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Why the conversation with teens about Same Sex Marriage is important.

Why the conversation with teens about Same Sex Marriage is important.

Are you comfortable having the conversation with your teenager about Same Sex Marriage, an issue that’s currently very much talk of the town? Only last week I posted an article about having the hard chats with your teen, and for some parents this topic may prove to be challenging.

I’m not going to make this a political post, but will say upfront my views on this topic are this: I support Same Sex Marriage and have an unwavering belief that same sex couples and their families should have the right to celebrate love, just as heterosexual couples have always been able to. My teenage son knows this is my stance and why. He’s just recently turned 18 and has jumped straight onto the electoral role so he too can have a say on this issue later in the year when the postal vote is held.

I accept there are others who have a differing viewpoint on this topic and while I don’t understand the alternative position, I always respect someone’s right to disagree. That’s life.

I understand too there will be families where parents and their teens have opposing views on the Same Sex Marriage issue and that raising this topic could create tension and disharmony, but is it important to discuss? I believe so, and here’s why…

Teens are already aware of gender diversity and same sex relationships…

During the teen years, many kids explore gender identity and decide their sexual preference. Thinking about your kids in terms of their emerging sexuality may not be something you’re keen to do, but fact is biology will do its thing…. regardless.

If you chat about this with your teen it’s highly likely they know of others who have ‘come out’ as having same sex preferences. Today’s young people are much more aware and accepting of same sex attraction and for those teens exploring their sexuality it’s quite often they fear what mum/dad/grandma will think etc more than they do about telling their friends.

…and wonder what the fuss is about

High profile television stars, musicians, actors and sports people who identify as being in a same sex relationship show our teens today that relationship diversity is not uncommon and is largely accepted by the community. Who decides what ‘normal’ is anyway?

Not only that, there are teens who your child would know and possibly hang out with, coming to school each day from a household with same sex parents. Is it reasonable to ignore the conversation about whether or not the families of these young people should be recognised by law in Australia?

Some points of discussion you can use to raise this issue with your teen…. 

  • how would the life of everyday Australians change should the Marriage Act be amended to allow same sex couples to marry?
  • if religious beliefs are a consideration, does God represent love for all?
  • would or could marriage equality change or reduce the rights or freedoms of others?
  • the process of law reform – should this be a decision made by our elected representatives or should it be taken to an actionable plebiscite?
  • where you’re positioned, what do they believe and what do they hope will be an outcome?

At the end of it all, love in all its shapes and forms though a personal matter is now a public debate. Have you had the conversation with your teen? Will you?

Feel free to jump in on the discussion over at the new closed and confidential Facebook Group to chat about this and other issues. It’s a supportive place and a bullshit-free zone… so see you there!

 

Having the hard conversations with your teen…

Having the hard conversations with your teen…

Tips on how to have the hard conversations with your teen….and just some of the things it might be difficult to chat with them about!

Just because your teen has reached a stage where they think they know everything (don’t worry, they’ll tell you!)… it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to them about things that are important. In fact, it’s actually more reason to do so. As they are now smack-bang in the time of their life where they are most eager to explore, it’s also where they may encounter situations that are life-altering or even dangerous.

I promise you they’ll be talking about these issues amongst themselves – and possibly even in some specific school subjects plus it’s likely they’ve googled it all too… BUT as a parent it’s you who is ultimately responsible for ensuring they are armed with accurate and timely information. Even when ‘those’ talks present as all-kinds-of awkward.

  • sex and sex-related issues such as sexual relationships, masturbation, sexual health, gender identity and contraception
  • substance use and effects
  • online issues including sexting, grooming, harassment
  • family finances
  • personal health issues

All of the above can be difficult for adults to deal with, and the very thought of discussing topics such as these with your teens could have you flustered and feeling awkward. It’s a natural reaction for parents to deny their babes are almost at adulthood BUT conversations around such topics as the above are crucial to your teen’s well being…. despite any embarrassment you may feel.

When it’s time to brace yourself for chats like these, there are actually some strategies you can put in place to minimise the squirminess. Here are a things you can try…

Be sure that you’ve researched and are knowledgeable about the topic….

