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Why should teens expand their circle of friends?

July 18, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Why should teens expand their circles of friends? | The Breakfast Club had a point—bring teens of different backgrounds and interests together and they'll learn something.

During high school, teenagers find their group of friends and spend most of their social time with them. It's easy for teens to stay inside that group and ignore the many classmates who are different from themselves and their friends.

While people aren't as easily categorized as The Breakfast Club characters are—the brain, the princess, the athlete, the basketcase, and the criminal—often groups of friends fit into molds like them. Within each group are unique individuals with strengths and weaknesses.

Just as The Breakfast Club teens learn in the movie, interacting with people outside of their group of friends can help your teenager become more empathetic and gain a more inclusive view of their community and the greater world. They will learn to find something in common with people who may seem very different from them but at their cores are not.

When the school year begins, encourage your teenager to step outside their friend group and engage with other peers. If your teen is athletic and spends most of their time with other athletes, they can join a club to meet other teenagers. If your child is academically focused, they can try a social club or a sport.

By branching out and meeting new people, your teenager may gain confidence and a greater sense of who they are as an individual instead of as part of a group. This confidence and understanding of others will build character and stay with them through adulthood.

Tags :  high schoolsocial
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Are you paying attention to your teen's health?

June 20, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Are you paying attention to your teen's health? | Here's a checklist to make sure they're covered.

As our children grow older and start pushing us away more often, there are some parts of parenting that we can let up on. But health is not one of those things. Even though your teenager might look healthy, it's important to make those doctors appointments and ensure they have access to healthy food options.

What specifically should you pay attention to? Refer to this checklist:

Doctors

  • Annual doctor appointments (general practitioner)
  • Dental appointments/cleanings every six months
  • Specialist doctor appointments as needed

Food & nutrition

  • Keep junk food out of the house
  • Load the fridge with fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Pack healthy snacks for after school
  • Have breakfast and dinner together as often as possible

Physical activity & rest

  • Encourage fun activities like sports, biking, running 5Ks, etc.
  • Set curfews—for being home and for being off screens—to ensure at least 8 hours of sleep a night

By glancing at this checklist every few months, you'll be reminded to make those doctor appointments, keep your refrigerator full of healthy snacks, and stay active with your teenagers.

Tags :  high schoolhealthphysicalteenagers
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Guide Your Teen's Emotional Development

May 23, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Guide Your Teen's Emotional Development | Parents must be present to guide their teenager's emotional development in different ways depending on their age and needs. | A teenage girl talks to her mother.

As you probably remember, the teenage years are taxing on everyone involved: the teenager, their parents, and brothers or sisters. Hormones are in flux and drama follows teens everywhere. Parents must be present to guide their teenager's emotional development in different ways depending on their age and needs.

In the first few years, it's important to focus on developing a positive body image. As mentioned by Dr. Denise Witmer in her article on Very Well, girls who develop early are often uncomfortable with their new, more mature bodies, but boys who develop early are often more confident.

Pay attention to your teen's physical development and that of their friends. Ask questions to understand how they are feeling. Are they developing earlier or later than their friends, and does that concern them? Assure them that in a few years, everyone's bodies will catch up to each other. Share an anecdote about what you went through, or a story about their favorite aunt or uncle or family friend.

Help build your teen's body confidence by complimenting them when they look nice or try a new look. As your teenager starts to express themself through fashion, embrace the change and show them that you notice—compliment a new hair style or their experimentation with jewelry. This mom shares more tips on how you can accept and embrace your teen's new style.

As your teen gets older and moves past the awkwardness of puberty, they will start focusing on independence and more privileges. Parents will need to set boundaries and stick to their rules, as they will be tested during this time. Teenagers will challenge the rules, argue about fairness, and desire more private time and time with friends, making it difficult for parents to know how to guide them.

First, remember that this behavior is normal and your teen doesn't hate you (even if they say they do). They are simply becoming more independent, which means you're doing your job right! You will question yourself and your rules often, which is okay—try to step back and look at situations objectively to see what rules are working and what rules aren't working. Then figure out why. You and your teen might even be able to compromise on some of the rules if you both understand the other's concern.

