolescents. Users can post photos and have their followers comment. Getting “likes” is often the goal for kids using the site.

Snapchat: Snapchat is a picture-messaging app that allows users to send photo and videos that the app promises disappear within seconds. It is rapidly becoming one of the most used social media networks with kids. Without the pressure of getting likes or followers , most say that it is a site where they feel they can be themselves.

YouTube: If you have a tween-to-teen, you have a YouTube user.  YouTube is a site that has something for everyone – entertaining, educational and, yes, inappropriate.YouTube personalities are now more popular among teens than the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Johnny Depp.

Vine: Vine is an app that allows you to record and share six-second videos. Vine’s dark side is that tweens and teens are using it record reckless behavior or to publicly humiliate one another.

Twitter: Twitter is a micro-blogging site – just 140 characters a post – where users can follow/be followed by anyone in the world. It isn’t as widely used as other networks, but there is usually a core group at every school that consults tweet and retweet.

Tumblr:  Similar to Twitter, Tumblr is a website that allows kids to post anything and follow anyone.  It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow “tumblelogs,” that, if made public,can be seen by anyone online. Many adolescents feel that Tumblr is a judgment-free spot that makes it easier to be who you want to be.

Whisper and Secret:  Intended for teens 17 and older, Whisper is a “confessional” app that allows users to post whatever’s on their mind. Like Whisper, Secret connects people anonymously through their address books. Each of these apps makes it easy to spread rumors, post pictures or text anonymously.

Ask.fm and YikYak: Ask.fm is a social network where members interact by inviting others to ask anonymous questions. YikYak is similar to ask.fm – no profiles, no followers – just posts about whatever users find funny or relevant.

If your tweens and teens are using social media or apps, ask them to show you how they are using it. Set ground rules about social media use. In addition to following your child’s accounts yourself, ask a family friend to follow your child as well Lastly remind your child that once something is on the internet, it is always on the Internet.

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