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Why your teen should fail

September 13, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Why your teen should fail | A teen surfing a wave.

When we think of raising teenagers, we often think of steering them away from risks and dangerous behaviors: drugs, alcohol, unprotected sex, unsafe driving, etc. But there are some risks we should encourage our teens to take—safer risks that satisfy their thirst for adrenaline and allow them an opportunity to fail.

Failure seems like the worst thing to encourage in teenagers. They’re emotional, and failing at something can upset their self-esteem and throw them off-course with their social status. But failure also teaches them that life goes on even as they make mistakes, and most often they can course-correct and rebound from the failures.

As teenagers go through puberty, their hormonal changes spark a desire to take risks and demonstrate more dangerous behavior, as outlined in this article from Berkeley’s Greater Good.

Instead of resisting your teenager’s desire to take risks, guide him or her toward healthy opportunities for risks, successes, and failures, like these examples:

  • Playing competitive sports and learning how to win and lose
  • Learning a musical instrument and performing in front of others
  • Acting in a school play and learning the show must go on
  • Asking out the person he or she has a crush on and facing rejection or getting a date
  • Joining the diving or skiing team for a physical rush (with trained and supervised risk)

Taking risks and having the opportunity to fail builds character and helps a teenager find his or her identity. Encourage healthy risks while looking out for unhealthy and truly dangerous risks, like texting while driving and others outlined in this NPR article. It will be hard to watch your teen fail, but it’s worth the risk: the feeling when he or she succeeds is true parental pride.

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How to Respect Your Teen’s Privacy

August 23, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Respect Your Teen's Privacy | Find a balance between guiding your teenager to make good decisions while providing and respecting his or her privacy. | A teen boy blocks his mom from talking to him by putting up his hand.

As your child becomes a teenager, he or she will want more privacy, independence, and in turn, more distance from you. While it’s difficult to accept that your child is becoming an adult, it’s important to remember that one of a parent’s main responsibilities is to prepare their child for adulthood. In doing so, you must foster that independence and provide privacy for your teen.

At the same time, you still need to be an active and engaged parent. Find a balance between guiding your teenager to make good decisions while providing and respecting his or her privacy.

Build Trust
If you haven’t had reasons to distrust your teenager, start a conversation with him or her. Praise your teen for who he or she has become: smart, kind, caring, sympathetic, happy, a good friend, a good teammate, a good brother or sister. Explain that for those reasons, you trust him or her and want to reward your teen with more privacy.

In your conversation, ask what kind of privacy your teen wants. Is it more time with friends, more alone time, extra time to sleep in on weekends? See if the two of you (and your parenting partner) can come to a compromise. Maybe it’s an extended curfew every once in a while, or the family goes to dinner once a week and gives your teen some peace and quiet at home.

If you proactively acknowledge and reward the trust you have for your teenager, he or she is more likely to continue to keep up the good behavior, and you can grant him or her privacy as needed.

Establish Rules
Your teen likely doesn’t want you going in his or her room and looking through drawers, phones, diaries, etc. And do you really want to be snooping around his or her room? Think about how you would feel if your teen was peering around your room.

Establish ground rules with your teen. For example, you won’t go in your teenager’s room if he or she does his or her own laundry. But if your teen doesn’t want to do the laundry, then you will need to go into his or her room to collect laundry and change sheets. That doesn’t mean you will snoop, but you will need to go in and out of the room for laundry purposes.

Privacy also works as a great incentive for increased study time. If your teen is struggling with certain subjects in school, ask him or her to spend additional time—with your help, after-school assistance, or tutoring—on that subject. If the next test or report card produces a better grade, reward your teenager with more privacy, provided he or she keeps up the additional study time.

Acknowledge Issues
If you suspect your teenager is engaging in behaviors that you don’t approve of, address your concerns by speaking directly with your teen. You know your child and can probably tell if he or she is being honest with you.

If there are behavioral issues you need to address, then explain that you own the house and have the right to ensure illegal activities aren’t happening on your property. Sometimes underage drinking and drug use are a concern, and you might need to search your teen’s room for those items. If it gets to that point, it is important that you explain why you must search the room and restrict their privacy, as well as what the repercussions are not only for your teenager, but for you and the rest of the family.

If you feel the behavior is at a point where you can still offer your teen an incentive to stop, do so. The incentive should involve increased privacy, which you can grant once you feel you have rebuilt the trust between the two of you.

For a deeper discussion on a parent’s rights to search and a child’s right to privacy, read this article from Empowering Parents.

Tags :  teenagershigh schoolsocialacademic
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Fun and Safe Websites for Kids

August 16, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Fun and Safe Websites for Kids | How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers? | A laptop sits on a table with the article title, "Fun + Safe Websites for Kids" on the screen.

Your kids are digital natives, which means they have always lived with the internet and digital devices. For those of us who remember the exciting yet frustrating sound of AOL connecting to the phone line, it’s a part of parenting that we don’t have our own stories to model after.

How do we allow our toddlers, our kids under 12, and our teenagers to use the internet for all of its benefits while keeping them away from its dangers?

There are fun and safe websites out there for kids of all ages. When in doubt, I recommend checking Common Sense Media, as they are constantly rating and evaluating various media to give parents the information they need to determine if the TV show, app, or movie is appropriate for their kids.