Before you start any hard conversation with your teen, do educate yourself about the topic you’re wanting to discuss. It’s likely they’ll already have some school yard knowledge and beliefs around it and probably more misconception than fact. Do some googling, reading… or ask others for information; as your teen will spot a lack of knowledge immediately. If they doubt you know what you’re talking about, they may not take the conversation seriously.

Ask the correct questions, in the right way…

Avoid nagging and interrogating your child, as these are two sure communication killers when it comes to teens. Instead, focus on asking questions which will allow your child to talk about his or her opinion without feeling judged. Pause often enough to let them fully have their say and to demonstrate you are hearing them.

Breathe in… then out…. and stay calm…

Staying calm may not come easily during some of the hard chats but it’s important to keep your cool no matter what you might hear from your teen. Showing an immediate response of anger or annoyance without taking time to process what you’ve heard can make them less likely to open up to you in future. A calm and measured response to what they may tell you is much more effective and also models great communication skills. Remember you’re looking to develop and cement your relationship and therefore biting your tongue and waiting for a calmer time to address issues is a good way to play the situation.

Most hard conversations are not just a one-off…

One of the reasons many of these issues are so difficult to talk about, is because they are so crucial. Don’t just plan for a single talk on these matters, as once the subject is broached it will probably need to be spoken of again. Of course, further conversations should be much less awkward once the path has been paved for open and honest discussion. Persist in having those conversations with your teen about the difficult topics you need to discuss. Once-offs don’t allow for thinking time where they may need to consider what you’ve said. Of course, too your teen might think of some other questions related to the topic so it’s wise to check in with them from time to time to see if they need clarification or have further questions.

As parents, we may not always realise it, but we play a hugely important role in helping our teens when it comes to decision making. Taking the time to talk with our teens – and having the hard and squirmy conversations – can have a big impact on their future. So, no matter how hard the topic is, suck in some deep breaths and launch a chat on the things that need to be spoken about.

Maintaining the school holiday vibes

Maintaining the school holiday vibes

Ahhhhh school holidays! Reprieve from packing Vegemite sandwiches, a break from dragging the teens out of bed and a few weeks without hunting matching socks! All. The. Wins!

More than that, school breaks are an ideal time to bond with your teen and rebuild the connection after the hectic busy busy busy of term time. I know that many parents of teens need to work through school holidays but if you do get the chance for some downtime with your teen it’s a super opportunity to spend quality time with them. The slower pace of holidays offers a great chance to visit unexplored places and try new activities.

The school term can be stressful on teens (and families) with academic challenge and assignment loads, social pressures and the need to juggle a whole lot of commitments. A few weeks downtime can save everyone’s sanity but in the blink of an eye holidays pass and and it’s back to the school grind. Exhale collective groan here… and so, after spending kick-back time bonding with your teenager, you might be searching for some tips to keep the connection alive when they go back to school to face another term.

Here are some ideas for maintaining the vibe…

  • Commit some daily time for chatting with your teens. Try not to slip back into the habit of being forever busy and miss the many opportunities for simply chatting with them. Right after they got home, spend a few minutes asking how their day went. In the first few weeks of the new term especially, try and greet them as cheerfully as possible… because chances are high they’re wishing they were still on holidays!

 

  • Make time to have some meals together. Sharing mealtime is one way to keep members of the family connected. Often teens love to grab their plate and retreat to the lounge room or teen-cave which hampers an ideal opportunity to be together.

 

  • You still have weekends to carve out time to try and do things they would like to do. Your teens and you will definitely have different ideas when it comes to how you’d like to spend your weekend…. time but switching it up and occasionally letting them lead and activity is one way of spending regular quality time together that doesn’t need to wait until the next school break.

 

  • Keep connected using technology. They’ve got a smartphone no doubt, and so do you. Sending simple text messages showing that you’re thinking of them (without reminding them of chores, or checking up on them at the same time – no matter how tempting) is a way to maintain the connection anytime, anywhere.

 

  • Keep a solid sense of humour. Admit it… we parents can be a bit stiff and stressed too much of the time. Being more lighthearted and loosening up a little in front of your teenager can be great for your relationship. Sit and watch a funny movie together for a laugh… or share a funny story, even if it’s corny, because a good chuckle can work wonders for you both.

 

Raising teenagers is probably one of the hardest times of parenting. Keeping a connection is challenging, not only because of the changes that are happening to them but also because of the age gap between them and you. School holidays are perfect for recharging the relationship but remember to hold onto the bond once the day-to-dayness of school returns and before you know it, it’ll be vacation time again!