For example, let's say the issue is curfew. You might set curfew at 10:00 PM on weekends, but your teen's friends have a later curfew. Your teen feels left out having to leave early and wants an extension. You are worried about safety coming home late at night. To compromise, why don't you let your teen start heading home at 10:00 PM. That way, they don't have to leave too early or rush to get home on time. They can text you at 10:00 PM when they leave (even sharing a photo if you prefer), and you know they're on their way and will be home shortly.

Between physical and emotional changes that come with puberty and the desire for greater independence, the teenage years are tough on the whole family. Remember that you are your child's first teacher, even when they forget that. As their teacher, try to keep a cool head and take a step back for perspective on what they're going through. If they know you're hearing them and you're willing to compromise when possible, you will earn their trust and can help them through these emotional times.

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How to Guide Your Teenager Toward a Career

April 25, 2017

By Jessica Vician

How to Guide Your Teenager Toward a Career | Guiding your teenager toward a career requires several steps, but can provide a glimpse into the future so that they can make good, educated choices along the way and land a great first job. | An instructor shows college students a graph on a tablet during class.

We all want our children to be successful in life, and that often includes finding a fulfilling career after school.

As your teenager nears high school graduation and considers colleges to attend, it helps to have an idea of the type of career they want to pursue. This knowledge will help them choose a college with a good program in that field and gain valuable experience in internships, extracurricular activities, and college jobs.

Guiding your teenager toward a career requires several steps, but can provide a glimpse into the future so that they can make good, educated choices along the way and land a great first job.

First, find out if your teenager already has ideas about what they want to do after high school or college.

My teen knows their future career
If they already know what they want to do after school, then follow these steps:

  1. Shadow people in the profession.
    An understanding of the daily reality for the job—not just the more glamorous overview—will help your teen determine if they really want that job or if it sounds better than it is. It also gives your teen the opportunity to ask what experience is necessary and what the career path is like, so they know how much school and/or training is required and can imagine themselves forging a long career in that field.
  2. Research college programs in your teenager’s area of interest.
    When searching programs, consider placement rate after graduation to anticipate how much help the school provides in helping students find a post-college job.

    Think about how realistic it is for your teenager to attend a school with a strong program in their desired field. For example, if you live in a landlocked state like Colorado and your teen wants to study marine biology, they will likely go to school on a coast. Can your family afford out-of-state tuition? Is your teen emotionally prepared to live far away from family?

My teen doesn’t know their future career
If your teenager doesn’t know what they want to do after high school, start having conversations about their interests to narrow down potential career options.

  1. Ask the right questions.
    In this New York Times article, a career services director encourages parents to ask the following questions]: “What skills do you have? What kinds of people do you like to work with? In what kind of environment?”

    These questions help your teen learn what they’re looking for in a career so they can explore specific options.

  2. Identify likes and dislikes.
    Ask your teenager to identify what they like and strongly dislike. That information can steer them toward or away from some careers.

    For instance, if your child is an introvert, rule out sales jobs, as they require a thick skin and an outgoing personality. If your child loves video games and has basic coding skills, explore a career in designing video or computer games.

  3. Determine strengths and weaknesses.
    What does your teen see as their biggest strength? Whether it’s a personality or academic strength, your teen knows themself and their skills best. As this Chicago Tribune article suggests, teens will make better career and school choices the more they know and understand themselves.

Even after guiding your teenager toward a career, it’s okay if they change their mind or veer off path. Those experiences will ultimately lead them to another job or career. As their parent, you don’t need to push them toward a specific industry or field. Encourage them to consider their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and narrow the list from there. It’s all part of the process of finding their own success.

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Fame-seeking on Social Media

March 28, 2017

By Sunny Chico and Jessica Vician

Teenage Fame-seeking on Social Media | As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

As parents of teenagers, social media is always on our minds. It's a communication and social outlet that we didn't have growing up and we must consider it in our parenting strategies.