Toddlers
If you’re going to give your toddlers screen time, limit them to TV cartoons, movies, and apps made for their age range. Most of the apps designed for toddlers focus on learning in a fun way, so try some of these.

Elementary School
For younger elementary school kids (grades K–3), focus on their favorite TV shows and topics they’re interested in. PBS Kids has great options that include cartoons and learning activities for varied interests, including science, engineering, and nature.

For older elementary school kids (grades 4–6), games that reinforce the learning they’re doing in school, like Minecraft, can be great opportunities to keep learning at home. As a parent, you need to enforce playing in moderation and not physically meeting up with people your kids might meet online in the game.

Use game time as a reward for completing homework. You could even use coding games and apps to teach your kids how to code.

Preteens and Teenagers
It’s important to know what apps and sites your teens are on so that you can set guidelines for safe usage. Again, Common Sense Media has a great breakdown of the apps your teens are using now and what you need to know about them.

The good news? The most popular sites and apps that teens are using are pretty safe. As with all screen time, it’s important to enforce using it in moderation and after homework is done. And make sure you require these privacy tips on your teen’s social networks.

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Our 14 Best Back to School Tips

August 2, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Our writers and program author have over 150 years of education and parenting experience combined. From all of that expertise, we’ve gathered our best 14 back to school tips and put them in one place—right here!—so you don’t need to look any further. From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | From starting a new school to saving money on school supplies to sending your (no longer a) baby off to college, we have you covered. | An elementary school student chooses a pack of pencils for her back to school supplies.

Starting a New School

Starting preschool, kindergarten, high school, or a new school system altogether can be stressful for some children. As parents, we must ease that transition so that their first experience in each school setting is one of comfort and excitement instead of fear and anxiety.

Here’s how you can prepare your child, depending on what new school he or she is starting:

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | "Back to School" is written on an illustrated chalkboard with paint, rulers, and assorted school supplies in the image.

Back to School Tips

For kids returning to the same school, there are a few basic things you must do before they can start, including:

Once you have checked those activities off the list, relieve some of the anticipation and pressure of the first day of school.

Our 14 Best Back to School Tips | Going Away to College | A father watches his son grab his dorm supplies from the car.

Going Away to College

For teenagers heading off to college, it’s an exciting time. But for many parents and the siblings still at home, the first time a child goes off to college can be challenging. Learn how to prepare your family with these articles.

Whatever your child’s age, when you prepare him or her for school physically, emotionally, and socially, he or she will settle more easily into a successful academic routine. Use these activities to bond as a family before the transition and you’ll create happy memories before the school year begins. 

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How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School

July 26, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Emotionally Prepare Your Teen for High School | How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support. | A group of teens preparing for high school pose in front of their lockers.

When it comes to preparing for high school, academics seem like the easy part. After all, starting high school means multiple middle schools merging, old friends meeting new friends, teenage emotions and hormones clashing, navigating the delicate dance of high school dating, and finding out what makes everyone tick.

While you will want to establish academic expectations, study habits, and routines with your teenager before high school starts, you will also want to help him or her prepare emotionally and socially. How your teen handles this new adventure will have a big impact on his or her academic success, so use these five points to guide your support.

Encourage them to find themselves.
Your teen can get a sense of the school before he or she starts by attending plays, concerts, and sports games at the high school. He or she can evaluate which of these activities, if any, interests him or her and can plan to audition, try out, or join clubs or groups associated with the activities.

In addition to finding his or her interests, your teenager should prioritize finding friends who promote happiness and even some who challenge your teen to be a better person. Encourage your teen to make friends who make him or her happy instead of being popular. While popularity is usually important to teenagers, his or her happiness is more important.

Use orientation to reduce first-day jitters.
Your teenager should attend orientation to get a better understanding of his or her new school in preparation for a smooth first day.

To make it more fun, encourage your teen to attend with a good friend from middle school. Let them figure out their locker combinations, find the fastest route from class to class, and learn where their friends’ lockers are.

Be friendly and avoid gossip.
PBS Kids has a great explanation of rumors and gossip and how both can be used to hurt others. Familiarize yourself with these scenarios so you can discourage your teen from gossiping.

At the same time, you can encourage your child to look at high school as a fresh start. While he or she will keep some or many friends from middle school, eliminating previous animosities toward other classmates and giving everyone a clean slate will help your teen make new friends and stay on good terms with as many people as possible.

Give them more independence.
As teens form stronger friendships, start dating, and move into adulthood, they will distance themselves from their parents and families. That’s okay in moderation. Just as you let your child start feeding him or herself as a toddler, you can let your teenager work out problems and manage his or her life with little guidance.

Ensure your teen knows you are always available to talk, and make sure he or she spends enough time on homework, eats healthy when at home, etc., but give your teen time to spend with friends, join clubs and sports teams, and more. Part of high school is preparing to live independently in college, so teens need to earn gradual independence from their families at this time.

Pay attention to their friends.
Just because you encourage your teenager to spend time with his or her friends doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep an eye on those friends. Invite them over for pizza and offer to drive them to the movies or the mall. By spending even a little bit of time with your teen’s friends, you will learn more about them and identify potential bad influences. You will also be relieved if your teen’s friends are great kids who make your teen happy.

Starting high school can be stressful for teenagers and their parents, but by practicing these support tips, you both will be better prepared.

Has your teenager already entered high school? How did you help him or her prepare? Share in the comments below.

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