 

The dangers of protecting your teen from the natural consequences of their actions

The dangers of protecting your teen from the natural consequences of their actions

It’s completely mama-instinct to protect our young and lick their wounds. They hurt, we hurt and the biology of this doesn’t change as our babies grow. But there comes a time in their lives we should no longer protect our kids from natural consequences and here’s why.

The reality of life is that every action – regardless of whether it’s a heroic deed or crime –  comes with a reaction. It’s up to you whether we’ll call this concept the law of physics or karma but there’s a consequence from every action, good or bad.

In guiding a teen through maturity from child to young adult, your role is to monitor their experiences and attempts at new things. Being proactive and teaching them how to make good choices so they can act well and avoid actions with dire outcomes is part of it. Rescuing them each and every time they fall is not. Reality bites and sometimes when things don’t go swimmingly there can be awkward and unpleasant consequences for your teen. This sucks, but it’s life.

Choosing not to rescue your teen isn’t child abuse. It does not mean you are going to throw them under the bus. (Proverbially of course.) it will not make you the worst parent evvvvvvvvvver (insert door slam and eye roll here.) It’ll actually help them enormously in the long run.

Here are a couple of scenarios that show while rescuing your teen would be tempting, it wouldn’t be helpful for their developing independence.

Scenario 1: FOMO on the school trip

A school excursion has been organised and they’ve left it until the morning of trip to ask your signature on the permission slip plus a magic trick to rustle up the payment.

There are no valid excuses, they’ve just not been bothered.

You don’t have any change, the ATM is not on the way to school and as you understand, school policy usually requires excursions to be finalised the week prior.

Phoning the school, begging the teacher for lenience (this time) and signing the form with promises of sending in some coin tomorrow might be something you’d do for a primary school student but not a teenager because your high schooler knows better and deserves to miss out on that field trip don’t you think?

Harsh? Not really, because honestly it’s only a relatively minor event  and missing the excursion is a natural “punishment” that fits the “crime”… but, hey let’s call it a consequence to sound nicer!

Scenario 2: Letting the mates down

Imagine your teen is on school holidays. They’ve made plans to catch the bus to meet friends for a trip to the movies one morning. Because being on holidays is so much fun, they stay up all night playing computer games and sleep soundly through their alarm.

The very predictable and natural consequence of this is would be they miss the bus and are unable to see that movie session with their friends. If you were to rescue them by driving them to the mall just in time to catch the movie… like they might beg you to… it wouldn’t be a lesson in not staying up too late when you’ve made plans for the next morning!

A good option would be to help them explore alternative solutions – such as seeing if their friends are prepared to see a later movie or reschedule for another day. Maybe, they’ll just miss out as a straightforward and simple result of their disorganisation. Lesson learned!

Scenario 3: Slow down lead foot!

This could be one of your worst nightmares. Your newly P-plated driver was running late for work and photographed by a stationery police radar… driving well over the speed limit. The notice arriving in the mail is a big OUCH, indicating they’ve lost 3 of their 4 points and have a fine setting the bank account back a few hundred dollars.

Receiving this letter is the legal – and natural – consequence of being caught speeding. You’ve possibly dealt with this yourself as a driver too.

I know of some parents who’ve protected their frazzled and upset new driver by submitting a statutory declaration. They’ve claimed to be at the wheel themselves in order to bear to loss of points and cop the fine. I also know of parents, who’ve not needed to do this but think it’s reasonable and would take the same course of action.

Ok then, what’s so wrong with cutting your kid this kind of slack?

Well firstly, it’s against the law to sign and lodge a legally binding statement with false information and furthermore this is not modelling good citizenship… unless you want them to think it’s ok to disregard our laws and legal system.

Besides, facing this consequence (as tough as it may be for them) forces on them to reflect on the action and adjust their future behaviour (slow down for God’s sake). If they aren’t given a hefty boot up the bum about the consequences of driving beyond the speed limit, isn’t it quite likely they’ll repeat the behaviour? Worryingly, next time they, or other road users, may be not so lucky and the outcome of speeding can be fatal.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help them, not at all. If they’re not in a position to pay the fine by its due date and you can assist with this then lending them the money is very fair.  As long as there’s a plan to repay you – and they still losing their driving points –  is a fair option. But I urge you not to let them escape the penalty of losing their driving points.

