Parenting an Adolescent: 3 Guidelines for When to Step In & When to Step Back

Posted by on Sep 2, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

The adolescent years are a period when parents gradually hand their children’s lives over to them. As the parent of a soon-to-be adult, it’s often difficult to know when to intervene or when to let your adolescent take control over a particular part of his or her life. How do you decide when to step back and when to step in?

There are no easy answers. But a few guidelines can help:

Safety: Do you believe your child is in an unsafe situation—something that may endanger his or her life or physical or mental health? Do you have real reason to believe your child is using drugs, has been drinking, has been riding in a car with a friend who has been drinking, is planning to go to a house where a party is planned and kids who you know engage in inappropriate activities will be present, etc.? Do you suspect that your child is depressed, or that he or she may have an eating disorder? In situations where your child’s safety may be in jeopardy, always step in. This is where the limited teenage appreciation for real-life, long-term consequences could genuinely hurt your child.

Self-expression: Does your child wants to style his or her hair in an electric-blue Mohawk? Or maybe he or she wants to wear t-shirts with political messages you abhor? Step back.Your child is figuring out who he or she is and these are not permanent changes. Let your teen explore. Make sure your teen knows that even if you don’t like a particular thing he or she is doing, you are still supportive of him or her as a person. However, permanent changes and measures of self-expression that violate rules, such as a t-shirt with language that is banned in school, can be more difficult. These warrant conversations with your child.

My piece on figuring out when to step in and when to step back in your adolescents’ lives continues at Stop Medicine Abuse. Use these guidelines until you find a magic 8-ball that indicates the right thing to do when your kid asks to be dropped off before you’re in sight of the school one minute, demands to know what you’re going to do about her forgotten homework the next, then slams a door in frustration because she claim you always treat her like a little kid. And when you do find that sought-after object, let me know.

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In Which I Learn My Thirteen-Year-Old Has Better Manners than Some Adults

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, The World We Parent In | 0 comments


Adults love to complain about kids’ lack of manners—about kids’ rudeness, their selfishness, their refusal to think of anyone other than themselves. These complaints are sometimes valid. But from what I’ve seen lately, some adults need to think about the messages they’re sending to kids via their own behavior. In fact, I’ve discovered that my thirteen-year-old has better manners than many adults. (And that’s not a commentary on my son’s fantastic manners. This is the same kid whom I just scolded at the dinner table for grabbing his pancake with both hands and stuffing it into his mouth.)

Let’s take a few examples from our recent family vacation. We began a day at breakfast in a restaurant, where, upon exiting, a man twice let doors slam in my son’s face. Yes, this was a minor infraction. But we’ve taught our kids to hold doors open for people immediately behind them, so thirteen-year-old “Jack” found the behavior rude. As he should.

Then we moved on to mini-golf, which is something of a raison d’être for Jack. We were playing a few holes into the wilting hot course, ahead of two couples by a hole or two. I took my turn before my son, so I didn’t see what he noticed, which was a large leather purse sitting by itself at a hole adjacent to ours. He pointed it out to my husband, who recommended that my son take it to the course office. “Jack” picked up the purse and started walking with it toward the office.

I heard a high-pitched, wordless scream behind me. Then: “Stop, stop, stop! That’s mine! It’s mine! Stop! It’s mine!” One of the women who had been playing behind us ran at Jack full-speed, arms waving.

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Help Your Tween Start the School Year Right—with an Organized Closet

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Domesticity, Education & Learning | 0 comments

Wow, that was fast. Summer is coming to a close, and the school year is upon us. It’s time to see reset sleep schedules, see how many sizes your kids have grown over the summer and buy them new clothes and supplies because inevitably, nothing they wore last year will fit them now. 

But once you buy the new stuff, what will you do with it? 

Today Uncharted Parent welcomes Danielle Hegedus, for, who offers some great tips regarding how to encourage your tween’s independence and start her school year on an organized, positive note by spending a little time on her closet. (You know your tween’s closet; it’s where the scary, fuzzy things live.)

Rubbermaid HomeFree series closet system

(Image: Rubbermaid via

By Danielle Hegedus

Sometimes you have to take a step back and let your kids fly solo. As your child approaches middle school, think about ways in which you can better prepare her to start navigating the chaos of her own life. Help her develop organizational skills to manage her time, chores, homework and extracurricular activities.

Your child’s closet actually factors into a lot of that chaos. Yes, there is always laundry to do, but one of the of the best ways to get your child to start preparing for what each week will bring is to use her closet as an organizational tool. With some simple organizational tips and your guidance, you can help your child breeze through the week, minimizing forgotten permission slips and soccer cleats.

With hectic schedules, “organizing closet” may feel like just another thing to do on both of your to-do lists. Try not to think of this activity as a dreaded chore. Rather, it’s an opportunity for your child to practice her organizational skills and a chance to spend some quality time together.

Prepare for the Week Ahead

Work with your child to help her pick out her outfits for the week on either Saturday night or Sunday morning.

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Of Soccer Balls and Guns

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in The World We Parent In | 5 comments


Last Friday afternoon, my kids and I drove to a strip-mall soccer store to buy my son a ball. This particular strip mall is located amongst a tangle of highway conjunctions and ramps, in a busy area punctuated by a series of strip malls as well as a traditional mall, chain restaurants, and other typical markings of suburbia. In other words, people are everywhere, going about their lives. As people do.

