Dear Sarah: Helping Our Teens Take Responsibility

Teens 101: Getting Things Done

Creating a Different Way Forward

“No one lies on their death bed and wishes they spent more time at the office.”

My dad shared that adage with me at some point in my youth, which was ironic, because my dad sure did spend a lot of time at the office when I was a kid. Luckily he’s not yet on his death bed, and has been making up for it.

Now I share it here, with next generation irony, because my office is wherever my computer is, and I sure do spend a lot of time at it. I am in no position whatsoever to remind anyone that there is more to life than working, because lately, working is my life.

But of course it isn’t. My children are my life, my husband, my family. This is what matters to me. So why is it so hard to put my work away and be with them?  Read the rest of this entry »

Teens 101: Supportive vs. Antagonistic Relationships

Adults v. Teens: The Fight Where Everyone Loses

Negative exchanges occur between young people and adults every day.  We accept it as normal for some relationships to be antagonistic, at least some of the time.  These exchanges might feel inescapable or even necessary, but they are also counterproductive, not to mention unpleasant.  What are the effects of antagonistic relationships?  What would it take to maintain supportive relationships between adults and teens and reduce or even eradicate antagonism?

A story from my childhood: Read the rest of this entry »

Teens 101: Allowing our Children to Choose What’s Best for Them

All the Things We Thought Were Important

To bush or not to brush. To mitten or not to mitten. Is it worth the fight and sometimes unhappy kids? Learning to listen and allow my kids to make their own choices allows them to make choices that are right for them.

When my kids were little, we had some friends who never made their kids brush their hair.  They didn’t have dreadlocks- it wasn’t a cultural or aesthetic choice, it was just a choice not to argue about it.  Combs were offered and suggested, but in the end the family went out and about happily whether or not the children had combed hair or snarls.

At my house the children did not go out happily, nor did they go out with snarls in their hair.  Frequently they went out with eyes red from crying after lots of fussing and fighting about hair brushing.  Their hair got brushed because I am bigger and stronger and insistent and have the car keys.  But it was sometimes awful.

Then we’d be out and see these other kids with their messy hair, and who cared?  I didn’t.  I didn’t judge those kids or that family.  I noticed, in an amused sort of way, and then the very next day I went back to fighting with my own kids about their hair.  A model of another option was right there in my life, but I didn’t consider it.  I wanted calmer, happier interactions with my small children, but not so much that I was willing to be seen in public with them looking unkempt.

Was that for them?  No.  That was for me.  That was all ego.  I couldn’t be the mom with the kids with messy hair, and if that meant some crying and screaming before we went out, so be it.  Somehow I thought it was that important. Read the rest of this entry »

Debut of Teens 101: Hacks, Ideas, Commiserations, and Small Wonders

Adolescents and Squirrels

This adolescent period is a clunky time for all mammals- one long and clumsy transition. As adults, our role is to walk the impossible balance of supporting just enough challenge and exposure so that they can gain necessary skills, with enough safety and protection to prevent injury.

I’ve never really been into squirrels. Never thought too much about them except to avoid them on the road. But suddenly this spring I’ve found myself fostering two baby squirrels, from a nest narrowly saved from a chipper on my husband’s job site.

I’m a sucker, and I’m a mother. You give me a small, helpless, hungry thing, and I feed it. With the guidance of a wildlife rehabilitation professional and the internet, we’ve managed to grow a couple of happy, healthy squirrels, and they’re almost ready to go back out into the world on their own.

I don’t usually work with squirrels. I work with teenagers. I am currently parent to two teens, as well. And now some adolescent squirrels, too. Adolescents at every turn.  Read the rest of this entry »

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