Reasons to avoid bailing them out again and again…

  • Getting them off the hook can lead to them getting hooked on the hope of being rescued
  • If they never experience the consequences of their actions, they’ll never modify their ways.
  • You’ll be forever spending your time and energy (and sometimes $$) on situations you have no responsibility for or control over
  • They’ll always look to throw blame on others where they can
  • What will they do the day you’re not there to do it?

Inevitably all kids will have lapses of judgment and at the end of the day what will be, shall be.

Accept their mistake(s), what’s done can’t be reversed. Reaffirming your unconditional love, supporting through the steps they’ll need to take to made amends and standing by them while they face the music isn’t always easy, but a necessary thing to do.

PS. I’ve written more about this in my upcoming book, being released in the coming months, so stay tuned for news!

Teenage sleep. How much is needed?

Teenage sleep. How much is needed?

Teenage sleep seems to be a hot topic as just this week on the Teenage Survival Coach Facebook page I’ve shared a couple of articles about schools accommodating their timetables to better sync with teen sleeping patterns. Maybe it’s newsworthy because we’re currently in school holiday mode with kids sleeping all day and parents left wondering how on earth to get them up and ready for school again!

Without getting all science-y here about human growth and physiology, it’s been proven that teens need much more sleep than they usually get.

So, why does my teen need more sleep than they’re getting?

In short, the teenage period is one of the most crucial chapters in a child’s growth. During adolescence, there’s great emotional, physical and mental growth which requires tremendous energy. Energy that’s obtained through good nutrition and solid sleep and quite at odds with Maccas and all-night gaming marathons enjoyed by some (not all) teenagers.

Like the water we drink and the air we breathe, quality sleep is essential for growth and survival. Especially during periods of rapid development like the teen years.

What causes teens to have insufficient sleep?

Teenage sleep patterns become irregular as they grow and this is due to several factors: busy everyday activities, school and part-time job routines, changing interests and of course hormonal development. Also, without any doubt, the teen years are a time for increased gadget use and the impact of devices and screen time on sleep has been well documented in various studies.

As their time is divided between so many interests and commitments, their body can find it hard to settle into a healthy sleeping pattern. Unbalanced sleep arrangements can then become the norm for their growing and developing body. And that’s not good.

How can insufficient sleep impact on a teen?

Sleep is food for the brain and it allows the body to rejuvenate and replenish. Without enough sleep, it’s difficult to perform everyday tasks and activities plus it greatly affects focus and decision making – two things teens struggle with anyway.

More seriously though, prolonged lack of sleep can lead to serious health problems and if this can affect any adult, just imagine the potential impact on a teenager’s developing body.

How much is enough?

Teenagers need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep in order for their body to sustain daily routines and body development. But, due to busy lives with school, socialising and part time work this need is seldom met. Here is where time management then becomes a vital skill, so tasks are prioritised and completed allowing enough time for sufficient rest and sleep. There should also be a commitment to limit screen time to ensure gadgets don’t interrupt the sleep they get.

Of course, if you’re worried about your teen’s health and well-being because of poor sleep patterns, it’s vital to make an appointment with the GP to get some better sleep happening.

Teens and part time jobs? You betcha!

Teens and part time jobs? You betcha!

Teens and part time jobs, in my mind it’s a no-brainer. There are so many reasons why I think you should applaud your part-time working teen…. or encourage them to get a casual job if they’ve not yet got one.

But first, let me reminisce. As a teen, I could have been well described as shy and unsure. True story. I still remember the fear I experienced, turning up for the first shift at my after school job. Aged 13 at the suburban supermarket. I was a checkout chick in the days when the tills were push button, clunky and loud… price tags were stuck on precariously and the weekly specials were published in the local newspaper and we were tested to ensure we’d learnt them by heart. Yep, the good old days!

Throughout my time at high school and then at college I paid my way with coin earned through a variety of jobs. By the time I’d graduated as a teacher, I’d already experienced employment as a bakery hand, a functions waitress (not a very good one at that!), a jewellery store attendant, a convenience store cashier and a baby sitter.