I pulled into a parking spot a few spaces away from the soccer store, and before I even shifted my minivan into Park, I saw the gun.

It’s amazing how quickly the brain can synthesize multiple facts to create a picture of a situation. Even with the kids chattering beside and behind me, it took mere seconds for me to process that: a) at least some, and probably all, of the five men gathered in front of the military recruiting center a few doors down from the soccer store were armed; b) the most obvious of them held in front of him what was almost certainly an assault rifle; c) although I didn’t immediately see the weapons of the others, at least several of them were wearing ammo vests and thus were probably also armed; d) vigilantes had been turning out, guns in hand, across the country since the Chattanooga shooting on July 16 in their self-proclaimed mission to guard military recruiting centers, the Pentagon had politely and respectfully asked these men to stand down and leave the security of the military recruiting centers to the U.S. military itself, and across the country, these vigilantes had refused. And here were some of these vigilantes now, in front of me, at the soccer store.

Two days later, I was driving home on a quiet Sunday afternoon with my family after purchasing paint supplies when I drove by another man with a gun. This time it was a pistol tucked into the man’s holster. He was walking casually, with a friend, by kids on bikes and people walking their dogs. (I should specify that in New Hampshire, the open carry of handguns while on foot is generally permissible and that so far as I know, this man’s actions were perfectly legal.)

Three days. Two cases of going about daily life, with my kids, in public, and running into guns like I might run into sneakers, or ice cream cones, or an individual talking in an agitated crescendo into her cell phone.

Except sneakers, ice cream cones and cell phones don’t have the power or the purpose of killing people.

I am so, so tired of trying to convince people that guns are dangerous and that they need to be respected and treated as the dangerous objects they are. Or that reasonable restrictions on guns are just that: reasonable. That a bill or a law that says X does not actually say Y; sometimes a restriction on the transfer of these nine makes of semi-automatic weapons is just that, and no more. That the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which consists of two clauses, not just one, does in fact proclaim a right to bear arms, but that it also permits regulation of that right. That the Second Amendment is not the only right in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, nor is it superior to the other rights set forth in the Constitution.

In 2014, Tim Kreider wrote in The Week, “we’ve collectively decided, as a country, that the occasional massacre is okay with us. It’s the price we’re willing to pay for our precious Second Amendment freedoms.” I’m tired of thinking about this ugly statement, because guess what? He’s right. After the slaughter of twenty children in Newtown in 2012, when the nation grieved and momentum was greatest for action but none came, it’s clear we have indeed made this decision. With the failure to act after Newtown, the argument that we ought to recast our priorities doesn’t seem to stand a chance of convincing anyone anymore. So why make it?

But I can’t stop making the argument. Because let me tell you something: when I had to cross that parking lot with my children and walk them by a man with an assault rifle and goodness knows what types of pistols those men had concealed on their persons, I got angry.

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“True Confessions of a Stalker Mom”

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 in Growing Up, Other Parenting Stuff I've Written, Parents are People, Too | 0 comments



Who, me?

Well, yes. And I’m the last person I would have expected to turn into such a thing.

“I am not a helicopter parent, but when my son went away to camp, it took less than 24 hours for me to become his stalker.” You can read the rest at Cognescenti, WBUR’s ideas and opinions page.

Fellow parents, watch out; for all you know, there’s a hidden stalker lurking somewhere inside you, too.

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Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in Growing Up | 4 comments

Quiet time

It’s quiet around here.

Every family has a personality, a living, changeable thing made up not only of its members, but also of the dynamic produced by the interaction of those members when they’re together. Even the pets contribute. Subtract one of those family members, and the personality changes. It’s not necessarily better or worse, but it’s definitely different.

The older of my two children has been away for two-and-a-half weeks now, and it feels like we live in a different house.

Many of the details fall into the mundane category: my laundry loads have diminished significantly. Our consumption of pizza and pasta has dropped by probably eighty percent. So has our rate of milk usage. ESPN is hardly on the television anymore, I’m not engaged in battles over screen time, I’m not enduring anyone’s sweaty, smelly sports gear or arguing about showers.

More significant details mark this time, too: arguing and whining in the house overall has plummeted. My younger child has thrived on the undivided attention she’s received; her behavior has improved, and we’ve explored new intellectual, culinary and mother-daughter bonding territory. Life isn’t as complicated when the needs and desires of one less person have to be taken into account, and after the frenzy that was the school year, this break has been welcome.


It’s so damn quiet.

I don’t mean to say the three of us—plus the pets—haven’t had any fun. We absolutely have. But our son took a substantial chunk of our family silliness to camp with him. The giggling has decreased, the constant sarcasm with which we perpetually amuse each other (although perhaps not others outside the family?) is lacking a certain luster, the truly raucous moments seem to be far fewer than usual. I find I actually miss the frequent challenges to my knowledge and reasoning—well, maybe some of them. And while it’s restful to take a break from constant attempts to decode the heart and brain of a male adolescent, that daily activity is part of what makes up this family.

Before you accuse me of being overly dramatic—which, let’s be honest, you were thinking since the second paragraph—I will freely admit to that characterization. But then I will walk that back a little,

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