There are many reasons we need to pay attention to our teenagers on social media, and a prominent one is bullying. There have been multiple times when criminals have aired their crimes on Facebook Live, like the recent rape of a 15-year-old girl and a the torture of a special needs 18-year-old man.

What made these people—some of whom are teenagers—want to broadcast it for friends and strangers to see? 

Social and Emotional Development
Social media plays a strong role in teenage social and emotional development.

Unlike television, where you just sit and watch, social media is an active medium. Teens are chatting, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. They're having unsupervised conversations with each other, which can have a lasting effect on their development.

Knowing what teens are doing on social media, we have to ask, "What could motivate these kids to broadcast rape and torture of teenagers?"

Fame
The answer? The need for fame.

I read a great article that talked about teenagers and the value of fame. The researcher noted that in the past 50 years, popular television shows have promoted friendship, family, and community. Think about Friends, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show.

But in the past 10 years, television has changed. Now popular television promotes fame. It's reality TV—American Idol, The Voice, Real Housewives, the Kardashian's. Even Hannah Montana, which your kids might have watched when they were younger, is a normal teenager by day but a pop star by night.

The value of fame is everywhere for our teens, so it's only natural that they seek it in a place that is very public and yet very private—social media.

Internet fame is the most accessible fame that teens have access to. A well-hashtagged Instagram post, a YouTube video or tutorial that goes viral, even a smart, witty tweet might get retweeted by someone famous.

It feels great to have someone—let alone hundreds, thousands, even millions—recognize and appreciate you, what you said, or what you did. And in some cases, just getting noticed is enough—like in the example of the teens and 20-something who broadcast the torture of their 18-year-old peer on Facebook Live.

Those kids were noticed for doing something horrible. But they were noticed, which might be all that mattered to them. For kids who aren't getting enough attention from their parents, often times negative attention is better than no attention at all.

How to help
So how do we prevent our kids from seeking negative attention or seeking fame online?

We don't need to keep them off of social media. After all, when used well, it's a great communication outlet for them and a way to connect outside of school with peers they might not spend time with in school.

But we do need to nurture our kids offline—in real life—to make sure they are receiving the attention, the understanding, the love, and the pride from us that they need so they don't go seeking it online, and especially in a negative way.

Share affection
You can start by showing your kids love. If your daughter plays basketball, go to the games and give her a specific compliment afterward, like, "You did a great job finding teammates who were open and passing to them. I'm really proud of you—you're a great team player."

If your son is on student council, ask about the meetings and if he is on a committee. Compliment him on his leadership skills and being brave enough to speak up to help shape the school.

Even if your kids aren't involved in extracurriculars, compliment them on what you love most about them. Maybe it's their compassion for their peers, or how they help you clean up after dinner. Specific compliments, aside from "I love you," go a long way to help them feel loved and truly noticed.

Our kids learn from us. They learn to speak, smile, even frown from watching us at a young age, and that continues as they get older.

Be respectful
Treat your friends with respect, and avoid talking poorly about others, especially around your kids.

Refrain from engaging in negative posting on your social pages as well, as you want to continue to model positive behavior.

Watch better TV
Watch television shows that promote friends, family, and community—not fame. If you must watch shows that promote fame, watch them together and talk about what the people are doing. If it's The Voice, focus on the talent instead of criticizing. If it's the Kardashian's, focus on their familial bond, or talk about why negative behavior is good for TV but not for real life. 

Talk to the school
If you're worried that your teen is spending too much time on social media, is being a bully online or is being bullied, think about what you can do to help. For example, if your teen is spending too much time on social media, find a school sport or club that your teen would like and encourage them to join. Reroute their need for socialization to offline activities.

If your teen is being bullied, talk to the school about how to address the bullying. Teachers and counselors can help you take action.

It starts with you
Remember, you are your child's first teacher. Just as you taught them how to talk, you can teach them how to find confidence and pride in themselves in the real world. By nurturing their emotional needs, they won't be as likely to hurt others in social settings—whether that's in person or online.

And while everyone seeks a little bit of fame, if you show them your love and pride for them, they might be less likely to seek it online from strangers. All it takes is a little extra love. 

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