Both my teenaged boys work and have done since they’ve been legally able. I’d say both are well rounded, they still enjoy other activities and maintain successful grades. I’ve many reasons for believing that teens and part time jobs are a great fit, let’s explore a few…

Teens who have part time jobs learn…

  • to be punctual and on time for shifts
  • the value of a dollar and how money earned the hard way is not as easily frittered away
  • the responsibility that comes with someone relying on them
  • time management skills required to successfully juggle work, study and other commitments
  • to appreciate leisure time and be less likely to waste it
  • to understand the relationship between effort and reward
  • to interact with others in a range of contexts (especially customers and clients)
  • problem-solving in real life situations
  • the importance of time and place and that sometimes you just need to say nothing
  • to take directions…. and follow them
  • to wear a uniform or appropriate clothing neatly and with pride
  • job specific skills they may never have otherwise been exposed to
  • about vocations they may have a life long passion for or a desire not to pursue

There’s more than enough positives there for me to recommend all teens work a part time job… but as with everything in life, balance is essential. School results, health and fitness are a couple of areas that can suffer if too much emphasis is placed upon work but for most adolescents having to prioritise and “fit it all in” is one of the best life lessons they’ll learn.

If your teen is interested in a part time job, and you’re all for it… here are some job hunting ideas for teens looking to earn some pocket money and gain some life experience.

Did you work part time as a teen? Do your kids?

Your teen’s online reputation. Helping them tidy their digital footprint in 5 easy steps!

Your teen’s online reputation. Helping them tidy their digital footprint in 5 easy steps!

Your teen must be taught their online reputation has the ability to make or break them in today’s digital world. There’s no point minimising it because life’s reality means that future employers, girlfriends (or boyfriends) and teammates can and will see more than what’s presented at face value. Thanks google!

AND… let’s not forget that every key stroke contributes to a digital footprint.

What’s a digital footprint anyway and how is related to online reputation?

Simply put, a digital footprint is the sum of someone’s online activity. Every message sent, every Facebook status liked and every photo uploaded can contribute to this, even if someone believes it was privately sent or has since been deleted.

Digital footprints can also come back and kick people in the bum as a teen local to me found out after posting on a Facebook community page. The girl in question, aged 15, introduced herself and asked to be considered for babysitting work. In her post she mentioned her love of kids, willingness to travel and experience with younger siblings and neighbours. Sounds quite the entrepreneurial thing to do… right?

I’m not sure she expected the backlash, but it came, quickly and furiously. Comment after comment, some offering advice respectfully, others nowhere near as polite. A click over to this young lady’s publicly accessible Facebook page showed exactly why… there’s no way in hell I would have left her in charge of my 5 year old. A feed full of selfies in her underwear or swimmers (hard to tell these days and I wasn’t interested in looking very long!) and pouting over bathroom sinks… selfies with middle fingers displayed and tongue out… and then the language. Oh. My. The language. You get the rest of the story, I’m sure.

If your teen is online, their digital footprint is already being created and their online reputation is being formed.

take care to mind your online reputation

We can’t undo what’s already done BUT there are certainly steps we can take to help our kids tidy up their online reputation. Here are 5 actionable things you can help them with today…

STEP 1: Check privacy settings – is the profile set to private? If not, why not? Be sure to check Facebook settings regularly as sometimes updates reset privacy to public as default.

STEP 2: Cull the friends list. I like the idea of sitting beside your teen and asking them how they know each person on their “friends” list. I regularly see kids with literally thousands of Facebook friends and I don’t feel it’s sensible or appropriate.

STEP 3: Get them to go through their photo albums (on Facebook and Instagram) and tell them to delete any picture they would not want plastered on a roadside billboard… or shown to Grandma. That means any pics depicting drinking, smoking, bras & undies, cleavage, fighting etc etc etc should be removed. Pronto. Would they want a future boss seeing such things?

STEP 4: Moderate the language – remove any posts which would paint an unfavourable picture. Again the “Grandma” rule of thumb is a good one to apply here!

STEP 5: Close any unused email accounts and social media profiles. This not only limits the potential for hacking it also means their digital footprint is cleaner and less likely to surface in the future.

All of those steps can be taken in the space of an afternoon and it’s best not to ignore them. As more and more of our lives become digital, maintaining a positive online reputation is increasingly important.

Have you worked with your teen on auditing their digital footprint? How about your own?